A Christian Hope
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. (Romans 15:13 ESV)
Hope is that feeling, that emotion rumbling inside us as we lift our heads every morning. Hope lives. Hope breathes. Hope beats in the hearts of us all.
More than we like to admit, all of us live either in the past or the future. Few of us live in the present. It is our memory or it is our hope that keep us grounded. Perhaps the one passion that all of us indulge most in is hope. Hope serves all kinds of people, from the lowest of the low to highest of the high. The peasant or the prince. None can go too deep or out of reach of hopes grasp or none can be elevated too high to be above its influence. We are all alike under the influence of HOPE. Its beams of light shine in the darkest dungeons adding life to the lifeless.
How to do we give hope to the hopeless? As ministers of the gospel, we need to ask ourselves this.
At worst the hopeless are slaves - like child soldiers - at best, a teenage love broken at a school dance. Or perhaps hopeless like an over-worked single mother of two, an army vet, home and desensitized by war, or the dad that tells his family he’s lost his job. Hopelessness is not without strings - we are attached, it is our plight.
Paul, reminds us that unfortunately, being a slave is the plight of every human being born. Slavery is a part of life, whether we like it or not. Yes, we know about sin - that we are all slaves to it. Paul was a slave to sin and to pharisaical law-keeping his profession required. Legalism. We are slaves to technology, to love, to the idea of love, or to the idea of being a perfect parent. We are slaves to our possessions. It was the very wise, eccentric, soap manufacturer, Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club who said: “Things you own, end up owning you.” This character in this film knew he was right, because he witnessed it, as you and I know when we look in own hearts and to others. We are all slaves to something.
Then what is it that frees us? It is the Christian hope. I say Christian hope because it has something very distinctive about it. It is different than hope offered elsewhere. We need to know this. What makes us “Christian”? What makes our hope “Christian”?
Freedom is precisely why Christian hope exists. Freedom from chains unwanted and even unnoticed. It is hope in another that frees us from slavery. It is hope in another because we know we cannot break free by our own merit. This hope is an anchor for the soul the writer of Hebrews tells us. So how do we obtain it? The same writer tells it was Jesus who obtained it for us, that we might be partakers in it. The distinctive of Christian hope is gospel of Jesus. This is precisely why Paul can write: “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10 NIV).
Let’s remember something…
God, in his infinite glorious splendor, is the author of such emotion. He created it. He knows something of hope. He gives it graciously. His people too, were slaves at one point. Taken from their families, homes, comfort and thrown into slavery, the Israelites were under the command of the Egyptian Pharaoh. There was little hope from broken promises. Feeling abandoned, forgotten, tired and lost, the Israelites cried out to God for help.
“During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” (Exodus 2:23-25 ESV)
There is something to highlight of God’s character in this passage. God’s goodness is displayed here in these verses.
God heard…remembered…saw…and knew.
No one, no such event, no such cry for help was or is now, outside of God’s eyes and ears. Trust this to be true. Trust in the grace given everyday you live. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived in full assurance that the God of grace would fulfill his promises to them. It was a covenant of grace. It is the hope weaving throughout the history of God’s people. It is the plan that God has put in place to redeem a people in dire need of help. Forged to forget their history and commissioned to lose hope, the Israelites found hope in the God of their ancestors, in the hope of a redeemer. A messiah. They lived in grace by faith for the hope of a coming Savior. And he came.
Justin Holcomb in his book, Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault wrote:
“Grace is available because Jesus went through the valley of the shadow of death and rose from death. The gospel engages our life with all its pain, shame, rejection, lostness, sin and death. So now, to your pain, the gospel says, “You will be healed.” To your shame, the gospel says, “You can no come to God in confidence.” To your rejection, the gospel says, “You are accepted!” To your lostness, the gospel says, “You are found and I won’t ever let you go.” To your sin, the gospel says, “You are forgiven and God declares you pure and righteous.” To your death, the gospel says, “You once were dead, but now you are alive.”
Solomon, the wise king says what we all should in times of hopelessness: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of The Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23
The hope, the Christian hope we offer can be built on nothing less than Jesus, his righteousness, his death and resurrection, and his substitution for the lost, the rejected, the slave.
“God, You’re faithful in your love because you know me. You know everything about me. You know when I rise and when I fall. By your mercy I am alive. I may weary. I may be in trouble, but you know my name and you sustain me this very moment by your grace. Your word tells me “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalms 56:8 NLT). No father on earth can say that, only you, my father in heaven. May I never stop ceasing to be amazed by your love for me. May I never stop being thankful for the breath in my lungs and the sight in my eyes. Even without those, Lord, you are still beautiful. My heart cries out: thank you! It is because of your love I endure. It is because of your grace I will be sustained until you come again. Amen. ”