Monday, February 25, 2008

The following are excerpts from a sermon prepared for delivery yesterday at All Nations Baptist Church by the Rev. James Coleman:

The campaign season to elect the 44th president of the United States of America is well under way and has fostered an atmosphere filled with a plethora of platitudes and catchy phrases. The presidential candidates have adopted political themes to encapsulate their overall message.

During one of the candidate’s speeches recently, a broader explanation of the thematic platitude of change was emphasized. The candidate expanded on the idea of change and state that change requires that an individual “dare to hope.”

The phrase “dare to hope” is a powerful idea in the opinion of this preacher. Upon reflection, the notion of “dare to hope” seems to perpetrate overtones of a theological and philosophical nature. It is as if the phrase has been lifted out of the shadows of the political dust and landed righteously on the solid ground of theological challenge.

The more the idea of daring to hope blossomed in the consciousness of this preacher’s mind, the greater the motivated was spurred to explore the concept with more scrutiny to discover the true value of hope for the times in which we live.

Could it be the case that the “dare to hope” challenge is misplaced in the political arena? Could it be the case that principles of hope should flow only from teachings and ministries of the church, and not the political caucuses?

These days, the word hope is used glibly as a metaphor to express fleeting lustful desires and wishes. Each succeeding generation is displaying signs that true hope is not hope at all.

Hope as interpreted by the world is different from the believers’ sacred hope. The world’s hope is a desire, a want, a natural interest or aspiration. Hope of the believer is steeped in the belief that positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life are due to hope.

When one is asked to dare to hope, the individual must express whether he or she is talking about a secular or sacred hope. In our text, Matthew 14:28-31, we observe hope in action in the life of Peter as he hopes to walk on water. He demonstrates how he operates from a sacred perspective.

Peter demonstrates three behavior types on the way to hope.

First, Peter doubted that Jesus was present (Matthew 14:28).

Peter’s request to walk on water was a most unusual request, and it could be interpreted that he is trying to be a show-off in the view of the other disciples.

Peter said “Lord, if it be thou, let me come to you on the water.” When the disciples first saw Jesus walking on the water, they thought He was a ghost, but when He identified himself, Peter said, “Let me come to you if it’s really you.”

Peter wanted to hear his voice to confirm what he sees with his eyes. He wanted to know if the voice in the sea was Jesus.

Although Peter was in a difficult situation, he left it up to Christ to relieve him of his distress and hopelessness.

Secondly, Peter sought proof that Jesus was present (Matthew 14:29).

Jesus said to Peter, “Come.” You cannot walk on water unless Jesus gives you the hope and faith to do so. Peter only asked once, and Jesus responded.

Third, Peter found the promise of hope in Jesus’ was present. (Matthew 14:31)

Finally, we see Jesus saves Peter from drowning when he cried “Lord, save me.” The good news is that Peter did not drown in his troubles, nor did he give up while in the midst of trouble. He did the smart thing. He called out for the only help he knew. Hope could not do him any good now. He needed faith.

His dare to hope got him walking on water, but it could not save him. Hope is no good once you take your eyes off of Jesus. It is hope gone astray; it is hope in the abstract. But once you focus the hope on Jesus with full reliance and assurance in him, your hope changes to faith.

When we take our eyes off Christ, we will sink beneath and fall short of our victory. The moment we realize we are sinking and falling short, the wisest thing to do is call out to Christ for his divine assistance.

Too few people dare to find hope and faith in Christ and are hesitant to turn to him in the time of struggle. Some believe because they have failed and have sunk into sin and shame that Christ will reject them. But this is not true. Christ himself said, “Call unto me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15).

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