I preached a sermon a few weeks ago, titled The Cosmic Cardiologist, for our covenant partners at New Horizons Church in Deerfield Beach. The message was warmly received, and it was suggested that I present it on this blog. So here it is, divided into three parts for this week. The message is based on Psalm 31:24—“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord”—and is laid out in three parts: His Patient; His Prescription; and His Promise. Today we’ll look at Part One: His Patient.
“All you who hope in the Lord . . .”
It is important to notice at the outset what this verse does not say. It does not say, “All you who hope in their good works” or “All you who hope in their religiosity” or “All you who hope in your baptism” or “All you who hope in your repentance” or “All you who hope in your church.” In short, wasn’t written for “All you who hope in yourselves” . . . like the Pharisee in the temple.
[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Scripture succinctly spotlights the Pharisee’s problem: Jesus told the parable for those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. The Pharisee was not hoping and trusting in the Lord and His righteousness; he was hoping and trusting in himself! Self is a miserable substitute for God, the only One who is worthy of our hope and trust. The Word of God has nothing to say to those like the Pharisee, who trust in themselves. Any hope smaller than God is not a hope worth having. It is hope-less!
The Bible identifies others who put their hope in places smaller than God. Some trust in chariots and horses (Psalm 20:7), which is another word for the strength and power of military might. Others trust in the government (Psalm 146:3), banking on rulers and governing bodies to fix the world’s problems. Still others trust in their money (1 Timothy 6:17).
So . . . what have you been hoping for and trusting in lately? What is the confession of your life? What would those who are closest to you say? Remember, if your hope is anything smaller than Jesus, Psalm 31:24 does not speak to you. But if your hope is in the Lord, as I trust it is, you will know hope in the way that the writer of Hebrews described it:
By faith [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:9-10 NIV)
All those who hope in the Lord have a divine dissatisfaction with life today. Like the apostle Paul, we have learned to be content in any and every situation (Philippians 4:12), yet we recognize that something is radically wrong with ourselves and the world around us. We look with forward with positive anticipation to a better future, groaning inwardly in our longing to walk the streets of the sparkling city of God.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!