If you’ve never noticed, there's a big difference between being part of a crowd and being an actual participant. A crowd watches; a participant engages. A crowd can be amazed for a moment; a participant is somebody who's committed to a way of life. I mention this because at the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount this same distinction is very carefully drawn by Matthew. This is how he puts it:
Back in the day, things were simpler, or were they? When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But what about you? he asked. Who do you say I am? Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16: 13-16)
Sometimes people will be facing adversity. They have trouble at work or at home or a problem with their health or in their financial life. We all know what that's like. Someone who wants to encourage them will come along and say, "You can face this! You're strong! You're capable! Besides, we know this is not beyond your ability to cope because the Bible says, 'God never gives us more than we can handle. '" Now, that's often intended to be a comforting statement because it's kind of taken as a promise. If you just trust God, things will not get too bad. They will not get unbearable. Your life will be manageable. The problem is the Bible never says that. In fact, if you've read the Bible at all, you know the Bible is largely the story of people being given things they cannot handle.
Have you ever wondered how able is our God? Well, according to the Bible, he is exceedingly able. He is able to speak the universe into being, to say, "Let there be light," and there is light. He is able to bring the plagues that will change the heart of a pharaoh. When the Red Sea needed to be parted for Israel to walk through, God was able to part it.
1 Corinthians 13, says Love is patient, love is kind. Love is beyond envy. To love means to have an inner orientation where, through the power of God, I will and work for the good of another person. Here's where it gets tricky. Love is not irritable.
Paul writes, but knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Puffed up is a really colorful term. It's like inflating a balloon that wants to look really big and impressive on the outside but inside is just a bunch of hot air waiting to get popped. Envy is something you do. Boasting is something you do. Puffed up is something you are. Paul hits them with these problems, these words, over and over and over in this letter. You envy. You boast. You're puffed up. You envy. You boast. You're puffed up.
Last week I spoke about 1 Corinthians 13, the most famous words ever written about love, where Paul begins by saying that everything minus love is nothing. "Though I speak in the tongue of men and of angels... I could have all knowledge and faith to move mountains and give everything away, but if I have not love, I'm just nothing.”
We want everybody to grow in love. That's the whole reason we exist as a church, and we want you to be able to experience this in community. In a couple of weeks, we’ll have Graduation Sunday, and here's what you need to know. There are two kinds of people God loves. One of them is young people. God is irrationally crazy about young people. He mass produces them. He is currently cranking them out at record levels. Every time one comes out, it's God saying, I have not given up on the human race yet. It is an expression of hope.
In Luke, chapter 14, Luke describes one occasion when Jesus was invited to a meal at a very prominent person's house. This person was a religious leader, an expert in the Law. Everybody sitting around this particular table was an expert in the Law. I'm not talking about attorneys or lawyers as we consider experts in the law but the Law according to the first five books of the Bible. They were rabbis. They were religious leaders. They knew their Bibles, and they would sit around tables like this and interpret the Law together. They would come up with how to apply it best in their lives. Jesus is sitting around a table of people who you would consider religious insiders, but on this particular occasion in Luke 14 there was somebody at the table who didn't belong.
I'll start by asking you to reflect for a moment on this question. If somebody were to ask you, "What are you hoping for?" what would you say? What's the big deal you're hoping for? Maybe it's at your work like some promotion or a project or a deal. Maybe it's a relationship. Maybe it's a broken one or one that you don't have. Maybe it's around health or the health of somebody you love. We're all hopers.