When Hope Meets Uncertainty
Text: Acts 28: 11-31
Proposition: When hope meets uncertainty there will be a turmoil that invites us to move towards the Christ who stands above the two.
Introduction: My son in law comes from Vancouver Island and knows of many places where the current from the ocean comes crashing into the current from an inland passage. When these two currents meet the water looks like the rapids of a river, it moves in all directions and presents a danger and hazard to any who would try to travel over it. The thing is that you can’t see the currents, you can only see the effect they have as they crash into each other. I think something similar happens in our lives whenever hope runs into uncertainty. We all hope, we all have hope in many things and I believe that God intended that as a design in our beings because He is a Great God who hopes. When you hope you are reflecting the reality of the God who created you. So we hope but we also live in a world that to us is so unpredictable, uncertain. This morning let’s look at what happened in the life of Paul as these two great under currents of uncertainty and hope meet in his life. Let’s see how he experiences them and then watch to see how he moves forward, Acts 28:11-31.
I. Uncertainty and Hope Move In the Opposite Directions of Past and Future.
There are many sayings that hint at the origins of uncertainty in our lives… once bitten twice shy, a bird in the hand…, if you fall off the horse…, fool me once… .
All of these hint at the uncertainty in life that to a degree is built upon our past experiences. I think that Paul experienced uncertainty many times and each time that it pushed hard against him there was this great opposing current called hope that kept his soul on course. In verses 11 to 15 Paul describes how they had laid up at Malta for three months to wait out the storm season and then when the south winds again began they sailed for Rome. There doesn’t seem to be much spoken about either hope or uncertainty as Luke describes how they sailed to Sicily then on to the mainland. Then you get to 14 and 15, “…And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Paul saw the church, they were people he’d never met before but because of Christ they were family. It moved Paul to thank God and to be encouraged, it moved him to hope. That tells me there was uncertainty, perhaps even anxiety, doubt and fear. But it’s when he sees the church coming more than 50 miles to greet him, that was hope and it drove back the uncertainty. I think Paul was reminded that God is present in uncertainty. In the midst of the storm, there is Jesus, the disciples discovered that truth. There was never a time in the life of Christ when uncertainty ever separated Him from the hope in the Fathers ability to see Him through. Never! Paul is in Christ, we are in Christ and we are just as secured to the Father as Jesus is in that same hope. The ultimate basis of our hope is Jesus Christ, it’s a hope that looks to a future that is beyond time. The purpose of all hope is to point us towards the reality of eternity in Christ.
II. Hope Can Seem To Be Counter Intuitive.
There are many things in life that require counter intuitive thinking. When your car goes into a sideways skid, steer into the skid, when your motorcycle goes around a corner turn slightly away from the curve and on and on. Even Jesus spoke about counter intuitive action, “To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold yourtunic either.” Lk 6:29Sometimes intuition is telling you to run, to avoid, to lay low when the counter intuitive option is the exact opposite. Hope can many times seem to be a counter intuitive action. When Paul comes to Rome he’s only there three days when he calls for the leaders of the Jews to come to his home. He tells them that the leadership in Jerusalem opposed him and turned him over to the Romans. He tells them the rulers did this even though he had done nothing wrong which soon became evident to the Romans. Do you see how counter intuitive Paul’s actions were, the Romans are made out to be the good guys and the Jewish leaders are the bad guys. His appeal to have Caesar hear the case revealed to them that Paul was a Roman citizen. For the trial to proceed the Jewish leadership from Jerusalem would need to appear in Rome, none had so far which could create real issues for the local Jewish leadership. I believe that Paul has a hope that draws him forward in a counter intuitive way.
He says to them in verse 20, “For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”. This refers to THE Hope of Israel, the Messiah. Paul has come all this way, is even now bound with a chain all because of the Messiah, the collective hope of the nation of Israel and of the world. In essence he is saying that we all may want different things but we all need the same thing. We need the hope of Israel, we need the hope that transcends this life, that goes past the uncertainties that failure and fear and death create. Hope in the salvation of God is counter intuitive because it doesn’t have earthly goals as its focus. That’s why you can turn the other cheek, why you risk the loss of not only a cloak but your tunic too. Why? Because that action is so crazy, so counter intuitive that it shouts out loud that there is better life, a higher call, a different way to live. It’s all about the end of sin, the coming of salvation and the hope of the Saviour. There is a most amazing thing that happens when you allow this kind of hope to direct your steps, people begin to ask you for the very thing that you want to give them. Look at verse 22, “But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.” In essence the Jewish leaders are saying, ‘Tell us about this Jesus, for even though it’s popular to not believe in Jesus, tell us about Him.’ I can only imagine Paul’s thoughts as he heard these words come out of their mouths. Hope in Christ calls you to move in ways that are often counter intuitive but which will open doors you never thought possible.
III. Hope Points to Christ and Invites us to Turn, Again.
A great crowd comes to Paul’s house and listens to him as he speaks from morning until evening. It’s a 12 hour sermon, it connects the dots where they hadn’t even realized there were dots. What is that Paul spoke about? I think it was the bad news of the reality of sin, the way it entices us to be deaf to God’s word, blind to His actions, searing our hearts in unbelief. The bad news is that there is no way to deal with sin on our own, not by any sacrifice we could offer. But then Paul taught the good news, the good news that God planned a sacrifice so perfect and so powerful it could in one stroke atone for the sin of all mankind for all time. The good news is that God came to do what we couldn’t do. The good news is that Jesus Christ came just as was predicted for more than 4000 years, He came as Deity in humanity, sinless and yet mortal and He came willingly before God the Father to do the Father’s will, to take our place in death that we could share in His place of eternal life. The good news is that the hope that has been whispered to you all your life is now here, that there is more to life than what you have seen and tried on your own to do. By faith in Christ, by hearing with your ears and seeing with your eyes your heart can now turn again to belief in Christ. Hope will call you to turn again and to turn for the final time, to turn forever to Jesus Christ. That’s what Paul spoke about for 12 hours that day. Look at verse 24, “And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.” That even one person disbelieved must have made Paul’s heart ache because that’s exactly where he had been not so long ago. So he calls out to them to remember a familiar truth. He quotes for them Isaiah 6:9-10, it is a passage that describes how their forefathers were once invited to hope in God. They were invited to hope at a time when they were about to be destroyed by a nation far greater than they. There was no rescue force waiting in the wings, no way past certain destruction other than the hope of God. They wouldn’t believe Isaiah, they wouldn’t trust God which is really what it came down to. The cost to the nation because of this hardness of heart was the complete loss… land, people, Temple, future. It was like the way people say they want something more than God… they want life their way. So, God gave them what they wanted. That is what Paul is warning these people who wouldn’t believe in the hope of Christ. Becareful because God may very well give you what you want, a godless eternity, a place where their hearts would forever be broken and wrenched and torn by their own sin. Hope infers that you will be given words of truth and see the evidence of God’s glory and reality. Then hope will lead you to turn again, to repent and agree with God, to believe and to gain not what you want but what you need in Christ, forgiveness, redemption, adoption, salvation.