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(These are first draft notes for a sermon to be preached on Col. 1:3-5)

Colossians 1:3-5

What produces hope
What hope produces

Our text for this morning is in Colossians 1, verses three through five. Paul writes to these Christians whom he had never seen and had only known by report:

Colossians 1:3–5 (NASB95)

3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;
5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel

We have one very simple aim. It’s not three points or ten points. It is merely this. I want you to hope. I want to stir up your hope and strengthen your hope and focus you — the hope which you already have if you know Christ; a hope laid up in heaven. I want you to look upon that hope until it stirs your heart to laid hold upon that hope as a real thing.

And so I want to think about hope for a moment — we have the word in our text. But sometimes we run past words and don’t give them the time they need.

I want you to think to yourself, consider yourself for a moment: Why do you do anything? Why do you pick one thing over another? Think not just a few a choices, run your mind over many choices. Try to consider what those years upon years worth of choices have in common.

Sometimes it was the way you felt in the moment; sometimes it was a careful decision. Sometimes you used memory; sometimes you used a hunch. You exercised judgment, or you chose at random.

Among all the elements of all those decisions, one aspect must be present, hope. Hope often escapes our notice. It can be a subtle addition to a plan, but it must always be present or we would never act.

When the decision is quick, when the decision is insignificant, we don’t really notice the hope. It sort of appears and fades before we have a chance to consider its presence. But it must always be there.

Just imagine the absence of hope: Would you sit on a chair if you didn’t hope it would hold you? Would you drive on the freeway if you didn’t hope you’d arrive safe.

But I’m not really concerned with that small hope. I want to think of another sort of hope. The hope which draws someone along through miles and years and shapes an entire life.

When a runner sets out at the beginning of a race, the runner hopes to reach the end. The runner hopes to not be hindered or hurt but to be successful. And the hope of the end and of the good of that end and the success drives the runner on.

Or think of a trip. I have been a couple of very long overseas trips. If you’ve gone on these trips — and you didn’t get to ride in a limo to the airport and ride in first class on the plane — you know how unpleasant such trips can be. There are airports and long walks between terminals and car rides; none of which is pleasant, but all of it is endured because of hope: I hope to get to my destination.

Hope is wonderful. Without hope no good thing would have ever been completed. Our houses were built in hope. We married in hope. We have children in hope. We work in hope. Without hope, no one would have ever walked on the moon.

Hope is a marvel.

But hope if fragile. Cared for well, hope will last a lifetime. But hope can easily be ruined. It is a crystal vase which can fall from a stand. It is a glorious eagle o a perch, which can fly away.

When hope fails, it makes us ill: “Hope differed makes the heart sick.” Prov. 13:12. When hope wears out, becomes exhausted and fails, it collapses into despair. It becomes a bloated, infected corpse and infects everything about it.

Think of that trip to an exotic and distant destination. But the airplane breaks down in a foreign airport. You become ill from the food. Your passport is stolen. You realize you will never make your end and you may not make it home.

Romance turns sour can dash hope. Think Romeo and Juliette and how things worked for them.

But hope is not merely lost through despair. It is also lost through distraction. Let’s go back to Romeo for a moment: Before Romeo met Juliette, he was moping about because he hoped to win the affection of another girl. Then, while at a party, Romeo lit upon Juliette and his hope was transferred from the first girl to the second. Hope found a new object and it was off.

That is position as Christians in this world. We are aiming to walk clean out of this world into another world; we have hope for another life. We must give up everything in this world willingly to gain another world — and here we have only hope.

Hope is a cable which take hold of in this world and which is anchored in the next. That is exactly how the author of Hebrews describes it for us in Hebrews 6:18-19:

Hebrews 6:18–19 (ESV)
18 ……we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,

We are beset on one side with dangers, on the other with pleasures. We assaulted with trials and tried with temptations. The Devil pushes one way and the flesh pulls in another. One moment we are tempted to despair and give up all hope; the next we are offered something bright and new as a substitute hope.

With some many dangers and distractions, it is not surprising that our hope is constantly in danger. And this what threatened the Colossian Christians. Sometime had come along to challenge their hope and to substitute to their hope. A new idea, a new teaching, another Christ had offered itself for their consideration.

And so Paul sent them a letter to rescue them. He needed to warn them of the danger and he need to set their road straight. And so to protect them and correct them, he sets about straightening out their hope. He takes a firm hold upon their attention and he fixes their attention on Christ and the world to come, so that they can safely make it through the present world.
Listen to these words:

Colossians 1:3–12 (NASB95)
3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;
5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel
6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;
7 just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,
8 and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously
12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

We are going to focus in on the words of verses 4 and 5 in particular. Paul is thankful for the Colossians. In verse 4 he says that he is thankful because the Colossians are marked with faith and with love. You can think of that as what they know and what they do: everything about these Colossians, their faith and love was a matter of thanksgiving.

Verse 5 tells us what caused this faith and love:

because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel

Their faith and love flowed out of something, it came from somewhere.

True faith and love and heavenly things: true faith and love are not at home here. You don’t need any special experience to understand that faith in Christ and love for all the saints is not an easy, normal thing. It does not spring up from the ground like weeds after the rain.

These are heavenly flowers and they only exist by means of a heavenly source. Look at verse 8, Paul further describes their love, it is “love in the Spirit”. It is a wonder produced by God.

But how do these heavenly flowers get the dew of Zion to wash upon their petals, so that they may grow here in this sin cursed world, choked with weeds and death? What reaches up from this life and reaches into the life to come to bring water from the River of life?


Look at Paul’s words again:

Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

I said there were not three things, but here are three things in this verse about hope. First, hope had a very present effect. That is the word “because”. Second, the hope was certain: Third, the hope marked their goal.