March 30, 2009

Hope against Hope - Part 1 - The God of hope

Hope against hope – that is the call of every Christian sojourning in this world. We have the promise of persecution and trial (2 Tim 3:12; John 16:33), and in the face of that, the promise of hope. The persecution of the world in America is not torture, imprisonment, or political exile (as some of our brothers and sisters face this very hour). It is a much more subtle, much more deadly assault. You may not be persecuted in this sense for claiming the name of Christ, but slowly we are being persuaded to lose hope in God. Is he trustworthy? Is he reliable? For today’s persecutors, the answer is “No!” The evidence is all around you. The misery of the whole world demonstrates that he is not helping (they say). At the same time, abundance and wealth lull us into a sense of satisfaction and contentment – not in God, but in the things themselves – to the point that we are tempted to rely on and put our confidence in them. “God may not be there for me at retirement, but I sure hope my investments are.”

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 1 John 5:4

Jesus said that He has given us his words that we may have peace, though in the world we will have tribulation. “Be of good cheer,” he says, “for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The trial of our faith is to believe and trust him in the face of a whirlwind of opposition – that we may have peace. Left to ourselves, we may be facing a pretty bleak future, but he knows this, and he has sent the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. We take comfort in knowing that by letting our requests be known to God, the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phi 4:6-7). And having this peace, we rest assured that God will supply all of our needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phi 4:19).

Are any of you anxious? Are any concerned about an uncertain future in a cold and scary world? Ask God for peace, and he will supply it. This is our prayer:

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

Rest assured that the source of your joy and peace is the power of the infinite and eternal God, and more specifically we realize this power by believing in him.

The question may be asked, “Well that’s great for my spiritual development, but how does that help me pay the bills tomorrow? How does that help me in the face of all the horrors of the world?” Jesus said:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt 6:25-33

We’re all familiar with these comforting words – but do you believe them? Do you realize that part of believing Jesus is believing in words like the above? If we cannot trust him when he says things like that, how can we trust him when he says things like this:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24

We are Christians, and by the power of the Holy Spirit believe that Jesus’ words about eternal life are true. Let us pray for the power to believe that his words elsewhere are also true. Let us lean wholly on the faithfulness of God, who has shown himself to be faithful in all things, and trust in him for every situation and circumstance in life.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32

How valuable and precious is this kingdom? It may not be readily apparent, because it is a hidden treasure. However, in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have been given a glimpse into this treasure, and it is infinitely valuable.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matt 13:44-45

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