Are you hopeful? I need you to be honest with yourself. Are you hopeful? If I was a betting person, and I am not, I would say that you struggle to find hope in your life. The Bible has much to say about being a person of hope. Biblical hope is very different from the cultural hope.
The Bible has a lot to say about hope. I came across this last week in my studies. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Now to some this sounds very strange because we think of hope as a wish or desire. Now if you hope to win the lottery (or whatever it is you would desire), you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? The odds of winning are against you. Now you might have a desire to win and even dream of winning, but it is an empty pursuit. Paul instructs us on how we can obtain real life hope that makes a difference in us and our world. This hope is not based on some fantasy that might happen but in God’s promises which will happen.
The sad reality is that many followers of Jesus struggle with hope because they do not know Jesus’ teaching. We are reminded that some of the practical benefits of the Bible are that it: provides “instruction,” is a source of strength (or “endurance”) and is a source of “encouragement.” It is the process of integrating God’s truth into our lives that produces trust in God or Biblical hope. A hope not based on fantasy but in God’s promises. A hope not determined by chance but by the power of God to honor his commitments. Now, this is a hope that changes us. A hope that is not wishful but confident.
The Christmas season is a season of hope. We have hope because the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus is a reminder that God keeps his promises. Just like Paul reminds followers of Jesus that their investment in learning, what we call today the Old Testament, builds confidence. The same can be said for our investment in learning both the Old and New Testament. We can have a greater degree of confidence than those Old Testament believers because more of God’s working has been revealed. Yet, a majority of followers live life under a cloud of discouragement because they do not know God’s Word!
I regularly have conversations with followers that are burdened by their past failures. These are individuals that have confessed their sin and made it right with those offended yet cannot forgive themselves. Satan keeps reminding them of their short-comings. But if they knew the Scriptures, they would know that their sins are forgiven. I love Paul’s statement which reflects his hope in who he is in Jesus. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”( Philippians 3:12–14 )
If you have been in the faith, you know what you need to do. You need to stop making excuses. You need to cut those things out of your life that are bringing you down. You need to get on your knees and spend some time with Jesus.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson