OUR HOLLOW HOPES
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let me start with a question: What would make your life better?
What would make you happier?
It’s likely that most of us have an answer to this sentence: I will be happier when “this” happens.
When I get that promotion.
When my marriage improves.
When I stop living check to check.
When my kids get out of the house and go to Kindergarten.
There’s a lot embedded in those statements, but one of the things they are lined with is HOPE.
Really it’s a double-hope.
We hope that, for 1) we actually will get the thing we want in the first place (the promotion, etc.)
And secondly, we hope that the thing that we want will actually make us feel better if we get it.
Every one of us has hopes.
It’s why we’re still alive.
You may have seen in the news this week, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez took his life.
Why? Why does anyone take their life?
One reason is: they’ve run out of hope…that tomorrow will somehow be better than today.
But as for us, even though there may be many things we may be hopeless about, there are still other things in which we have hope…
We have hope that these future things, when realized, will make our tomorrows brighter.
The real question is though: How confident should we be in these hopes?
Have our previous hopes given us happiness thus far?
For whatever reason, years ago, I remember listening to this guy on the radio talking about how he wanted a fancy new riding lawn mower for like 2 years.
And he kept thinking, “Once I get that, my summers won’t be so annoying…I’ll be happy.”
Sidenote: I came home from work last week, and I’ve been so busy lately, I was actually mad that my grass was green (talk about a first-world problem)….cuz now I’m going to have to mow it.
But anyway, this guy on the radio finally got his shiny new riding lawn mower, and he talked about how for the first 3 months, he took care of it like a new baby…
And every time he took it out to mow the lawn, he’d smile the whole time.
But now, 2 years later, he was saying how he doesn’t even think about it anymore.
And how he kicks it when it doesn’t work right.
The things that were supposed to give us so much joy, the things we put our hope in, just seem to fade away into the frustration of our daily lives
U.S. News & World Report published an article on this subject that said, "Once income provides basic needs, it doesn't correlate to happiness anymore. Nor does intelligence, prestige, or sunny weather. People grow used to higher salaries, better cars, and nicer climates.”
I was talking to a doctor last year who had recently moved up here from Florida.
And I said, “What were you thinking? How can I trust your judgment as a doctor when you’d move here…from Florida? Wasn’t Florida amazing??
And she said, “Well, Florida was amazing…at first…but then, I learned that the summers are too hot, the bugs are huge, and the alligators…eat your pets, etc.”
This is a good summary of the American life, right?
We put our hopes in these “things” or in our “circumstances” to make us happy, until one day, they just don’t anymore.
I think this cycle of “I hope this will make me happy à oh man, it didn’t” à but…this will make me happyà oh man, it didn’t”… explains a lot of our frustration with life.
“hope…not realized…” is a frustrating cycle to be in.
I think for a lot of us, even so many of our fears and anxieties are because we know, deep within, that these things we’re putting our hope in, aren’t really going to be what we need.
If we KNEW they were really going to work, there wouldn’t be any reason to fear.
But deep down, somewhere within us, we know better.
And here’s what many of us know deep within us, but we just haven’t been able to say out loud yet: So many of our hopes…are hollow.
They’re based on things that look like they’re going to deliver, but when we get them…when we bite into them…it’s just air.
Like Cotton candy… “Man that looks filling! Oh wait, it’s just air. I ate the whole thing, and it feels like I never ate. ”
And that’s a good summary of many of our hopes…
They look like they’ll fill us up…but they’re hollow
But what if you could move from hollow hope to hal-owed hope?
I don’t know if you grew up in church or not (I know a lot of you didn’t), but probably over half of the people in this room grew up in a Catholic or Lutheran church.
And you probably said the Lord’s prayer every week.
And if you did, you might remember praying, “Hal-owed be thy name”
Or if you were in a really progressive church, you said, “Hal-owed be your name” and then felt really nervous about how modern your church was becoming J
Or if your church was really proud of being old school, you’d say, “Hal-o-Wed” be thy name!
Except, most of us had no idea what that word meant…and that was pre-google, so we never looked it up.
Sidenote: The correct pronunciation of the world is: hal-owed…but everyone I asked this week, said, “hall-owed”
It got me thinking, “Is like a Minnesota dialect thing?
Let’s take a quick vote.
How many of you think “Hal-owed”?
The word comes from how Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in Matthew 6
(Matthew 6:9-10) – NIV
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
It means that the name of God is set apart as holy.
But it’s more than that.
It’s saying that when you think of who God is…think of Him as the most holy, the most perfect, the most cherished, the most loving, the most dependable, the most powerful being in the world.
It’s like that song I heard at the end of our Easter services 6 times last weekend… “What a beautiful name…”
It says, “You have no Rival”
And what the Bible teaches us as followers of God…is that’s the type of person we should put our hopes in.
And yet, most of us aren’t very good at that…because it’s not what we’re used to doing.
In fact, most of us have been taught to do the very opposite by our culture.
We’ve been taught to put our hope in ourselves…and in the circumstances that we can create
But if you want to move from hollow hope to hallowed hope (to holy hope)…we’ve got to stop putting our hope in ourselves and in our circumstances.
Let me talk about those two things for a minute (that is…putting our hopes in ourselves & our circumstances)
Let me walk through how those two pursuits end up both being hollow hopes
HOLLOW HOPE IN OURSELVES to HALLOWED HOPE IN HIM
Let’s take a look at the first one: Putting hope in ourselves.
Most Americans (especially if you’re under 40) have been taught this right out of the womb.
“You can do anything you set your mind to!”
“Just believe in yourself!”
“Only YOU can change your life!”
And while it’s true that yes, setting your mind on working hard and achieving your goals is better than eating chips on the couch and sleeping to 1pm every day…
The hard truth that they don’t tell you on inspirational TV shows is that you don’t have all that much control over your life…even if you work hard.
What about the woman who dreams about having 4 or 5 little kids of her own, but finds out, she can’t have kids??
Did she not “set her mind to it” enough?
Or what about the hard-working girl who sat behind me in math class in high school…who was killed in a car accident…
What about her goals?
Did she not believe enough?
And as we grow older, life teaches us that we’re not God.
At least, it’s supposed to teach us that.
And yet, so much of our American culture wants us to believe that we have “power like God”…even though it never says it that way.
We’re taught to believe that we can and should put our hope in the fact that we can shape our own circumstances and our own destiny.
And the truth is, you can’t.
You’re not in control.
And so don’t put all of your hope in yourself!
And on top of that, as the saying goes, “Heavy lies the crown”
It’s hard to keep hoping in yourself…as the shaper of your own destiny.
Because we’re not able to shape our own destiny…and thus our hopes…prove hollow.
Pastor John Piper says it this way:
“If I believed in that religion (hoping in myself), I would despair with the excruciating weight it puts on me—to clear my own conscience, forgive my own sin, find my own meaning, uphold my own cause, carry my own burdens, protect my own life, overcome my own fears, heal my own wounds, secure my own future, comfort myself in my own death. What a crushing weight this “religion” puts on the backs of our countrymen today. And the only redemption offered in this religion: the pitiful ceremony of repeating in front of the mirror: You're OKAY. You're OKAY. You're OKAY. It's a hard way to die. – John Piper
But what if you could start moving from hollow hope to hallowed hope?
To hoping in someone worthy of wearing the crown…not just yourself.
To hoping in someone much more powerful than ourselves.
(Psalm 146:3-9) – NIV
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Do you want something to change in your life?
Stop hoping just in yourself
Start hoping in someone bigger!
If anyone has the power to fix your marriage…
If anyone has the power to help you beat this addiction…
If anyone has the power to change your circumstances…
HOLLOW HOPE IN CIRCUMSTANCES to HALLOWED HOPE IN HIM
And so moving from hollow to hallowed hope involves letting go of hoping in ourselves
But it also involves letting go of the hope that a change in circumstances is necessarily going to make us happy.
And maybe to you that sounds more like giving up hope than finding hope.
That’s not what I’m saying.
Hear me out.
The truth is, for most people our hopes are deeply tied to the circumstances of our life.
When things go well, we’re happy.
When they don’t, we’re not.
So the next question is: If we’re not hoping in ourselves, but hoping in God, should we ask God to improve our circumstances then, so we can be happy?
Yes and no.
If you can’t pay the bills, ask God to help you pay the bills!
He LOVES it when His children believe He can help!
If your relationship with your aging parents is really messy right now and causing you a ton of stress, ask God to help you restore it!
He wants us to ask for help!
Yet…yet…God is not in our lives only to just serve as some sort of Genie who grants wishes, to improve our circumstances, so we can be happy…because of our circumstances.
Our greatest joy is found when we hope in God…no matter what He might bring us…because we’re hoping in HIM as our fulfillment…not in things.
And thus, our HOPE, should be in Him…no matter what our circumstances should bring.
Let me explain what I mean…
One of the greatest books I’ve ever read is Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.”
If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the true story of how Corrie Ten Boom and her family hid Jews from the Nazi’s in their home in Holland.
They created a secret room which could only be accessed by sliding up a back piece of a book shelf, and they hid up to 10 Jews at a time from Nazi raids.
I guess, I didn’t technically read the book.
I listened to it on audiobook last year…while driving to see a friend in Madison, Wisconsin.
I stopped halfway to get gas, and I checked in with my wife…
And I remember texting her that my mouth hurt from clenching while listening to the story because it was so intense.
Without giving the ending away, I can tell you that mid-way through the book, Corrie, her sister, and her father get caught by the Nazi’s and are taken to a concentration camp.
However, Corrie and her sister Betsy end up getting placed in the same concentration camp.
And on their way in, they’re able to sneak a Bible past the guards.
And every night, to a growing crowd of women, they would open up the Bible and share HOPE to the crowds in the barracks.
They would share HOPE with women who were suffering in unspeakable circumstances.
They were able to restore hope to women who had lost all hope.
If we would have been in those barracks…as modern Americans…how difficult would that have been for the average American?
It would have been obvious, finally, to most us…that we are indeed powerless to change some situations.
And because, for most of us, our emotions are directly tied to our circumstances, we also would have been absolutely miserable.
All hope would have been lost.
In yet, for Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, it wasn’t.
Because they knew what the Bible teaches about hope.
The Bible teaches that you can’t really control your circumstances, but you can control how you handle them.
And the secret to hope is this: Don’t hope in yourself…don’t hope just in your circumstances…HOPE IN SOMEONE MORE POWERFUL THAN YOURSELF & MORE POWERFUL THAN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES.
Hope in God Himself.
That He can change your circumstances!
Were these two middle-aged women going to just “hope in themselves?”
Were they just suppose to “set their mind to it” and get out of the concentration camp?
Give me a break…
But could “The God of the Universe” get them out of there if that was His will?
Nothing is too hard for Him!
There are no hopeless situations, only people who think hopelessly.
And here’s the greatest thing about Christian hope…and we’ll continue to unpack this in the subsequent weeks, but I gotta say something about it now.
CorrieTten Boom’s hope was so strong because she knew A) What her God was capable of…but she also knew that even if she should die in the camp, she could still have hope.
Hope that as a Christian, even if she dies, she just goes to heaven to be with Jesus!
The Apostle Paul, one of the early leaders of Christianity after Jesus went back to heaven…was a man who suffered much for Jesus.
He was beaten many times, flogged, and chased out of cities.
In one of his letters from prison (which he was in for telling people about Jesus), he writes this:
(Philippians 1:20-21) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!!
20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.
This is what’s so amazing about hallowed hope, Christian hope.
We hope above all human strength and power that God can get us out of any difficultly, any circumstance…
But like Corrie Ten Boom, like the Apostle Paul, we can say, “God, even if you choose not to get me out of this circumstance, I still have hope!”
Because even if, what the rest of the world would call “the worst thing,” were to happen, we know, that that’s actually the best thing.
For to die, is gain.
If the cancer wins, well, then I guess we still win…
We go to heaven to be with God
If another stroke comes back, well, then I guess I get to be with Jesus.
And Paul says, in his same letter, it’s not that we pursue death, it’s just that we know, that NOTHING can steal our hope…because even if our dark circumstances turn to pitch black, Jesus turns them into the light of heaven.
See, that’s hope.
And it’s not hollow either.
It delivers no matter what.
So start hoping. Start hoping in God.
And really, my question for you is this:
Where do you need to move your hopes from hollow to hallowed?
Is there some place today where you can move your hope from yourself to God?
Is there some place in your life where you need to start saying that “even if this doesn’t work out…and I don’t get that job…or that person doesn’t ever forgive me…
“…that I trust in you…and in your plan…”
…” that I believe that I don’t have to place my hopes of happiness and contentment in my circumstances”
Is there a place where you can start hoping in God to fulfill you rather than just another happy moment?
And for those of you that are just starting in this God thing…
Keep coming back here.
Next week, is week 2 of the “3 Weeks of Hope Challenge.”
Keep coming back. God is going to move in your life.
Next week we’re going to talk more about how to keep hoping even when the situation feels hopeless.
But if there is anyone worth hoping in, for this life and the next, it’s God.
Jesus’ disciple, Peter, says it this way:
(1 Peter 1:21) – NIV
Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.
Remember, this God, that we’re encouraging you to put your hope in….
He is trustworthy…He sent His son for you.
He is loving…He sent His son for you.
He is powerful…He sent His son for you…and raised Him from the dead.
Put your hope in something solid.
Put your hope in God.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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