This week, we’re continuing our new message series entitled Kingdom Culture. In this message series, we’ll be learning about the culture in the kingdom of heaven and how to have His kingdom come and will be done here on earth. This begins by replacing our values, attitudes, goals, and practices with His and allowing Him to transform and renew our minds to think, act, and be like Him.
Last week, we learned about the foundational value, attitude, goal, and practice of agape, unconditional love. This week, we’ll be learning about another kingdom culture attribute which again applies to every value, attitude, goal, and practice of the kingdom culture, and that is hope.
Again, we’re going to see this morning another revelation that in God’s kingdom culture, there is a hierarchy to these values. We know from last week that the greatest value and the one that must be first and always foremost is that agape, unconditional love. We know that no matter how great our faith,
no matter how sacrificial the offering,
no matter how miraculous the work,
no matter how accurate the prophecy,
without this unconditional love, they are all meaningless and amount to nothing.
This week, however, we’ll see that there is no reason to sacrifice, no miraculous works, and no desire for prophecy without hope.
Hope both in its original Greek and Hebrew language and in our English language is defined as: to eagerly anticipate and to expect with confidence.
Hope, however, in our negative culture, has lost its true meaning. When I say today to someone that ‘I hope that this or that happens’ what is understood is that it is highly doubtful and unlikely that ‘this or that’ will ever occur. This is another area where we have to begin to allow the Lord to transform us and renew our minds as we take off our culture and take on God’s kingdom culture. When I say that ‘I hope that this or that happens’, we should be saying it with full confidence and eager anticipation and expect that it will occur.
When we say that we hope for something, are we speaking doubt (as in the worldly culture) or are we speaking faith (as in God’s kingdom culture)?
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Though this scripture’s context is specifically regarding asking God for wisdom, I believe that this is a principle which applies toward how we approach God in anything aligned with His will. After all, doubt is naturally the opposite of hope. Doubt expects nothing and hope expects eagerly. If we approach God doubting that He will give us what we ask, why should we be surprised when we receive nothing? In all reality, we received exactly what we confidently and eagerly were expecting from Him: nothing. Doubtfully asking anything of God is a clear sign of double-mindedness and shows a lack of stability, which should never be the case if we are standing firmly in Christ, the rock and our foundation and in His promises.
Even though Israel was exiled into Babylon and all hope would have seemed lost, God warned them not to listen to the lies that the prophets were speaking to them, but to blossom where they were planted and gave them this promise:
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
I believe that this promise still applies to us today; that God’s plans for us are to prosper, protect, and to give us a hope-filled future.
Here is why hope is next to love in the hierarchy of God’s kingdom culture values. After love, it is the next structure that needs to be in place.
We see that hope exists because of His unconditional love for us, it requires that foundation.
Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
If it was not for His unconditional love, we could not have hope. If His love were conditional, instead of having hope, we would rather be earning things from Him through good works and receiving His wrath for evil works. Praise God that He does not treat us as our sins deserve!
Because He loves us, we eagerly and confidently anticipate and expect God to work in and through our lives. We have hope knowing with confidence that things can change for the better because He loves us and knows what is best for us. We have hope for eternal life and have hope for His kingdom to come on earth even as it is in heaven because of His love for us and for others.
We have hope despite our circumstances and how things currently look. We actually have hope for something that our current circumstances are opposing. Hope is an indication of need or lack. After all, who hopes for what they already have?
We have hope and because we have hope, faith can exist.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
As you can see by definition, it is absolutely impossible to have faith without hope. In fact, faith is really just hope applied. It’s putting hope into action now! It takes the things hoped for and expects them to come to pass now. We’ll look at this a little deeper in a few minutes.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Our hope is founded in God and His word, which is why we can have confidence and expectation. He does not change – He remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hope that is not rooted in Him, is no hope at all. For if we place our hope in anything created, we’ve placed our hope on temporary things which constantly change. Even if our hope is on ourselves and our own ability, we will fail ourselves eventually.
Without hope, we cannot see God’s kingdom come. For if we desire to see sins forgiven, the sick healed, the bound freed, we have to have that expectant confidence of hope that God and His word are true, that His Spirit has empowered us, and that His kingdom is greater than ours and Satan’s. We have to have hope in these truths when what we see contradicts it.
The next kingdom culture value, which is closely related to hope is faith. Belief tends to be based on past, historical occurrences or promises. Hope tends to be future-minded and based on those historical occurrences or promises. It fully believes in God’s power, willingness, and ability to change our circumstances without doubt, but places us in a state of waiting for it to come to pass sometime in our future. Faith takes that hope that we have and believes it to occur now, in the present. This is why we need to first take on God’s unconditional love, then build upon it hope, and then faith. After all, if I have not even hope in God’s ability to bring change, I can’t have the faith to see it happen now. However, many believers have full hope and assurance, but lack the faith to bring it to pass. Many times, believers have great hope for healing, deliverance, provision, or whatever they may be in need of, but lack the faith to see it happen now. For many believers, there is a belief that these things will all come to pass only when we pass on from this life into God’s kingdom.
Jesus came and reminded us that this does not have to be the case. He said that we should pray that God’s kingdom come and that His will be done here on earth even as it is in heaven. We have hope for eternity, but we also need to have faith for now in order to see this happen in and through our lives.
Let’s take a look at just one example where we see this in Jesus’ ministry. As we read through this historic event, take close notice of the different responses and levels of faith that we see throughout this account. Now, also keep in mind what we learned last week about paradoxes. Until we have completely allowed God to transform us by the renewing of our minds, much of God’s kingdom culture seems contradictory to us. We’ll see this as well throughout this event.
1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
Here we already see something that seems to contradict what we know about God’s kingdom. We know that there is no sickness in His kingdom. Yet Jesus said that this sickness came so that God’s Son may be glorified through it. We should keep this in mind, that though sickness does not come from God, but comes from Satan, God permits it at times. In order for us to have hope, and more importantly faith, we have to understand that there has to be lack and need for which we have hope and faith that it will change. God heals because there is sickness – were there no sickness, there would be no need for healing. The enemy kills, steals, and destroys, God gives life, creates, restores, and rebuilds. We have to have hope that He always does these things and the faith that He wants to do them now.
We also see here that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. However, when He became aware of this sickness, He waited two more days before proceeding. This seems contradictory, because we would expect ones who truly love us to drop everything and rush to us when we are sick and in need. We’ll learn why in a little bit.
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
Ah, the encouraging disciples – always a hope and faith filled group of men, right? They, of course, remind Jesus of the opposition that He is likely to face by returning to Judea as to discourage Him from going back. When we analyze what was stated, though, I believe that they were just trusting with hope and faith in what Jesus said; that this sickness would not end in death. Since this is the case, they probably figure, why risk their lives to go visit him? After all, they were witnesses of the faith of the centurion where Jesus just said the word and his servant was healed.
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
So Jesus just a few days ago said that this sickness would not end in death, but just announced the fact that Lazarus is dead. Again, in the kingdom culture, we would understand that death is not permanent and not the end. Jesus was actually glad that Lazarus died so that His disciples could have their mind transformed and renewed in this area.
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
It’s arguable here what Thomas meant by his statement. Was he showing incredible courage and bravery by going with Jesus back into Judea to die together or was he being sarcastic and not really wanting to go? His doubtful demand for evidence of Christ’s resurrection doesn’t really help clear this matter up, either.
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Here we see that Martha has hope and an amount of faith that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death.
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
We find that Martha had hope and was fully convinced that her brother, Lazarus would live again. Her faith, however, was small and she had faith that this would happen only on the last day when all are resurrected and that Jesus could have only prevented his death. Even though she professed that she knew that God would give Jesus whatever He asked, she did not have enough faith that could believe that he could be raised now. Many of us have this same amount of faith. We fully are convinced of God’s ability to do the miraculous, but not enough faith to see His kingdom come on the earth here and now.
In Matthew 17, there was a boy who had seizures and the disciples could not heal him. Jesus was frustrated about it and asked how long He would have to stay and put up with them, an unbelieving and perverse generation. That frustrated Jesus isn’t one that you’ll often find paintings and pictures of, but it is a reality. He rebuked the demon and the boy was instantly healed. Jesus said that it was because of their little faith that they could not heal him. He said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, that nothing would be impossible for us.
How often does He probably ask the same of us today – how long does He have to put up with us? How long are we going to sit around in doubt and pervert our view of God and His kingdom instead of continuing the work that He started? How much more clearly could He have made it to us what His will is and what His kingdom looks like? How long will we pervert His word and character so that what we believe about Him is in alignment with our circumstances instead of getting our circumstances aligned with His truth? To stop bringing earth into His kingdom and to begin bringing His kingdom to earth? Even in scripture when God permitted illness, it was only that the person could be healed and God glorified. Let’s cast off our doubt and ask God to increase our faith!
Unfortunately, many have this same hope and faith for their own salvation. They believe that God and His kingdom exist and that Jesus died that they may enter and they have hope that at the end of their days, that they will enter it and not into eternity in hell. However, their hope is often misplaced. Their hope is often that they live a good enough life that they would be accepted by our savior. They do not apply their faith to this hope and receive salvation now. After all, we know that it is not by any of our works, but by the grace of God through our faith that we are saved. 2 Corinthians 6 says that now is the day of salvation and the time of God’s favor. If we have only hope for salvation and do not ever have faith for it here an now, what a sad and horrific day the day of judgment might be for us! I urge any who hold this view, as we all should, not to wait until tomorrow, but to receive it now!
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”Sometimes, we all need reminded of who God is. We need to take our eyes off of us and our circumstances and fix our eyes on Him and who He is and profess it to be true.
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Again, we see that Mary, like Martha, had the same hope and degree of faith. She believed that Jesus could have prevented his death.
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Again, the same hope and degree of faith existed among the Jews. As this statement continues to be made, we begin to get the impression that they are blaming Jesus for Lazarus’s death. After all, they sent word to Him while he was still sick with the intent to have Jesus come and heal him. Since He didn’t arrive when expected, Lazarus died. We also, when we lack faith and have not allowed God to fully renew our minds, can begin to blame God for things that happen to us. This is not an issue with God, but an issue with our thinking that is bound by our doubt and unbelief. Too often we are bound to see things through the earthly and temporary things forgetting the big picture and forgetting about man’s free will that is a gift from God to choose as we will good or evil. We get a glimpse of one of God’s attributes, such as Him being all powerful, but forget that there is so much more to Him than this and that His plans far surpass our short existence and small thinking.
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Faith in action is sometimes messy. For the miraculous to occur, there first has to be an impossibility that very few, and perhaps only one, has the faith to believe for that impossibility to occur now. Was it Lazarus’s body or perhaps Martha’s faith that was the stinkiest to Jesus?
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Jesus made sure that God, the Father would receive the glory for what was about to occur. Jesus didn’t ask the Father if it was His will, Jesus knew that it was His will even before Lazarus died. He thanked the Father and assured Him that Jesus always knew that the Father heard Him. Jesus allowed Lazarus to remain ill, and even die for the benefit of those who were about to see the impossible occur in the here and now. It was that their faith and belief would increase that Jesus was concerned about.
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Even after four days in the grave and having a very decayed body, Lazarus was raised to life. In fact, he still was wrapped in his grave clothes when he walked out of the tomb leaving no possibility for doubt that Lazarus was certainly dead and now certainly alive. Jesus had the faith to believe for this to occur and never for a moment doubted that it would occur.
So many of the riches in God’s kingdom are released into our lives through hope. For example, because we have hope, we have patience, trust, joy, assurance, perseverance, peace, boldness, and courage. These are all attributes found in God’s kingdom that do not come without hope. These things which we hope for come to pass and are received by us through our faith. Like a fisherman’s net, however, we must have the faith large enough to receive what we hope for. God won’t pull us overboard and destroy us by sending us something that we cannot manage.
Without hope and without faith, we cannot see God’s kingdom come nor His will be done here on earth. The miraculous simply cannot operate without a large enough amount of faith that it will happen and this faith cannot exist without the certain hope for it.
The evidence of God’s kingdom coming to earth is revealed plainly and in power when what could not occur naturally happens undeniable right before us. In order for us to bring it, we have to have hope when all is hopeless and enough faith to believe for the impossible to certainly occur now.
Let’s close by praying together that the Lord would reveal to us the fullness of the hope found in Him, that He would increase our faith to believe them to happen now, and for the confidence to step out and see His kingdom come on earth.