You can watch the message John shared at the McNeil campus at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.
Here are some resources for this week as well as the upcoming themes for the series:
Sept 7 | From Death to Life – (Next Steps) (Leader’s Guide)
(What’s Next If I Want To Follow Jesus?)
Sept 14 | From Despair to Hope (Next Steps) (Leader’s Guide)
Sept 21 | From Lonely to Never Alone
Sept 28 | From Striving to Satisfied
Oct 5 | From Guilty to Blameless
Oct 12 | From Powerless to Empowered
Here are some of the notes from John’s message:
“Hope changes everything. Hope is powerful. Hope is your birthright if you are a child of God.
Yet we live in a world where we can get the hope beaten out of us. Whether you are a follower of Christ or not, we all get whacked by life sometimes. We can feel the circumstances of life whittling away at hope until we start to feel discouraged, then despairing, finally hopeless.
Some of you here today are somewhere along that slow slide down into hopelessness. Maybe you had hopes for a relationship or a marriage, but year after year has whittled away that hope, or maybe your marital hopes got smashed like broken glass against an unexpected divorce. Or maybe you had hope in your business or your career, but year after year things have not gone as planned. As a result, your hope is fading, and with it your sense of worth drives you towards the pit of despair. Maybe you had hoped for health, but found the heartache of disease eroding that hope. Or you had hopes for your children, and the more life unfolds the less hopeful you’ve become. Maybe you had hopes for a loving marriage, a loving family, and instead there’s constant tension, strife, frustration that sinks you into silent despair. Or maybe even more despairing, you reached most all your goals, you’ve accomplished so much, and yet it didn’t have the payoff you’d bargained for. So now what? All that time, energy, accomplishment—for what? And a low-grade despair settles in like a fog in your soul. I could go on and on, but we all know it’s true—We all Need Hope, yet we so often feel circumstances trying to Beat the Hope out of us. So what do you do?
God gives us a choice. If we have opened our hearts to Him, like we said last week and chosen life with Him then He makes everything new. That means we have new opportunities. We have the choice to exchange despair for hope. But how? And what does that mean?
Let’s look at a passage of Scripture written by someone who despite doing everything right had a resume fit for despair. Even still Paul wasn’t despairing. He had hope! Here’s his resume as he’s tried to serve God and people:
I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:23-28
Paul has reason to get discouraged, dismayed, and even sink into despair. Yet somehow his hope stays buoyant. He writes:
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We have the choice to take hold of the same hope no matter what circumstances are piling up against us. It’s critical that we grab onto hope because despair and hopelessness are not only terrible companions, they actually make things worse.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a NeuroPsychologist studies how thoughts (especially toxic thoughts) actually have physical impact on the brain. When we focus on despairing circumstances, the fearful future, or the horrible past, it drives us further into despair. She says: “The average person has over 30,000 thoughts a day. Through an uncontrolled thought life, we do ourselves harm! Research shows that fear, all on its own, triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses and activates more than 30 different hormones.” She says that toxic waste is generated by toxic thoughts and can actually change our brain chemistry driving us away from hope. Medical research increasingly points to the fact that thinking and consciously controlling your thought life is one of the best ways, if not the best way of detoxing your brain. It allows you to get rid of those toxic thoughts and emotions that can consume and control your mind. Dr. Leaf’s 21 Day Brain Detox is simply taking thoughts captive and replacing them with God’s truth and the hope we have in Him.
So how do you hold hope in your mind? Let’s look at what Paul says because it has to do with what you hope in. He writes:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 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 and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
In what do you put your hope?
If your hope is in things always going your way, you’re in for despair. If your hope is that all the people in your life will do right, play nice, do what you hope then you’re likely headed for despair. If your hope is in your business success going as planned to fully fulfill you and make you happy then brace yourself for a crash. The secret to our hope is what we put our ultimate hope in.
Scripture tells us this life is NOT what we should put our Ultimate hope in because our present sufferings are part of life. We live in a world where people don’t ask, “What’s your will God?” They ask, “How can MY will be done.” So God has allowed all creation to experience the frustrations of going our own way. We are experiencing life without God’s perfect rule – a life where death and decay are felt by all. When we put our hope in God who is perfectly in control, that brings Ultimate Hope. And Ultimate Hope can change our daily hope quotient.
We don’t get to decide how life goes. Our will is not the only will, but we can always choose hope. We can choose to focus on the hope God promises, even in the midst of a broken, sometimes chaotic world at war. No matter how opposed you feel, or how bad circumstances get—God can lead you through your circumstances out of despair and into hope. This can change everything.
You have to have HOPE to really live. You have to have hope to push through, to overcome, to try again, to not give up or give in. You need Hope.
If you’re ultimate hope is in life’s circumstances going your way, or people doing your will, or never suffering then your hope is going to sink, but Hope in God and His promises brings hope that will hold.
Paul goes on to say in Romans 8:22-25 the following:
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. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
All of life is groaning—can’t you hear it groan? It’s the groans of our despair apart from God who created us to live with Him. All of life is groaning for Eternal Life, and as we talked about last week, it’s going to be better than we can possibly imagine, but right now it feels like childbirth (which is not a pain-free experience).
Life is full of problems and pains, trials and troubles, but what if there’s a deeper message even there? This life is not all it was meant to be. There’s something wrong. There’s something missing. It’s a wake up call that this life is not the one to cling to and hope in with all your might. Jesus said before that first Easter:
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
– John 16:33
Don’t put your hope in life being easy, or pain free, put your hope in who you are in Christ. You are adopted sons and daughters of God. He paid an outrageous adoption fee for you. Hope in the fact that God’s Spirit is in you and with you to give you the power to overcome and to experience His peace, love, and joy even through the pains and trials of life as you HOPE in Him. Fixing your thoughts and your hopes on the promises of God. Doing so helps us let go of all those fears and anxieties that lesser hopes cause.”