Understanding The Bible
"The Gospel of Hope"
Dr. Glen Clifton

"The Gospel of Hope"
By Dr. Glen Clifton 1.

How many of you are glad you are here this morning? Raise your hands and say amen! (I see some of you don’t seem too sure).

How many of you are glad that you are a Christian? Raise your hands and say amen! (If you are not a Christian, we pray you’ll decide today).

How many of you would rather be here in this service than in the finest funeral home in town? Say amen! (Some don’t seem too sure about that either … ha!).

You know, I’ve heard enough of the ills, the problems, the heartaches, the troubles, and the sins of America and I’ve heard enough about the problems and the sins of the church and the convention. Yes, there are problems, but when you look hard enough; you will also see changed lives and victorious living.

We live in a day when there are plenty who diagnose … but so few can ever give a remedy! We need a remedy!

When I am sick, I go to the doctor. Why? For a remedy. I don’t want the doctor just so he can take my temperature and put that cold stethoscope on my back and then send me home with the instructions to take two aspirin and call him in the morning. I want him to run some tests on me, to find the cause, and give me a remedy. Today, we have too many peddlers of doom … but few who know the way of escape!

Let’s look at today’s gospel lesson by turning with me to acts 27:9 -25.

Look at verse 25 at the words, “Be of good cheer, for I believe God.” Say that with me,  “Be of good cheer, for I believe God.”

Paul had been tried in many ways. He had been persecuted and prosecuted. He had stood before the most powerful men of his day. After being arrested and dragged from the temple by the religious leaders and the angry mob, he appeared before the governor, Felix. After giving his testimony before Felix, the governor said, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call you.” Acts. 24:25. Almost!

After two years, Festus succeeded Felix as governor. Paul then asked to stand before Caesar’s judgment seat. After appealing to appear before Caesar in Rome, he was transferred and came before King Agrippa. Upon giving his testimony before the Agrippa, the king said, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” (26:28). Almost!

Now, in today’s bible lesson, we find Paul on a ship bound for Rome, and his trials continue. On this trip there are hurricane winds and a shipwreck. With all this he could have been in despair. He could have gone into depression. He could have become despondent and discouraged … but, he said, “I believe God!”

Far too many writers and commentators today have “a philosophy of despair.” Unfortunately, this includes preachers. Someone has rightly said, “Ours is an age that knows not what it wants, and is unceasingly searching to get it.” This is a philosophy of despair, but, I believe God. Say that with me again … “I believe God.”

H. G. Wells, the great historian and philosopher continually said that “this world is going bankrupt and to ruin.” He had a philosophy of despair! Yes, this world has seen perilous times and will see many more according to the word of God, but, I believe God.

After Jesus was crucified his disciples huddled in fear in a lonely, little room, then Jesus came and they shouted, “I believe God.”

The first Christians were hunted down, arrested, persecuted, tortured and many were put to death, but because of Jesus resurrection, they shouted, “I believe God.”

The early Church saw more persecution that we in the United States have ever seen, or may ever see, but they shouted, “I believe God.”

Some doom and gloom preachers say that “the church is in trouble today. I say, “Good!” The church was born in trouble, it grew wonderfully and victoriously in trouble, It spread around the world in trouble. And, it will meet Jesus in trouble.

In today’s scriptures please notice:

Crisis is a problem to be solved (Vs. 14-20)

In this great storm, there were 276 sailors, slaves and prisoners, (v. 37), and they were all about to sink. This was no small ship, but they had a problem! They were in trouble! There was a crisis! But Paul knew how to talk to almighty God. (Vs. 23-24)

I’m told that over 75% of our churches in America are in decline. Most have no idea as to why they are in existence. In the southern Baptist convention there are about 11,000 churches who baptized no one last year. This convention is in trouble. This is not from a doom-sayer! I have spent the better part of 50 years starting churches, building churches, pastoring churches and winning souls in the Southern Baptist Convention.

The S.B.C. reports just less than 17 million members. I ask: “where are they?” Every Sunday 10 million of these so-called members, even the F.B.I. can’t find. Only 7 to 8 million attend church regularly. This convention is in a four year decline in baptisms (an indication of our church growth). About 17,000 of our churches reported zero baptisms among those age 18 and under. We are losing our youth.

Wake up and smell the roses … we are in decline … it is a crisis!
What are we willing to do about it? Who will stand in the gap? Who will lead us, and quit making excuses?

During World War II, the British Isles were under constant attack from the Germans. The Nazi blitzkrieg filled the air both day and night reigning down havoc and destruction. England was in trouble. Bombed cities were burning and death was everywhere, but the English fought on and never gave up … they never quit. Prime minister sir Winston Churchill later said, “This was their finest hour.”

God does not bow to circumstances! He uses circumstances. We must learn to stand up and be counted when there is a crisis and things are not going well. We (Christians) cannot afford to be quitters when things get rough. We must be usable when there is a need.

Dr. Peter marshal, when chaplain of the U. S. Senate, once prayed, “God help us to stand for something, lest we fall for anything.”

Christian friend, with all the insidious, deceitful, devil inspired beliefs and religions springing up across America today. We’d better stand for something before it’s too late! The youth of America today are running headlong into a false-belief pit of no return and unless the church of Jesus Christ gets out of these church walls, they are doomed!

Many today are wringing their hands, trembling and asking, “What’s wrong with the world?” “What’s happening to our society?” “Where is this world-system headed?” I’ll tell you where, straight to hell! And, it will continue to go there, unless we do something! And, that something is not something, it is someone: Jesus Christ. It’s time we are willing to shout, “I believe God!”

Faith is our assurance against disaster (v. 25)
This faith is what Paul had. And, this is what we must have. The storm was sudden and destructive. The crisis was real. They thought that they were all about to drown. But, Paul the captive became the captain of the ship. How did this happen? Paul had real faith.

When problems and crisis come to your home, or to your business, do you have this kind of faith to become the captain of your ship? Or, do you let the world, or your neighbors, or business associates lead you astray? Hear me: this kind of leadership comes only by faith! “For we walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

I was pastor in long beach, ca. in the 1960’s during the “God is dead” movement. The bell-bottomed, dirty, long-haired, pot-smoking hippies had banners painted on their cars and homes: “God is dead. “We had a large church sign in from of our church. I placed big letters on it saying, “Our God is not dead … sorry about yours.”

Our God is alive! He lives! We serve a risen savior! He’s in the world today! He lives!

Real faith changes attitudes and lives … that’s why we can say: “I believe God.”
Real faith affects the stewardship of our total lives.
Real faith says, “I believe God” in all the areas of our life.

I believe God, spiritually, and I will study the word, and pray.
I believe God, physically, and I will do what I can for lord with my body.
I believe God, financially, and I will pay my tithes and give my offerings for the cause of Christ.

Oh, yes, you do realize that churches don’t have financial problems … they have spiritual problems. When God’s people are right spiritually, the church never has financial problems.

There are just too many who refuse to believe God, and his word, the bible about tithing. And until we get this biblical truth right in our minds … the church will have financial problems … and so will you!

Someone has said, “That if it cost as much to be immersed as it does to tithe, some Christians would wear out their bible searching for the scripture that would prove sprinkling.” Listen: give it joyfully!

Let your light shine … and your body be used for Christ - live it - victoriously! Let all your talents be used for God.

Real faith stimulates world evangelism … beginning right here at home.

The apostle Paul witnessed to these on board the ship. He witnessed to them before they left fair havens. Paul advised them saying, “I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives. (vs. 9, 10). He witnessed to them in the middle of the storm, “Men, you should have listened to me.” (v. 21). He witnessed to them during the storm. “Therefore take heart (be of good cheer), men for I believe God that it will be just as he told me. (v. 25) he believed God and what the angel of the lord had told him, and could say “I believe God.”

Let me ask you some questions. Do you believe God? Do you believe the bible? Do you believe it just intellectually, or do you believe it experientially?

You may be asking, ”What do you mean?” Do you believe the words of Jesus? Are his words relevant for me today? Are they relevant for our church today? Do we believe the great commission of Jesus, where he said we are to “go unto all the world and make disciples in all nations? “ (Acts 1:8). If we say we believe it, then why aren’t we doing it?

We may believe it intellectually, but; I doubt we really believe it spiritually. Let me prove this to you: How many of you know all your neighbors? And, have you spoken to them about Jesus? You know, (intellectually), according to the bible, that they are going to a devils hell, but you don’t really believe it (spiritually), or you would be out witnessing to them.

One reason we do not have real faith is: we are living too close to the world, and we are dabbling in the things of the world! We haven’t distanced ourselves far enough from the things that would pull us down and destroy our testimony!  Although we are still live in the world, God admonishes us not to be of the world. Paul admonished the roman church to “… not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (12:2). And God commands us, “do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. (1 john 2:15).

Our faith is greatly hindered when we are so closely tied to the things and the people of the world. John goes on to write: “for all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the father, but is of the world. (1 john 2:16). When I am to closely aligned with the people and things of the world … I cannot be spiritually minded!

I’m reminded of the story of the old farmer who would ride his horse into town every day. He would hitch his horse to the rail in front of the barroom. He would go in and have a few drinks. One Sunday he was gloriously converted to Christ. Every day he still rode into town and hitched up his horse to the same rail in front of the bar. He would then walk across the street to the hotel and visit with some of his friends. An older, wiser Christian said, “George, no matter how strong you think you are, take my advice and at once … change your hitching post. You are living too close to temptation, too close to the world.”

Sometimes we are not effective, because we are living to close to the world and not close enough to God. When this happens, we cannot say,  “I believe God.”

Real faith is that which saves and keeps
The bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

The gloom and doom of the 276 souls on board the ship, turned into a day of glory and cheer. “And they were all encouraged (all of good cheer).” (v. 36). Why did this happen? Because of Paul’s faith, they found faith.

Faith says, “Believe on the lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” Paul cried out in the Philippian jail. (Acts 16:31).  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the father except by me.” (John 14:6). Have faith, be of good cheer! Jesus will save!

In closing may I ask you a question?

Where is God when we are in a storm? Remember: he said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

I’m reminded of the story of the little boy who was looking forward to a birthday party at a friend’s house several blocks away. That day came, and a terrible blizzard made the sidewalks and streets impassible. His dad, sensing danger, would not let his son go. The boy was disheartened and began to cry. “Dad,” he pleaded, “all the other kids will be there. Reluctantly the father decided to let his son go. Overjoyed, the boy bundled up and plunged into the raging storm. Visibility was almost impossible, but he made his way to his friend’s house.  As he rang the doorbell, he turned and looked out into the storm. His eyes caught the shadow of a retreating figure. Although he didn’t know it, it was his father. His father had followed is son’s every step through the storm.

I’m here to tell you, through the storms of this life and there will be many, our God is ever with us.

Would you trust him today? Let almighty God be your savior, your keeper, and your provider!

Copyright 2006, Dr. Glen Clifton
Used by permission

"The Gospel of Hope"
by Dr. Glen E. Clifton

1.  Dr. Clifton and his wife Dee, have been retired to Florida for 4 years. He has been kept busy preaching up and down the Treasure coast since he moved here.  He can be contacted for speaking engagements at (772) 336-3992.

Clifton, Dr. Glen E., Brief Biography