How Hope Grows
This past Sunday in my message I asked you all to write down things you hope for and then asked you to trust that God will get them to the "baggage claim" at the other side of your travels. This was meant to be a metaphor about life - just not confident that the message landed with everyone. (pun intended) I didn't look at everyones hopes as I wanted these to largely remain private and between you and God but I was curious as a presenter if the concept worked and people participated. What I noticed was how selfless many of your hopes are. Hopes for the homeless, the ill, societal justice, and more. What was shocking is that of the 10 or so that I read none of them featured even a single thing about a "personal" hope. Not hope for more money, bigger house, happier relationship, debt free, less weight, or anything! I'm not saying that none of you have zero personal hopes as that would be silly, but when asked to reflect on hope it wasn't the first thing that came to mind. I found this fascinating.
I did a similar exercise with our youth group to see what they would say and it was largely about personal things with much smaller focus on worldly issues. Hopes for a relationship, getting in school, winning a sport championship, personal beauty, pass a test, etc.
When we ask about Christian hope which one is correct? ...Yes
I think specifically of the journey of Paul or even Peter. (yes, I'm always going to talk about my boy Peter!) Both of these individuals were zealous about their personal hopes. Paul wanted to start churches all over the place and baptize every person with a pulse at first as a means of personal retribution for his own sins when he went by the name of Saul. However, much later in life and arguably when he was in a much more precarious situation (jailed) his hopes turned to wellbeing of the churches that he started. I trust that he still was concerned for his own salvation but he rarely talks about it in his later life and spends much more time encouraging people to become Christian because of the experience of Christianity - the joy that is produced from such selfless living. For Peter, he spent every waking second trying to please Jesus for pleasures sake and as a result he kept fumbling over himself or even upsetting Jesus. It wasn't until Peter was asked to lead the church that he learned to do actions in Jesus name (acts 3 + 4) instead of in Peter's name.
Young people live in a small worldview - their immediate families, friends, and maybe work communities depending on age. Young people are also inoculated with the message that they must "work hard in order to be successful." It's not shocking then that most young people are "selfish" with their hopes. They are trained to be that way! As people age and find themselves in more secure positions financially and settled down with a home and families it appears that the selfishness dissipates. I don't mean to say that as we age we're less driven or capable of great successes - far from it - we find ways to redefine what great successes look like. Success becomes about legacy and ensuring the world, not just our world, looks a little better by the time we're done. If we each can contribute a single brick to the God's kingdom than someday in someones life that great kingdom will be here and peace on all earth will exist. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to hope. Amen and amen.
Scripture that Inspired These Thoughts
1 Kings 2:3
And observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.
King David, great King of the Israelite people, reflects on his successes and great mistakes when he writes these words. Hope is found not in what we can produce by our merits but hope can be grown from our hands when God guides them.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
Proverbs is a collection of teachings from David to his son Solomon who would grow to be one of the wisest people of the Bible. What is the greatest lesson you've learned from someone older than you? What lessons have you tried to pass down?
Questions to Consider
What do you hope for personally? What do you hope for on a global sense? Which seems more possible at this moment?
A relationship with God is in investment in yourself that benefits you and others. How have you personally experienced this?
Praying the Hymns
When I think of this transition from personal to selfless hope I think of the hymn "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light." The hymn implies we might not be there yet but we want to walk as a child of the light. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, or maybe we want to keep our streak alive. Wherever you are on the path of walking like Jesus did may this hymn inspire that walk.