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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Rick Warren » Rick Warren - A Faith That Keeps Me Hopeful

Rick Warren - A Faith That Keeps Me Hopeful

Rick Warren - A Faith That Keeps Me Hopeful
TOPICS: Faith, Hope, A Faith That Works When Life Doesn’t

Hi, everybody. Have I told you lately that I love you. Welcome back to our special series on principles for living through a pandemic. Now, I wanna start by repeating four suggestions that I gave you last week for getting the most out of these online messages while we're unable to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, print up the outline that goes with this message. I write one every week so you can take notes, and you could pause this video right now and go print it up and then you'll have something to take notes on. Number two, get comfortable. Get a good chair to sit in, don't try to stand or be in an uncomfortable chair. Number three, turn off your phone. You wouldn't answer your phone if you were worshiping in a church building right now. And number four, don't multitask. Worship is focusing on God. And you can't do that while you're trying to focus on something else at the same time.

Now today is our 18th study in the book of James that I'm calling a faith that works when life doesn't. Now when we began this series, I told you that we were gonna look at the antidotes to all of the common emotional reactions that people have in a crisis. And I told you that while it is the medical community's Job to deal with the disease of COVID-19, it's my Job to help you with the emotional dis ease, the stress that accompanies this pandemic. And of course, in the first 17 messages, we've covered a lot of different angles of dis ease or stress. Now, of course, this week we received more bad news and it looks like we're not gonna go back to school as soon as we thought and they've shut us down even further. So a lot of people are pretty stressed out.

Now, I want to remind you that this book, the book of James, was written to people whose lives had been turned upside down, not by a pandemic, but by a persecution. And James is writing to encourage everybody with principle for persevering through tough times. So James, if he were alive here right now, he would be very sympathetic to what you're feeling and all that you're going through right now because he cared about people's pain. He also knew that hope is essential. Hope is essential for enduring tough times. You know, human beings can handle an enormous amount of frustration and delays and even pain, as long as they feel there is hope. But when hope is gone, people just give up, they just give up. And that's why James says in James chapter five verse eight these words, "You must be patient, keep your hopes high". Remember, he's talking about people who were in problems in those days, "Be patient, keep your hopes high, for the day of the Lord's coming is near".

Now if you're taking notes, I would encourage you to circle that phrase on your outline, keep your hopes high. That's what I want us to look at this weekend. Keep your hopes high. Several other translations say, don't give up hope, do not give up hope. Now let me ask you. How well are you doing in this? How well are you keeping your hopes high during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you kinda feel the air leaking out of your balloon or your tire? Do you kinda feel like all your hopes for the future are on hold right now? You know, the more we learn about hope, the more we realize how essential it is to your spiritual and your mental and your emotional and your physical health.

I remember a long time ago I once read a biography of a cardiologist who was famous for heart surgeries. And one of the statements he made that stood out in that book and I've never forgotten it, he said this. "Hope is the medicine I use more than any other. Hope can cure nearly everything". Hope can cure nearly everything. Another doctor wrote, if you lead a person to believe that there's no hope, he said you drive another nail in his coffin. And another doctor that I read, Armand Nicholi wrote, "Psychiatrists have long known that hope fosters health, both physically and emotionally, and hopelessness can appreciably shorten your life". So today, I'm calling this message from God's word a faith that keeps me hopeful. You see, as long as you have hope, you can keep holding on. You can even keep moving forward during tough times.

So what does the book of James have to say about hope? How do I keep on being hopeful when the news doesn't seem to be getting any better? Well, James tells us that hope is based on knowledge. Did you hear that? Hope is based on knowledge. It's what you know that gives you hope. And if you don't know what God has said, you're gonna feel pretty hopeless. So throughout the book of James, he gives us seven reasons for hope in difficult times. These are seven promising truths that God has given us and if we remember them, and we hold on to them, and we trust in God and in His word, we will have the hope to make it through these tough days of pandemic. So let's look at how faith in God and faith in His word keeps us hopeful in difficult times. Now, as I said, James points out seven big reasons that keep us filled with hope. And I know these are gonna encourage you today.

All right, let's look at them, number one. First, we have hope, because we know the difficulties won't last. We have hope because we know these tough times, these difficulties won't last. You know, if you were to visit my back office of our ministry center where I have a little cubby hole there, you would find a plaque hanging on my wall and it's a piece of barbel with Hebrew letters engraved into it. People always wondered what it says in Hebrews and it says, this too shall pass. This too shall pass. And I like to look at that, and I think no matter what I'm going through, no matter what circumstance, no matter what problem you're facing, it's temporary. No problem comes to stay. It comes to pass, it passes through your life. You know, even if it was a lifelong chronic problem, you're not gonna take it into eternity. It didn't come to stay, it came to pass.

Now, when we understand that the problems in our lives are temporary, that none of them are gonna last, and in light of eternity, they're really pretty short, they become more manageable. People can handle a lot if they know there's an end to it and if they see a purpose in it. And that's why James reminds us of this in James chapter five verse 10. In The Message translation it says this, "Take the old prophets as your mentors, they put up with anything, they went through everything, they never once quit, all the time honoring God". James says, these guys knew that difficult times they were going through we're not permanent. They were temporary. They were momentary. They were passing. They would not last. Now, I know that this COVID-19 pandemic has already lasted a whole lot longer than most people expected it to last. And it certainly lasted a whole lot longer than we wanted it to last. So what should we do? Well, we look beyond the circumstances. We focus on the eternal, we live in light of eternity. What does that mean practically? Stop watching so much news and start reading your bible more. That'll definitely improve your attitude and it will definitely increase your hope.

Second Corinthians 4:18 says this in the TEV, "We fix our attention, not on the things that are seen, but on things that are unseen, because what can be seen is temporary and will last only for a short time, but what can not be seen will last forever". You see, everything you see is material, the barn behind me, the trees, everything out here, it'll either decay, it'll rust, it'll fall apart or it'll die. It's the things in the universe that you can't see, the immaterial, they're gonna last forever. You can't see God, He's gonna last forever. You can't see your soul, it's gonna last forever. If you want to increase your hope, you need to change your perspective. You need to stop looking at just the here and now, like I said, all the stuff that's on the news and start paying more attention to God and His word and to your soul which is eternal. God is eternal, your soul is eternal, God's word is eternal.

So stop focusing on the temporary. Here's the second reason that we can have hope in difficult times. Because we know God will use them, use it, the difficult times in our lives, for our good. We not only know the problems are temporary, but we know that God will use it for good in our lives. Now, most Christians know the great promise of Romans 8:28. Right here on the screen, it says this, "We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose". But in James, James gives us additional information about that good that God's working for. And he explains the specific good that God is doing in our lives during difficult times. He says it plainly. God is using this, even the COVID pandemic right now, God is using this to grow your character. He uses problems to help you mature and to help you grow up. That's the second thing we can be hopeful about.

James chapter one verse two to four says this, "My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know, there's that because you know, it's a knowledge that gives me hope, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience". So, let it grow. Let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, here that? When your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. That's the good that God is doing in your life through the bad that comes into your life. He's helping you be fully developed in patience, endurance and strong in character ready for anything.

Now, I know what you're thinking right now. You may not feel that you're growing in strength during this pandemic. In fact, you're probably feeling pretty tired, pretty depleted. But you know what? Later you're gonna look back and you're gonna see how all of this time changed you, helped you grow stronger, helped you develop spiritual muscle. I have told you many, many times, that the purpose of life on earth is to prepare us for eternity. This life is the preparation stage for the next life. This is just the warm up back. This is not the real show. You're only here for less than 100 years, but you're gonna be trillions of years of eternity. This is the dress rehearsal, this is the get ready stage. Second Corinthians chapter four verse 17 says this, "These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all of our troubles seem like nothing". Wow, these little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all of our other troubles seem like nothing. You know, in heaven, you're gonna say, "What was I thinking? Why did I let that bother me so much"? God was using those tough times for my own good and my own growth.

So, we have hope because we know that the difficulties are temporary, and we have hope because we know that God will use them for our good and our growth. Then James gives us a third reason for hope. And here it is. Because we know that getting irritated doesn't help. Getting irritated doesn't help. Let me ask you. Has getting upset or distraught or distressed or angry about this pandemic, or anything else that you cannot change, has it ever been helpful to you? No. No, it just makes the situation worse. It makes it more unbearable. You know, I see so many angry people these days during this pandemic, they're mad at the government, they're mad at the experts, they're mad at the people who refuse to wear a mask and put other people at risk, they're mad that they can't go to work, they're mad that their kids can't go to school, how is that helping? Is your anger or your irritation or being upset changing anything? Or just making you and everybody else more miserable? This is why James chapter 1:19 and 20 says this, "Always be slow to become angry because human anger will never achieve God's righteous purpose".

You see that verse? Human anger will never achieve God's righteous purpose. Getting irritated, get upset, you know, get cranky, it's hard to be hopeful and angry at the same time. Now, while anger will not make the uncontrollable controllable, it won't, you know, you getting upset about it doesn't make the uncontrollable controllable. Hope can give you the strength to handle it and handle it better. But getting irritated never helps. You know, as this pandemic just keeps dragging on and on and on, it is easy to take out your frustrations on those closest to you, especially if you're home all the time, and you never get a break from each other. And that's why James says in James chapter five verse nine, "Don't complain or grumble against each other".

Okay, that's pretty good advice right now during this pandemic, don't complain and grumble against each other, or you will be judged by God who is standing right at the door. He says He's standing there, He is listening to all this. You're not so hurt yourself all the time, you're cranky. Have you been guilty of doing any of that in your home? Grumbling and complaining? You see, the pandemic is not your kid's fault, the pandemic is not your spouse's fault, but unfortunately we often let our frustration spill over onto them. Why don't you try to be a little bit more aware that irritation and anger doesn't work, it doesn't help the situation.

You know, I really love this book of James, because he nails it time and time again. He understands that human nature and how irritable we can get about things when things don't go our way, that that's common to us. But James also points out that it doesn't help. And on top of that, it depletes the hope that you need to keep going. So, our faith helps us to have hope. And when we're starting to feel hopeless, we think about these things, first, we know the problem is temporary, it's not gonna last, it came to pass, we know that God will use every problem for our good, and we know that getting irritated about it doesn't work, doesn't help, it doesn't solve an unsolvable situation, it doesn't control the uncontrollable. Now we come to a fourth source of hope.

Number four, our hope, our faith keeps us hopeful, because we know trusting God pleases Him. Did you know that when we continue to trust God, and when we continue to put our hope in God, when we can't see how it's all gonna work out, like right now, when we can't see where the future is going, that when we put our trust in God that makes God happy. God smiles when you trust Him. You know, every parent knows that the greatest compliment your child can give you is to say, "Mom, Dad, I trust you, I trust you, I know you want what's best for me, I don't understand why I'm going through this but I believe you're good, and you will take care of me". That is faith and it makes God smile.

James gives us a classic example of trusting God without having to know all the details in advance of how it's gonna work out. And it gives us the example of Abraham, because God often asked Abraham to put up with lousy circumstances that were very uncomfortable. And yet Abraham trusted God without having all of his questions answered. Can you trust God without having all your questions answered in this pandemic? You see, Abraham often didn't know when, or where, or why, or how God was working in his life. But he believed God was good, God who loved him and so he trusted Him. James chapter two verse 23 says this, "Abraham believed God, and because of his faith, God accepted him as righteous. And so Abraham was called God's friend". Whoa, because he trusted God when he didn't understand where, when, or how, or why, he just trusted, God accepted him as righteous, and Abraham became called God's friend.

Let me ask you a very important question. Would you, would you like to be God's friend? Would you like to be a friend of God? Would you like to have that kind of intimacy with God? Would you like to know God on that kind of personal basis that God calls you my friend? You see, maybe you've known about God, but you've never considered yourself a friend of God. How do you become a friend of God? By doing what Abraham did, by trusting Him, trusting His son Jesus Christ who came to die for you, it's simple, but it's profound. You become a friend of God by trusting Him with everything in your life, even in the middle of an unexplainable global pandemic that has thrown a monkey wrench into all your plans. You trust God.

Now, next, James gives us another reason, a fifth reason for hope. We can have hope because we know, James says, Jesus is coming back someday. Yeah, that's a reason for hope. Jesus is coming back someday. James talks about this several times, and it's talked about all through Scripture. You may not know this, but the Bible actually talks more about Jesus' second coming, it's gonna happen one day, than it does about Jesus' first coming to earth 2,000 years ago at Christmas. Jesus talked about it many times. In John chapter 14 verse two and three, right before Jesus goes back to heaven he says this, "I'm going away to prepare a place for you". Okay, this is after the resurrection. He says, "I'm gonna go away and prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back, I'll be back. I will come back, and I will take you to be with me that you may be where I am".

That's promise. Is Jesus a liar? No, he is not. Now, of course he's talking about heaven. When is Jesus coming back? Well, we don't know. In fact, the Bible says nobody knows but God. So don't believe anybody who tells you that they know the date. If they tell you the date, you can know that's not gonna be the date, 'cause nobody knows. But we do know this. Every day it's getting closer to the time of His return. And when He returns, what's Jesus gonna do? He's gonna right all the wrongs. He's gonna correct all the injustices. He's gonna heal all the illnesses. He's gonna judge all those who pridefully rejected Him, and He's gonna reward all those who trusted Him. So James says, when you start getting discouraged about how none of your plans are working out, and how often it seems that the bad guys are winning in the world, he says, remember this James 5:8, "Be patient, stay steady and strong, because the Lord could arrive at any time". Anytime, that's another reason for hope.

Now, let me give you two final reasons for hope. Number six, because we know this is not the end of the story. We know what's going on right now, this is not the end of story, we're still in the middle of the novel. The final chapter has not happened yet. We're still in the middle of the story and in the middle of the story, it's often messy, it's often confusing, it's perplexing, it's unclear. Right now with this COVID-19 pandemic, everything seems uncertain. Work is uncertain. School is uncertain. Church is uncertain. Entertainment uncertain. The future is uncertain, everything else. The big question everybody wants answers right now is when are things is gonna get back to normal? But what if they never do? What if things never go back to the way they were before the pandemic? Can you handle that? What if you live in a new world, a new kina world? And what should you do if you don't know how the story is gonna end?

The answer is simple. You put your hope in God. You don't put your hope in yourself, you don't put your help in your Job, you don't put your hope in politics, you don't put your hope in the media, you put your hope in God, knowing that this is not the end of the story. He knows the end, we don't have to know it. We don't know where the future goes, but we know who owns the future. James reminds us about how everything fell apart in Job's life. But at the end of the story, God came through. James chapter five verse 11 says this, "What a gift life is," this is in The Message version, James 5:11, "What a gift life is, to those who stay the course".

You've heard of Job staying power. And you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. God brought it all together for him at the end. That's because God cares. He cares right down to the last detail. Now God did that for Job. Do you trust that He'll do that for you? I mean, God cared about every detail in Job's life, and He cares about every detail in your life. If you trust Him with all the details of your life, you can look forward to the end of your story too no matter how much you messed up the first part of your life. Did you get that? You can look forward to the end of your story, no matter how much you messed up the first part of your story, because you're trusting God and putting your hope in Him.

Okay, let's review the reasons for hope so far. Our faith in God and our faith in His word keeps us hopeful, even though we don't know and understand all that's happening in this pandemic or anything else. And we have hope because number one, we know the problems are temporary. Number two, we know that God will use what happens for good in our lives, even the bad He'll use it for good. Number three, we're getting, we know that getting irritated doesn't help. Number four, we know that God is pleased when we trust Him. Number five, we know that Jesus is coming back someday. And number six, we know this is not the end of the story. Now finally, James gives us one other reason for hope when we start to feel hopeless. And it's this, this is a big one. Because we know that we will be rewarded one day. We will be rewarded by God one day. That is in heaven and in eternity.

Now, God clearly promises over and over again in Scripture, that He will reward our faith and our hope in Him if we trust Him in difficult days. James reminds us of this at the very start of his book, James chapter one verse 12. "Happy are those who remain faithful under trials". That's what you're going through right now, a trial. Happy are those remain faithful under trials because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward, here it is, the life which God has promised to those who love Him. That's the reward. It's life in eternity that God has promised to those who love Him. He's talking about eternal rewards in heaven that you will enjoy forever and ever and ever. Now you know what? Right now our minds can't even imagine what God has in store for us, has in store for us. It's really beyond human comprehension.

The Bible says there is nothing on earth to compare heaven to, so we can't really understand it. Every description of heaven is completely inadequate, because it's so much greater and better and more beautiful than we can begin to understand with our tiny little brains. But let me just close with three or four bible verses that hint, just give a hint, at how amazing your rewards in heaven are gonna be, if you put your hope and faith and trust in God when you can't see your way forward like right now. Let me just read you a few verses. First Corinthians 9:25 says, "Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline in order to win a prize that will not last. But we do it for one that will last forever".

You know, you get a gold medal or a silver medal or you get a statue. I remember all little dinky statues I got and you know, the little league or bowling league, you know, all the speech contests as a kid, they all given enough time, all your trophies get trashed. They don't last. They used to give a wreath at the Olympics and then they started dying so quickly that they don't use them anymore. Athletes do it to win a prize that won't last. Who remembers the Super Bowl from three years ago? But we do it for a reward that will last forever. How about this verse? First Peter chapter one verse six. "So be glad, there is wonderful joy ahead, even though right now, you're having to endure suffering, trials and grief for a little while".

What I'm saying to you is don't give up, look up. Don't give up, look up. You're having to handle suffering and trials and grief for a little while, but it's just for a little while. Romans eight verse 18. "What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us later". There's just no comparison. You know, the famous missionary martyr Jim Elliot, who gave his life in the Amazon trying to reach people for Christ once said this famous line, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, for that what you cannot lose". Okay, it says, you know, it's so important to think long term eternity. Finally, The Message translation of Romans chapter eight verse 18 says this, "There is no comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times".

So let me ask you what are you putting your hope, okay? What are you putting your in? Are you hope into some human leader is gonna solve all your problems? Fat chance. Are you putting your hope in the fact that maybe some future spouse will meet all your needs? Fat chance. You're putting your hope in the idea that some change in circumstance will all of a sudden make you completely happy? Not gonna happen. Your hope is only as good as what you put it in. And a lot of people are putting hope in the wrong things. The only person who deserves your total hope and faith is Jesus Christ.

Now, if you don't have a friendship with God like Abraham did, like I do, I've been a friend of God's now for over 50 years, then you can begin that friendship with God today. And you can get it in the same way Abraham did, by putting your faith and your hope, not in something else, but in the Lord. And I'd like to lead you in a prayer right now to begin that relationship. So would you bow your head right now and let me just lead you in a simple prayer. Say something like this:

Dear God, thank you that my problems are temporary, that they didn't come to stay, they came to pass. Thank you God that you will use everything that happens in my life for good, even the bad stuff. Thank you that you can use even the bad stuff for good in my life. Dear God, help me to remember that getting irritated doesn't help. It doesn't make any situation better. It doesn't control the uncontrollable. Help me to remember that turning to you pleases you. Okay, and help me to remember that Jesus Christ is coming back one day, and that's gonna change everything.

And then say something like this:

Thank you God that this is not the end of my story. You know the end and it's a good ending. So thank you God. Thank you that you will reward me one day for my faith and my hope in you. Jesus Christ come into my life, I wanna trust you completely. Amen.

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