“Take Hold: When Life is More than Living”
“Set Your Hope on God”
1 John 1:5-9
Rev. Michael F. Bailey
October 9, 2016
1 John 1:5-9 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Today, we have our second sermon in our series, entitled, “Take Hold: When Life is More than Living.”
Each week, we’re taking a portion of our stewardship theme verse from Paul’s first letter to Timothy and additional passages that point us to the why and how of stewardship as discipleship. Last week, we considered taking hold of the true “good life” which is founded and grounded in a relationship with Jesus. This week, we consider our hope in God.
Our theme passage from I Timothy teaches us we are not to “set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches but rather (set our hopes) on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
So what is the source of hope in life? Paul warns against placing our hope in riches and that’s a seductive temptation in our culture, isn’t it? I mean, haven’t you ever thought, “I hope I get that raise because then everything will be all right in my life.” Others, may think, “I hope I get that job. If I just get that job, I’ll have fulfillment, even joy.” It goes on and on – “I hope they take our offer on that house…” “I hope she says yes…” “I hope so and so, is elected…” (So and so may be better than some candidates we have nowadays, right?) “I hope the bishop appoints a better minister!” (Ouch!). It would seem that we place our hope in so many areas and arenas that are human-decision driven; human oriented and therefore flimsy and un-certain. We are like the little boy who replied when asked to define hope said, “It’s wishing for something you know is not gonna happen to happen.” There is some truth there. But, what if you knew hope was as solid and as faithful as God? What if hope was a certainty about the faithful, unchangeable loving, accepting nature of God all directed toward you and your life? What a difference that would make, in this life and the next!
You see, we can hope in God because our passage from Timothy promises that God provides for us in this life; our needs and even for our joy. “Don’t set your hope on the uncertainty of riches but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Throughout the Bible, we’re taught that God is the owner of the “earth and the fullness, thereof.” God owns all there is and yet, grants and trusts its care to us. I am convinced, that God has designed the world so that it can sustain all of us. God has designed it so there is enough for “need but not enough for greed.” God made a world that will meet basic human needs – but why then, are needs so prevalent? The problem, you see, resides not in God the owner, but humanity, the manager of God’s property. Stewardship is a critical component of the Kingdom coming, where His will is done on earth as in heaven. The 4 “t’s” of stewardship, Godly management of: time, talent, treasure and terra firma – earth, can make a real difference not only in our lives but in the lives of others, including future generations. I mean, think of what the giving of time and treasure did in just the last couple of weeks: over 500,000 meals through Helping Hands for Hunger and dedicated souls out collecting food for GUM in the wind and the rain!
More, we can hope in God because God provides the Holy Spirit, to grow us in walking in the light with Jesus and one another. Did you notice that our main passage from John says the blood of Christ “cleanses us from all sin?” Cleanses, for me, means an on-going process and that’s a work of the Holy Spirit! My car can’t be washed once. It gets dirty again and in a sense, so do we. I need to be the one who continually brings my car to the car wash for cleansing! And we must place ourselves before the Holy Spirit for on-going cleansing. The promise is though; the Holy Spirit not only cleanses us but grows us in the image of Christ. As we live life with Christ, we sin less and less; we find long set sinful characteristics and yearnings in our life removed; we discover more and more Christ-likeness in ourselves. My experience is that this applies to generosity. As we walk the Christian walk, the amount of our giving may vary according to the variations of our personal income. But here’s the growth plane: the amount of sacrifice should continuously increase. Let me illustrate – let’s say a Christian family at their peak earning makes 65000 dollars a year and they give a tithe to the Lord, 6500 dollars. Then, imagine they retire and their fixed income is 35000 dollars a year but they give their church 4000, more than a tithe. You see they’ve grown in the proportion of their income they give to the Lord’s work. Now all of this is shared noting Paul’s instruction in another passage to always care for the true needs of your family and household first. This “contrary-to-culture’s” message of “keep it all for you and yours” is nothing short of the work of the Holy Spirit and the disciple’s trust that God will provide.
Then, and most importantly, we can hope in God because God provides us with amazing, forgiving grace. When you consider what you value most in this life, what is it? For me, it’s my beautiful wife, my children, my grandchildren and extended family. I am so thankful for my calling and my ministry at Christ Church. I am thankful for my health and having all my daily needs met. I suspect you share many of these aspects of gratitude. But, we’re all here for a short while. Loved ones and we ourselves, pass away. Careers come to an end. Health declines. What are we left with that’s important to us, in the end? My sense is, if we really delved deeply, our final and lasting hope is in God’s gift of amazing, forgiving grace, granting us life abundant and eternal.
So, the question remains, how do you respond to God’s invaluable gifts? Grace, you see, is God’s costly gift from the cross, which none of us deserve. How do you respond to gifts in general? Are you grateful? Do you love more? Do you put your gratitude into action, or is it merely sentiment? If the gift of forgiveness, cleansing and grace, in essence, salvation, is the greatest gift you’ve received, you’ll want others to have, won’t you? And that is what stewardship is all about. These are important questions, but here is a fact that helps us respond as God would have us respond: the fact is we are hard-wired, that is created by God, to give, to be generous. The blessed Trinity in the creation story in Genesis says, “let us make humans in our image.” Upon each one of us is the image of God, Jesus and the Spirit. What is the nature of the Triune God but to be generous? God gives us all we need in life and what we most need for abundant and eternal life, His own beloved Son, for our sakes. Now, the fallen world tries to convince us that “holding on,” “keeping” and “retaining” possessions and money is the bottom line of life where we’ll find our security and hope. But, the life of the disciple is one, where by the Holy Spirit, we break through such cultural conditioning and discover that real joy, real hope and real “living as we were made to live” is found in sharing, giving and generosity. Most of us know this but somehow conveniently ignore the message. I mean, where do you find the most joy? Is it in receiving a gift from someone or giving a gift that brings joy to another. I think you know the answer. Jesus said it, “it is more blessed (which can be translated joyful) to give than to receive.”
When we walk in the light with Jesus and each other; when we find our hope in God’s provision of our every need; when we trust God more than possessions; when we open our lives to the Spirit’s cleansing, forgiving and growing grace – we can give, sacrificially and generously. In so doing we discover joy as we support the Body of Christ, the church, in sharing such joy and grace with others.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Discussion Guide for October 9: Set Your Hopes on God
1. Share with your group how you put your hope in God.
2. Share with your group how you walk in the light with Christ.
3. Share with your group an action you hope to take to walk in Christ.
4. Share with your group how you respond to the gift of grace and forgiveness.