Hope In The Lord
Nick Esch, 6/21/2020 Cornerstone Baptist Church
In Psalm 42 the Psalmist is cast down and burdened by the world, by suffering, by the pains of this life, and at times in the Psalm he seems utterly desperate. I think we all know these feelings all too well, especially in recent days. From the Coronavirus and all that comes with it, to injustice and racism, to riots and looting, to overall immorality all around us and within us, and to the typical day to day struggle of life in a fallen world: it can all seem so overwhelming and lead us into utter depression, and hopelessness. Try as we might, we can find no hope in the world… And this seems to be where the Psalmist was in Psalm 42; but, in verse five of the Psalm he fights back against the pull of the world, and says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
Suffering under the weight of the outward madness of the world and the inward madness of his flesh, he was cast down and overwhelmed… But, instead of embracing the madness, the Psalmist preached the truth of God’s Word to himself and reminded himself to hope in God… For it is God who is his salvation, not himself, nor anything or anyone in this world. And it is God alone who is his hope, and the very reason he can have hope in this world. And that’s what I want us to see in God’s Word today. That we are to hope in the Lord; we are to trust in the Lord; and that indeed, the Lord is our only hope… But what a great hope He is… So, with that in mind, look with me at Philippians 2:19-24.
Today, we’re not going to look at this passage as a whole, but instead we’re going to focus on two things: in verse 19 Paul says, “I hope in the Lord” and in verse 24 he says, “I trust in the Lord.” We’re going to look at what it means to hope in the Lord, to trust in the Lord, and to have hope in the Lord. The phrase, “in the Lord” is used nine times in Philippians: Paul speaks of being confident in the Lord, of hoping in the Lord, of trusting in the Lord, of receiving people in the Lord, of rejoicing in the Lord, of standing firm in the Lord, of agreeing in the Lord, and then again, two more times, of rejoicing in the Lord… It would seem that this phrase “in the Lord” is important, and is applicable to the whole of the Christian life; but, in order to truly be in the Lord we must truly hope and trust in the Lord.
So, what does it mean to hope in the Lord? Or perhaps we should ask, what is Christian hope? To hope, in the worldly sense, is to believe, desire, trust, or to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence. But, to hope, in the Biblical sense, is to believe, desire, trust, or to look forward to with desire and perfect confidence; in other words, God is totally sovereign, and as Job 42:2 says, God can do all things, and no purpose of His can be thwarted, therefore any hope in God is a totally sure hope… Not that God will give us whatever we want, as if our will is perfect, but that God is perfect and perfectly sovereign, so if our hope and trust are in Him our hope and trust cannot fail because God cannot fail. God really is totally sovereign… In fact, part of what Paul means in Philippians 2:19, when he says he hopes in the Lord Jesus is that he knows it is only by God’s providence and God’s sovereign grace that he’ll be able to do anything.
It’s like what James 4:13-15 says: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” So, Lord willing is not just a saying, it’s a fact… As John 15:5 tells us, without Jesus we can do nothing. We are dependent upon the Lord for life, and breath, and everything. Life is all of grace… sovereign grace! So next time you say you’re planning on doing something, be sure to add, Lord willing… Next time you say, “I hope so,” be sure to add, “I hope in the Lord…”
So, the idea of Christian hope here is in part something that is being looked forward to, that God might allow or bring about by His good sovereignty… But, true Christian hope not only looks forward, it also looks backward. In Romans 5:1-2 for instance, Paul says, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” By faith we look back to the person and work of Jesus Christ—all that He is and all that He’s done—and we trust in His perfect life, sacrificial wrath-absorbing death, and death defeating resurrection, and we are justified… that is we are counted just, we are counted righteous in Christ. Our past, present, and future sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ perfect life of obedience unto death and His wrath-absorbing death. Jesus took our sin and guilt and the wrath due us upon Himself and when we trust in Him by faith He gives us His righteousness, making us just, by faith; and this acts as a ground for our hope.
Because of Jesus we have the hope of forgiveness, the hope of righteousness, the hope of peace with God, the hope of eternal life, the sure hope of salvation… Because of Jesus we forsake any false hope of being righteous on our own, of earning our way into God’s good graces, or of salvation except through Christ alone. In other words, in order to hope in God we must trust in Christ by faith… Just as an anchor is tethered to a ship by a chain or cable, so is true hope tethered to the Christian by faith. But, if our faith is in the perfect person and work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, God the Son, then our hope is truly in God, and because our hope is in a perfect God so too is our hope perfect and sure; it cannot fail because Jesus did not fail, will not fail, and cannot fail. We see that Jesus did not fail, because not only did He love us and give Himself up for us, but He rose from the grave. We know He succeeded in His work of redemption because He is alive!
So, what we see here is that to hope in the Lord and to trust in the Lord go hand in hand. True faith is 1) knowledge of, 2) accent to, and 3) trust in the gospel, in the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ. To have faith is to trust, but it is trust that is grounded in a right knowledge and belief or agreement with that knowledge. You see, we can know the facts of the gospel, we can know about Jesus without knowing Jesus; and that knowledge does not bring hope… That is not the knowledge that is linked to faith. True faith doesn’t merely know about Christ, but actually knows Christ. True faith knows who God’s Word says Jesus is and what God’s Word says He has done and will do, and it truly accents to this, it truly believes and agrees with God’s Word.
God’s Word tells us that the Jesus is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity who has always existed in perfect glory, love, and joy with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. And God’s Word tells us that Jesus is so glorious, so loving, so merciful, and so gracious that He left glory, came to earth, took on flesh, and became a man while staying God: truly man and truly God at the same time. And He did this to live the perfect life of obedience in our place that we have failed to live. As is evident all around us and within us, humanity is depraved. We were created to glorify God, to love God and love people, but instead we sin against God and our fellow man, and seek to love ourselves instead, and in the process show ourselves to be loveless and sinful… But Jesus was sinless and love-full… And so He lived for us, and then died for us, taking the punishment that we deserve for our sin against God. But He also rose from the grave for us: so that all who would turn from their sin and trust in Him would be raised to newness of life with Him and live with Him in perfect joy forever.
And when we exercise true faith we know this, believe this, and trust this with all of our heart. We cast ourselves wholly upon Christ. He truly becomes our only hope. So trusting in the Lord and hoping in the Lord go hand in hand. And this is what it means first and foremost to do both, to repent and believe in the gospel, to trust wholeheartedly in Christ alone as our only hope of salvation. But, in Philippians, Paul is speaking as a Christian to Christians; he’s speaking as someone who has already trusted and hoped in the Lord to people who have already trusted and hoped in the Lord… And this is important to note, because it gives us insight into what it means not only to trust and hope in the Lord, but to have hope in the Lord.
To have hope in the Lord is the same thing the Psalmist was calling himself to do in Psalm 42:5. Remember he said, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” He and we can hope in God, can hope in the Lord Jesus, because He is our salvation and our God. As I said earlier, Paul uses the phrase in the Lord nine different times in Philippians. We are to be confident in the Lord, to hope in the Lord, to trust in the Lord, to receive people in the Lord, to stand firm in the Lord, to agree in the Lord, and three times he tells us to rejoice in the Lord… But all of this implies that we are indeed in the Lord… That is, that we are united to Christ by faith; that the Spirit of Christ is in us and we are in Him.
We were dead in our sin, without God and without hope… “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). The Christian, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, has already been made alive spiritually, has already received amazing love and grace in Christ; and already, in God’s eyes, is seated with Christ in the heavenly places… But again, that’s for the Christian; that’s for the one who has truly trusted in Christ. But, all who do trust in Christ are united to Christ by faith, and are thus in Christ, under His grace, made alive with Him, and already judicially seated with Him in the heavens… He is in us and we are in Him… But, as good as all of that is, the best is yet to come; for there is coming a Day, a Day that will usher in the coming ages where God will show the immeasurable riches of His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, that is, in the Lord…
And the glorious and gracious truth that forevermore God will show the immeasurable riches of His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus is a pretty good reason to have hope… And this goes back to what I said earlier… Christian hope looks backwards, as we saw, to the finished work of Christ, but it also looks forward to all the promises and all the glorious gracious things of God that are coming in Christ. We don’t just look forward in hope when we hope God will grant our plans (Lord willing), but we look forward with hope in the Lord when we look forward to all that God is for us and will do for us in Christ. As 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” And as Jesus says in John 17:24, we will be with Him where He is to behold His glory. We will be with Him and enjoy Him in glory forever, as God shows us the immeasurable riches, the infinite riches of His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…
So we not only hope and trust in God, but we have hope in God. We not only exercise hope in Christ, which brings us in Christ, but as those who are in Christ or in the Lord we possess a sure hope in Christ. And this is crucial for us to remember, because we, like the Psalmist in Psalm 42, often find ourselves overwhelmed by the world. God’s Word says this world is the domain of darkness, ruled by Satan, filled with evil, and all sorts of sin. People in the world like to think that they are good and do good, but Jesus tells us that no one is good except God (Mark 10:18), and Paul, quoting the Psalms in Romans 3:12, tells us that no one does good, not even one. Ever since the fall of mankind in Genesis 3 man has been inherently bad, not inherently good. And everyone knows this to be true. I mean, these days we can see the evidence of it on every TV channel, every social media outlet, and every website. Injustice, hate and partiality (racism), riots and looting, sexual immorality, abortion, greed, lusts of every kind, and every sort of corruption… And along with that, even as Christians, we see the lingering effects of many of these things still in us… And then on top of all of that there’s tragedy upon tragedy, disease upon disease, and death upon death… And all of it is just an everyday part of living in this fallen and broken world.
What can we do, to not only cope in this broken world, but what can we do to be faithful and praise God in this broken world? If everywhere we look there seems to be no hope, only tragedy, then what are we to do?… We can, we are to, we must hope in God… We shouldn’t just cope, but we should hope… When we remember who God is and all that He has done, is doing, and will do… all that He’s promised, and all that’s coming… then we can say with the Psalmist, “I will again praise Him, my salvation and my God!” And this is really what the book of Philippians is all about: it’s about having joy in Christ come what may—knowing that to live is Christ and to die is gain because He is infinitely better than anything the world could give us or take from us—so that Christ is honored in and through us in life and death.
As we saw last week, in Philippians God calls us to be content in Christ come what may, so that Christ will be magnified, thus making us shine like stars in the midst of a world full of darkness. So, the book of Philippians is a call for us to be so joyful and content in Christ that our lives draw others to Christ. But, as we’ve seen, that will only happen if we truly hope and trust in the Lord… And then, what will sustain us in our trust and hope, so that we can stay content in Christ is being reminded of and dwelling on the hope we have in the Lord, the hope of the glory that is to come…
So yes, looking at the world, or even looking at ourselves can bring feelings of hopelessness and depression… But, as Robert Murray McCheyne once said, “For every look at self—take ten looks at Christ! (And I would add for every look at the world, at the news, at social media, at your phone… take ten looks at Christ!) Live near to Jesus—and all things will appear little to you in comparison with eternal realities. How many millions of dazzling pearls and gems are at this moment hidden in the deep recesses of the ocean caves. Likewise, unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again—you will never come to the bottom of these depths!”
And understand, in God’s kindness, He has designed things in such a way that, as John Piper would say, “Jesus is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” So we are to look to, to hope, trust, and as Philippians says again and again, rejoice in the Lord… And when we do God is truly glorified. But, not only that, that’s what enables us to be hopeful in this broken world, and thus be faithful in this broken world. But, not only that, when we are joyful in the Lord because we are hoping in and trusting in the Lord, then the glory of the Lord will shine in and through our lives in such a way that those for whom Christ died who have yet to come to know Him will be drawn to Him in and through us. As we share the gospel with people, and display the beauty of the gospel with our lives, people will want us to give them a reason for the hope that is in us, and by God’s grace they will be drawn out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. And that, in the here and now, is the only thing that will have any lasting effect on this broken world.
Laws are good things, when they are based on the right standard, namely God’s Moral Law. Protests are permissible and can do some good when they abide by the law. Advocating for the vulnerable, speaking out, and the like can all be good things… But any change they may bring about will only be temporal, and will always be insufficient because none of those things can change hearts. Only the gospel can change hearts. Only Jesus can bring people out of darkness into His marvelous light. And that’s what this world needs; and that’s what they get when Christians truly hope in God.
Friends, what I want for us is for us to truly hope and trust in God. To truly know Him and the power of His grace in Christ. And along with that, I want us to truly know how much hope we have in God. The news, the world around us, and Satan and all his powers of darkness would lead us to despair… But we must remember, our God is totally sovereign; His will can never be thwarted… And He has promised in His Word, “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). He has promised in His Word that He will win: justice will be served, vengeance belongs to the Lord, every wrong will be made right… Indeed, He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away, and He will make all things new (Revelation 21).
So church… Why are you cast down? Hope in God! Praise Him! Rejoice in Him, for He is your salvation and your God… And as you live lives marked by hope, watch how that hope changes, not only you, but the very world around you…