- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Roy Stults at Arlington First Church of the Nazarene.

First-century Christians read the book of Revelation as they suffered persecution to the point of dying for their faith. In such hardship, they received God's compelling message of hope. On the way to something glorious and triumphant, they had to go over some very rough roads.
In the books of Daniel and the Revelation of John, we are told that people from all nations shall follow Jesus Christ. It is a hopeful image, filled with power and glory. It lifts us from our local situations, which are mostly monoracial and monolingual. The church will be multiracial and multilingual in the end of days.
Three things were needed for great revivals of the past. There was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but also a great optimism about the ultimate fate of humanity. Revival was compelled by an image of a global movement that will end in glorious worship around the throne of God. Third is the empowering of the people of God, which thrusts them into the world.
So why are we not seeing revival, or experiencing this inspired vision of God? Consider the second characteristic. There is no sense of a powerful movement of God towards a glorious end. We need to taste a little bit of God's glory. We need to have hope now, and hope forever. I would say a pervasive illness today is depression, which can be caused by chemical imbalances, illnesses, or life situations. But it is caused just as often by a lack of hope. Hope lifts us up and remotivates us, take us out of that downward spiral.
Leslie Newbigin had been a missionary for three decades, and then returned to Britain to retire in 1974. He found that what his nation and culture lacked the most was a sense of hope, and that this had been the failing of Christianity to his country. We need what the Bible calls "the hope of glory."
We have it in the future, but we also have it a little bit now, especially whenever believing Christians gather like we have today. There is something that happens here, and God is present. We feel more united than at any time. The question I would ask is, "Are we so a part of our culture that we have lost hope now?" Do we believe that God can bring His promises to pass?
A measure is whether we can turn to God and talk to Him about what happens in our life. My wife gave me a book on a pastor's leadership from the heart, and it talks about David, how his whole life was an ongoing dialogue with God. He used language you would not feel comfortable with. David said, "Destroy my enemies." What we can learn is that David told God what he really felt.
Can you picture yourself at the great, final celebration service in heaven? Here are some passages that help us have such hope, beginning with 1 Corinthians 15:58. "Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, knowing your labors in the Lord are not in vain." The work that we do now has eternal purpose. It is not futile or useless. You may feel that way sitting in traffic, or working for an unreasonable boss, or just living paycheck to paycheck. There is some purpose God is using that for.
In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, we read, "For our life and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen." God is going to take everything and change it into a new heaven and a new earth. We are bound up in temporal things, so we must be aware of the aspects of the spiritual life that ultimately will prevail. The God that we know now is the God with whom we will have our relationship throughout eternity.
I know it is cheating to read the last chapter of a book first. But there is power in knowing the end of the story. If you read the last chapter of the Bible, you know wonderful things are to come: victory over sin, pain and death, and a true worship of God in awe, love and honor. This is the vision of Daniel and John, that all nations will be gathered at God's throne.
Next week: a sermon at a Maryland congregation.

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