“Highway to Hope!” – Grasping the basics!
From Step into Africa clip
My family and I were sitting around the table last Saturday Night to eat supper. We’re holding each others hands around the table to pray for our food. My wife, Tricia, prayed this time – it’s not like we have any set order. She just prayed. And her prayer was beautiful – actually heart felt would be the best description. But as soon as she said AMEN – I said in a rather low tone “and God please help the Browns win!” The Browns were playing Tennessee that night in preseason football. My daughter Jeanna heard that and she told on me. “Mom, Dad asked God to help the Browns win!” Truth is I’ve been asking God to help the Browns win for a long time. Apparently he answers people’s prayers in Pittsburg & New England, but not in Cleveland, Cincinnati or Detroit! I do believe Pastor Reggie spoke last Sunday about prayer and one aspect of prayer is that it gets abused. Truly, I was just joking around. But this time of year – I’m not talking fall but football (college yesterday and pro’s next Sunday) – Hope reigns supreme. Everyone’s on the same playing field. Everyone is 0 wins and 0 losses. We hope to get a win. We hope to get a bunch of wins. We hope to get to the playoffs and even the Super Bowl!
Hope has been on the forefront of many people’s minds this year because of the economy and this past week because of the events that unfolded in Arcadia, CA. I will admit to you one of my most bazaar fears as a parent is that someone would try and take one of my kids. The Justice Department reported that “58,000 children are taken in non-family abductions – nearly all are resolved in the first 24 hours, while an estimated 115 children per year are victims of real kidnapping.”[i]
Jaycee Lee Dugard was one of those children. Abducted at age 11 and living captive for 18 years at the house of a convicted sexual predator named Phillip Garrido. How this man and his wife went unnoticed all these years despite repeated checks is mind-boggling. But the fact that Jaycee is now 29 and (alive with 2 children) has brought hope to so many other parents who are still missing their children. People like Patty Wetterling who is still waiting to be reunited with her son Jacob was who abducted 20 years ago from Central Minnesota. People like Colleen Nick who’s still looking for her 6 year old daughter Morgan who went missing in 1995. People like Victor Shoemaker who has saw his son JR 15 years ago when JR was 5. And age doesn’t really matter. Hilary Sessions is still looking for her daughter, Tiffany, who vanished on her college campus in 1989. In an interview Hilary said from her home in Florida, “People think I’m crazy for keeping up the hope!”[ii] Is she? Is she crazy for keeping up the hope? I want to talk to you about HOPE today. Actually not just today but for the next seven weeks. Today we begin a brand new series called Highway to Hope! Real change occurs in your life when you put your hope in Jesus. All of us are on a journey! Life has a beginning and an end. All throughout life we have opportunities to acknowledge God’s presence or to walk away from his presence. Today I want us to grasp the basics of hope. Life is like a highway and we’re all on it. You may be stalled. You might be movin’ slow. You might be stuck on the side of the road. Maybe you’re in the fast lane – oblivious of anyone or anything. You might even be headed in the wrong direction! Speaking of wrong direction – I did not receive inspiration from the band AC DC, but I did hear their song, Highway to Hell, on a radio recently. People joke about hell all the time. Check out these lyrics:
Livin' easy, lovin' free, season ticket on a one-way ride
Askin' nothin', leave me be, takin' everythin' in my stride
Don't need reason, don't need rhyme
Ain't nothing that I'd rather do
Goin' down, party time, my friends are gonna be there too
I'm on the highway to hell
Highway to Hell
Please take what’s being said in the proper spirit. I’m not on my way to hell! I’m not! I’m not going there – hell is an actual place. What makes hell “hell” is that God won’t be there! What makes hell on earth is that we try to run on our own power and not the spirit’s power. You don’t have to experience either. But people do! How do you know if someone’s on their way to hell or if they are on their way to heaven? Jesus said this in John 15:5-6. Be connected to him like a branch is connected to a tree. The Apostle Paul tells us it’s all in who or what you put your hope in? Turn in your Bibles to the very first verse of 1 Timothy chapter 1. Do you need a Bible? There are 27 books in the NT. 13 are from the Apostle Paul. Of those 13 - three are called pastoral letters. Two to Timothy and one to Titus. They are pastoral letters because you have a pastor writing to two other pastors. Paul wants them both to know – watch your life and doctrine closely. Don’t get sucked into the world’s way of thinking. Focus on the correct teaching about Jesus. Hold firm in that teaching and in the promises of God! Look at how he starts his letter to Timothy. (Read 1 Timothy 1:1)
Did you know that in the New Testament there are two Greek words for hope? Of the 85 times they are used, only five are in the Gospels, ten are in Acts, but 70 are in the Epistles.[iii] The apostles didn’t need to hear about hope – they were staring hope in the face. But Paul can’t help himself. He can’t stop talking about hope. Here’s what Paul has become convinced of. Hope is not a concept or a philosophy. Just like truth – hope is a person! Remember what he said – “of Christ Jesus our hope!” MY HOPE! Is Jesus your hope today?
I have said these phrases before - maybe you have to. I hope it doesn’t rain today! I hope my car starts! I hope the cat isn’t dead! I hope the house didn’t burn down! I hope I did good on my test last Friday? I hope you’re pregnant! I hope you’re not pregnant! I hope the doctor has good news. I hope OSU beats USC next Saturday Night in the Shoe? Hope in casual conversation is almost always “wavering or uncertain!”[iv] We want things to be good, but in our minds we’re expecting it to be just the opposite. I hope the Browns win, but I’m expecting them to get clobbered! That might be casual conversation, but that’s NOT Biblical HOPE!
Hope right here in 1st Timothy 1:1 means “confident expectation.” I have confident expectation in God my Savior and in Christ Jesus who has now become my hope! Paul does something unique to him in verse one. He calls God his Savior and his thought processes are taking him back to the Old Testament. “God our Savior” is found five times in the OT - most in the Psalms. David saw God as his literal Savior from his enemies. So David put his hope in God. God has saved us too. How? He gave us his son. God is our deliverer from sin and its consequences but Jesus accomplished this for us by dying on the cross. The Bible doesn’t use hope in a doubt filled way. Find 1st Timothy 4:9. When we focus our hope on God there’s always an expectation of something good. I like that. I like that allot. But I confess to you – sometimes I miss the good because all I see is the bad. Maybe that’s what Daniel Powter had in mind when he wrote this song:
You stand in the line just to hit a new low
You're faking a smile with the coffee you go
You tell me your life's been way off line
You're falling to pieces every time
And I don't need no carryin' on
Because you had a bad day - You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around - You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie - You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day - The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind -
You had a bad day[v]
Some songs we relate to and “bad day” is one of them. We all have bad days. Some times bad days turn into bad weeks and bad months and bad years. Even Paul and Timothy had bad days. Go back to 1st Timothy 1 and find verse 3. Here’s the so what of this message. (READ VS 3-4)
Paul is encouraging Timothy to make Jesus his hope. Why? Because Timothy was faced with the difficult task of confronting false teachers. He has to undo what they did or taught. The truth is – Timothy was probably discouraged! Are you? Are you discouraged today? Are you not feeling well? Is something going on with one of your kids? Are you financially overwhelmed? Were you one of the 216,000 people who lost their job in August?[vi] Are you tired of being tired, tired of being addicted, tired of being frustrated in your marriage? Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday! He would have been 79! Why do we need to put our hope in Jesus? Because without Jesus we’ll always fall prey to discouragement. Bible hope is always filled with eager expectation! If you fix your eyes on Jesus you can always anticipate something good. Right after church today Tim Grimm has a bunch of people going to Michael & Cindy Bish’s house to pray for them and Sam in their battle against cancer. Why are we doing this? Because it’s so easy to get discouraged! Let’s help remind the Bish family and their neighbors and all of us to put our hope in Jesus! Are you discouraged today? Don’t put your hope in a team or a job or a rock band.
That’s what Bon Scott did. Bon Scott was the lead singer of AC DC and the co-writer of the song Highway to Hell. That song was released in 1979. Bon Scott died on February 19, 1980, after a night of heavy partying.[vii] He literally drank himself to death.
Something tells me he has an all together different opinion of heaven & hell. We are all on the highway. The only question is - which direction are you going? You set your direction once your determine your HOPE!
[i] AP article from NYTimes.com Kidnapped Girl’s Story Gives Hope to Some Parents
[ii] AP article from NYTimes.com Kidnapped Girl’s Story Gives Hope to Some Parents
[iii] Logos Bible Software, Hope
[iv] Logos Bible Software, Hope
[vi] www.cnn.com September 4, 2009