Pieces Part 1: Ultimate Hope--Why God Wants You To Love Him
Ever wonder why the scripture instructs us to love God more than any other relationship?
Pieces Part 1: Ultimate Hope
As I have been working on hearing God and a following His leading in figuring out what he wants me to say to his people and frankly to myself there have been some questions that popped up along the way and I intend to explore some of those questions in this series of teachings we'll call Pieces: “A piece of this and a piece of that.” Today I want to discover an answer as to why God wants first place in our lives.
In part 3 of Warning to Disciples, the message was Get Real, count the cost. We discovered that while salvation is free discipleship is costly. One of those costs is loving the Lord our God with all our heart mind soul and strength.
Matthew 22:37-38 (MSG)
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list.
We are to make God our first love; we are to give our relationship with God preeminence over all other relationships in our lives. I've wondered why?
The answer is hope. We all know that when there is hope in the future there is power in the present. It's a simple truth, hope gives you great expectations that good things are coming. Hope gives you the emotional energy to get through the tough time, the dark time. Hope becomes the light in the distance during the dark night.
We fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfector of our faith.
Note what hope did for Jesus:
For the joy set before him.
The hope set before him
Endured the cross, scorning its shame, and set sat down at the right hand of God.
When there is hope in the future, we find the passion to keep moving towards what we hope for. Even if it is death we must face, face it we will, to realize our hope.
There are 3 categories that we can our place hope into. We can have casual hopes, precious hopes, and ultimate hopes. (John Eldredge, All Things New pp. 45-46)
Casual hopes are those everyday hopes. Hope it's going to be a good day. I hope we make it on time. I hope I get a deal on tickets. This kind of hope is the everyday expectations of something good happening.
The wisdom of Proverbs tells us that "hope deferred makes the heart grow sick" (Proverbs 13:12). When casual hopes are not readily realized we may feel disappointment, we might get the blues, but it's all momentary because these are just things that we would like to happen and if they don't, if they are deferred, well, just suck it up buttercup, and get on with living life.
A precious hope reaches far deeper into our hearts, things that matter a lot to us. Precious hopes, passing the exam, getting the scholarship or grant that funds a big step, ultrasound reveals a healthy baby, a loved one recovers from an illness, finding the right one. When a precious hope is deferred it “breaks your heart" (J.E. p 46). When our precious hope is deferred or "dashed" it's an emotional hit. Every emotional loss must be grieved. We may feel disbelief, then seek the do-over, then we get angry, usually followed by depression, melancholy, the future loses its rosy hue. You get over the loss of a casual hope quickly, but the loss of a precious hope can take weeks, if not months, if not years, to recover from.
Ultimate hopes are our "life and death hopes" (J.E. pp. 45-46). These are hopes that the things we think we can't live without, the stuff that really matters to us: we hope we will always be secure, that something or someone will always there for us to enjoy. Most often such hopes concern the relationships we have in our lives: we hope, we expect, that mom and dad will be with us a long time, that our spouse will be with us for the rest of our lives, that we will not outlive our children. Of course, according to your value system, ultimate hopes may be in your financial empire, your own cleaver resources, your ability to handle the curve balls of life, being self-sufficient. When ultimate hopes crash and burn it's a soul injury, it can be devastating, it shakes your whole world, there is no recovery, and it’s a loss that will always be with you.
We can think of these three categories another way. When casual hopes are threatened we may feel anxious. If a casual hope is not realized there is disappointment. When precious hope is threatened we feel anxiety and fear. If a precious hope is not realized the result is heartbreak. When an ultimate hope is threatened to fear and anxiety add internal chaos: you are facing an unthinkable, a horror, an unimaginable. When ultimate hopes are not realized our whole world changes, we can’t imagine getting through the day, we may run we may hide, we may catastrophize, we may have thoughts of Suicide. It's an unwanted and unwelcome step into a terrifying unknown. (J.E.).
Three types of hope, casual, precious, and ultimate. We have all three.
Here’s a sad truth. No matter how much an optimist you are, life is full of goodbyes, "life is a long series of good-byes" (J.E. p. 43). That's why you should make it a life goal to make as many "hellos" as you can, constantly expanding your circle of friends and intimate friendships.
The goodbyes can be little and the goodbyes can be huge: casual good-byes, precious good-byes, ultimate good-byes. When you graduate high school it's a goodbye. Get married, singlehood goes bye. When your baby goes to kindergarten it's a goodbye to a season of life. Then jobs change, you move to another city, the kid leaves the nest, you can’t run and fast as you did, a parent dies and the list of goodbyes keep growing. Sometimes you say goodbye to dreams, to friends, to health, to reputation; to what you always imagined would be. Here's a truth we need to weave into our lives today--"these are the good ole days," one day these days will be done (J.E. p. 43). Everything you know in this life will come to an end, life is full of good-byes. All relationships end.
If you've misvalued your hopes, made a casual hope into a precious one, or a precious hope into an ultimate team hope when those hopes are not realized they can rock your world, you can be uprooted, tossed around in a tsunami of pain. When what you love is taken from you, it crushes hope, it dashes your hopes on the rocky coast of reality and there is pain, and sorrow, and grief, and it feels like you're going through a never-ending hell from which there can be no recovery. Everything you are holding on to can be ripped out of your hands, leaving you broken and in agony.
The scary thing is that you don’t know how you have valued your hopes until one goes up in smoke. We too often live in a state of denial that everything will continue as it always has. Then some hope sucker comes along, some incident, and you realize what you hoped in is not going to happen.
We tend to put our ultimate hopes into the relationships we love the most. I hadn’t realized that I had ultimate hopes for Grant until after the unthinkable happened. I hadn’t realized that I had ultimate hopes for Carol until after she passed. What grace enabled for me was a revaluing of my hopes, leading to making God my ultimate hope and cling to Him. That hope has been leading me on the path of recovery ever since. Through those absolute dark days, full of grief and soul agony I am emerging, changed for sure, radically changed, but I am emerging. God is my ultimate hope. At the end of all things, I will fully enter His Kingdom and the restoration of all things.
2 Timothy 2:3 (NIV)
Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
God wants you to love Him preeminently so that He becomes your ultimate hope, your ultimate relationship so that when everything falls apart there is power to endure. You continue to fight; you don’t surrender to grief and despair.
There are no good-byes in God. In the book of Joshua we read:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
Jesus said to his disciples:
Matthew 28:20 (NIV)
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)
God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
Hope is the fuel that keeps us keeping on, keeps us fighting on. When God is your ultimate hope, your first and preeminent love then no matter what happens to you, to your loved ones, to your dreams, you can keep living your life to the full. Through the sorrow, the grief, the suffering, the soul agony, you find the power to take the next step. Everything can be taken away; everything is subject to a goodbye, only one thing remains, and that is your relationship with God.
This is why God wants you to place Him first. He wants you to make Him your first love, your first and forever love, with all other loves lining up behind; all other hopes falling into the category of precious and casual hopes. He wants you to make Him your ultimate hope, for He is the only one who will never say goodbye. The way I do this is practicing the 7 habits of a disciple in such a way that I encounter God for it’s in those encounters that my relationship with God becomes that much more real.
The 7 habits are bible reading, prayer, fellowship, service, worship, obedience, and contemplation. These habits have become what help me keep God as my ultimate hope.
I would like to emphasize service. Service is doing what you believe. It’s using the gifts and graces God has bestowed upon you to make a difference for others in this world. Grow deep in your relationship with God, Grow up maturing as a disciple becoming fully human, Grow fruit and that is accomplished through service. Service is just another name for loving on someone. Love is being respectful of all persons and seeking to meet their need as the opportunity arises. You meet God in unique ways through your service to others. It is through your meetings with God that your relationship moves from casual to precious, to ultimate.
Bad things are going to happen. Dreams are going to die; hopes are going to be crushed. There will be times when the night is so dark you will think there is no dawn coming. That’s why God wants you to have Him as your ultimate hope so that when a goodbye comes crashing down upon you and shatters your life, you find in Him everything you need to keep on, to do the right thing, to make the best possible choices, overcome your adversity, and live your life to the full.
Hope we don’t get through life without it. When your ultimate hope is in God, you can be more than a conqueror in whatever upheaval life may through at you.