Finding Hope

It is hard to be hopeful these days. Bad news just keeps rolling down. We continue to read of the spread of Coronavirus and the rising death toll. We hear of a rise in violence, suicide, and depression, and we wonder if this is just the beginning of the long-term affects of social-distancing and pandemic threats. We see the political talking heads pointing blame at one another, which only shakes our confidence and heightens our fears.

In the middle of all of this, it is the roll of the Church, of every believer, to shine as a beacon of hope in a dark and dreary world.

Hope: it’s such a small yet powerful word. 

We often use it rather casually. We may talk of a “fools hope;” like when you hope your team wins even though they’re on a 5 game losing streak. Or maybe hoping that they’ll have a better year than last year – if they even get to play (yes, I’m thinking specifically of my Royals).

Then there are things we hope for that are really an expression of deep desire. “I hope to see you soon!” a parent will write to their child, indicating that they will be working toward that goal.

So what are the things we are hoping for right now?

  • I hope to stay healthy.
  • I hope no one I know catches this virus. If they do, I hope they don’t suffer.
  • I hope to go back to work soon. I hope I still have a job.
  • I hope college will start again in the fall.
  • I hope my marriage can survive this quarantine.
  • I hope that the Church can come back together soon – and that people won’t stay home even after it is safe to assemble.

There are many things we may be hoping for today, but there is one hope to which we are called to share in Scripture. The way the world speaks about hope (wishing for something that may or may not have any guarantee of coming about) pales in comparison to what the Bible means when it speaks of hope. The Psalms make it very clear that our hope is in the Lord:

  • Psalm 39:7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
  • Psalm 62:5 “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”
  • Psalm 71:14 “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.”

We put our hope in God, the one who is faithful, unchanging, and true. The Christian’s hope is established, strengthened, and encouraged in God’s Word. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass. Hebrews 11:1 teaches, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.” 

So what do we hope for?

The hope of Scripture rises above the day to day wishes and desires, and is a longing for the very presence of God Himself. Our hope goes far beyond sickness and health, poverty and riches. Our hope is to find ourselves in joyous fellowship with God through eternity. This fellowship with God is only possible because He has promised to save us, and has done so through the death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.

Ps. 119:81 says, “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.”  Our hope is in the Salvation of the Lord, His deliverance of His people from sin, from despair, from the brokenness of this world.

This is what Paul speaks of in Titus 2:13, when he writes, we are “waiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Our hope in this age, and in the age to come, is that we will see Jesus Christ; that we will stand with Him in the Kingdom of God, robed in His righteousness, called by His name. Our hope is that the one who ascended in glory, who now reigns over all things at the right hand of God the Father, will one day come again in glory to bring all things into submission before Him. Our hope is that this Savior, who died to atone for our sins, will also care for us unto the very end, and will not lose one of those whom the Father has given.

This is our hope, and our hope does not put us to shame (Rom 5:5). Therefore we will “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer” (Rom 12:12).  So beloved, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom 15:13).

SDG

Do Not Be Afraid

There have been a few times in my life when I have been struck by genuine fear and terror.

Maybe the first time I had a paralyzing fear was when I heard of the bombing in Oklahoma City. I was just married, living in Kansas, and I never thought that this kind of home grown terror would ever strike so close.

That was until I watched the Twin Towers fall on 9/ll. We were uncertain of the cause, unsure of what this kind of global terrorism would mean for our future, and I was genuinely concerned for our friends who lived in New York City.

Perhaps the worst fear I’ve ever known, though, was the time my  youngest son was hit in the chest and stopped breathing. In the midst of prayers and tears I administered chest compressions until the ambulance arrived. He’s fine, healthy, and strong. But I knew fear that day.

We live in an age of fear. There is a virus spreading around the world and no one is sure how easily it spreads or how lethal it may be. Affecting more than just the physical health of the world, the markets have taken a beating as business are shutting down and citizens are required to shelter in place. The media only seems to fuel and thrive off of the ensuing panic. I visit with church members and fear is the thing that we are dealing with; fear of the future, fear of the virus, fear of the unknown.

Isn’t it remarkable then, to know that the most often command repeated in Scripture to the people of God is this: “Do not be Afraid.” Just a quick search on Logos Bible Software brought up over 85 occurrences of this direct command from God. I don’t have the space to write of all the times this charge is given in God’s Word – so allow me to summarize.

The command is given when the people are rightfully afraid:

When they were facing tremendous obstacles – For example, when Joshua was leading the people into the promised land, repeatedly God commands him to be of good courage, to have no fear. When enemies were attacking, God would often remind his prophets and people not to fear, for He would be with them to deliver and protect them (Isa 41 & 43; Jer 42; Ps 46).

When they are encountering God – We especially hear the command “Do not fear” when the Lord appears to His people. When the angel of the Lord visits (Abram, Hagar, Gideon, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds in Luke 2, etc.), the people are rightfully terrified.  They are in the presence of the Holy One, and they are not holy, therefore standing under the judgment of God.

In every circumstance, whether encountering the living God, or facing the terrifying circumstances of the day, the repeated command is clear: Do not be afraid.

Why?  What is the source of courage in the face of terror. What assurance do we have in overwhelming circumstances? What hope do sinners have in the presence of a holy God?

We do not fear for God is with His people. Isaiah 41:1 & 5 say, “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine… Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.'”

God is for His people. Rev. 2:10 says, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

I think it is helpful to remember in the midst of trials and suffering that God is greater than the terror we are facing; and God often works through seasons like these to bring about His ultimate purpose for His glory. What man, or nature, intends for our harm, God uses to draw us close to Him, to help us see His mighty hand is able to save, and to wean us from the false and empty gods of this age.

So I encourage you, d.o not be afraid. I know that is easier said than done. But remember His promises. Remember His goodness. Remember what God has done for you in Jesus Christ to bring about your salvation. And remember, if God has done all of that for you, nothing you face in this life can ever separate you from God’s love and saving grace (Rom 8:38-39).  Do not be afraid in these times, but look to your Savior Jesus Christ and be of good courage.

SDG