Hope is built upon Faith
Easter served as an introduction to our new series The Problem of God. We are preaching on Faith to build your hope. Find all the Problem of God messages here and build your faith.
“In 2004 Mike Pauletich noticed something was off… His aim with a baseball was off, his arm hurt, his hand shook a little, and, strangest of all, his wife noticed he never smiled anymore…. At 42 years old, Pauletich had early onset Parkinson’s disease. His doctor told him that within a decade he wouldn’t be able to walk, stand, or feed himself.
Pauletich didn’t deteriorate as much as his doctor predicted, but for years he struggled with the disease and with depression, as talking and writing became ever harder. He had to constantly explain to clients of his technology development company that his slurred speech wasn’t caused by drinking.
Then, in 2011, he turned to Ceregene, a company that was testing a new gene therapy. Ceregene’s experimental treatment was to cut two holes, one in each hemisphere of the brain, through a patient’s skull and inject the drug directly into the target regions.Pauletich’s improvement after the surgery was impressive. After the procedure his shaking disappeared, his mobility improved, and his speech became markedly clearer. Today you can hardly tell he has the disease at all.
His doctor was astonished. Strictly speaking, Parkinson’s had never been reversed in humans; just a slowdown in the progression of the disease was extremely rare…In April 2013, 2 years after the surgery, Ceregene announced the results of the trial: The trial for the procedure had failed…
Patients who had been treated with the drug did not improve any more significantly than those in a control group who had received a placebo treatment—a sham surgery in which a doctor drilled “divots” into the patient’s skull so that it would feel as if there had been an operation.
His doctor was crushed. But then she looked at the data and noticed something that stopped her cold. Mike Pauletich hadn’t gotten the real surgery.
He had gotten the placebo procedure….No medicine had been placed in his brain…What had made the difference for Mike Pauletich was that for the first time in years, he had hope.
Hope is Powerful.
So powerful, that even when it is paired with a fake surgery or a placebo drug it can bring measured improvement in someone’s health…. Even though the improvement will not last….
2,000 years ago there were people who recognized the power of hope, and they wanted hope, but their hope was not resting on much of anything… it was most definitely not founded or built upon anything sturdy…
These people lived in Corinth.They believed some teaching of Jesus, but not all. They believed in Jesus’ goodness, but not his power and his might. They believed he lived a good life, but they didn’t believe he still lived, because they didn’t believe in the resurrection.
You see, they were teaching that the way of Jesus was a good way of life, that it brought help and goodness in this life, but that there was no life after death, so the benefit was only for this life, for this short while…Their faith was small, so their hope was fragile and short-lived.Paul writes to them that if there is no life after death, if our hope in the next life is vain, then we are of all men most miserable.
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” – 1 Corinthians 15:19
Paul didn’t say we are misled, or misguided, or blissfully, ignorant… No. He said we are MISERABLE. Why would he say that we are miserable!? Because their hope was like a lot of people’s, it was propped up on something that provided no stability. This is where some of you live, you live with your hope propped up on a small faith, like the Corinthians. When we live with our hope resting upon very little, we have to be very careful. We have to watch out for anything that would threaten to topple our hope.
We have to be careful that no one brings negativity around us, because our hope can’t handle that…
We have to make sure life doesn’t make any waves in our circumstances, because our hope would come crashing down… When hope is resting upon very little, it’s fragile and temporary…
Hope alone is fragile.
How many of you like April fools Day? How many of you dislike April fools?
My grandmother, my dad’s mom, loves April fools. When my father was a kid his bike was stolen one spring. Not long after this my grandfather bought a brand new car. These two unrelated events prompted my grandmother to wake my dad up on April fools and tell him that the new car had been stolen.
My father immediately knelt by his bed and started praying that the car would be returned. My grandmother thought this was so funny that she started laughing hysterically, but to my dad it sounded as if she was crying, so he prayed harder, which made my grandmother laugh harder.
I can not tell you how many times my grandmother got me on April fools as a kid, but now, I’m skeptical about anything she says in the spring. I would say, wait a minute, what day is it? It may be that life has tricked you a few times, maybe life has made a fool out of you on more days that just April 1, so you’re a little bit skeptical, or maybe a lot a bit skeptical…
I can fully appreciate that… You’ve been burned, you’ve got your guard up, I can respect that…
I want you to know that skepticism and faith can coexist.
In fact, being a Christian takes a good dose of skepticism, because believing in Christ is not believing everything, it’s actually a pretty narrow set of belief…
Paul spends a good portion of this letter that we are at the end of giving the Corinthians reason to be skeptical of some of the things they have been taught…
But before I tell you how faith can be built in the midst of skepticism, let me explain why….
Paul tells them this is a miserable way to live because their hope was temporary, but also because real hope, stable hope, is based upon something real, that makes all the difference in the world.
Hope is powerful. Hope built upon faith is transformational.
Paul points out in the 2 previous verse what his concerns are, the why of building hope upon faith in Easter.
We’ll start with the verse just before, verse 18.
“Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” -1 Corinthians 15:18
He says, if Christ is not raised from the dead,
Those who have passed away have perished.
The word Paul uses for Perish means lost forever, like food that spoils and is ruined or something that burns up in a fire and is forever lost…
Last year I heard a story that was pretty scary.
It was the story of PictureLife.
Picturelife automatically backs up all the pictures you take on your phone or put on your computer to the cloud.
It’s tagline is “Forget hard drives. Give up on organizing filenames. There’s a better way to find and share pictures.”
Picturelife website goes down and it’s just not working.
The site is down. And it stays down for a couple of days. L No one can access it, it’s just gone.
And then, after those couple days, the site comes back up but when users would go into Picturelife, what they would get was not their images, but what looked like where the photos were supposed to go, but instead of photos being there it was just solid colors….
The company had been bought out and moved their servers…
So the files still existed, but they couldn’t be located…
It took a long time, but eventually all the photos were relocated….
The Paul’s why behind the Corinthians believing and hoping was that they would have reason to look forward to seeing their loved ones again. People who had passed in Christ, they would see again!
They weren’t lost forever….
Why does Easter matter?
Because without everyone we lose is forever lost….
The next verse up gives us Paul’s other concern
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” – 1 Corinthians 15:17
Paul’s second why is that if Christ isn’t raised from the dead,
we are still in our sins.
He says, if Christ is not raised from the dead,
We are yet in our sin.
Earlier in the chapter Paul says
“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;”
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
The reason for the cross was not simply a misunderstanding between the Jews and the Romans or between Jesus and the religious leaders, the reason for the execution of Christ was that a punishment had to be doled out for sin.
According to the scripture refers to the fact that scripture had said, hundreds of years before that he would be punished for our sin, that he would stand in our place.
Is 53 says God hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.
Just as Paul said Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, he said and “he rose again the third day according to the scriptures”
When Christ resurrected from the dead, it confirmed that Jesus was that divine Son of God who had come to take the sins of the world, not just another guy who died.
The resurrection serves as the verification that Christ’s death was for our sins, that through his death we can be forgiven of our sins.
The hope that Paul was talking about was not merely one to help us feel better despite our broken condition, it was a hope that our broken condition had been remedied.
Paul didn’t want them to merely feel better,
he wanted them to be better.
Because of the Resurrection we not only have hope,
we have reason for hope.
In His Book, THE POWER OF HABIT
Charles Duhigg recounts the study of a group of researchers from UC Berkley. They were trying to determine why AA was beneficial to some addicts and alcoholics, why some could attend AA meetings keep getting drunk, leave the program, come back and suddenly find sobriety.
They conducted interviews and the people they interviewed would say things like, I came to a point where I believed I could live sober, or I finally came to believe in a higher power, or I started believing in God….
This drove researchers nuts because it’s pretty hard to quantify and its pretty hard to dictate to people in treatment that they need to believe in something….
But sure enough, the results of their study was that for many people, AA would help them get sober whether or not they believed in something, but that the program alone couldn’t carry their sobriety through challenging circumstances.
They would stay sober until a relative would get sick, a relationship would get rocky, or their children got into trouble…
If their program wasn’t resting upon belief, they would slip back into their old habits.
Hope built upon faith is powerful and durable.
Paul wanted them to have powerful, resilient hope.
So he gives them something to build their hope upon.
That’s what 1 Corinthians 15 is, a case for faith so that hope can rest upon it. The final words of 1 Corinthians 15 are
58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
CREED (the story hasn’t changed)
WITNESSES (martyrs) At time of this writing, they were alive so you could go talk to them… Now they are dead so we can’t go and ask, but the way that they died is more convincing than any answered they could have given us….
REVOLUTION (examples of life change)
Some of you may have worried about coming to church this morning because of the way that you have lived-
You have lived without much thought of God-
You haven’t been opposed to God, but you haven’t been walking the straight and narrow.
Paul lived in absolute opposition to God.
He walked the straight and narrow in reverse.
We are glad every one of you is here…
I don’t see anyone who has threatened my life…
When you have a solid faith, your faith has something to rest on…
You may not believe it all because you may not yet understand it all, but there are 2 things you need to understand and believe to get started.
- You are a sinner.
- He is a savior
If you would enter into a spirit of prayer with me, I’m going to pray in just a second and then I’ll give you opportunity to pray, but first, let me ask you to look in your own heart…
Do you have hope?
If you don’t, you can have hope today…
If you do, what is your hope based upon?
What is your hope built upon?
Are you ready to admit you’re a sinner and call him your savior?
That’s where we start…. You can start today.
I’m going to pray, when I do, will you pray too?
Pray to God and simply say, God I admit I’m a sinner and I calling on you to be my savior…..
If you prayed that prayer, I want to know, because I want to rejoice with you. I want to celebrate with you….
These 4 building blocks were huge for the Corinthians.
They would help them grab a hold of the gospel and place their faith in it. It may be that God is at work in you, bringing about faith in you…
I want you to have hope and I know that your hope is built upon faith, so I’m going to do all I can to build your faith.
Over the next 5 Sundays I’ll be preaching through a series of messages entitled THE PROBLEM OF GOD based upon a book written by a skeptic who was raised an atheist and became a believer through his study of philosophy and science.
If you want your faith to grow, but you’ve got questions and you’ve got doubts, join me for these messages and I’ll attempt to answer your questions and ease your doubts.