Hope Defined by Jamie and Katelyn Schwarz

On Mother’s Day at Gateway Church in South Austin, Jamie Schwarz, our Restore Pastor and her daughter Katelyn Schwarz, our Gateway North Kids Coordinator shared on HOPE!

Here is the audio of the message they shared:

Here are some of the notes from the message they shared:

Good morning Gateway! My name is Jamie Schwarz and I’m the Restore pastor here at Gateway South. I know what some of you are thinking…what the heck is a restore pastor? Don’t worry you’re not alone. Restore is action word. Restoration returns us to our intended state of existence. Our Restore ministry here at Gateway is focused on helping our community to find healing, experience transformation, and to walk in hope!

So what is hope?

1)Hope-Misunderstood

I remember us sitting in our living room, deciding what to talk about. Just checking in on where we were at, where the world was at, and this theme of disappointment and encouragement kept coming up. So many people we know were struggling, getting knocked down left and right- including us. We asked God “what do people need right now, what do we need right now?” and we felt like God’s response to us was hope.

There really has been a lot of heavy stuff going on. I use the word heavy because that’s what it’s felt like to me. Like someone’s been putting these huge weights on my chest and with every stressful, disappointing, frustrating situation it feels like another weight gets put on me.

Yeah, I feel that. So, since we said we were getting real today, would you mind sharing a little more on that? Maybe one of the things that has weighed you down?

There is a person in my life who’s very close to me and struggles with alcoholism. Over the past year they have detoxed three times. Everytime, the opportunity for rehab has been available to them but they keep going back home to their addiction. I love this person so much but when they’re in their addiction they are a completely different person. It’s so hard to watch not only how that impacts them but the people around them too. I keep trying to hold on to hope that things will change but after this last time I have just been feeling really sad and discouraged. I wouldn’t say I’ve lost all hope but a certain amount of hopelessness has crept in.

I am sorry that’s happening but thank you for sharing. I’m guessing there’s a lot of us here that can relate with you, I definitely can.

Is there a situation you’ve been struggling with discouragement or hopelessness?

Haha, the question is when is there NOT a situation? But a few months ago, I started really wrestling with this sense of identity and purpose. It’s like there’s been this internal battle going on within me of the person I know I was created to be and the person I’ve been. Between what I know to be true and what I feel. And more often than not, my feelings were winning, and I would get stuck in this weird rut of not knowing what was next in life or how to get out of that feeling of purposelessness or who I even was. There would just be really great days when I felt so me, but that feeling would fade and then I’d feel isolated, alone, and confused. So, when I would try to “have hope”, I didn’t know how to feel, because I don’t think I’d ever really looked into what hope actually even is or how it could actually help me.

That’s a good question Katelyn, because I think most often the way hope is used in our culture is more like wishful thinking. More like, I hope that happens, but I don’t know if it will.

Like “I hope I get that job” implies I want the job but I’m not sure what’s going to happen. It’s an uncertain hope, rather than certainty. But when I’d read about hope in the Bible, it didn’t seem uncertain. It got me thinking, if the type of hope we know is based in wishful thinking and uncertainty, is there another kind of hope?

Absolutely, when our hope is an uncertain hope there is a lack of security which is one of our greatest needs as humans. So, with an uncertain hope we are left feeling anxious, paralyzed by fear, trying to gain control and make things happen the way we want them to or think they should. I think this plays into the pressure I was talking about earlier because when I am operating out of this kind of hope I can see how it feels like it’s up to me. Like I have to do something to rescue my loved one from their alcoholism or others from the impact of it. I feel like I can start to believe I have to make this thing happen.

That reminds me of the part of the Bible about Abraham and Sarah. God promises them that they’d have a baby- but these people were like, FOR REAL old. As more time passed, I think Sarah started to feel that pressure- like she had to take matters into her own hands to make sure there would be a baby. I think she was struggling with that idea of hope, too. Her hope was uncertain, she wanted to have a son like God had promised, but she wasn’t confident she would, so she probably felt this anxious pressure to make it happen.

What we discovered is this tension we have with uncertain hope. Is it bad to wish for the best or have a positive outlook? NO. I LOVE positive people and am naturally a glass half full kind of person. But while this kind of hope may help with my daily attitude toward things, I quickly realized this isn’t enough to get me through the really intense, “can’t see a way out” kind of stuff. It’s not that this hope is bad, it’s just that it’s not enough.

We need something deeper, something stronger. A hope that is in something certain.

This reminds me of how in step one of the 12 steps we have recognize our powerlessness before we are willing in step two to look to a power greater than ourselves for restoration. We have to realize the limitations of this kind of hope if we are going to look elsewhere for a greater, steadfast, confident source of hope.

2) Hope-Defined

I guess a confident hope can really only be in something that is faithful and unchanging? And when I try to think about that kind of source, the only thing that I can think of that fits is God, right?

Yes! Actually, some of my favorite Bible verses are about that very thing. Check this out…

  • ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ‘ ~James 1:17 ESV
  • ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. ‘~Hebrews 13:8 ESV
  • ” The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.’ ~Isaiah 40:8 ESV

Yeah, I love those verses. I just highlights that if what I’m hoping in is God and His promises, it’s something I can actually be confident in, because that hope is rooted in the faithfulness of God, which is unfailing.

Yes, the starting point for this kind of hope in my life was actually an encounter with Jesus. When I was nineteen, I got pregnant. I wasn’t married and was scared to death. When I had you, my whole world turned upside down because I loved you so much and wanted to be the best mom for you but, truth be told, I was a mess.

At that time, I would have said I was a Christian, but I wasn’t really following Jesus. Honestly, I don’t think I even knew what that meant. What I did know was that I had made a lot of bad decisions already in my young life and I felt like I had messed up so bad God could not forgive me. I would cry at night after I had put you to bed because I was so scared, I was going to mess you up too and that you’d end up just like me. I felt hopeless within myself. At that same time in my life a friend I worked with kept inviting me to this Bible study with her. Finally, I went, I thought what do I have to lose. At one of those Bible study meetings a girl was sharing about her first encounter with Jesus and as she did, she shared this verse that I had heard many times before but this time something new happened, I was actually listening. She said,

‘”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ‘ ~John 3:16 ESV

In that moment I realized something I never had before. That God wasn’t wanting me to get cleaned up to come to him. He knew the mess I was in was impossible for me to get out of on my own. That is why, HE CAME TO ME! HE DIED FOR ME! He was doing for me what I could not do for myself and His motivation was His love for me. That day I realized I could be forgiven for my wrongs and I could be made right with God through Jesus. A new hope was born in me that had nothing to do with how good or not I was but instead it had everything to do with how good God was and what He has done for me.

The Bible says, ‘Faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ (Jesus). ‘ ~Romans 10:17 NLT

This implies that hope, like faith, is built up and strengthened by the word of God. When we read and hear about the precious promises of God in the Bible and then we encounter Jesus who purchased/fulfills them for us a confident hope is born and begins to be nurtured just like mine was.

Wow, that’s so good. I love hearing that part of your story and how in the middle of so much craziness, you found a way to have peace in the future, even if it was a future you couldn’t have predicted. It sounds like hope is the part of faith that focuses on the future. Like, when faith is directed to the future, you can call it hope. When you heard what Jesus did for you, you chose to put your faith in Him, and that faith gave you hope for your future and for mine.

Absolutely!  But faith can also encompass the past and the present as well. Faith is the larger idea that includes hope but is more than hope. Think of it this way…faith is our confidence in God and His word. When His word speaks of future promises you can call our confidence in that hope.

That makes sense. So, to put a different way, a God centered hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen and we put our trust, or our faith, in that promise. And that kind of hope gives us a confidence that something is going to happen because God has promised it is. An example that comes to mind is how in the Old Testament of the Bible, God’s people were in a desperate situation, feeling something probably similar to what you said you felt earlier. Their lives were a mess, they kept being enslaved by other lands & kings, and they felt like they couldn’t live the way God was calling them to- but God had promised them that He was sending someone to rescue them, a Savior, a true King. They had faith in God and so they held onto a confident hope that God would keep His promise and this Savior would come. So, when Jesus came, he was fulfilling promises God had made. But now we live in a time where Jesus has already come so once we put our faith in Him and what He’s done for us, what is it then that we are hoping in for our future? Because it seems like since things have changed since then, the promise we’re hoping for would have changed too. What does the Bible say about that?

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Revelation which is the very last book. When I say that people most of the time, they think I’m strange because there is some interesting stuff in that book. I haven’t always liked it, mostly because I didn’t understand it, because it’s talking about stuff that is in the future and it has a lot of symbolic imagery. One year I got the opportunity to study Revelation in depth way. As the bible study teacher was setting up the study for us, she told us this story. She is from the east coast and loves basketball. She has her favorite team and watches all of their games. One particularly important game fell on a day she had to teach a class and so she set her TV to record it so she could watch the game when she got home. Even though she’d taken precautions to not find out the ending of the game someone unintentionally spoiled it for her. The good news was that even though the game had been spoiled her team had won! She loved the games so much she still watched it when she got home. What she hadn’t known was that her team was actually going to fall way behind in the game. So badly so that it got to a point where she found herself thinking, there’s no way they can win, she actually started to doubt their victory. But she remembered, I already know the end, I know they win! In that moment she started getting excited, she had a confident hope that no matter how bad things looked in this moment her team was going to come back, and they would overcome. Knowing the end gave her a totally different perspective as she finished the game.

She shared this illustration to help us understand why God has given us this book. Jesus knew as it says in John 16:33 that in this world His followers would have trouble and we would suffer but He has overcome the world. In the book of Revelation, we actually get to see evil fully addressed and done away with forever. And in the last two chapters, my very favorites, we get to see all things restored and made new.  Listen to this,

‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.’ ~Revelation 21:1-7 NLT

As followers of Jesus this is our future, this is what God has promised each one of us. We can not only have confidences in how Jesus has rescued us from our past and present, but we can also have a confident hope in that Jesus is making all things new in our future.

As I read those last two chapters I can’t help but see how it connects with the beginning of the bible when God first created man and woman in the garden. Everything that humans have destroyed in their rebellion against God, He is bent on completely restoring. It honestly blows my mind how connected the whole story of the Bible is. I love how the passage you read says God’s home is now among his people. All along God has created us to be with Him and He plans to completely finish what He started. I guess the question we have to ask ourselves now is what does all of this mean for us today? How is this meant to impact how we are living right now and the things we are facing currently?

 3) Hope-Applied

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. ‘ ~Psalm 42:5

I love the raw honest look we get into what it looks like to do real life in a relationship with God through the Psalms. The authors just lay it all out there and they give us a front row seat to how they had to wrestle and fight and struggle to maintain their hope in God. Hoping in God does not come naturally for us. We actually have to seek out God and His word regularly to remind ourselves of what is true of Him and true of us. In this way we we are actively renewing our hope, diligently, intentionally, & regularly, otherwise we will give way to a downcast and unsettled/anxious spirit.

Walking in hope seems like hard work, especially since we still have to contend with a broken world and our own desires to go against God and the life, we think we want to live. Plus, we live in a time where we want things to be easy and convenient. It’s so important for us to be honest with ourselves and confront this truth, or else it becomes easy for us to get lazy and push hope to the backburner.

Well, and there is a lot at stake because if our future is not secured and satisfied by God then we are going to be excessively anxious. This results either in paralyzing fear or in self-managed, greedy control. We end up thinking about ourselves, our future, our problems and our potential, and that keeps us from loving God & others. What if we weren’t so preoccupied with those self-focused thoughts? What would be possible if that wasn’t consuming so much of our time and energy?

It seems like we would be freed up to focus on loving others. When I stop and think about it, Jesus lived that out. He trusted His Father so He wasn’t focused on himself, He could actually see others and their needs without making it all about Him. And He loved people so well from that heart space.

Yes, I read something recently where the author summed up what we are talking about in a really helpful way, he (John Piper) said:

The most important verse in the Bible for me, probably, is Romans 8:32: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Now that last part is hope producing! But it’s grounded in the rock-solid statement that “God didn’t spare his own son.” So the essence of what we look to in the Bible to build our hope is, What has Christ done for me in my sinful condition that enables me to know that I will not come in to judgment and condemnation and that all things are working together for my good? And the answer is that Christ died for me, rose again for me, and therefore all the promises of God are yes in him. So let’s look away from the circumstances that confront us, look to Christ, look to the promises, and hold fast to them. Hope comes from the promises of God rooted in the work of Christ.

It’s not hard when we look around us to quickly see all that is wrong with the world. It’s actually pretty easy to find faults in others. Most of the time we find it easy to pick ourselves apart too. Becoming overwhelmed by our life and circumstances and falling into hopelessness and despair doesn’t take much work. In a world where self-centeredness is the norm, criticism comes naturally, and most of us are grabbing for something to just cope with our hopelessness it makes sense that walking in hope and sacrificial love would be hard work. It makes sense that they would require intentionality and focus because it’s like swimming upstream in a strong current. The pull of the current is working against you. Anybody feel that? It makes sense that we cannot live the way God has created and called us to on our own. Isn’t it such GOOD NEWS that God has made it so that we don’t have to! Through Jesus God transforms us into people of confident hope in Him.  And as we walk with Him daily, we don’t face our circumstances alone. In Him our hope is renewed and daily when we turn to Him, He strengthens and empowers us to overcome in all circumstances. Following Jesus down the path of hope may not be easy but it is good, and it is worth it!

Isn’t it interesting to reflect on the fact that each one of us is here because someone else walked this walk of hope and perseverance with Jesus?  Paul, as he was writing to the early church in Corinth, shares about himself and others like him who were following Jesus down this very path we are talking about and bringing this good news to many others. But as they did, they were having to endure great opposition and hardship. Yet his perspective was deeply rooted in Jesus and the hope set before Him.

‘So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient/temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ‘ ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

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