Wisdom, Truth… Hope
June 16, 2019*
By Pastor John Partridge
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 John 16:12-15 Romans 5:1-5
It seems that our world is increasingly without hope.
We regularly meet people in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our communities that are struggling. And certainly, the people in our churches are not immune.
Hope seems to be in increasingly short supply.
We see it on the news almost every day. People are wondering why the world seems so filled with disaster, hate, mayhem, hunger, fear, and hopelessness. Even at our church’s Annual Conference this week, as we worked to elect a slate of delegates to next year’s General Conference, amid our denomination’s divisive debate over homosexuality, there were many discussions about the future. We discussed what the future might look like, and even whether our denomination, or any denomination, has a future at all.
But despite some discussions of what might appear to be dark or grim possibilities, our discussions were also often filled with hope.
Hope is something that seems to be in short supply in the world but remains abundant in the church.
Why is that?
Let’s begin at the beginning.
In Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Solomon speaks about the creation and the beginning of time in this way:
Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
2 At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
3 beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
4 “To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
22 “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30 Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
Solomon speaks of wisdom as the first creation of God. Wisdom was there before the mountains and the oceans. Wisdom has been, and is, the constant companion of God in all that he does. And it is wisdom that stands at the gates of the city and cries out to all of humanity… if we will only listen.
But wisdom isn’t the only voice that is trying to speak into our lives. In John 16:12-15, Jesus speaks with his disciples and prepares them for a time when he will soon depart with these words:
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Jesus says that after he returns to heaven, he will send the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. The Spirit of God will carry the words of Jesus to us and guide us into the future.
But because we know the story of Jesus, we also know that listening to the Spirit and doing the will of God doesn’t shelter us from suffering. Just as Jesus suffered because of his faith, we may also endure times of suffering because of our faith. But our high calling is to always hear the voice of wisdom, to stand up for the truth, and to follow God wherever he leads us. In Romans 5:1-5, Paul shares this wisdom:
5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
This short passage is often quoted because, as short as it is, it is also filled with great power. We know that life isn’t perfect. We know that life is filled with suffering. But we are encouraged as we remember that suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance produces character, and character produces… hope. But don’t forget that last part either. Hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our lives, through the Holy Spirit that has been sent to us by Jesus Christ. Not only are we being built up, day by day, through our faith in Jesus Christ, and through our daily suffering, but we are also, through the Spirit that lives within us, being filled with the love of God. Daily, we should be growing in love and compassion for our families, for our friends, for our community, the world, and for everyone around us.
Our life of faith is a group project, a work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Since before the beginning of time, the wisdom of God has cried out to all of creation and to all of humanity if only we would take the time to listen.
And every day, the Spirit of God pours the love of God into our lives and speaks the words of Jesus into our hearts and minds in order to guide us to the truth.
And, as we persist in our faith, and endure the sufferings of this life, we grow daily in character and are filled…
In a world that is increasingly without hope, where we see a rise in opioids, despair, and suicide, we, the people of God, must be bold in proclaiming the truth so that the people around us can discover the great gift that we have received through the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We must share with the world the gift…
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