You can hold on through anything when you hold on to hope

Pastor Jeff Struecker

How much of a difference, hope, really makes in a person’s life? Because the truth is every single person that’s ever quit school, everybody who’s ever given up on a job, everyone who’s ever declared bankruptcy, everyone who’s ever filed for divorce, everyone who’s ever tried suicide.

They’ve all got to the same point in life. They’ve all lost one simple but very powerful moment because they’ve all lost hope. Chances are, somebody else was in the exact same circumstances at school but they didn’t give up.

 

 

Somebody was in the same circumstances at work or in their finances or in their marriage and they didn’t give up, somebody else was going through the same personal problems and they didn’t throw in the towel because of this one tiny but mighty word.

 

 

The word that we’re describing today is H. O. P. E. It’s the word hope and here’s what I want you to hear before we even get into the Bible and into the book of John today.

 

 

Hope is powerful so powerful. In fact, you can hold on through anything when you hold on to hope. There is an Italian proverb, it says “the last thing you will ever lose is hope.” When you got hope, you still have something left. When you lose hope, you’ve really just officially lost everything.

 

 

I’m not suggesting that hope will make all of your problems go away. In fact, what you’re going to hear from the Bible today, what we’re just going to tackle head first is that those problems are real and they’re very powerful. But hope is the thing that gets you through the problems in life.

 

 

When you hold onto the wrong things, they will let you down. The problems of life become so overwhelming that you will lose hope and what I want to do for just a few moments with you this morning is, I want to describe how you hang on when the problems of life feel so big and so overwhelming that I feel like I can’t go on tomorrow and I’m about to throw in the towel.

 

 

You are going to hear from the Bible, a couple of examples where Jesus is offering people hope and some of them are in the crowd. I think that they can hear it and grasp it before it, but some of them can’t. The reason why is because they’re holding on to the wrong thing.

 

In many cases they’re holding on to their traditions, they’re holding on to what they can see around them, what they can touch with their hands, what they can hear with their ears and it’s going to let them down.

 

You can hold on through anything when you hold on to hope

 

Jesus promises today that those things are going to let you down. So I want to show you three very simple but very powerful ways how “hope” can make a difference in your life this year.

 

Hope is more powerful than your problems

First, I want you to know that you’re going to face problems. I hate to be the bearer of bad news. I’m going to go through problems, you’re going to go through problems. Some of us over the coming year is going to go through some really big problems in life. But no problem in life is bigger than the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to deal with, which means hope is more powerful than your problems when your problems are rightly placed on the correct person.

 

 

I need to explain the name of 2 cities for just a second. For those of you who are gathered with us in this room, it’s not referring to Columbus Georgia, and Phoenix city Alabama. These two cities are separated by state lines and a river. The two cities that this church is named after, are separated by much more than the Chattahoochee river and state lines.

 

 

Jesus is a man who lives on planet Earth, walking in the eternal city when this passage takes place, but he is also the son of God, who has his vision on the eternal. These are the two cities that our church is named after, this earthly that we live in and the eternal city that God’s people are looking forward to, which can give us hope when the earthly city seems really miserable.

 

 

Jesus is speaking to a crowd last week, we learned how he declared himself to be the light of the world that can push back any darkness. And some people in the crowd are now going to wrestle with what Jesus just said about Himself and they’re going to ask Jesus some hard questions about who he really is.

 

There’s a crowd of people, some people in the crowd are hearing what this rabbi has to say. They are starting to believe who this guy is and about to make the decision to follow Him literally place hope in Him. Others in the crowd, specifically, some religious leaders are hearing what this rabbi is saying and they’re taking great offense to it and they want to discredit him.

 

John 8: 21-22 Then he said to them again, “I’m going away; you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I’m going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said again, “He won’t kill himself, will he, since he says, ‘Where I’m going, you cannot come’?”

 

They are listening to what he has to say and some of them are starting to say, “I think I’ve heard what he has to say and I think I’m ready to follow him.” In fact, Jesus is actually describing “some of you are looking to follow me and some of you are not going to make it where I’m going and here’s why you’re going to die in your sins.” The language that Jesus used was so powerful and so profound.

 

 

I want you to just do me a favor, imagine that you’re on a cruise ship heading across the Pacific Ocean, you got this in your mind for a second, you took this Christmas cruise, you’re going to spend the next 10 days just cruising across the Pacific and you’re on the deck looking out over this huge, vast expanse of water and you fall off and nobody notices. The boat keeps going and you’re by yourself and nobody noticed that you fell over the shore. Now picture that the waves start to crash in and you’re swimming as hard as you can, but there is no land in sight. You can swim literally until you die of exhaustion. You’re never ever going to make it to the shore and nobody on the boat knows that you fell over the side. So nobody is coming back to get you.

 

 

Do you have this desperation in your mind right now, that’s the exact word that Jesus uses when he talks about dying in your sin? In fact, I really wish the people that translated the Bible into English used the word drowned instead of dying because He is talking about drowning in a vast body of water, but the way that you’re going to drown is not because you’ve committed so many sins that they’re like an ocean. Actually, what he’s saying is that our sin is so terrible. One sin, one time and that is so terrible that you are so far away from God. That swim as hard as you can, spend the rest of your life trying to make up the difference, you wouldn’t even make a dent in the distance between a holy God and a sinful man like me or a sinful woman like you.

 

 

Jesus is saying you’re going to try to come after me and you’re going to drown in that sin that you’ve committed because there is no hope for you, there’s no hope for you. If you’re going to try to make your way, earn your way, work your way to heaven by swimming as hard as you can in this ocean of debt between you and God. This vast difference between a sinful human and a perfectly sinless God. The truth is, every single person that I’ve ever met who’s ever lost hope, they’ve lost hope because they have placed their hope in the wrong place. They placed their hope in themselves or in others around them.

 

 

The language is so stark that when the people in the crowd hear, they’re asking if Jesus is about to kill himself. Is this suicide that he’s talking about here?

 

 

In Jesus’ day, the Jews believed that you had to bring a sacrifice to the temple, every time you committed a sin. So if you sinned but hadn’t sacrificed yet, you were going to die in your sin. And taking your own life was a sin that you were not able to repent from, meaning it was a sin, that there was no forgiveness for, not arguing whether or not somebody gets into heaven after taking their own life.

 

 

What I’m arguing is that when people get to the end of their rope and they’re ready to take their own life, please hear me. I’m not being flippant right now; they have all come to the same place. They’ve all lost hope. I have spent my entire adult life around men who have taken their own lives and every single instance, it’s always been the same reason.

 

 

In fact, every expert in the military in America today is spending truckloads of money and all of the brainpower that we have at our disposal to try to stop a crisis of suicide among the military and veterans in our country and nothing is making a dent on it.

 

 

It’s at the highest levels in the history of our country. And every time it happens, please hear me, it happens because you placed hope in the wrong spot and that hope has let you down and when you’ve lost hope, this Italian proverb is true, “you’ve lost it all when you’ve lost hope”

 

 

Jesus is challenging people “don’t place your hope in the wrong places, I need you to put your hope in something that is bigger than your biggest problems.” Something that will not let you down. I need you to place your hope in something that will defeat your enemy and win your battles for you.”

 

Hope is bigger than your battles

Jesus is reminding us when you hope in me, you’re placing your hope in something or someone that is bigger than your greatest battles.

 

John 8: 23-24 “You are from below,” he told them, “I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore, I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”

 

When you place your hope in the one that doesn’t come from here, the one that comes from above. He’s reminding them, you’re putting your hope in yourself and I’m telling you right now, it’s going to let you down. You’re going to let you down and your hope is ultimately going to be the thing because you’re placing your hope in yourself. It’s going to be the thing that’s going to lead you to your destruction.

 

 

These religious leaders were hoping that, by being a good person, “my sins are going to go away and that I’m going to be okay”, and Jesus is telling them, it doesn’t work like that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the religious leaders.

You have no hope is what he would tell the crowd at another point as they’re following him and they’re saying, “how is that even possible? How could we possibly be more righteous than the professional religious leaders of our day?” And he’s saying, you got to place your hope in something that is bigger than here.

 

 

What he’s really describing for us right now is, all of us have this tendency to reach out and to hope or to grab ahold of something that is right in front of our face when we’re struggling, it’s natural, it’s not a bad tendency, it’s just going to let you down and just think about this with me for a second.

 

 

If the stuff that was right here in front of you, right here on planet earth could help you, it wouldn’t let you down. The fact that you get down, time and time again is proof that what you have in front of your face cannot really give you hope that transcends all of your battles. Something bigger than the battles of life has to be the thing that you hope in or else you’re going to get let down.

 

 

I’m going to prove it to you, this is not meant to be political. I feel like I have to make this disclaimer up front for everyone in the world. Every single human being on earth has been let down in the last year and a half or two years. We’ve all been let down by something that we were hoping was going to stop this virus. It’s now December 2021 and every human being on earth somehow some way hoped that by washing my hands I would slow this virus, hoped that by social distancing it would start to slow the spread. Hope that by wearing masks that we would be able to conquer this virus. We hoped that by getting an injection or taking all of the medical experts’ advice that the virus would be over by now. I don’t think there’s any human being on the planet, that really believed in December of 2021, we would be at the record levels with this virus that we’re in. All of us have been let down along the way because all of us have been hoping for something that’s temporary and something that’s in front of our face to fix what all of humanity is struggling with. And I’m using the COVID, not to be political with you but as an example.

 

 

What Jesus is saying is all of humanity is stuck in sin. No one can rescue you from your sin. Something outside of humanity, something that’s bigger than all of humanity has to step in and rescue you, or else there is no hope for humanity. If there’s no hope for these religious leaders, then there’s no hope for you. There’s no hope for me, something bigger than humanity has to step in and rescue humanity. And that’s why Jesus stands in front of them and he says, “I didn’t come from here, where you came from, I came from heaven, I’m bigger than humanity and I can step in and I can rescue humanity from the one thing that all humankind is destined for, death and eternal separation from God because all of us have sinned.”

 

 

Last weekend, about a week ago, I was talking to two ladies as our church was handing out Christmas gifts. I heard something that absolutely devastated me. It broke my heart as we were handing gifts out free to these two women and to their children. As we were wrapping these gifts, I started having a spiritual conversation with them and I started to just explain, “Hey, can I tell you why two cities churches in your neighborhood today, Can I tell you why we’re giving away free gifts to people that we don’t know so that you can have an awesome Christmas?” And their answer was yes, please, tell me why.

 

 

And then I asked him, can I tell you about the greatest gift that I’ve ever been given, the gift of forgiveness of my sins and my soul transformed by Jesus Christ. And both of these ladies said, oh I got that. I was like really; can you explain to me a little bit more about how this happened for you or when this happened for you?

 

 

These two grown women started to give me very popular church answers. In fact, when one started to talk, the other woman completed her sentence almost every time. I’ve been blessed, the other girl says to be a blessing to others, I serve a good God. And the other woman says he’s good all of the time. And they have all of the church languages that I have ever heard, they can recite back and forth and I was like, that’s awesome. But can we talk about your soul and your eternity right now? And I asked both of these women, can you tell me about the moment that Jesus Christ radically changed your soul by exchanging his blood for your sin and giving you a new soul and a new life eternal life? I am not exaggerating when I say this next, both of these women, their exact words were, I’ve never heard that before in my life. What broke my heart is these women have heard preachers saying popular sprays so often that they have memorized them and completed each other’s sentences. But when I asked them about a soul-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, both of these women look me in the eyes and said, I’ve never heard anybody explain this to me before in my life.

 

 

It hurt me so bad that these women have been to church, but never come to Christ because nobody has ever explained to them, you can’t be good enough, that a few simple Christian phrases are going to change your soul.

 

 

You can’t work hard enough that you could make a difference in your own eternity if that were possible, what Jesus is saying today is a lie, there’s no need for him to leave heaven and come to earth.

 

 

There’s no reason for the blood sacrifice on the cross and his death and resurrection if what you ladies are saying is true, but you’ve never gone through this soul-transforming born again experience with Jesus Christ. They looked me in the eyes and said, I’ve never heard this and that’s never happened to me. And what broke my heart is that somebody was offering these women, a false gospel and they were offering them false hope, the same kind of false hope that these religious leaders we’re hoping in.

 

 

Jesus stood in front of him and said you are not getting into heaven by being a good man. It doesn’t work that way. Only the one who came from heaven can make you righteous and perfect in the eyes of my father and make it possible for you to get to heaven with me.

 

 

It broke my heart that these two women know all of the church words, but they don’t know Christ and basically what they’ve been hearing because billions of people around the world have been believing that religion can save you and they’ve been believing a lie.

Hope is louder than life’s lies

I need you to hear a hope that is louder than the lies that life would throw at you. You were created by God. He and he alone started your heart beating in your mother’s womb, which means only God should be able to tell you who you are as a human, should be able to read the condition of your own heart.

 

 

Nobody else on the planet can tell you what God can tell you about you and here’s what that means. That means that you’re not nearly as awful as people that hate you, claim you are. And unfortunately, I have to tell you, you’re not nearly as awesome as the people who love you and tell you, you’re awesome.

 

 

God in heaven alone should be able to tell his people what we really are like in his sight and is the only opinion that matters. Jesus is going to make this perfectly clear. “I don’t listen to other voices. I don’t listen to the lies. I am focused on one voice and on pleasing him, that’s my father in heaven.”

 

John 8: 25-29 “Who are you?” they questioned. “Exactly what I’ve been telling you from the very beginning,” Jesus told them. “I have many things to say and to judge about you, but the one who sent me is true, and what I have heard from him—these things I tell the world.” They did not know he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own. But just as the Father taught me, I say these things. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.”

 

This is the part of the story. Well, you see Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, all in one sermon. The reason why we’re still using Christmas graphics on December 26 is because of John Chapter eight starting in verse 25. Jesus makes this statement about coming from heaven and now the religious leaders are confused and so they just asked point-blank, who are you?

 

He said to them, when you lift the son of man up. When He says I’m from heaven, that’s Christmas language, now He’s going to talk about good Friday and Easter language. When you lift up the son of man, referring to Himself, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing on my own. But just as the Father has taught me, I say these things, the one who sent me. Christmas is with me; He has not lifted me or He has not left me alone because I always do what pleases Him.

Jesus already knows months or years beforehand that He’s going to the cross and that some of those religious leaders in this crowd are going to pass judgment and condemn Him to die. He already knows years or months beforehand that He is coming out of the tomb and going back to the father and when He uses “lift-me-up” language. He’s talking about when you lift me up on the cross and when God the father lifts me back up to heaven when those things happen, then you’re going to know exactly who’s standing in your midst. But right now you can’t see it because right now you’re listening to the wrong voice and you’re looking with just your eyes and you can’t see what the father is trying to show you in your soul.

 

 

One of the greatest church leaders of all time. A guy by the name of Augustine. St. Augustine made a statement about this passage. He said, you know, the proof of the gospel is that some of those guys who Jesus said, you will condemn me, you will judge me and I will be lifted up in your eyes, I will go to the cross. Some of those guys who passed judgment on Him and claimed that He was a heretic, read the book of Acts, we’ll hear about his resurrection, we’ll see his power at work and they will fall down on their knees and they will declare He really was the son of God, He really was the savior of all humanity and those some of those men who judged Him would eventually become followers of Him later on.

 

 

It was after His death and resurrection and after His disciples started to turn the world upside down that some of those religious leaders would fall on their knees before Him and grab onto Him as their hope instead of onto their own good works.

 

 

I said a moment ago, billions of people around the world are believing in religion to save them. They’re hoping that by doing these things and by being good in God’s sight, by not doing these things and avoiding being bad in God’s sight, that I’m going to make my way into heaven and they’re placing hope in something earthly, that earthly hope can never give you eternal life if it were possible for that earthly hope to give you eternal life if you could be good enough.

 

 

I tried to say to these ladies at Riverview apartments is that there was no reason for Jesus to leave heaven. That Christmas morning. There was no reason for Jesus to go to the cross on that Good Friday, there was no reason for Jesus to come back out of the tomb on that Easter Sunday and to return to the father in heaven when he ascended from the Mount of Olives, there was no reason for that to happen. If you or I could be good enough, that we could hope in our own efforts.

 

 

The hope that we place our trust here on Earth, will let you down. But if you place your hope in something bigger than what this earth has to offer, something bigger than what you see around you, something bigger than your own good works and your own efforts.

 

If you’ll place your hope in Jesus Christ, it will never let you down.