Dr. Jeff Fugate is the pastor of Clays Mill Baptist Church and founder of Commonwealth Baptist College in Lexington, Kentucky.
“Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.” (Psalm 78:1-8)
For many years I have preached from Psalm 78, at least 12 different sermons, and often when I read it, I think of the word ‘hope’ as just a synonym for the word ‘faith;’ that they would set their faith in him. I have never really given thought to the definition of that word being different than faith. It seemed like a synonym in my heart and mind.
Not long ago I read this passage of scripture and preached several sermons on the subject of hope. I like the word hope. The word ‘hope’ in the Bible is not a wish. Not that I hope for a wish to come true and there is a chance it might, and there is a chance it might not. That is not what the word hope means in the Bible. The word hope in the Bible means this: An expectation based on a promise.
As I was reading this chapter, the word ‘hope’ that I had just thought of as a synonym for faith, suddenly I realized that God is saying something different here. If He wanted the word faith there, He would have put the word faith in this verse. But there is a difference between the words ‘faith’ and ‘hope,’ and that is what we are going to talk about.
You see, they were instructed to teach the law. They were to teach the commandments, and that is what they were to believe, and that is what they were to put their faith in. You will notice this passage of scripture talks about the works of God, and here He says, “...that they might set their hope in God.” Faith is something we put in the principles of God’s word. Hope is something that we put in the person and the working of God. His laws and His commands are plainly given, and we believe them by will. We accept them, we live by them, we rest upon those principles in our faith.
But the word ‘hope’ is a word of expectation. God talks about what He did for the children of Israel, and said they were to teach their history to their children for generations to come. He said, “I want you to make sure that you teach them My law. I want you to teach them the commandments, but I want you to always let every generation know what I did to deliver you from the land of Egypt, and to bring you across the Red Sea, and into the Promised Land.
You will find that in the teaching and preaching all the way through the Bible. “I want you to tell your children how I gave you manna in the wilderness and how I provided water from the rock of Horeb. I want you to tell them how I protected you and provided for you. I want you to tell your children how I prepared the Land of Canaan for you, a land that had seven nations that were greater and mightier than you were, but little by little you conquered and took that land I had prepared for you. I want you to teach them My law so that they can put their faith in My law and principles, but I want you to make sure that you teach them My works so that they might set their hope in Me.”
Let me illustrate what I am saying. Of course, I started going to church nine months before I was born, and I haven’t known anything but church. So it has been the oddest thing of my life to preach in an empty building for several weeks. It just seems so different because I have not known anything except folks coming to church.
As a child, I heard the word of God. For example, I heard about salvation. I heard, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23) I heard, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) I have heard that “...whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15) I heard that Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sin. I heard that if I put my faith and trust in Him that He would save me and give me eternal life, so I put my faith in Him as a five-year-old boy.
I saw the truth and principle of salvation, and I trusted Him. It was settled. It was for sure. I had no doubt about it. That is what God said. That is what God meant. He did it and He saved me. It is not based on my feelings; it is based on His facts. It is not a matter of intellect; it is a matter of will.
Have you ever thought about on Easter Sunday, what the elders and high priest’s council told those soldiers? They came and said, “His body is gone! He is not there!” They said, “Well, I tell you what, you just tell them that you went to sleep, and they came and took His body while you were asleep.” Have you ever thought how dumb that is? I mean, it sounds like something you would hear on CNN. As I understand it, there was 12 to 50 Roman soldiers. “I just want to ask you guys a question. All 50 of you went to sleep? They took the stone away and they didn’t wake one of you 50 up? They took the time to take His body out of the grave clothes, and you didn’t hear anything? If you were asleep, how did you know it was the disciples?”
You see that is foolishness, but when I heard the facts and the principles about salvation, I put my faith in God’s Word and I trusted Christ as my Saviour. “My faith has found a resting place; not in device nor creed, I trust the Everliving One, His wounds for me shall plead. I need no other argument! I need no other plea! It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me.”
As I grew up in church and I heard preaching from the Word of God, I heard the principles that taught me I needed to give my life to serve God. I learned that I need to put God first in my life, so I presented my life to God. I said, “God, I want to serve You with my life.” It was just a matter of faith and obedience.
As a teenager, I heard about being filled with the Spirit of God. I heard John Rice preach about being filled with the Spirit of God, and I have heard those verses like, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:” (Isaiah 44:3) I heard about the power and empowering of the Holy Spirit. To me, it was a matter of principle. He said, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” (Ephesians 5:18) If you drink three bottles of wine, what would you expect? Expect to be drunk. What should we expect if we spend time in the Word of God and in prayer? To me, it is a matter of principle. I put my faith in that.
I believe not only it is a possibility, I believe being filled with the Spirit is a command and an expectation. I put my faith and trust in that. I do not want to be just another saved person operating in the power of the flesh. I want to witness in the power of the Holy Spirit. I want to preach under the influence of the Holy Spirit. I want to live my life under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It was a matter of principle, and I put my faith and trust in that.
I learned what the Bible says about tithing, and giving to the local church. I remember taking that first bit of money that I had made from the paper route and setting aside the amount to pay the bill, and then the money that was left that was mine, my dad reminded me, “Now son, 10% of that belongs to God, and then you should give Him an offering.” I learned that principle. I learned that God would bless, and I watched Him bless, and He has. It is absolutely amazing how God blesses.
My favorite story about tithing, our third son, John, had a birthday, and he did fairly good. His grandmothers must have been in a good mood, and he got a good bit of money for his birthday. Several weeks later, he said, “Dad, I just have to go to the store. I have got to spend my birthday money, and it is just about gone.”
I said, “What do you mean John.” He said, “Well, every week I give 10%, and if I keep giving 10% of my birthday money, I am not going to have any left!”
I said, “John, you don’t tithe off 10% of the same money every week, it is just off the increase.”
“Oh!” He was so relieved.
I said, “But that is something that I would like to teach folks in church, though.” If I ever taught an error, that would be the one that I would like to teach, right there!
The principles of tithing are simple to me. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:8-10) This is what the Bible says, and that is what we do, and God blesses that. I learned about putting God first in my life. Those are a matter of principle.
I watched my parents pray, in addition to learning about prayer. I remember one night they had started the church there in Hazard in 1972, and my dad worked a full-time job. He didn’t just tithe, he put his whole paycheck in the offering plate. I remember times that there wasn’t enough money to buy groceries, and I watched my dad get on his knees and pray, and I watched God answer his prayers in a miraculous way. That is what I put my hope in. That is the kind of God I want to put my hope in. That is the kind of life I want to live.
On Saturday night, I’d come by the auditorium and hearing my dad singing or crying or praying, I don’t know how many times I watched as my dad lay on his face behind the pulpit on Saturday evening and beg God, and I mean beg God like someone thirsty begging for water. He was praying for God’s power. I watched as the church filled up, and folks were saved, and I watched as lives were transformed. I saw that, and said, “I want to put my hope in that. That is exactly how I want to live my life.” You see, if we are not careful, we will just talk about the principles to put our faith in. Thank God for those that step out and use their faith to do a work for God, to be obedient to God, to the place that we want to put our hope in that God.
You see, hope does have a question. His return is called the Blessed Hope. Now, we know for sure that He is coming, but it is called a blessed hope because we don’t know when He is coming; so there is an expectation that is based on a promise, but there is also a question. I do not know when He is coming. I do not know the day. I don’t know the hour, but I believe He is coming, and I put my hope in Him.
Not only does my faith in Him affect my life, my hope in Him affects my behavior, my expectation of His return. That blessed hope, it drives me! It encourages me! It challenges me to have a hope in Him and to do a work for Him!
You see, with salvation everything is clear. I am a sinner in need of a Saviour. I trust Him by faith and He saves me. But as God works in my life and He leads in paths that are unknown and He works in ways that are unknown, I don’t know exactly how everything is going to work out, but my hope is in Him, and I know it is going to work out. I know He never leads me to where He will not provide for me.
I told somebody the other day, had I know this craziness was coming, I would not have bought 80 acres and spent 10 million dollars. I would have just got a big radio broadcast. We do not need a big building now. I worked hard to build one that is empty. Of course, I am kidding.
I can get heartburn to think about the problems that we had. Engineers are the only people that can ask more questions than toddlers. I imagine out of the 10 people that are here tonight, three of you are engineers, right?. But I just had the worst time. I mean every time I would answer a question, he would come up with 10 more, and they kept stalling and stalling.
I got a call from the University of Kentucky that said, “We built a new cafeteria, and we just built a steel building cafeteria at the University of Kentucky that we put up here. It has been up 34 months, and we have to get rid of it. If you would be interested in buying it, we will sell it to you cheap.” I watch God provide. We went from building a 6 million dollar building to putting up a 900-seat auditorium for just a little more than a million dollars finished.
You see, God does know. That is why I do not just put my faith in His word. I put my hope in His work. I expect something every day as God works, and even in the disappointments of life, I realize that if I just wait and I just have a hope in God, that God will lead and guide and provide. Some things in life are not as easy as just putting faith in a principle. God said, “I want you to tell the next generation how I provided food in the wilderness. I want you to tell them how I parted the waters of the Red Sea, because they are going to come to times in their life that, to them, is going to be equal to you coming to the Red Sea. If they hear you tell about what I did at the Red Sea, they will say, “This is what God did for my dad.” “This is what God did for my grandfather.” I believe in the same God, and the same God that provided for them and the same God that protected them, that is the same God that will lead me through and make a way.
I was preaching up north some time ago, and the preacher that I was preaching with was an older man and had a great testimony. The pastor asked him, and said, “I want you to give a testimony about how you started your church.” He gave a wonderful testimony. It is a testimony that I have heard a lot of times from different people. “We didn’t really know what we were doing. We just believed that God called us to that town. We went soul winning and witnessed to everybody. The first bit of money that we could get, we bought a bus and started the bus route. I don’t know if we should have, but every time we could get another five hundred dollars or a thousand dollars, we would buy another bus. We would win another family to Christ, and tell them, “You drive that bus.” He said, “All of a sudden, 20 years have passed and a thousand people are coming to church, and we have had a thousand saved.” He said, “I don’t know if I recommend that, but that is what we did.”
When we were in the car together, I said to him, “Preacher, I loved your testimony this morning. It reminded me of growing up with my mom and dad and them planting the church.” The only thing I wish he would not say about that testimony, is, “I do not know if I recommend it or not.” I do recommend it! I recommend just stepping out by faith. I recommend having a hope in God. I believe that if God can do it in one generation, He can do it in this generation.
You see, when I heard men like Lester Roloff preach, and I saw what God was doing through his life and ministry, I had more than a faith in the word of God. I had a hope in the works of God, believing that if I will claim and obey the principles of the Word of God by faith, that God would do a great work. God wants to do a work, and can I tell you that God never does a lesser work than before! Every work is a greater work.
I used to think, “Boy, I wish I had lived in the 20s or the 50s and the 60s.” Not anymore! I am glad I am alive today, because I want to see what God is going to do next. I want to be a part of that program involved in what God is doing. We do not have a ‘has been’ or a ‘used-to-be’ God. He is the great I Am!
I have a hope in God. I am excited about what is going on right now. I do not understand everything going on. The more I learn about the virus and the shut-down, the more confused I am except I know this: God is in control. God is in control, and I am thankful that God is in control. Folks have had time to think, and to examine their lives. Suddenly we realize, “Hey, you can live without sports. We can live without running and going every day. We can! We can learn to be still and know that He is God.”
I watched my dad run tent revivals. I watched him start a radio ministry. I watched him build a Christian school. I watched him come under attack and face huge opposition. I watched him go through times of difficulty. I watched my dad at age 38 get cancer. He never got bitter at God. He never got bitter at people. I am thankful for a Book that I can put my faith in, but I am also thankful for a God that I can put my hope in. That is just not what I want to believe. That is not just how I want to live. That is what I want to hope for in my life.
I believe that is what Josiah said when he became the king at eight years of age. Israel was a nation that was up and down spiritually according to its leader, and Josiah looked at his father, which was actually a forefather, David, and he saw a king. He saw David, his forefather, who had not only a faith in God, but God had done a great work in and through him, and he said, “That is the example I want to follow.” I love what the Bible said -- that he followed the ways of his father. Then a few years later, the Bible said that he sought the God of his father.
I do not want to just have a faith in God, I want to have a hope in God. I want a generation coming behind me not just to know that they are saved, not just to know the facts and the principles of the Bible, being spirit filled and tithing and the principles of church and all of that, and we have to know that. That is our foundation. That is who we are. But we need a generation that will have a hope in God that you will say, “I do not know how God is going to do it, but I know God is going to do it. I do not know how He will make a way, but I believe He will make a way. He made a way for them. He will make a way for me. He made a way yesterday. He will make a way today.”
God made a way for the Christians that suffered persecution at Antioch. You know, I hate to say this, but we do not have to have democracy and freedom for the church to succeed. I am dead sure not preaching against it, because I like freedom. I am not against it. I am for it. I fight for it. I am thankful that I live in this country. I am grateful for it.
But I am going to tell you something -- God is on the throne in this nation whether it is a republic or whether it is a communist nation. These promises are not just made to those of us that live in liberty. These promises are to every child of God. He is a God that we do not just have a faith in, He is a God that we have a hope in. This year I will finish my 29th year at Clays Mill Baptist Church. I am overwhelmed at the goodness of God. So many times, God put something in my heart and I said, “Oh my goodness I can’t do that.” “Oh, Lord, I can’t, but I want to, I desire to.” “Oh God, help us.” Then, you look back and realize how God has brought you through and God has blessed and God has multiplied the work of your hands.
Oh my goodness, I am thankful to look back and see a new generation coming on saying, “Preacher, I want to start a church.” “Preacher, I want to be an evangelist.” “I want to serve as a missionary.” I talked to a preacher today who is working on staff, and that is what his plan was after he graduated from college. Work on the staff for three years, and we talked about planting a church.
He said, “I know these are tough days.”
I said, “I know they are, and I have never known any other kind of days.” We have always had an enemy, but the God that provided before can provide now. The famines were not to worry about God. The famines were for folks to understand that He is still God. One of now my staff men has served a few years as an assistant, and he is going to take a church. He is in my office every week with a list of questions asking what he should do about this or that. So many times the answer is, “You just have faith in God and you have hope in God.” “You stay obedient to walk with God, be obedient to win souls, be obedient to preach the word of God, and you won’t always see how things are going to turn out, and God won’t always tell you ahead of time, but God will always provide.”
I am telling you that we serve a God that you can put your faith in His word, yes. We also serve a God that you can put your hope and expectation in Him. He is a great and marvelous God. He is a God that wants to do mighty works, even in this day. I talked to a young couple doing premarital counseling by way of conference call, and we were talking about the wedding. I said, “What are your plans after the wedding?” He said, “Preacher, I am working in our home church for one year, and then we are going on deputation and we are going to be missionaries in Congo.” What a blessing it was to hear them talk about their plans and what God had called them to do.
Man, I don’t want to be the preacher that says, “Well, you want to be careful with that. Things are rough in Congo.” I am sick of folks looking at the world politically. It is time that we look at the world scripturally! It is not a matter of who is our ally and who is our enemy; it is a matter of folks need to be born again by the grace of God. I think of Braxton Jackson and his wife that are preparing to go to India. I think of James Baxter and his wife, Abby, preparing to go to South Sudan, Africa and think about what God could do with their life.
You see, I read stories of William Carey, and I think, “If God did it once, God can do it again.” I am talking about having a hope in God. I am talking about putting my faith in His word. I understand that, and that is a wonderful thing and sometimes even that is difficult. Sometimes our faith wanes as the fears come and go. But I am talking about more than just having a faith in God! I am talking about having a hope in God; that what God has done, God can still do and God wants to do until He returns again.
It is a joy to have some 45 young men that have planted churches not only across Kentucky but across the nation. It is a joy to get those reports on Sunday afternoon to say, “We had this many people in church and this many people saved, and by the way, praise God we made budget for the first time.” I had the hope in God.
I preached in a bunch of storefront churches this past year; churches that we have helped to start, to see the hope, to see a young couple with babies and working and going soulwinning in the evenings and on Saturday and introducing me to their new people. “Preacher, this man just got saved a month ago. Preacher, this family got saved two months ago.”
Oh, the joy in serving Jesus! Listen to me. Don’t ever get to the place that you say, “Well I have faith in God, but I am a little concerned right now.” Can I tell you, I have hope in God. I want my prayer life to be so that my boys and my girls would say, “I want to have, not only faith in God, I want to have that kind of hope. I want to have that expectation. I have seen what God can do through the prayers of my mom and dad. I want to have the same kind of prayers answered in my life. I want to have the same dreams, the same goals, and the same desires for God to do a work in my life.”
I am concerned right now that we not transfer our faith from God to government. I am glad we have the nation and the Constitution that we have. But listen folks, be careful that we do not transfer our faith to bailouts. I do not understand all of that, but I do understand that this is our God that is taking care of us. I told our staff the other day, “I have got 10 days, I am praying for $200,000, and I need $200,000 for five different things as we are in construction and preparing and so forth.” The staff texted me at the end of that last day, and said, “Preacher, did God answer your prayers.” Here is what I said -- it was an amazing thing. “He did, but not how I wanted Him to. He gave me just enough to answer the prayer, but little enough to keep me praying tomorrow as much as I have the last 10 days.
But that is the way that God works. He wants us to have a hope in God, and to have a faith in God. Isn’t it wonderful to pray? Today I said, “You know, as I have gone through these 34 years as a pastor, I just pray and say, “Lord this is what I desire to do, but would You show me Your hand.” So many times, I have seen God’s hand, and I am waiting.
I have a hope in Him. I have an expectation that God is going to bless again. The Bible says, “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.” (Psalm 130:7) “Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.”(Psalm 131:3) “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:” (Psalm 146:5)
Faith is different. I know faith is similar and there are some things about faith and hope that are alike. But faith is in the principles and in the person. Hope is in the works of God. I don’t know yet how He is going to do it, but I know He always is faithful. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.” (Jeremiah 17:7) “The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24) “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;” (I Thessalonians 1:3)
Oh, can I tell you something? We have a Book that we can put our faith in. I am glad for the things that I can simply see, obey, decide, and claim. But there are some things I do not know how God is going to do it. When I pray, I do not know how God is going to answer my prayer, but I believe He is. You see, that is more than just faith. That is an expectation based on a promise. Now here is what the scripture said. I want you to live your life so that your children will put not just put their faith in His Word, but will put their hope in God and His work. How we live our lives determines where the next generation will place their hope. May we have a Christianity that is real and a prayer life that sees answers and miracles from God that will set an example and stir a desire in the hearts of the next generation, in our own families. May it be that they put their hope in God.