Muscles are more than about strength (as I mentioned last week). We may think of strength, but the reality is that muscles allow us to maintain good posture as well as allowing us to move. But that movement does involve strength. But how should we best measure physical strength? Is someone strong because they can do something one time or because they can do something multiple times? The answer is both can be true. Maximum muscle strength is best measured by determining if someone can do some action one time. For instance, a weightlifter will measure their strength by how much they can bench or squat or dead lift one time. But then someone might ask, “How many reps do you do?” And that question tests endurance.
But beyond physical strength, people are said to be emotionally strong. On a day like today, (Mother’s Day) we can think of mom’s or other women in our life that show great emotional strength through certain trials in their lives or the support they show when the trials are challenging their children. I know we do not always recognize this in the moment, and sometimes we may never recognize the fullness of a mother’s strength, but over time most of us appreciate our mothers more as we age.
But another kind of strength is spiritual strength. Perhaps those words make you think of someone whose life is full of faith, hope, and love at levels you might never expect to attain. Perhaps it is someone you know or about whom you have heard or read. Or perhaps it is someone from the Bible – like a Paul or a Peter or Jacob or David. But do you realize that each of those people, and countless others are no different from you and me except they learned to exercise their spiritual muscles over time? Abraham had to leave his homeland to become great. Jacob was an underdog (and a liar), but God chose him as an underdog. Moses was a coward but became a great leader through spiritual exercise. David had several older brothers, but through his spiritual exercises became a great king over them (similar to Joseph who became a great leader). Peter, a mere fisherman. Paul, someone who loved to have others do the grunt work (see Acts 7.58-8.1), but wanted the godly destroyed. All of these people had to develop their spiritual muscles. And that takes time. Again, there is a difference in being strong for a moment or strong for the duration. And in our spiritual lives, both are important. And that is why we must develop our spiritual muscles.
So, today, we are going to talk about developing the muscle of hope. As I mentioned last week, a book I recently read talks about the divine trilogy or faith, hope, and love. You are likely familiar with this trio of words because it is found in 1 Corinthians 13.13. But I had never heard them described as the “divine trilogy” and, more importantly, I had never realized the importance of these three words together (or especially when one is missing) in the NT. (1)
Today, we look at the second of these concepts. We are reviewing them in reverse order because Jesus said the greatest commandment involves love. Furthermore, it is love that will remain. But the three – faith, hope, and love are perfectly interconnected just like the true Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For you cannot have the Son without the Father, and the Spirit is continuing the work of the Son as He was sent to do by the Father. Likewise, if we love, we must have faith in something or someone which leads to a hope of something better because of that faith. We will look at faith next week, but for today, let us turn our attention to hope.
To Have Hope Requires a Bit of Foolishness (1 Corinthians 1.18-21)
First, I must point out that the text we are reviewing today does not include the word, “hope.” But the principles of the text share the point that those who have the least can have the most – and that is a bit of what hope is.
Consider, why people have hope. They hope for peace – because peace doesn’t exist. They hope for wealth – because money alludes them. They hope for a spouse – because they are single. They hope for a new job – because they do not like they current one (or they do not have one). See we only hope for things that are currently beyond us.
But as I have said dozens of times, that kind of hope is a wish. When the Bible speaks of hope it is something that is certain, just not yet realized in full. For instance, Titus 2 calls the return of Jesus – the Blessed Hope – because it will happen, but it has not happened yet.
But to believe something to be true, even though it has not been realized, does makes us appear foolish. And yet, those who are foolish enough to have this type of HOPE are the ones that God elevates. Verse 18 says it is the power of God to believe in the folly of the cross. Verse 19, says that God will destroy the wisdom of the wise. Verse 20 says the wisdom of the world is what will be foolish.
We see this throughout our culture right now. More than anytime in recent history, the elite believe those who are religious are fools. But this is nothing new. 100 years ago, it was determined by the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) that any school which issued any kind of religious test should not be called a university. This is not a law, but it is why most every Christian institution of higher learning are called colleges. Thus, to many people my having a doctorate does not qualify me to teach in many schools because it was earned in a Christian environment which means it does not really count. The thought process is that Christians cannot be people of reason, only superstition. Thus, in the minds of many any hope we have is indeed superstitious.
As a people we live in an age of reason which began with the Enlightenment in the 18th Century. But reason cannot explain the cross or the resurrection even though they are documented by historians in the 1st Century apart from the Bible. However, this reason, or wisdom, is nothing new. Paul was writing to Corinth which was a city with a strong Greek heritage and the Greeks were notorious for their wisdom. Thus, Paul says God made the wisdom of the world (that is, human reason) foolish while making those who appear to be fools (for following an unseen God) the ones who will be made victorious in the end. And that is why we can have HOPE.
To Have Hope Is to Understand Christ (1 Corinthians 1.22-25)
Again, we often think that our culture is much worse today than it has even been. Now, in all honesty, I cannot tell you how bad the world has been at every era of history, but we can look back at many instances in history and see a world that was as corrupt or more-so than the one we live in currently. Without debate, two accounts from Genesis come to mind, and both ended with calamitous consequences. First, in the story of Noah, we have God saving one man and his family and destroying everyone and nearly everything else because “every intention of [mankind’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6.5). Then just a dozen or so chapters later, we have God sending fire balls from the sky to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah due to the rampant sin in those towns (Genesis 19.24). And yet, Jesus said that on the Day of Judgment it will be better for those two towns than it will be for Capernaum (the town which was the base for His ministry, Matthew 12.23-24).
So, we must not kid ourselves that our culture is the worst ever. But it is bad. And a part of the evil we face today is ill-conceived logic that is cast as wisdom. For instance, I heard a story this week about a father who has a 14-year old female child cannot call her a girl or it will be considered “family violence.” FAMILY VIOLENCE! (2)
This is the type of wisdom that Paul says the world will chase. And it has, and it is, and it will. In his day it was the Greeks (v. 22) while the Jews wanted proof. They wanted signs. Remember it was the Jewish religious leaders asked Jesus to do signs (after all of the signs He had already done – and yet they missed the biggest one, His return from the dead; see Matthew 14.13-16.1).
But what Paul preached was that a man who was crucified was the long-awaited Messiah. The Jews would not believe and the Greeks thought it was folly. But for anyone who would believe – whether Jew or Greek (Gentile), the name Christ is equated with the power of God. Why? Because the world may believe that having belief in God is foolish and perhaps even that God is foolish, but as Paul writes, the foolishness of God is far wiser than any wisdom found in man (v. 25).
To Have Christ Is to Have Hope (1 Corinthians 1.26-31)
In this last portion, Paul ties up any loose ends that the reader might be questioning before expanding on the idea as it relates to his specific message in chapter two. Earlier, I mentioned that we often hope for things we don’t have, and Paul realizing that truth, asks the Corinthians to remember where they were before Christ, and where they are now.
Before Christ, they had a hope (as in a wish) to have a better life according to “worldly standards” (v. 26). Much of his audience was not of noble birth, but “God chose what is foolish in this world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (v. 27). In other words, whatever wisdom or strength the world thinks it has is fake. God is the source of true strength. That was going to be the title for this week’s message, but I am moving it to next week because it fits better there.
What Paul says is that God choices are not what human reason might consider. Again, we see this from the earliest parts of the Bible. Jacob was chosen over Esau. Joseph was chosen over all of his older brothers. Moses was chosen over Aaron. David was seventh in line. And, as we have seen before, Jesus was born through Nathan’s line whom we know nothing about (this is not Nathan the prophet) instead of Solomon’s line.
But being wise and strong in the world’s eyes means nothing when this life is over. If that is the fullness of somebody’s hope (that is, their desires, or wishes), then they may achieve greatness, but it will be gone. Read 1 Corinthians 1.28-29. But for those who seek Christ, we have God’s true wisdom and His true strength, and thus we do not boast in ourselves, we are to boast in what God has done for us. Read 1 Corinthians 1.30-31.
In our reading this morning we heard what Christ can really means to us. Colossians 1.27 says Christ in You, the Hope of Glory. I love how Paul writes sometimes. That idea has no verb, and yet it is completely sensible. Essentially, Paul makes is a mathematical equation.
Christ in You = Hope of Glory
Now, do not misunderstand me, and more importantly do not misinterpret God, being physically strong or mentally astute is not wrong. And we can, and should, develop our strength in all aspects of life until we are able to love the Lord our God will all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength (as we saw last week). But in our quest for strength and knowledge, we must recognize the source of both and that achieving any personal goals does not give us any more HOPE than we already have if we have Christ.
And that brings us back to the idea of our needing to develop our muscle of HOPE. For those who are following Christ, we cannot receive any more of Him than we already have. But we can allow Him to have more of us than He currently does. And when we find ourselves thinking of Him and yielding to Him more often, we will find that the troubles of the world do not concern us as much as they otherwise might because of the HOPE that we have. Again, that HOPE is not a wish, it is an unrealized certainty. What God has promised might otherwise be considered foolish by those who do not believe. And most will question – and SHOULD question – what comes out of the mouth of someone teaching God’s Word. That is why I simply try to elaborate on what He says in His Word – because it is His wisdom that bring true HOPE, not anything I might say or do (which is Paul’s exact point in the next chapter of this letter). And again, that HOPE comes from our belief in Jesus,…
…And that is why our JOURNEY letter for today is again: J – JESUS.
Our hope is truly in, and because of Jesus, who is the Christ. And it is Christ in you which is the hope of glory. So, build that HOPE muscle. This muscle is different from faith which we will review next week, but it is certainly related because we cannot have true HOPE if we do not have a legitimate FAITH. That does not mean that we may not waiver, but if Christ is truly within us, how can we not have HOPE within us. Furthermore, if we have that type of HOPE within us, then how can we not share it with others?
How can we build our muscle called hope? First, we must all realize that…
PRINCIPLE: True HOPE is not a wish, it is a certainty of what is promised but is not yet realized.
QUESTION: Do you live with HOPE within you, or do you merely wish your life away?
OPPORTUNITY: Live this week knowing true HOPE is a greater gift than any wish you might want God to grant.
LEARN: Memorize Colossians 1.27.
LIVE: When you find yourself wishing something to be true, catch yourself, and consider how true HOPE might change your thoughts.
LOVE: Love God with all of your being knowing He is preparing to share glory with you! (Remember Colossians 1.27)
LEAD: Share the HOPE you have with others. Paul’s testimony in Colossians 1.28-29 are directly linked with Him knowing that Christ, the hope of glory, was within him too.
(1) I discovered this truth in Gene Getz’s book, The Measure of a Healthy Church.