In what qualifies me to be Captain Obvious, allow me to make the following observation: 2020 has been a really tough year! The COVID 19 virus has disrupted the entire world, including your world and mine.
As I write these words, I have two dear brothers in Christ in Intensive Care Units on ventilators from the ravages of the virus. Many have suffered economic hardships. Some have lost businesses. Others have battled depression and domestic abuse due to this unprecedented event called COVID 19. At times, the situation has seemed almost hopeless. We have hoped for an end to the pandemic. We have hoped for a vaccine to be available. We have hoped for life to return to normal. We have hoped for the year 2020 to hurry up and end. We have hoped for relief with no hope in sight.
But, there is hope.
A few weeks ago I preached a series of messages based on Romans 15:13: “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.”
Paul prayed for the church at Rome that they would be filled with joy, filled with peace, and filled with hope. The focus of his prayer is to God as the God of hope. As I meditated on this passage, I was reminded that we can have hope in the most hopeless of times, because of our relationship through Jesus Christ with the God of hope. Because of what Christ has done for us, through His death and resurrection we can know the God of hope. Having a personal knowledge of and relationship with God is the only basis for genuine, lasting hope in life. In fact, Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, that those that have not trusted in Christ have no hope and are without God in this world (Ephesians 2:12).
Our hope is misplaced if we hope in anything short of the God of hope. All of the other things in this life, as good and pleasant as some of them may be are temporary, at best. I have a wonderful marriage, but it is only until death us do part. I have a wonderful ministry position, but it is a temporary assignment. I have good health, a loving family, good friends and a comfortable life, but all of these are fragile and limited to the temporary nature of this world. My hope needs to be in something far more satisfying and strong than the frailty of the things of this world.
My hope must be in the God of hope. In my wife’s favorite hymn, we sing of God’s great faithfulness, which gives us “strength for today … bright hope for tomorrow.” That hope for a bright future is founded upon what God has already done for us in the past. In fact Peter describes our hope as “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter had seen his hope die when Jesus died on the cross. However, when he saw for himself the empty tomb of Jesus and then our resurrected Lord, Peter experienced a hope that was alive, never to die, a living hope.
Be encouraged today and every day, as a child of God. We have been born again to a living hope, by a living Lord. Keep on believing and trusting in the God of hope. His great faithfulness will give you strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
Dr. Mark Tolbert is Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry and the director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence, occupying the Caskey Chair of Church Excellence.