David Jeremiah - Hope, The Anchor Of Life
I'm David Jeremiah, and I want to tell you today about the most important human emotion for those facing an uncertain future. That includes every person alive, doesn't it? You see, no one knows what tomorrow will bring, and on some days, we think it's impossible that tomorrow could be any harder than today. So we reach out for the one thing that keeps us grounded, that one thing called hope. Our current series is called "Jesus Is Enough", a group of messages taken from the New Testament book of Hebrews, and today's message is entitled "Hope: The Anchor of Life". I want you to see why hope will keep you grounded and why biblical hope is based on something that will never, ever change. I hope you'll join me for today's edition of "Turning Point".
Historians and social scientists are telling us that we have fewer resources to draw upon today than perhaps in any other generation in history. Our Western culture say some has forsaken its spiritual roots, and we live in an overtly secular culture without even the pretense any longer of spiritual values. Many young people, some that you and I know, feel like their cultures no longer provide answers to the questions of meaning and destiny.
We often watch the news, and we hear the stories of people who are not even yet out of their teens who take their lives, and we say, "Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone with their whole life in front of them cut short their existence if there's anyone around them who is helping them understand the value and the importance of life"? And, yet for so many of them, they see no hope. They see no reason for existence, and so the hopelessness and depression takes over in their life.
We watch it on the news. We see it in the newspaper. It's evident in the ever-growing Internet programs, and today we are living in the midst of a war for hope that's being waged in an age of despair. And that describes the setting of the lesson we are about to look at in Hebrews chapter 6, in a much different way, but with the same intensity. The Hebrews, to whom the writer is addressing these words, are going through a time of despair. Even though they are Christians, they are foundering in their faith. They feel lost.
As we learned last time, some of them are stuck at "start", and they've never been able to get in gear to go forward, and so they're really closer to where they've come from than where they're going. They're constantly in turmoil, and the turbulence of life around them, because of the pressure they're feeling because of their faith, driven many of them to the very edge.
The writer of Hebrews is writing this letter to them to encourage them, and especially in this passage, he wants to lift up their spirits and help them understand that there is a way to go forward, that they don't need to be stuck where they are, that there's hope and there's encouragement, and there's a promise from God, and if they will get engaged with God in this journey and not try to do it on their own, as often we are tempted to do, they will find their way, their way back to hope.
The writer begins by saying some very encouraging things to them in the 9th verse. He says, "Beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation". Better things than what? Than their inability to figure out what they're doin' with their life. He believes there are Christians. In fact, he calls them "beloved". "Beloved" is found 60 times in the Bible. The first nine times, it refers to God's beloved Son, but all the rest of the times it refers to believers.
Did you know the word "beloved" is not in the Bible one time in reference to those who are unsaved? It's always for those who are Christians. These are not professing Christians. These are not almost-Christians. These are genuinely born-again believers, who are struggling with their maturity. And so the writer says, "Beloved, we have great confidence in you that you're gonna go on to better things, things that pertain to salvation".
And then he makes a little list of them, and that's how the chapter begins. He's persuaded, first of all, in this new pattern of faith, that their faith will be clearly defined. He says, "Beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation". Even though he has issued one of the strongest warnings in the Bible to these people in the last section that we studied, he now comes back as a parent often does, after they have punished a child, and encourages them to go on to better things, and he says these better things begin with a clearly defined Christian life. He calls this "confident of better things concerning you, things pertaining to salvation".
In other words, he wants them to know that their life is beginning to take on shape, and he wants to see it clearly defined. Part of that new shape in their life is a faith that is consistently demonstrated. Notice verse 10, "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and you do minister". Here's what he's saying. He's saying, "I've observed you, beloved. I've observed you, young Christians, and one thing you're getting right, one thing you're doing that's very evident is you really do care about each other. You love one another. You're showing love to one another in the name of Christ. You have a kinship, a fellowship with one another that's observable".
How many of you know that one of the real signs that you're truly born again is you have a newfound love for other Christians? A faith that is consistently demonstrated. Then, thirdly, one that's carefully developed. "And we desire that each one of you", verse 11, "show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope". Now, here's the argument of the passage. The writer of Hebrews says, "I've noticed in you, young believers, that you really get into this thing of loving one another. Now, I'd like you to take some of that same energy and put it into learning what the Bible says and growing in your faith". This is not all about touchy-feely religion. This is about intellectual religion as well.
How many of you know that some people live in the touchy-feely world their whole life? They don't know anything much, but they're just happy to be here, you know? I wanna tell ya something. That'll work if you're not goin' through trouble, but if you get into turbulence, it's what you know that holds you strong. And so the writer to the Hebrews says take some of the same diligence, this same energy, this same drive that you've put into ministering to one another and caring for one of those needs, and redirect it, some of it toward knowing what the Bible says about today and tomorrow, about your future. A faith that is carefully developed, and then one that's consciously diligent, notice verse 12, "That you do not become sluggish".
Now, let me help you with the word "sluggish". It means "lazy". Lazy. Say the word, "lazy". Now, I know nobody here is lazy, but it's easy to become lazy in your faith, isn't it? He says here, "That you do not become sluggish". It's the same word that was used in chapter 5, when we talked about those people who were dull of hearing. They had no energy in their faith. They had no desire to go forward. And while we are not saved by good works, it is through personal discipline that we grow in our faith, and sluggishness doesn't work well in the formula.
So he warns these readers who are struggling in their faith, not to allow themselves to move into a spirit of entitlement about what they have and lose their vision for going forward. Faith that is consciously diligent. And then here's one that's kind of a surprise, faith that is critically duplicated.
Did you know he urges these believers to imitate those who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises? The positive side of this promise is that they would imitate those who, through faith and patience, are going... now, let me just break this out for us. He's writing to the Hebrews, and he's saying one of the things you can do to encourage your growth in Christ and to build up these things that go along with being a Christian, is to look around and find some people who have figured it out and are living the Christian life, and attach yourself to them and begin to learn from them. Actually, he uses the word "imitate".
Paul writes to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, and verse 7, he says, "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you". In other words, watch what we do. 2 Thessalonians 3:9, says, "Because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us". Here is Paul telling his readers, "If you wanna know how to live the Christian life, just follow us". And when it comes to people who teach you the Word of God, which is what I do, I say this carefully and in a measured statement, you have every right to expect that I live what I teach, that my conduct matches up to what I tell you the Scripture says.
Now, don't hold me to a perfective standard because I can't do it perfectly, and I have many flaws in my life, but if I stand here and preach the Word of God to you and go out and live in such a way that denies what I am teaching, you should get another preacher. Now, don't get too careful with that. You gotta know that's the first "amen" I got all day, so I'm gonna take it. And I say that with the realization that I am a flawed human being and that I am capable of things that would totally undermine the ministry, and I pray every day that God keep me close to him and centered in his Word because, you see, the Bible tells us that it's not just what we say, but it's how we live that communicates the faith.
And so he writes to the Hebrews, and he says, "Listen, I know you're struggling, but here's what you need to do. Find some people who are living their life in faith, and they're living with endurance, and attach yourselves to them and imitate them and walk with them". Yeah, it's true that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. He's the only perfect model, but the Bible says Christ is in us, the hope of glory. And everybody has the right to look at us as Christians and say, "If you're a Christian, you better act like one".
Well, that's what he says in the first part of this chapter. He goes to these believers that he says, "Listen", he says, "beloved, I have persuaded that there's a lot of great things goin' on in your life, better things than what you've been living in your immaturity", back here in chapters 5 and 4. "I'm persuaded of better things, and here are the things".
Now he's going to switch gears and help us know that this pattern of faith which he's laid out is accompanied by a God of faithfulness. He's gonna help us understand that God hasn't called us to live like this in our own power. He's called us to this life, and he's given us a promise of his own faithfulness to us. And he gives us this information by telling us a very interesting story about the man Abraham from the Old Testament. He begins in verse 13, by talking about Abraham, and God's relationship to Abraham, and let me give you the overview before we look at each verse.
What he's going to do in these next verses is remind the Hebrew readers about Abraham, who they knew very well. He was one of their heroes. He's gonna say there was a time when God came to Abraham, and he made a promise to Abraham that he was going to do certain things for him, and those promises were not fulfilled for a long time. In fact, from the moment he gave the promise to Abraham until it was ultimately fulfilled in Isaac, 25 years went by. Abraham was 75 when he got the promise. He was 100 years old when Isaac was born. And it's about what happens between the promise and the fulfillment that's going on here. It's the fact that he had a promise, that God gave him a promise, and what happened from the promise to the fulfillment, that's where the journey is.
Now, notice, the swearing of the promise in verses 13 and 14, "For when God made a promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no one greater, he swore by himself, saying, 'Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.'" God has set out a plan for Israel, and he's made promises to Israel, and those promises were made, as you know, in Genesis 12:1-3. God said, "I'm gonna bless you, Abraham. I'm gonna bless those that bless you. I'm gonna curse those that curse you. And, in you, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed".
He promised him a land. He promised him a future. In Genesis chapter 22, where this passage I've just read from, Hebrews finds its roots. Abraham has just offered Isaac up to God as a sacrifice. God, as you know, reached into the midst of that and rescued Isaac, and then in chapter 22 of Genesis, he makes another affirmation of this promise to Abraham, concerning the future. And I want you to understand something this morning that maybe you haven't quite understood, or perhaps I haven't been as clear as I should be in teaching, that God's promised to Abraham, concerning his future, concerning Isaac, concerning the modern-day Jewish nation, God's promise to Abraham was not a conditional promise. It was totally unconditional. A conditional promise says, "If you do this, I'll do this". An unconditional promises says, "I will do this, no matter what you do".
Now, when you relate this back to the book of Hebrews and you see the swearing of this promise and the significance of it, and you see the sacredness of it in verses 16 and 17, where we read, "For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath". Look up. Here's what God is saying: "I don't need to use an oath to speak out my truth. I don't need an oath".
How many of you know God doesn't need to raise his hand and say, "I swear"? I mean, who's he gonna swear to? Who's above him? Nobody. But the answer to this question is this: God said, "I didn't need an oath, but I thought maybe it would help you if I made an oath, so I'm gonna condescend to your human frailty, and along with my word, I'm gonna raise my hand and say, 'This is true. It will always be true. I swear to you that I will keep my promise.'" And then the strengthening of this promise in verse 18, says, "That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us".
Here's where this comes down to our hearts today. How many of you know we have some promises from God, don't we? This book is filled with promises. Many and most of these promises are not conditioned on anything. They're just God's promises. For instance, God said, "I will be with you always, even until the end of the age". He doesn't say, "And if you do this, then I'm not gonna be with you". God says his love has been set upon us, and nothing can interrupt his love. God has promised to be faithful to us.
Over and over and over in the Bible, we have these promises from God, just like the promise that was made to Abraham. And even though sometimes we don't see that promise being fulfilled in our time, we don't see it on our schedule, we must remember that God does not lie. He has taken an oath to fulfill his word, and whether you see it or not, you can count on it. It will happen. Abraham had to wait 25 years, but in due time, God kept his word.
Now, when you come to the end of this chapter, you see a visual, and I don't know how you people are. I'm a kind of a visual person. I like to see, and when I'm gettin' ready to do a project or somethin', I get somebody to come in and make a picture of it for me so I can see it. When I'm gonna write a new book, even before I write the first word, I get somebody to design the cover, and I put the cover on my desk so I can look at the cover. Gives me hope that, one day, I will finish the project. I like to see things in pictures.
How many of you know the Bible is a book of pictures, isn't it? And here's a picture I will never forget. I've really never saw this in this context before, but let me try to paint it for you the best I can. In verses 19 and 20, we read these words: "This hope we have", "this hope", what is that? The promise. "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek".
Now, you might think, "What is that? What are those verses gonna say to me"? But don't look away, and don't go on a little mental trip right now. Stay with me. The word "hope" in the New Testament is not like our word "hope". When I say, "hope", I mean, I say something, "I hope I'm gonna have dinner when I get home", or "I hope my kids will do better in school next year", or "I hope I get a better job".
"Hope" in our culture is a mental attitude about something that's going to happen in the future that we don't know the outcome of, but we hope it could be better than we think it might be. But "hope" in the Bible is not like that at all. "Hope" in the Bible is not like ordinary hope. In the New Testament "hope", there is no uncertainty whatsoever. "Hope" in the Bible is not a state of mind. It is a fact upon which you can lay hold and in which, in turn, will lay hold of you. Hope is what we keep in our minds when we face difficulties. Hope is what we know to be true. It is this hope that we have, and the Bible says Christ is our hope, and he is in us, the hope of glory.
Now, with that in mind, notice, in these last verses, our hope is likened to an anchor. Here we are in our turbulent lives in the sea and the storm and all the uncertainty, and the Bible says, if you wanna maintain your stability in life, make sure your anchor is connected to the Lord Jesus. He's the anchor. And what the writer of Hebrews wants them to understand is that, when you know that for sure, it enables you to stay calm in the midst of the storm. Do you get it?
You can go on in your life. Even while you don't know what's happening, you don't understand it, you can say with the old hymn writer, "My anchor holds". He is our anchor. He is our anchor. If you throw an anchor into the water, and it's not where the ship is, and you need to get to the anchor, you pull the rope, and you pull yourself closer to where the anchor is.
Here's what I want you to do. Help me do this. Let's pull on the rope that draws us closer and closer to the anchor we have in heaven, amen? Let's tug on that rope every day. Let's ask God to find a way to get even closer to him than we are now. He is our anchor, and he never fails. I don't know what storm you're goin' through, I don't know what turbulence you're facing in your life, but I'm here to tell you today you have an anchor if you're a Christian, and he is steadfast, and he never changes. He is going to be where he is, no matter what happens down here, and no matter what you do, he will not change. He is a faithful God, and he loves you more than you can ever know.