Hoping Against Hope”
II Corinthians 3: 12- 4:2

ome folks go through life standing at the complaint counter--- No hope, nothing to look forward to. And this negative lifestyle gradually turns them into distorted caricatures of the beautiful persons that God originally designed them to be.

Preachers can even get caught in this mean spirited trap. I heard about one preacher that would have to change churches about every year. Eventually, the Bishop decided to send him to his meanest church. After two months they were demanding a change. "Why," the D.S. asked? "It’s like this," the P.P.R. Chair responded. "The others you sent told us we were all terrible sinners going to hell, and we sure deserved it, but this one told us like he was glad."

Church folks can be secret sinners, you know. Back in North Carolina I remember how a fraternity at Duke University was initiating pledges one year: They made them run laps, and eat stuff, and sent them through the belt line, then they dressed them up in Duke Blue Devils mascot rubber suits, with horns and a forked tail with pitchforks, then blindfolded them and drove them out into the country and set them out on an unpaved road. The lost devils started walking and finally saw a light. When they got closer they recognized it as a
small country church. The folks were singing and having a revival meeting, and in walks these two devils. Everyone was afraid and some hid under the pews, even the preacher, but one lady jumped up and held her arms out to the devils and said, "O Mister Devils don’t come after me, I know I’ve been a member of this here church for 40 years, but I’ve been on your side all along."

Now, we all know that God wants us to live positive lives full of joy on His team. And we know from our text that the source of our inner peace is the hope we have in Christ our Savior. "With this hope in our hearts we are quite frank and open in our ministry. We are not like Moses who veiled his face to keep the Israelites from seeing its fading glory. But all of us who are Christians have no veils on our faces, but reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord. We are transfigured in ever increasing splendor into his own image..." (v. 12, 13 &18, Phillips).

This power at work within our lives that gives such hope is a byproduct of the inner assurance of the resurrection, and the joy he gives from day to day. "It’s not just pie in the sky in the by and by, but also pie now, with ice cream on it." (Rev. Ike).

C.S. Lewis expressed the same experience in a somewhat more formal tone in his most widely read book, Mere Christianity. "Hope is a continual looking forward to an eternal world. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you will read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in: aim at earth and you will get neither." (p. 118).

Sometimes hope is all we have, but hope is always enough. The adage, "Hoping Against Hope." means that we hope with very little justification or reason, but still there is hope, and it’s sufficient. As long as we are alive in Christ there is hope.

Even Job, encouraged to curse God and die by his comforters, beheld a vision of heaven and said, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:" (19: 25 & 26, KJV).

To hope is to long for, to aspire to, to pursue, to dream of, to have a vision of, to experience every now and then a foretaste of glory deep down in your sole. All kinds of unlikely daily experiences can trigger this foreshadowing of heaven: It’s kind of like when you are walking in the surf and out of nowhere a big wave sneaks in behind and bowls you over. This kind of thing surprised me at the beginning of our Thursday 12:10 worship service last week as we were singing the chorus, His Name is Wonderful, and folks from the skyscrapers surrounding us kept coming in, and we were having the biggest crowd we have had. Either the crowd, or the song were used by the Spirit to touch my heart and the hope filled vision of what God is going to do in bringing resurgence to this great church just flooded my soul. My heart was surprisingly warmed!

I came to this pastoral appointment Hoping Against Hope, but now there is reason for hope based on what God has already begun to do, and the vision that more and more of us are getting caught up in. We work hard to accomplish all that we and the Lord can accomplish in the vineyard, but every now and then we look up from the plow into heaven and catch a foretaste of glory that awaits us whenever that night comes and we will work no more down here. How do folks survive in this world without hope for the next?

I love going to estate sales but I hate it too. You can get a deal, but if you are sensitive at all you know that you are plundering through some glorified saint’s private stuff. From the diplomas, and books, and souvenirs, and sometimes even family albums, I have learned to get to know the folks whose fountain pens and pencils I will be writing with. Just Friday I bought a man’s Holy Land slides. He had lots of slides all neatly in carousels ready to see, but the children left them for us plunderers, and I could not stand to let them be destroyed: These visions of where Job and Jesus walked, these frozen symbols of this glorified saint’s vision of heaven--- I bought his hope, and now share in his joy. Besides, I got a deal.

Christ offers us a deal right now. He offers us for free, the hope of glory which is much more than merely Hoping Against Hope!

Will you receive his gift of hope?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor