Giving Hope

This morning, were going to learn together how to give someone hope.  Before we can give someone hope, we must first understand what it is.  Merriam-Webster defines hope as:
1: to desire with expectation of obtainment
2: to expect with confidence
It’s foremost synonym is: trust
The amazing thing about hope is that the atmosphere in which hope can be the greatest is actually within the most desperate and impossible of circumstances.  The darker and more painful that situations are, the more potential that there is for the greatest of hope.
The first requirement for giving someone hope is lack.  There has to be something in their life that they desire which they do not currently have.
Romans 8:24-25
Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Determining this lack is the easy part.  Most people will blatantly share what their lack is.  If they are sick or injured, they lack health.  If they are in debt or lost their job, they lack finances.  If they are addicted to something, they lack freedom.  If they are worrying or are fearful about a situation, they lack peace.  If their spouse just left them, they lack companionship.  The list goes on and on.  Determining what is lacking is usually obvious.
Hope is the God-given placeholder to fill the void of things that we do not currently possess.
The second requirement for giving someone hope, we’re going to skip for now and save the best for last.  😉
The third requirement for giving someone hope is to direct them to God’s promise to fulfill whatever they may be lacking.  This is why it is so important for us to know God’s word well.  We can direct people to all sorts of different resources and places that can help them to fulfill that need.  However, as anyone who has worked in social services are well aware of, those resources are not always able to help.  Their resources are limited and there are usually very strict requirements that must be met in order to receive those resources.
It is best not only to direct people to potential resources, but to the ultimate resource!  It is far better to direct people to stand on a truth that is certain and absolute.  In fact, God says regarding Himself:
Numbers 23:19
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
If God fulfills His promises, then to His promises we should cling.  We need to direct people to God’s word and the promises that He makes so that they might be fulfilled in their own lives.  Things that we often lack such as healing, freedom, finances, companionship, peace, comfort, etc. can all be found in many ways.  However, when we look to the promises of God to receive them, we will receive them with no strings attached and in ways that will truly benefit us long-term.  David had to remind himself of this:
Psalm 103:1-5
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
  all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
  and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
  and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
  and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
  so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
People eagerly seek out benefit packages from employers, but as followers of Jesus, we need to remember the awesome benefit package that we receive through our salvation!  Forgiving all of our sins is an easy one that we eagerly receive.  However, we also are healed of all our diseases, are redeemed, are crowned with love and compassion, and all of our desires can be satisfied with good things, and our youth is renewed.  Those are some awesome benefits of following Jesus!
To give people hope, we must be always ready to direct them to God’s promises.
1 Peter 3:15-16
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
We also must always be ready to give people hope not only through our words, but first and foremost through our actions!
Colossians 4:5-6
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
This leads us back to the second requirement for giving people hope.  To quote off somebody’s words, to direct people to that person’s promises means very little unless they know that person.  Any reasonable person would only trust someone’s words to the degree that they trust that person.  If I don’t know someone, I don’t have a great deal of trust in what they say.  If I know someone well, if I have seen their words tested and proven, if I have seen their character and integrity, then I will have a great deal of trust in what they promise.  This is another reason why our testimony is so powerful!  They give assurance that God does what He promises to those who don’t know Him yet.
The second requirement for giving people hope is to introduce them to the one true hope, Jesus.
1 Peter 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
The greatest hope that we have to offer isn’t just a kind word or prayer, but rather a person.  Jesus is the giver of hope.  It is to Jesus alone that we look to in order to receive the complete fulfillment of every one of God’s promises because He is the living word of God.  To hope in Jesus isn’t just wishful thinking or stale religion, it is to trust in a close friend.  To hope in Jesus is the only way to truly have hope and to have peace and patience throughout our season of lack.
Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So how do we give someone hope?
We acknowledge their lack, direct them to God’s promise which will fulfill that lack, and introduce them to the one, true, living God who made that promise.  No matter how difficult or impossible their circumstances may be, no matter how hopeless they may seem, God is not finished yet!  Solomon wrote it in a bit of a crude way:
Ecclesiastes 9:4
Anyone who is among the living has hope – even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
It is truth, though.  So long as we are alive, so long as we draw another breath, it’s not over yet.  God is not finished yet.  There is hope!