Practice 6: Keep Hope in the Future

Series: Earning Our Wings

Hebrews 11:1-3

May 4, 2008

 

 

            Immediately after World War II the Allied Forces gathered many hungry, homeless children and placed them in large camps.  There the children were abundantly fed and cared for.  The children, however, did not sleep well at night.  They seemed restless and afraid.  Finally, a psychologist hit on a solution.  After the children were put to bed, each child received a slice of bread to hold.  If a child wanted more to eat more was provided, but this particular slice of bread was not to be eaten.  It was just to hold.

            The slice of bread produced marvelous results.  Each child could go to sleep, subconsciously feeling he or she would have something to eat in the morning.  That assurance gave the children a calm and peaceful rest.

            We turn our attention today to the sixth Eagle Flying practice, which is “keep hope in the future.”  Hold on to it.  Don’t let go of it.  Take it to bed with you at night, and in our passage for today is a list of people who were experts at this.  In fact, if you want to know the names of some of the greatest Eagle Flyers in the Bible, then read the rest of this eleventh chapter of Hebrews.  This chapter contains the greatest showcase anywhere of Eagle Flyers.  It’s the Hall of Fame of the Bible.  Listed here are folk who took the worst and licked it, people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, Joshua and David.  Listed here are people who lived life to the hilt, and one thing this diverse group of people had in common was their ability to keep hope in the future.

            And listen to how impressed the author of Hebrews was with them.  By the way, we are not sure who wrote the book of Hebrews.  At one time it was thought the Apostle Paul wrote the book, but that is not likely.  Other candidates for authorship are Barnabas and Priscilla, but the truth is, we do not know who the author was.  Whoever it was, not how impressed he or she was with these biblical Eagle Flyers.  In verse 16 the author writes, “Therefore God i not ashamed to be called their God, for he prepared a city for them.”  In other word, these Eagle flyers not only impressed the author, but also God.  What we have in this chapter are the cream of the crop of the Old Testament, great heroes of faith who kept hope in the future.

            And this morning I want to learn from their example.  I want to point out three things they did to keep hope fresh and alive, but before I do that, I want to say a couple of things about hope in general.

            The first is a little truth in advertising.  The truth is “hope can break your heart.”    It can let you down, and the higher the hope, the greater the pain.

            Let me tell you about one of my seminary professors, Lewis Smedes.  He taught theological ethics, the philosophy of religion, and he had a brilliant mind.  he was also very transparent, and I will always remember what he told us one day about hope.

            For the first decade of their marriage, Smedes and his wife Doris, hoped passionately for a child  He said he wanted a child more than he wanted anything else in the world.  So they hoped and prayed for a child for ten years.  And then, finally, after ten years, Doris became pregnant.  They thanked God and drank a toast to hope.

            One night, about six months into the pregnancy, something went wrong, and Dr. Smedes called the doctor.  The doctor told him that Doris was going into labor and to get her into and take her to the emergency room so that they could stop the contractions. 

            After testing, the doctor told them their baby was going to be seriously malformed, but they decided not to give up hope.  No matter what the doctor said they continued to hope for a healthy baby.  So they kept hoping through the last three months of the pregnancy.

            Three months later, Doris gave birth to a boy, and it was in those days when husbands were not allowed in the delivery room, and the doctor came to Dr. Smedes with an embarrassed grin on his face, in fact he was smiling from ear to ear, and he said to Smedes, “Congratulations!  You have a perfect baby boy.  Come and see.”  Smedes went.  He saw.  The boy was perfect.  “Praise God,” Smedes said under his breath. 

            Two days later the baby died.  Hope can break your heart.  In fact, if we went around the room this morning, the majority of us could share times when our high hopes brought us deep pain.

            Trudy and I are in the midst of that now.  As many of you know, we owned a retail store for the past three years, which we had to close last month.  It was not making enough money to justify keeping it open, and we opened the store with such high hopes.  It pains us to have to close it.  The good news it, the closure gives me more time to spend to you, so it has a silver lining, but still we are deeply sad and it will take awhile to get over the disappoint, let alone the financial implications for us.

            So what do we do when hope lets us down?  A great French writer, Albert Camus, after writing hopefully about the human struggle for many years ended his career with this advice: “Stop hoping.  It hurts too much.  Think clearly.  Stop hoping.”

            I’m going to suggest something else this morning, even in the midst of our painful disappointment ... Keep hoping.  Keep hoping.  Even when hope crashes down and crushes our spirits, keep hoping. 

            That leads me to the second thing I want to say about hope ... “hope is an incredibly powerful, personal energy source that we never want to lose.”  Hope gives people the power to achieve what they hope for.  A well known Jewish philosopher was asked the question, “How can you account for the survival of the Jewish people through all the exiles and all the persecution?”  Now listen to his simple answer.  He answered, “The Jewish people have survived by the power of hope.”

            Two oncologists were discussing the papers they were to present that day at the national meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  One complained bitterly saying, “You know, Bob, I don’t understand it.  We use the same drugs, the same dosage, the same schedule, and the same entry criteria.  Yet I get a 22% response rate and you get a 74% rate.  That’s unheard of for lung cancer.  How do you do it?”

            The other oncologist replied, “We’re both using Etoposide, Platino, Ocovin, and Hydroxurea.  You call yours EPOH.  I tell them we are giving them HOPE.  Sure, I tell them this is experimental, and we go over a long list of side effects together, but I emphasize we have a chance. 

            In spite of the odds, Dr. Bob gives his patients hope and gets three times the results.  Yes, hoping can be painful, but it is also very powerful.

            OK, let’s get back to what these Eagle Flyers did to keep hope alive.  Note three things.  First, these Eagle Flyers developed 3-G vision, not 3-D vision, but 3-G vision.  We all know about 3-D vision, and maybe you have been to a 3-D movie at one time in your life, where you have to where special glasses, but wearing the glasses are well worth it, as things seem to come out of the screen right at us, and at times the audience laughs as the entire audience ducks when a ball is thrown or water is splashed. 

            Well, one of the things that happens is people who wear the special glasses at a 3-D movie get more out of the movie than those who do not put on the glasses.  If you are not wearing the glasses, things remain two dimensional, not three dimensional.  The same applies to 3-G Vision, or Triune God Vision.  When we have Triune God Vision another dimension, the spiritual dimension appears us.  With Triune God Vision, the visible and the invisible intersect.  As the author of Hebrews states, those Eagle Flyers were sure of what the hoped for and certain of what they did not see.”

            Karl Bath, the famous theologian, was on a streetcar one day in Basel, Switzerland where he taught.  A tourist in the city climbed on the streetcar and sat down next to Barth.  The two men started chatting with each other. 

            “Are you new to the city?” Barth inquired.

            “Yes,” said the tourist.

            “Is there anything you would particularly like to see in this city?”  asked Barth.

            “Yes,’ replied the man.  “I would love to meet the famous theologian Karl Barth.  Do you know him?”

            Barth answered, “Well, as a matter of fact, I do.  I give him a shave every morning.”

            The tourist got off the streetcar quite delighted.  He went back to his hotel and told the desk clerk, “I met Karl Barth’s barber today.”

            The man missed who was sitting next to him.  He did not realize he was in the presence of Karl Barth.  Eagle Flyers do not miss out on God.  They see God in all of life.  For them the world is aflame with the presence of God.  They developed 3-G Vision.

            Secondly, in keeping hope alive they used their imaginations to rehearse success.  In other words, they vividly pictured good thing happening in their future.  Noah saw the Ark in his mind before it was ever a reality.  Abraham envisioned that child.  Moses saw his people freed from bondage.  Joshua saw himself in a land dripping with milk and honey.  They were able to visualize it before it ever happened.

            Listen to Catherine Marshall’s experience from her book Adventures in Prayer.

 

            In my teens I long had the dream of going to college.  But this was a depression time and the West Virginia church my father served was suffering financially too.  I was accepted at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, had saved some money from debating prizes, had the promise of a work scholarship - yet we were still several hundred dollars short.

            One evening Mother found me lying across my bed, face-down sobbing.  She sat down beside me.  “You are going to pray about this,” she said quietly.  We went into the guest room and knelt beside the old-fashioned bed, the one that Mother and Father had bought for their first home.  “I know it’s right for you to go to college,” Mother said.  “I believe God planted this dream in you; let’s ask God to tell us how to bring it to reality.”

            During those quiet moments in the bedroom, confidence and fresh determination flowed in.  Mother’s faith was contagious.  The answer would come.  How, we did not know.

            I went ahead and made preparations for Agnes Scott College.  A short time later, Mother received an offer from the Federal Writers’ Project to write the history of her county.  Her salary was enough to pay for the major part of my college expenses.

 

            Note what happened.  She developed 3-G Vision  She saw God as a part of the solution.  Then she used her imagination to rehearse success.  She visualized herself at college.  She even went so far as to plan for college and the money came. 

            Then thirdly, and lastly, in keeping hope alive we need to wait to worry.  Worry is the misuse of the imagination.  Rather than using our imagination to rehearse success, worry rehearses disasters and personal humiliations.

            A business man decided to analyze his anxieties.  He found that 40% of them were about things that were never likely to happen.  30% were about past decisions that could not be changed.  12% concerned criticism from others that did not matter.  10% were about his health that he was doing his best to protect, leaving only 8% that were legitimate causes of worry.

            Folks, what if we worried only when it was time to worry?  Well, if that were the case, it would knock a big hole in our worry time.  Yes, the heroes of faith listed here did worry from time to time.  We see that in their prayers to God, but for the most part they used their imaginations to rehearse success, not disaster, and that is what kept them going.

            Let’s close with this  One of my favorite stories is about a farmer who took his son to a ship to see him off during World War 1.  Before the boy went up the ramp to board, he and his father faced each other for a moment.  They had never been demonstrative in their affection.  Neither knew what to say.  So they stiffly shook hands.  The father whispered, “God be with you.” 

            The boy said, “Goodbye, Father.”

            On board the boy watched his father get into this buggy and start homeward.  As the buggy topped the hill, the boy realized that there were many things he wanted to say to his dad that might never be said.

            So, he raced off the ship and up the road knowing he couldn’t reach his father in time, but he pressed on anyway.  As he crested the hill, he saw his father in the distance.  He had already turned the buggy around and was coming back to meet his son at full gallop!

            Worry if you do not have a Heavenly Father like that.  Otherwise, wait.

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