(The following is a transcript of Harvey Carey’s “Hope Builds Hope” message, part one of Celebration of Hope 2017. The video is also available to you.)
It is such a joy, again, to be back, and I don’t take lightly the opportunity to be here. Such a blessing to be a part of what God is up to here at Willow, especially during this Celebration of Hope, and the opportunity that you all have to partner with what God is doing around the world. And I believe there’s a word from the Scripture today that would really encourage us in that.
So 2 Corinthians chapter 4. 2 Corinthians chapter 4, beginning at verse 7. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
Verse 14 says, “Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
As is my custom, when I announce the subject of a message, I kinda engage us in it. And I know for some antisocial people, this is a tough moment, because I’m gonna ask you to turn to your neighbor and announce the topic of the message that I’m about to give you. So, just decide which way you’re gonna turn, to your right or to your left. And there’s always someone that’s gonna keep looking straight ahead—God is... He’s good.
So, if you don’t mind, would you turn to your neighbor, and help announce the subject of the message. Would you turn to your neighbor and say, “Neighbor, did you know that hope births hope?” Amen. You did a great job. Hope births hope. Hope births hope.
Listen, you guys. What we are given has been given to us by God for us to steward it, and we cannot give what we do not have. But when God gives something to us, He never gives it for us to hold it tightly. Sometimes, we’re inclined to. Sometimes, either through fear, or, sometimes, through wanting to hold on to whatever we feel that we don’t have enough of, we kind of live our lives like this, right? Saying, “Well, you know what? I’ve got it, and I don’t wanna let it go. Or I’m afraid to use it.” And as much as that now is in our hand and we have control of it, it stays there. So God calls us to live this life with our hands open so that we’re giving that that God has given to us. And as we give what God has given to us, He graciously bestows back to us—as our sister just said a little while ago—good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, far more than what we give.
And so, when God gives us the gift of salvation, it’s not for us to keep to ourselves. But it’s for us to be witnesses to all the world. When He gives to us resources—whatever those resources are, whether it’s human, whether it’s professional, a skill. Whether it’s financial resource. Whether it’s serving. Whatever that area is of resource, He doesn’t, again, give it for us, or to us, for us to hold. But He gives it to us that we might release it.
So when we have been given hope, when we’ve been given the opportunity to extend hope to others, we’ve been given it not to hold on to it, and at the measure that we’ve received hope, we’ve not been given the charge to keep it but to give it. And how appropriate it is during this Celebration of Hope for us to look at this passage. Cause I believe that Paul was so anointed to share this message with the Corinthian church.
In his first epistle to the Corinthian church, he was kind of dealing with the issues of division—some of them feeling they were more gifted than others. There were all of these schisms that were in the church. And he kind of addressed that. But in his second letter to them, he really sent a letter of encouragement, reminding them to live, in a sense, this open-handed life. That, although he was in chains, and although he was in persecution, he said, “My persecution is actually for your benefit.” And then he kind of broke down how that occurred.
And you all, I want us to talk today about how hope has the ability to change the world. And it begins, you all, in verse 7. He says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay.” You all, I don’t know why God has chosen to do it this way. But God, in His infinite wisdom and infinite knowledge has chosen to take this treasure, this amazing gift called salvation, called His presence, and not place it in jars of perfection, not place it in people that have it all together. But God has sovereignly decided to place His presence, His anointing, His power, in jars of clay. Cracked pots. Jars that are often marred. Jars that are often broken. Jars that are often quite not what we want them to be.
God chose to place the extancy of His power and plan in the lives of broken and regular people. I often believe that when we look at stories that we see on screens or we hear people on podiums, we almost feel like they’re in some kind of other world, they’re some other kind of folk. That, “Man, I’m not like that. I don’t have what they have. I don’t have what that woman has to plant a million trees or to take those kids in. I don’t have what that woman has to go on the frontline and put her life at risk. I don’t have what those worshippers have to stand and to kinda go all out and worship. That’s not me. I’m just a cracked pot.”
But God says that He places treasures in earthen vessels. Indeed, that’s what God did when He decided to place Jesus in human flesh. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son—and God who was Spirit became flesh and dwelt among us. Indeed, God took the intangible, the infallible, and placed Him into flesh so that we could see, in Christ, the opportunity we have to have treasure in earthen vessels. He said the reason that He does this is so that the “all-surpassing power” that we now have in this treasure “is from God and not from us.” He says, “I want you to know that when God chooses to bestow blessing upon us, we can never claim the credit.”
Many of us have been able to attain academic success, and to God be the glory for it. Some of us have been able to climb the ladder of success financially or in your career, and to God be the glory for that. Whatever the area of success that we have—can I tell you something? You and I would not have experienced that level of blessing or that level of success had it not been for the goodness, and the mercy, and the kindness of God. Had it not been for God on our side, where would we be?
He says, “The reason that He’s placed this treasure in these earthen vessels is so we would not give glory to ourselves but give glory to God.” That, on our best day, we realize that all our righteousness are nothing but filthy rags stacked against the perfection of God. But he says that “in our weakness”—right?—“His strength is made perfect.”
But then he kinda unpacks this. He says, “Listen. I want you to see the attitude—the way in which hope responds when it’s pitted against adversity.” Look at what it says in verse 8: “We are hard pressed on every side.” I wonder, is that anybody’s story today? Where you’re looking at every angle, everywhere you turn, there is drama. There’s challenge. There’s adversity. There’s difficulty.
Many of us, as we wake up and face a new day, we’re facing a new day filled with challenge. We look back at yesterday, and yesterday was filled with challenge. We look next door at the spouse sitting and laying next to us, and, boy... challenge. The kids in the next room—multiple challenges, right? And everywhere we look, sometimes, you all, listen, no matter how much we love God, no matter how much we serve Him, no matter how much we care about Him—it seems like we’re hard pressed on every side.
And listen, sometimes when we live that kind of reality, we ask ourselves the question: “How can I celebrate hope when I’m hard pressed on every side? How can I even be used by God to bless somebody else when my life is such a wreck?” But God says, in the Word, that even though we’re hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed. Why? Because when we are hard pressed on every side, we’re not hard pressed by ourself. But we’ve got the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords walking with us in the midst of our difficulty. Hallelujah!
Listen, you all, the joy and the attitude of hope is that, no matter what is happening around me, no matter what’s happening in my life—he begins with some internal struggles. He said, “These are things that might be happening on the inside of me. I’m hard pressed on every side. I’m perplexed. I don’t know what to do. But I’m not in despair.” He says, “When these internal things come against me, or struggles come in my life, I’ve learned one thing: God is with me. And when God is with me, that gives me hope.”
Listen, you all. You remember when Shadrach, Meshach, and A Bad Negro were in the fiery furnace, right? The Bible says that King Nebuchadnezzar, self-absorbed, said, “Listen, anyone that does not worship this golden image, they’ll be thrown into the fiery furnace. And who is your God that would deliver you from my hand?”
These three young men said, “Listen, King. We respect you, but know one thing—we will not bow down, we will not worship your idol.”
They were immediately thrown into the fire—three of them, thrown in, bound. And the Bible says that King Nebuchadnezzar said, “I need to get my vision, glasses, kinda renewed because I thought I saw three thrown in, but I see four walking around in the fire, and the fourth one looks like the Son of God.”
Sometimes, listen, sometimes God does not deliver us out of the furnace or out of the fire or out of the adversity, but God delivers us in it. Sometimes God does not change the circumstance, but He changes us inside of the circumstance. Sometimes we’re asking God to move the barrier, move the obstacle, move the situation, change the dynamic. And God is saying, “I won’t necessarily always change the situation, but I will be with you in it. And when I am with you in it, you will have hope, and you will have a joy that’s unspeakable and full of glory!”
Oh, hallelujah! When God is with you... when God is with you, you can go through the same level of adversity as someone else, but your response is different. When God is with you, you can go through the same level of challenge of someone else, but the believer’s response is different. Because our attitude, and hope’s attitude, is that, no matter what is around me, whether internal or external, Jesus is with me. And, because of that, I can have hope. And I can extend it to others.
Listen, not only does hope have an attitude that says, “No matter what’s going on internally or externally, I’ve got Jesus with me, and I can overcome it—hope also has this aptitude, or this ability, this understanding that frames its strength. And it’s found in verse 10. It says, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
We’re on the heels or Resurrection Sunday, last weekend. What a blessing to remember the fact that Jesus got up from the grave with all power of Heaven and earth in His hand. We celebrate that. We’re grateful for the fact of knowing that He’s alive, and He reigns forevermore. And all of us enjoy Easter Sunday. As a matter of fact, there’s some folk that come to church on Easter that don’t come on other days; it’s just that day, right?
You know why? Because it’s a time of hope, right? It’s a reminder of victory. It’s a reminder of overcoming. And people ought to hold that day special. Can I say this? As much as we love Resurrection Sunday, as much as we love Easter, many of us want to have a Christianity that’s Easter only and not Good Friday. We cannot have a Resurrection Sunday unless we have a Good Friday. We cannot have a knowing Him and the power of His Resurrection unless we also choose to know Him in the fellowship of His suffering. And for many of us, you all, when we embrace Christianity, we only want to embrace one dimension of it—the dimension of resurrection and power and fun and joy and happiness. But many of us don’t wanna embrace the part of it that involves the cross. And the Scripture says that we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus. Why? So that not only do we carry around the death of Jesus, but we also carry around the reminder that we have the life of Jesus as well. It is so important to know this, because when hope has the right mindset, the right aptitude, it enables us to overcome great hurdles.
Listen, you all. Remember the Ten Commandments? Anybody ever heard of those? Listen, you all. They were not Ten Suggestions. I think some of us think that they were Ten Suggestions, right? They were not Ten Requests. Or Ten Suppositions. They were Ten Commandments. God says, “I’m holy. I’m pure, and I’m perfect. And I’ve created my sons and daughters to be in fellowship with Me. And the only way that imperfect man or woman can fellowship with holy, perfect God is for them to do the things that would be pleasing to me, and here are the ten that I command.”
Have you ever read them and gotten depressed? I get depressed at the first one. Because, listen, you all, the question began to bubble up in me: Why would God require of us something that, it seems so obvious, we cannot do? Why would God say, “These are the things that I command that you do,” but knowing that you and I don’t have the capacity to do it? I’m gonna ask you to go back in time to New Year’s Day... and your New Year’s Resolution that you have forgotten. That you forgot on day three of the new year.
Because, many of us, have will, right? We desire, we want our will to do better. We wanna do all these things. And it’s good, and it’s right, to have willpower. But willpower is not the same as Holy Ghost power. Willpower is not the same as the power of Christ and the power of God. So man trying to obey the commandments—listen, man trying to have hope, man trying to give hope: noble gestures, noble intentions, noble willpower. But, listen, God says, “You cannot do the things of God without God! And you cannot obey the commandments without the God of the commandment in you doing them.” So God realized our inability, and God sent Jesus. Jesus born of a virgin. Jesus never sinned. Never did anything wrong. Lived a holy life. Lived a perfect life. Died on the cross. Buried in the grave. Got up the third day. But, before he caught a cloud, he says, “Now, I give you power.” Which means—oh, God.
“Power to do what, Jesus?”
“I’m glad you asked. I give you power to overcome the enemy. I give you power to tread on any serpent. I give you power to go into darkness and be the light that you are. I give you power to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. I give you power to be hope in a hopeless world. Not by your ability but by my ability in you.”
It is by God’s ability in us that the things of God are wrought. It is by God at work in us that the things of God are done. He said, because, in verse 11: “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed” in us. Those of us who follow Christ? We’re always being called to die in a new area, right? He’s calling us to sacrifice at a new level. To die to self. To die to fear. To die to feelings of incapacity or unworthiness. To die to self-absorption. He says, every day, all of us are being called daily to new levels of death in Him. So that, as we surrender, and we sacrifice, and we die to self, the life of Christ is revealed in our bodies. He’s calling some of us even in this moment out of the comfort that you might be in. The place that you might’ve found your safety. And He now invites us to live this open life.
As I heard those stories of how God used regular, regular people to take in children and feed them and bring life to them. To plant trees and to bring life back to communities. To stand on the frontlines of violence. And, in the lobby, story after story after story after story of people that God is using in great ways. And then, He calls us as we’re sitting in our seat now. Would you also join the invitation to die? So that the life of God might be revealed and done through us?
This is the aptitude of hope, you all. This is the ability for us to be able to think like Christ and to not think like fallen us. Not only do we have the right attitude as hope formulates that, no matter what is happening around us and no matter what’s happening in us, Jesus is with us, and that forms my attitude. Not only does it help us understand the aptitude, the ability to even do this, because it’s not our will, it’s not our workings, it’s not our kind of manufacturing of something. But it’s God at work within us. He also reminds us of hope’s altitude. That there is some unbelievable ground that we can take when we choose to surrender.
Verse 14: “Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” He reminds the Corinthian church that we also know that the same One who raised Jesus from the dead can also raise you from the dead. Now, you all, I think that we automatically think about when we’re like, you know, laying out, or we’re six feet under. I don’t believe that that’s the only context of being raised from the dead. I believe that God calls some of us to be raised from the dead while we’re yet living.
Some of us are dead to the concerns around us. Dead to the injustices that we see every day. Dead to the opportunities that God affords us to be answers in the world. We’re dead to the response that God is bidding us and urging us to do. But yet he says the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in you. And I came all the way from Detroit to Barrington to tell somebody that it’s time for the power of God to raise you up out of your deadness and be used by God to change the world.
Oh, glory to God in the highest! The same God that raised Jesus from the dead is on the inside of you. And I know, right now, you might be trying to ignore it. You might be fidgeting. You might be trying to look at your phone. You might be trying to do something else. But you can’t ignore the voice of God. You cannot ignore the Holy Ghost bidding you, “Rise up and be the body of Christ that I called you to be!”
Oh, glory to God. Four minutes and thirty seconds. Here’s it, verse 15: “All this is for your benefit.” You know what he’s talking about? He’s saying, “All of this, all of even his chains, all of Paul’s imprisonment, all of Paul’s beatings and malignment of, ‘Are you even an apostle?’ All of that,” he said, “all the pain, all the suffering, all the misunderstanding that I’ve had to endure, count it nothing but done, because that is for your benefit.” He says, “I’m willing to go through suffering, and I’m willing to go through people talking about me, because it’s for your benefit.”
But then, he says these words: “So that the grace that is reaching more and more people...” You all, that’s what Celebration of Hope is all about. It’s about grace. What is that? I get something that I don’t deserve. You don’t think that... oh, the difference between grace and mercy? Mercy is when you don’t get what you do deserve. We deserve hell. We deserve death. We deserve, every day, to be cut off. But the Bible says His mercies are new every morning. That means every time you get up, God says, “I forgive. I look over. I’m giving you another chance.” His mercies are new every morning. But not only that. He gives us grace—that’s God’s riches at Christ’s expense. He gives us the ability to get what we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve the blessings of God. We don’t deserve the favor of God. But He gave it to us. And he said, when we get that grace, that grace is for “reaching more and more people.”
Duh! Your blessing was not for you! Tweet that!
The blessing of God, no matter where you are, you ain’t gotta have no money, but you got hands. I don’t wanna hear: “I can’t pack any seeds because I don’t know my schedule.” You better shut your mouth. You better find yourself at that table with those seeds and God the Father on one side, God the Son on the other side, the Holy Ghost on the inside, and as you pack those seeds, pack them in the name of God. Allow the anointing of God to be on them. You don’t know what God’s gonna do when you choose...
Yes! Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Well, I gotta take my seat right now, but the last thing the Bible says is that, when we bless other people, watch this now. The Bible says it causes thanksgiving to overflow. When you bless somebody, they say, “Thank you.” But, watch this, when philanthropists bless people, they thank the philanthropist. But when the believer blesses people in the name of the Lord, the glory doesn’t go to the vehicle, the glory doesn’t go to the vessel, the glory goes to the Savior on which behalf we’re doing the work.
It says that when people are blessed, they thank. But the thanksgiving, it ends up glorifying God. That means, for every person that this ministry chooses to help, God gets the glory. For every seed that will be planted, God will get the glory. For every woman that is protected from human trafficking, every person that this church uses to be able to be blessed, every refugee that is loved on—the Bible says that God gets the glory. Is there anybody here ready to give God the glory? Is there anybody here ready to give God the glory?
Well, Celebration of Hope is here! Hope is here! Hope is here!