- Staying Hopeful in a Broken World
- Romans 8:18-38; Psalm 33:22
- Lyndol Loyd October 5, 2020
Certainty in Uncertain Times: Staying Hopeful in a Broken World
We are finishing up our series, Certainty in Uncertain Times and I’d like to begin today by looking at Psalms 33:22. I want to ask you to read it out loud together with me. “May your unfailing love be with us Lord even as we put our hope in you.”
I want to talk a little bit today about HOPE, because hope is what we all need in order to make it through uncertain times. Specifically, I want to talk to you about how is that we can maintain hope when we find ourselves living in the midst of a hopelessly broken world? I think this is a pressing question for lots of people as we find ourselves trying to navigate the circumstances of 2020.
Have you ever placed your hope in something or someone and that something came crashing down? that someone failed you? If so then you understand how hard it can be to have hope in a hopelessly broken world.
- It’s the person who stood at an altar and pledged, “Til death us do part”, except it wasn’t until death. It was until someone else entered the picture.
- It’s the person who was promised advancement at work for which they worked hard and did their part, but then advancement never came and hopes for the future were never realized.
- It’s the parent who had aspirations for the son or daughter, but their child ended up getting mixed up with the wrong crowd and now life is a mess. They find themselves worried that they can never recapture the promise life once held.
- If you have ever found yourself saying, “What’s the point? What’s the use?
You have bumped into the inevitable question that everybody will ask, “How do you maintain hope? That’s why I want to talk a little bit about hope.
Now as we launch into this discussion I want to kind of give you a working definition of hope as the person or thing in which your expectations are centered.
These are the things you are leaning into; these are the things that as you look into the future your hope is in that. Your hope is in that relationship; your hope is in that group of relationships, your hope is in that company; your hope is in this profession; your hope is in your ability; your hope is in your looks; your hope is – you have centered your expectations in something.
Hope is a little bit like a LADDER that we lean against a wall. None of us are ever conscious of this process, but when you were born you automatically leaned the ladder of hope into your parents that your hope for your future had everything to do with your parents’ willingness or ability to care for you.
It wasn’t a conscious decision; that as you got older you began to move your ladder and you moved it from someone else’s commitment to you to perhaps your ability to take care of yourself; your ability to connect; your ability to get a scholarship to do well in school; your ability to maintain relationships; your ability to attract attention; your ability to marry somebody that had promise; family money; whatever it might be but all of us from time to time at different stages of life, we make a decision to lean the ladder of hope onto something that we think will support our ambition or support our aspirations or our hopes and dreams for the future.
Even now, your ladder is leaning against a wall somewhere, but because we go through life unaware of what we’re hoping for and the only time we ever think about hope is when we begin to feel hopeless, it is simply that feeling that the thing I have leaned my ladder against isn’t coming through for me.
It’s that thing that I’ve centered my expectations on and it’s not meeting up to my expectations. It’s not going to happen for me. We’re not going to have children when we thought we would have children. I’m going to be thirty and I’m still going to be single. I’m not going to be able to retire when I thought I would be able to retire. Nobody is calling; nobody is answering the phone; it’s only when the thing that we leaned our ladder against doesn’t come through for us that we begin to experience and think about the whole subject of hope.
Otherwise, we just go day-to-day with our ladder leaning somewhere and we’re totally unaware. It’s only when we begin to experience the freefall; it’s only when we bump up against this tension of how do I remain hopeful? How do I go on? How do I keep trying? It’s only then that we realize that perhaps we’ve leaned our ladder up against something that’s not as secure as we thought it should be.
All of us today, we have a ladder of hope and it’s leaning up against something and the question is, how do you maintain hope in a world that is in fact hopelessly broken?
I want to take us through a passage of scripture from Romans 8 where Paul explains where our hope should be, as well as the futility of any of us leaning our ladder against our own ability to control or predict the future.
Okay, here’s what he says in Romans 8:20 “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it…”
He goes back and he draws on an event in the Book of Genesis that’s typically referred to as the fall of humanity. It’s the story about when sin entered the world. And when we think about sin we usually think about an incident like “that was sinful” or if you’re in my business, often people say, “Preacher do you think such and such is a sin and do you think this is a sin?” Basically they’re asking is it okay if I do that?
The Bible views sin as a disease that’s toxic and fatal. The Bible teaches that when sin entered the world, it entered the world as a fatal disease that impacted everything — relationships, creation, the relationship between people and creation, the animal kingdom, the weather, everything. Everything in the world was impacted by sin; it’s a disease that has infiltrated the entire creation and that it’s fatal which means according to Genesis everything living eventually dies.
Have you noticed that? Everything living eventually dies. You say well that’s just the circle of life; I saw the movie, the Lion King; they figured that whole thing out. But in Genesis, the scripture affirms Paul’s teaching about that the reason everything in the world dies is because sin has polluted and corrupted everything.
That is the basis for his argument that it is always a bad decision to put your hope in things that pertain to this world. That’s what he means.
Back to V. 20 where Paul says, “For the creation was subjected to frustration…”
Whenever you’re frustrated it’s because of sin. Did you know that? The reason you’re experience in this world can be so frustrating — “Why won’t those kids? Why won’t my momma? Why won’t my boss? Why can’t people see the world the way I see it? Why won’t people give me a chance? Why won’t they call me back? I’m so frustrated!” is because of sin.
Paul says welcome to the world. God has allowed sin to run its course. When sin entered the world God said I’m going to let it go like a wave; it’s going to touch everything; it’s going to impact everything; it’s going to corrupt everything. Paul says that creation was subjected to frustration; that sin is going to run its course in the world.
- 20-21: “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay…”
That means everything in this world is decaying. You know that to be the case. When you reach a certain age every time you look in the mirror you go, oh what’s that; that’s the bondage to decay. That’s what that is. You go something is wrong with me. Nope. It’s the bondage to decay and it is kind of funny and it’s not very encouraging but this is the case he is building.
Everything is decaying including your relationships, including your wealth. Everything ultimately has the ring and the smell of decay and God is going to let sin run its course and it touches everything.
You say I hope this is going somewhere happy. We’re going to get to happy in just a minute. But, here’s the thing, the reason we lean our ladder up against the wrong wall is because we don’t really believe that. We believe we can beat the odds. We believe we can be careful enough; slick enough; cool enough; after all we’re going to figure it out.
Paul is saying before I get to the good news, you’ve got to really embrace the bad news. There is no way to beat the odds. The creation which is all of us and everything is in bondage to decay and yes we have happy birthdays and yes we have great vacations and yes your engagement is awesome and your honeymoon was great and you’re happily married and you had that first child and there are some highlights and there are some mountain top experiences and I love to worship this morning and yeah there is fun and there is joy but the movement, the momentum is towards sin and toward decay and we are in bondage to that kind of frustration.
- 22-23 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
He says this tension creates in us a longing for something better. This tension creates in us the thought that there has got to be more; this tension creates in us a desire to look beyond this life to say is there a world where there is happily ever after; is there a world where relationships stay good; is there a world where people get along and it forces us to look outside of this life.
- 24, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”
Now he’s talking to Christians. He’s reminding us that when you became a Christian you became linked to a bigger, better story with a much better ending but it goes beyond this life. That’s the hope we were saved to.
- 25, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Do you know what that means? That means we do not give up hope but our hope is not in this world. Our hope can’t be in this life because eventually that hope is always in some way, shape or form going to disappoint because we live in a world that’s in bondage to decay that’s full of frustration. He says Christian, there’s hope. Christian, you have something for which to look forward. You have something to wait for patiently.
- 26-30 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
He says this. God understands your frustration and God understands your disappointment and God understands that your ladder falls every once in a while and God understands that sense of hurt and disappointment. He even understands your groaning.
If you have been in the pit of despair; if you’ve ever hit rock bottom in terms of hopelessness, you know what it’s like to get on your face or to lay in bed and just moan because there’s nothing that can be done and God says I understand that. I understand the pointlessness that this world seems to offer. I understand that sense of isolation. God says I understand that.
Then Paul turns a corner in V. 31-32, he says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
The point being here that God becomes the focus of your hope, as you center your expectations in the love of your Heavenly Father, he says that is where hope does not disappoint.
Skip down to V. 38-39. The big ending; if there was like a soundtrack with this the music would be building big time right here; check this out. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now this is Paul who has been stoned, been in prison, and left for dead. He has been shipwrecked three times. He’s been beaten. This is the guy that has experienced the worst the first century had to offer as a Christian.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else which I can fill in the blank. Neither divorce, abandonment, isolation, job loss, when am I going to retire nor anything else and all creation will be able to separate us from the love of who? From the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You know what he’s saying? He’s saying look, you want to put your hope in something secure. You want to put your hope in something that won’t disappoint. You want to put your hope in something that you can go to every single time. He says you’ve got to move your ladder.
If you want hope that remains hopeful, if you want to maintain hope in a hopelessly broken world, he says you have got to move your ladder and lean it against your Heavenly Father for only there will you find enduring hope.
Now what does that mean in the meantime? It means that yeah, you do your best. It means that you live out kingdom values in a world where there aren’t a lot of happy ever afters; where there’s not necessarily a lot of happy endings. It means that you love like crazy but when you don’t get loved back you don’t lose hope because your hope wasn’t here to begin with.
It means you serve like crazy and when no one serves you back, you don’t lose hope because your hope wasn’t here to begin with. It means you forgive like crazy and when people don’t forgive you back or you don’t get the benefit of forgiveness you don’t lose hope because you never placed your hope there anyway.
Do you plan? Of course you plan. Do you have ambition? Of course you have ambition. Do you leverage your talents and your skills? Of course you leverage your talents and your skills. Do you build things, do you pursue progress, do you save, do you love, do you engage culture, do you engage the world? Yes, you do all of that.
But do you place your hope in your hard work? Do you place your hope in the benefits of your ambition and your discipline? Do you place your hope in your education? Do you place your hope in all of those things? He says no.
It means you go to bed at night and you say God I thank you for this awesome day, it all went perfect, wrinkle free, didn’t even get any bird poop on my car. It was like the perfect day, but God still my hope is in You.
And you go to bed at night and you say God this was a terrible day and nobody called me back and I’m still as jobless as I was yesterday and I see no prospects and I’m so disappointed but my hope is in You. I have placed my hope in Your love for me.
You see, when we loosen our grip from around our plans, our treasure and our ambition we’re able to move our ladder because when I loosen my hands from around all these things that I’ve placed my hope in, only then am I able to transfer my hope to the only person, the only thing that can sustain my hope through good and difficult times.
Here’s the deal. Whatever it is that you have placed your hope in will determine whether you’re able to remain hopeful in a world where things are hopelessly broken. So where are you leaning your ladder? Where have you placed your hope? What are you hoping for?