sum of the sermon: it comes down to a simple choice, really

 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another … If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10.23-27)

Andy and Red were up against it; they had their backs to the wall. They’d recently learned that one of their best friends, Brooks, had killed himself. Hopeless, he had hung himself.

And though neither Andy or Red ever mentioned the word, hope is what they were talking about. Specifically, what a┬áperson does – and does not do – as a result of having hope, or not having it, in their life.

The difference between them was that though both were imprisoned, only one of them was imprisoned in mind. As Andy saw it, the only thing keeping him from freedom was made out of stone. Red? He was so shackled the only thing left for him was to find the will to use a rope. Just like Brooks.

But Andy? Andy had hope. And so, he scratched his way out through stone walls and filth. How he perceived his future powerfully impacted what he chose to do with his present. He chose to hope, and so he chose to do. And so, stone walls wouldn’t – couldn’t – contain him.

“It comes down to a simple choice, really: get busy living or get busy dying!”

You probably recall that scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. This month is that movie’s twentieth anniversary (hard to believe, isn’t it). And so, let me ask you …

What do you believe? About your future? About hope? And what you’re to be about in the here and now?

Do you have hope? Vibrant, living hope? A hope you simply cannot leave behind? A hope that spurs you on to do what you can with today? For your own blessing and the blessing of others?

If you know Jesus Christ – truly know him – you don’t merely have hope. You know him as your hope. He is your hope. He is your all. Every day. He is what gives your life meaning.

You could no more turn your back on him and walk away from him than Andy Dufresne could have given up his dream to live in a place with no memory of all wrong and his daily toil to get there.

Know this kind of hope; come to know Jesus Christ. Know him as your Lord – as your daily hope – and he will be your Savior. Take on his mind and ways, and he will become your way to freedom. In this life, and in the one beyond. For no walls, made of stone or perception, can restrain him. Or you in your life with him.

Choose him. Choose life. Every day of your life. For today. For the sake of your future. For him.

It will make all the difference in your life. And in the lives of many a Red Redding.

Get busy living.

you have seen what the Lord has accomplished

Look at how we honor those who have practiced endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job. And you have seen what the Lord has accomplished, for the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11 CEB)

Question. How many centuries separate Job’s experiences and James’ audience?

Answer. Quite a few.

And yet, James says his audience has “seen what the Lord has accomplished” in Job’s life.

Yes, from James’ perspective, their “hearing of” Job, that is their hearing the testimony of ancient Scripture, is the same as “seeing” something today in terms of God’s purpose. We can see what God is like today by hearing what God did way back when. The past informs the present, indeed, it is the present, for all practical purposes.

Does that sound like a stretch? It shouldn’t. It’s the same lesson we teach our children in song today.

“Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”

The Bible may be a very old book, but it’s as fresh to us as if the ink was yet to dry. How is that? Because God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And the race of enduring faith we’re running today? We don’t run alone, but rather, run in the midst of an audience of a great cloud of witnesses who train us and cheer us on.

Note how we pay tribute to practitioners of endurance. You’ve heard of Job’s endurance and you’ve seen God’s purpose in it all. And what were you to learn from it all? That the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11┬áDSV)

Eternal Father, how refreshing it is to see things from your perspective, standing in, and above, time! You bring the saints from the past to live with me and you call me to finish well in the future with you. This is your doing and it is good for my heart to hear and to see. Through Christ Jesus I thank you for giving me a glimpse beyond the constraints of time. Amen.