Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, December 3, 2017 [First Sunday in Advent]
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
Hope: “Waiting with Expectancy!” [First Sunday in Advent]
Psalm 27:13, 14
Perhaps there’s someone here this morning who’s discouraged and out of sorts. His or her life seems to be adrift. Like a sailboat becalmed on a windless day. If this describes your state of mind, let me assure you. You are not alone!
We’re living in precarious times where nothing seems to make any sense. In this age of “political correctness,” a “Yes” might be taken as a “No”. And where “Right” is considered as being “Wrong”! People can no longer speak their minds without being labeled as “intolerant” or worse yet, a “Bigot” or a “Racist”! In times like these “common sense” is a rare commodity!
Yes, in times like these, we need to heed the words of the apostle Paul, where in his farewell letter to his young protégé, Timothy, he writes: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” [2 Timothy 3:12, 13]. Similarly, the apostle Peter issued this dire warning: “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” [1 Peter 5:8]. If Satan is truly in his death throws, then the casual observer seems to be unaware of it.
But, for those who follow Christ Jesus, we have a reason for the hope that is in us! While others resort to reading their daily horoscopes, or playing with Tarot cards.
The word “hope” appears in the Bible 129 times. In both the Old and New Testaments, hope is not some cockamamie “pipe dream” conceived by mere mortals. No! The hope which the Bible speaks about is substantive. There is clarity of thought in both mind and spirit.
Paul reminds us [that]: “…hope does not disappoint” [Romans 5:5a]. And yet, hope can be elusive. From purely a spiritual perspective, the believer cannot rely solely upon his senses; as for example, with one’s eyes. In Hebrews 11, the “great faith” chapter, the first verse says [that]: “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
In other words, hope is predicated upon faith. An abiding faith in someone, or something much greater than ourselves. St. Augustine defined faith as circulatory where he says, “Faith is to believe what we do not see. And the reward of faith is to see what we do believe.” The 19th century evangelist, George Mueller, spoke of faith in these terms: “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” In essence, faith is the pathway by which hope becomes a reality.
There are three segments in this psalm. In verses 1-6, David converses with himself about the privileges enjoyed by a child of God. In verses 7-12, David converses with God about his utmost concerns. In his closing verses (13-14), David again converses with himself about the need to persevere. It’s this final segment which we’ll delve into this morning.
Notice David’s wording. Speaking introspectively, he begins by saying, “I would have despaired…” This is not to suggest that David was spared heartache and sorrow. He most assuredly did! And this was especially true within his own household (e.g., his eldest son, Amnon, and the rape of Tamar [2 Samuel 13]. And the rebellion conspired by his son, Absalom [2 Samuel 18].
Despair is like a dark cloud that hovers over us. But it need not be this way! What’s important is how we deal with crisis. The opposite of hope is… hopelessness. Hopelessness is an awareness of our circumstances, but the inability for us to cope with them. Fear can lay ahold of us and grip us. Like that of glue, it sticks. Someone once said, “Hopelessness is when your fear collides with your faith.” You’ve heard me say, “The only defeated Christian is a discouraged one.”
In this psalm, David does not dwell on his past misdeeds and misfortunes. He continues his thought process by saying: “I would have despaired…unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” David reminds himself that as a child of God, one should expect and anticipate the outpouring of God’s blessings while “in the land of the living.” He uses this beautiful phrase once again in Psalm 142. David’s reminding himself, and us, we need not ’til we get to heaven to enjoy many of God’s bountiful blessings. Such as: being heirs of hope; experiencing inner-peace, unspeakable joy, and God’s redeeming grace. Saving grace that can never be taken away!
And the only thing God demands from us is an abiding faith in Him. He demands our loyalty, our allegiance. For a day is coming when we will stand before Christ Jesus. And the same holds true while we’re here on earth.
I find it appalling that there are gifted athletes who can perform such amazing feats of athleticism on the football field, but refuse to stand for our National Anthem. Make no mistake. They are defying everything our Nation stands for. And because of their defiance, there will be consequences.
But, regardless of our personal views, there is a far greater concern than these ‘million-dollar prima donna’s’. What’s far more egregious are those who refuse to stand up in allegiance to Almighty God! By their refusal to stand up for Christ, they are shaking their fist at the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Ones such as these will suffer the ultimate consequence. Eternal separation from God!
And what better way to express our unswerving devotion to Christ than to stand up and to “wait”. David closes this psalm by saying: “Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”
What’s that old expression, “All good things come to those who…wait”? How trite! And yet, how true! Obviously, the person who penned those words never waited in long lines at the checkout counter on ‘Black Friday,’ or was being jostled by disgruntled shoppers in malls during the Christmas season!
Nevertheless, this axiom is true! At least, from a spiritual perspective. Dear ones, waiting is an affirmative action. It’s an ‘action’ verb. It’s the opposite of slothfulness, or laziness. “Waiting for what?” you might ask. We are to wait upon the Lord. Let our Lord take the first step.
Do you remember your first dance lessons? As with most dance moves, the male partner is supposed to lead. The female partner is supposed to follow. Taking steps backwards is far more difficult. It can be clumsy at first. You might even fall on the dancefloor! But eventually, you’ll get the hang of it. It’s only when you start leading that you get tripped up.
And the same holds true in our spiritual lives. Think of all the times you’ve tripped up. When you retrace your steps, you’ll discover that the fault lies squarely with you! No one else. When we get ahead of God; we get a ‘Big Head’! Our lives begin to run amuck!
Just as it was in the days of Moses where God’s people wandered aimlessly in the wilderness. They needed guidance and direction. And God provided guidance for them. There was a cloud to guide them by day and a pillar of fire that watched over them by night. And the same holds true for us, today. God will guide us, if we will allow Him to do so.
When I was growing up, my dad used to say, “Son, don’t just stand there; do something!” Now that I am in the winter season of my life, my heavenly Father is scolding me by saying: “Don’t just do something…stand there!” Yes, we must learn to wait upon the Lord. And when we do, we’ll discover that our courage, and our strength comes not from within us, but from Him. At least that is my hope for today!
Let us pray…