Consecrated to Hope

Philippians 3:12-14

October 4th and 5th, 2008


            Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, was asked why he was choosing not to run again for president.  After being pressed, Coolidge jokingly replied “there is no chance for advancement”.  Consecrated stewardship is about being called to move forward in our Christian life, not merely to stand still.    Last week in our first consecrated steward message we were asked to hear and trust God’s word which says that unity is not something out there to be attained, but as believers it already exits.   This consecrated unity in Christ is to funnel into the lives of others.  How does this happen?  We empty our own life, consider others better than ourselves, and look not only to our own needs but the needs of others.  This week we are consecrated, or set apart to something called hope.  To illustrate this type of life, Paul puts us in an athletic contest, more specifically a running event.

To be consecrated to hope first of all means gaining a real picture of ourselves.  Paul writes “Not that I have already maintained this, or have already reached the end goal.   As we stand at the starting gate know that all your fellow runners  have been placed in this race by the gift of the Holy Spirit.  As you look around, no matter how much a person seems to have it together, your fellow runners probably haven’t trained as hard as they should of.  Even the most religious among us are negligent in our prayer life, slothful in our work, and worry even though we have heard the gospel promises over and over again.      Paul used to think that his identity was based on his status or things he accomplished in life.  His status included “being  Hebrew of Hebrews, a zealous or convicted believer in Judaism, and his life under the law that was blameless.  How often we believe that our status before others, and even before God depends on what we have accomplished or at least attempted to accomplish.   Or even based on the things God has given us!  Sometimes we think, we are significant and important people because of our work, our schooling, our bank accounts, and/or our health.  Take these things away, and what are we?   For Paul neither his accomplishments mentioned earlier, nor his failures (the stoning of Stephen  , and his persecutions of Christians), ultimately defined him.  Even in his present, he would have periods where the good he wanted to do, he didn’t do, but rather the evil that he didn’t want to do that he did.  Translation, even as a top apostle, redeemed by Christ, he hadn’t reached the end point or perfection point.   To be called or consecrated to hope, means first of all knowing that our hope is not in ourselves.  It means taking a realistic look at our present and our future.   Like Paul we can say with confidence, not that I have already obtained all this or been made perfect.  

Yet, we move forward. “But I press on to make it my own”. When Spain was the major power in the world in the 15th century they put on their coins “Ne Plus Ultra”, which meant “Nothing further”.   However soon after the discovery of the New World, they realized that they were not the “end of the world”, they changed the inscription on their coinage to Plus Ultra, meaning “More beyond”.     While the world tempts us to think there is “nothing further”, over and over again in scripture we are reminded of “More Beyond”.  Paul writes “I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own”. 

That last phrase “because Christ has made me his own is key!” In some races with elite athletes you have what is called a rabbit that is a person who runs half the race pacing the other racers.  This rabbit though, doesn’t’ finish the race, for he can only keep it up for a short time.  The phrase “press on,” literally means to “follow on.”  The sense is that we move forward, staying behind Jesus who doesn’t just run half way, but takes us to the very end.    To be consecrated in hope means not only to have a realistic picture of our abilities and our failures, so that hope can be placed on Jesus and not in ourselves, but also to run the race following behind the Savior. That is,  Jesus has taken a hold of us.  I was listening this last week to a program on Jupiter’s moons, and how the gravitational pull of Jupiter is so strong the moons literally are transformed because of this pull.  In a sense this is what Paul is saying,  “I have been pulled to Christ, he put me in the race, he is bringing me forward every day, he is picking me up when I fall.  He is transforming and shaping us.  

Paul then writes “ But one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind….   The great American baseball player Satchel Paige once said “Don’t look back-something may be gaining on you.”  Now what he is not saying is that we shouldn’t remember the past promises of God, or even how God in Christ Jesus has worked in our life.     He is not saying get amnesia toward your past, but rather in Christ Jesus we are called to be forward looking people.  Why, well quite simply the best is yet to come.  C.S. Lewis, a noted British author once wrote about those in history who have done the most for earth are throw who thought the most of heaven.  “Aim at Heaven, “he wrote, “And you will get earth thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither”.  Our destination need not to be a mere after thought, a latch ditch effort to hold on to life.   

              1 Corinthians 9 compares our view of the race to those who do not confess Christ as Savior. He says “They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”  Dr. Dean Nadesdy wrote a sermon on this text, and he writes about this forward thinking approach.  “Some Christians live as if they have achieved all there is to achieve.  They peak early, so to speak.  They know the liturgy and the answers to the confirmation questions, and they have held just about every office they can hold.  So what’s left, merely existence??   No in fact it is heaven!”   Whatever our time left this side of earth, we press on, we follow on.  Latter in the same message he writes “so much of earth begs for more, more beauty, more grace, more love, more joy, more fellowship, more holiness.  Keeping heaven in view reminds us that there is a place and a future where will experience more than more; it will be the most!  

            Often I have thought, and even been asked what heaven is like?   I struggle to come up with a direct visual, for often the description in the bible describes what heaven is not.   No more crying , no more pain, not grief or sorrow.  …Yet, it is hard to explain and describe.  A verse I ran across this week has clarified this a bit. It goes like this “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).    In other words, it is gloriously incomprehensible, even your wildest imagination, doesn’t come close, vision doesn’t do it justice.  Yet, he who has called you is faithful, so whether you are 10 30 or 90 keep on running, its not in vain, and in the end the prize is yours.  Go and live consecrated in this hope.  Amen.