Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God's Good Gifts - Hope

            Bombs falling in Ukraine, ISIS in Syria and Iraq, continuing conflict in Jerusalem and Gaza, terrorist groups around the world, peaceful protests and violent unrest in Ferguson and New York City – and that is just the short list of problems that are making headlines and unrest in our lives. It seems that everything is falling apart and there is little reason to hope that anything will improve. Yet if we are honest, while we currently have more access to news from other places at our disposal, the world has always been full of unrest, instability, injustice and war.

            Paul refers to our Father as the God of hope! May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV) As God fills his children with joy and peace because of our trust in Him, we overflow with hope. The despair that is always willing to overwhelm us is pushed back by God’s love and faithfulness. Our faith enables us to interpret the world and all its messes in light of God’s plans in Jesus Christ.

            Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus (and us today) that we need to learn to see not just with the eyes in our heads, but with the eyes of our hearts. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV) He claims that if we can learn to see in that way, we will understand the beauty and power of hope. For Christians, hope does not mean a “wish that is improbable” rather it means confidence in the power and work of God.

And God chooses to do his work through his people – which means we become a source of hope to those around us. Peter recognized this truth when he encouraged us to: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV) Peter understood that in a world where hope was in short supply, people would see the hope displayed by Christians and would want that hope in their lives. Peter wants us to be ready to share our faith in Jesus Christ – he is the reason for our hope!

 Because we live in a fallen world and God’s redemption of his creation is not fully completed, we will continue to see problems that often seem hopeless. However, because we know that God is working to complete the redemption of creation – what Jesus called the “renewal of all things” – we continue to have hope in the face of evil. We are continually told in Scripture to never surrender to the desire to return evil for evil, but rather to do good to those who hurt us, to pray for our enemies! That is precisely where we become beacons of hope. Listen to how John said it: Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 NIV) In our hope, we purify ourselves and live like Jesus. Everyone around us can see the hope in that!

Do more with your life than just curse the darkness, be a light. People need hope!

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