Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross
Have you been struggling with some feelings of hopelessness lately? Whenever we have a hard time seeing the end in sight or we face uncertainty or are exposed to fears and anxieties, it can undermine our determination to have hope. Yet, over a hundred times in Scripture, God points us to the hope His children have through Him and His promises. We have such a resource because of the rock-solid expectation He provides. Whatever may happen to us this week, this month, or this year, the Christian can look forward with confidence at the fulfillment of what God through Christ promises us. And Scripture says it so many ways:
–Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5)
–Hope helps us persevere with eagerness (Romans 8:24-25)
–Hope causes rejoicing (Romans 12:12)
–Hope fills you with all joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13)
–Hope is an abiding quality, alongside such elite qualities as faith and love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
–Hope enables deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:10)
–There is one, unconquerable hope (Ephesians 1:18; 4:4)
–Hope is tied to earnest expectation and boldness (2 Corinthians 3:12; Philippians 1:20)
–Hope is connected to steadfastness (Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:3)
–Hope offsets grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
–Hope tunes our hearts to look for Jesus’ appearing (1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:13)
–Hope encourages the pursuit of our eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7)
–Hope anchors the soul (Hebrews 6:19)
–Hope helps us draw near to God (Hebrews 7:19)
–Hope is tied to endurance (Hebrews 10:23)
–Hope is instrumental to faith (Hebrews 11:1)
–Hope prepares for eternity (Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3,13)
–Hope helps give a defense (1 Peter 3:15)
–Hope purifies (1 John 3:3)
“How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).
“The hope of the righteous is gladness…” (Proverbs 10:28).
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:24).
“Christ Jesus…is our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).
You will face nothing today or ever that is too destructive, terrifying, or powerful to offset this hope! That doesn’t mean be rash, reckless, or rebellious. It does mean be faith-filled, optimistic, and courageous! Are your faith and hope in God (1 Peter 1:21)?
There are some people with “trust issues.” They are stuck in a negative frame of mind, believing the worst in others with little expectation that they will improve. They may even castigate anyone who would encourage you to put faith in people. Certainly, our greatest faith must always be in God. He never fails, forsakes, or leaves us (Heb. 13:5-6), but people invariably do those things. We cannot put more faith in people than God, listening to and following them when they contradict His will. That’s a false, wrong extreme, but so also is a cynicism that fundamentally, inherently distrusts people to do the right thing. This does not mean that there are people in our lives who do not struggle with sin because we all do (Rom. 3:23).
Let me encourage you to have faith in God’s people. Why?
- Jesus did. He selected twelve men, salty fishermen, shady tax collectors, strident nationalists, and selfish materialists. While the latter let Him down, the other eleven grew and accomplished much. Jesus entrusted His mission to them (Mat. 28:18-20), having faith that they would accomplish it. But, Jesus also had faith in others—the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, Zaccheus, Bartimaeus, Nicodemus, and so many others. Some He put faith in failed Him and even left Him, but that did not ever stop Him from investing that faith in others. Do you remember what He said to Peter after He had failed? “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32; emph. mine). That was faith in Peter!
- It empowers others. When somebody expresses faith in your ability to accomplish something, how do you respond? When you are given responsibility with the explicit or tacit understanding that the giver believes in you, don’t you give it your all to live up to that trust? 2 Timothy 2:2 seems to imply this reaction is a natural consequence of being entrusted with something.
- People live up (or down) to our expectations. Have you ever had someone in your life who handled you this way: “You’re no good!”; “You’ll never amount to anything!”; “You’re hopeless!”? Maybe they don’t say it, but they convey it. Preachers and teachers communicate the word through such a pessimistic prism. Leaders convey it in ways both spoken and unspoken. Love “believes all things, hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).
- It brightens life. Would you like to maintain a PMA (possible mental attitude)? Never lose the ability to believe in others! A glass half full approach is necessary to retaining an optimistic, hopeful way of life. I’m not saying to be delusional, but you can improve your own quality of life with a fundamental belief that most people, when they know what’s right, want to do what’s right.
- It is biblical. Paul had confidence in Philemon’s obedience (Phile. 1:21). He had confidence that Corinth would do the right thing (2 Cor. 2:3). He had confidence in Galatia’s doctrinal resilience (Gal. 5:10). He had confidence in Thessalonica’s continued faithfulness (2 Th. 3:4). What an example, and oh how we should imitate him in this!
Teresa of Calcutta is often associated with certain verses found on the wall of her children’s home, even credited for authoring it. Kent Keith is the likely author. In the composition, “Do It Anyway” (aka “The Paradoxical Commandments”), he notes that people will criticize and be petty. He encourages doing good, loving, and serving anyway. You can choose how you will spend your life, expecting the best or worst of others. May I urge you to have the most faith in God, but leave room for faith in people—especially God’s people! You will not regret it.
Today a new calendar is hung
After auld lang syne was sung
Reflection and recollection done
New plans have arisen with the sun.
Yesterday is forever buried
New expectations now carried
Hope for a better tomorrow
Desire to avoid bitter sorrow
This year will bring the unexpected
Old goals may be resurrected
No crystal ball can reveal it
Or legislation force or repeal it
What will you do with this annum,
Which itself will next year be a phantom?
Will you take its reins with vigor
Or delay and await for what’s bigger?
Make each new day really count
Let not fear or worry surmount
Trust in God, the giver of time
Keep aiming for an eternity sublime.