Apply the Word: Weaned from False Hope
Here is the latest entry in our "Apply the Word" series, where we try to draw practical application from Sunday's sermon. This week, Benny continued our "Summer in the Psalms" preaching series, focusing on Psalm 131. You can listen to the entire sermon here.
Alex earned his degree in Practical Theology from Southeastern University, and now works as a Project Coordiantor over at Adventist Health System. He also preaches occasionally, and blogs over at Redemption Applied, which you can (and should!) check out here.
One of the questions that comes up any time we address the need for change is that of “How? How do I get from where I am to where I should be?” This Sunday, Benny preached from Psalm 131 on moving from anxious, harried, and haughty to peaceful and content in Christ.
In this Psalm, David tells us "I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother...is my soul within me." He paints the picture of an infant moving from his anxious fuss for meal time to peace and security in his mother's lap. Benny helped us to see that in our pride and anxious ambitions (v. 1) we are like fussy children screaming for satisfaction.
And so, quite naturally, we ask, “How? How do I go from noisy and fussy to quiet and contented?” The answer, according to v. 3, is to put our hope in the Lord. But what exactly does it mean to “hope in the Lord”? And, for that matter, what is hope in the first place? I submit this definition: Hope is the confident expectation of future joy. That means hope is both belief and desire. Hope says, “I want this good thing to happen, and I am confident that it will happen.” And when the Bible talks about setting your hope on something, it means building or orienting your life around the idea that you will get what you hope for. Hope involves priority – my hope is that which is most important to me about my future.
When I put my hope in God, I want him to fulfill all his promises to us, his people, and I am confident that he will do so. Moreover, the prospect of such fulfillment gives me peace and joy now as I anticipate the joy that is to come. And it shapes the way I live my life now, as I seek to ensure nothing prevents me from getting what I so badly want (Philippians 3:7-11; 1 John 3:1-3).
This should help us understand what it means to put my hope in something else: I build my life around the idea that I will definitely get or must have something I want other than God (which isn't promised me by God). Something other than God and his promises becomes that which is most important to me about my future.
This always bears bad fruit. As Benny illustrated, if I set my hope on the country being run a certain way, I may be anxious, fretful, and overly angry at my political opponents throughout every Presidential election. If I set my hope on achieving a certain level of financial security, I may obsess over every dollar spent and inordinately lament every fiscal inconvenience. If I set my hope on having a certain kind of family life or achieving a certain body image or anything outside of knowing, loving, and being loved by God, I will bear bad fruit.
But when I recognize there is a false hope in my heart, even this does not have to steal my joy. As Benny mentioned, our hope is based in our identity in Christ. We are the "called-out-ones" – those whom God has loved from before the foundation of the world and set apart as his own. Therefore, I can confess my sin to God, trust that he forgives and loves me, and rest assured that he will preserve me blameless so that I can receive grace – his love and favor – on the day he comes for me (1 Peter 1:3-9, 13). I can ask him to make himself and his promises more beautiful to me, more meaningful to me, more important to me than anything else in this life. And as he does this – as he reorients my priorities – I will find the peace he's promised me. "...like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore."