Read Proverbs 13:12
Any Proverbs veterans here this morning. In 2013, we spent most of a year going through the Proverbs. I exhorted the scriptures and you still came back for more the next week.
At the conclusion of this extended series, I gave you the Cliff’s Notes, if you will. I guess they were the Tom’s Notes. There are two ways—God’s way and everything else. Chose God’s way.
I wasn’t sure that after giving you this very brief synopsis that I wouldn’t get stoned. I mean in the biblical way not the Rocky Mountain way.
Wow. All of those proverbs and it’s condensed to God’s way and everything else. That is an oversimplification as we note with today’s verse.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
The Good News Translation puts it this way.
When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed, but a wish come true fills you with joy.
I am not a fan of substituting the word wish for the word hope—the world does this a lot—but the author of this proverb makes a valid point nonetheless.
So what is hope? Let’s begin with the memory verse that has been a part of most of the previous month’s messages.
It was a defining verse for faith.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Things hoped for—we have been talking about hope for several weeks as well. We have been saying that faith puts substance to those things that we desire so much. Think of Bartimaeus once again. His desire was to see. His faith put substance to that desire in an encounter with the Son of David.
So what is hope?
The Hebrew word is תִּקְוָה (tik-vaw'). In its basic form it means cord. It means construct. It means absolute. And it means a whole bunch of other things that use the world hope in the definition of the word we most often translate as hope.
The Greek word is ἐλπίζω (el-pid'-zo). It translates most often to hope or expectation. It is to expect what we have taken on faith to be fulfilled.
Hope is one of those words that you can’t quite fully grasp with language. Our hearts grasp this word but our language seems to only be able to approximate it.
When hope is used as a noun, it seems to be the thing that we are longing for.
When we use is as a verb it is the process of expectation of this thing in which we hope.
It’s more than a wish or wishing, for we have certainty in our hope in God, in salvation, in his ways, in his love. Hope is a lot like faith but the terms are not fully interchangeable.
Paul counseled us to continue in faith, hope, and love. These three strands make a powerful cord. At any given time, any one of these three strands may be what we need from the whole cord.
The psalmist makes analogy to the deer that longs for a stream from which to drink. So, we too long for and hope for the provision and providence of our God.
Hope beckons us to move beyond learning the basics time and again. We hope in what God has in store for us next.
Hope helps us realize the fullness of our salvation.
Hope gives us a forward-looking perspective.
Hope is about always being in our race of faith.
Hope is a little tougher to define than faith, though they are surely brother and sister in many regards.
Let’s consider what life is without hope. It’s illness and sickness and emptiness.
I can believe in God and in his sovereignty, Jesus and his sacrifice, and truth, justice and the American way but without hope, I feel empty.
I don’t feel complete.
I’m not 100%.
To truly live, I must have something to hope in, hope for, long for, desire, pant. As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you.
Maybe the composer hit the nail on the head. We must have this longing for God and the things of God.
We can say:
I hope I win the lottery.
I hope we don’t get hit by a tornado.
I hope the Cowboys or Sooners have a great season.
These hopes are more like wishes, but when we hope in the things of God, we expect them to be realized.
The things that we hope in precipitate our faith.
We have faith that in the age to come:
God will wipe away our tears—every one of them.
We will have no infirmity. By his stripes we are healed.
Our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
These things that we cannot see or touch now but in which we have faith are our hope. Our longing for them produces faith from our hope.
We hope in no more tears, no infirmity, life everlasting, and so much more. Faith puts substance to our hope.
A life without hope is a pitiful thing. It runs contrary to the design specifications. It makes us sick and sickly. We are crushed without hope.
I hear so many people say what they will put off for another time.
I’ll tithe when I make enough money.
I’ll pray when I have more time.
I’ll study God’s word when the mood hits me.
I’ll put my gits and talents to use for the Lord, when I am a little more comfortable with the congregation.
I will leave an inheritance for my children’s children when I get around to it.
So many defer so much these days. It’s not just a little procrastination here and there. For some, deferring God’s wisdom for another day is just an everyday thing.
There are, of course consequences, for deferring God’s wisdom. Each surely eats away at this thing called abundant life.
But consider the impact of deferring hope for a day.
I think of the number of suicides in our country alone. I think of the number of veteran suicides each week. These numbers are staggering and incomprehensible. Men and women who have survived a year in a hell hole where so many want to kill you, somehow give up hope when they come home.
How do people give up hope?
By putting it off for one day, then another, and then another. They sink deeper and deeper into a sickness that comes from not having hope.
But regardless of the situation, we do not abandon or defer hope for a single day. We must not defer hope for a single day.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
We learned that our trials strengthen our faith, but what about for the person who has no hope? Every day trials become insurmountable mountains.
We must not put off hope for a single day. For one day can become two and then three. We have love. We have faith, and we must not defer hope. Hope must be a part of who we are.
Faith and love are powerful forces, but to operate at full strength, they need the third strand—hope. As people of God, let us never let go of hope.
As disciples of Christ, let others see our hope as well as our love.
As people of faith, let us continue in hope.
Let us be people of hope, every day.