When you get your teeth into a subject like hope you find that it overlaps with a whole host of other topics and issues. In previous posts I have focused mainly upon the nature of our hope. In Rediscovering Hope we looked at some definitions of “hope” and sought to define and rediscover what we mean by the Biblical (opposed to secular) notion of “hope”. We then looked in Saying Goodbye to Student ministry? at how we tend to place our hope in tangible, but ultimately temporary things like work, health and relationships. A further discussion followed in The Potter’s right to transform the clay about God’s Sovereignty and how He is working our His plans for our lives even in time adversity. Finally in Hope and the Promises of God we talked a little about how Biblical Hope is rooted in the promises of our faithful God.
So today we come to another area touched by hope, the area of our identity. Just as our hope must be rooted in the promises and character of God (who Himself is the source of our hope) so we must also acknowledge that our hope is also grounded in our identity. It is that identity which drives our hopes. When I think of football, as a Spurs fan (no need for comments on that subject please!) my hopes are driven by my desire to see the team do well and by my dreams to see this sleeping giant awoken from its slumber. There is a direct correlation between my sense of identity as a Spurs fan and my hopes for the future. The same is true for us as Christians, our identity in Christ is a significant driver for our sense of hope. Indeed Dr Neil Anderson argues that “Your hope for growth, meaning and fulfilment as a Christian is based on understanding who you are – specifically, your identity in Christ as a child of God” (The Bondage Breaker).
When I think about our identity in Christ lots of things come to mind but I think the best list I have come across on this is once again from the Bondage Breaker (p.g. 44) which I reproduce in full. Spend a moment thinking about how our sense of acceptance, security, significance and love are all grounded in our identity in Christ;
I am Accepted
I am God’s child – John 1:12
I am Christ’s friend – John 15:15
I have been justified – Romans 5:1
I have been united with the Lord, and am one spirit with Him – 1 Cor 6:7
I have been bought at a price I belong to God – 1 Cor 6:19-20
I am a member of Christ’s body – 1 Cor 12:27
I have been adopted as God’s child – Eph 2:18
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins – Col 1:14
I am complete in Christ – Col 2:10
I am Secure
I am free forever from condemnation – Rom 8:1
I am assured that all things work together for good – Rom 8:28
I am free from any condemning charge against me – Rom 8:35-39
I cannot be separated from the love of God – Rom 8:35-39
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God – 2 Cor 1:21-22
I am hidden with Christ in God – Col 3:3
I am confident that the good work that God has begun in me will be perfected – Phil 1:6
I am a citizen of heaven – now – Phil 3:20
I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind – 2 Tim 1:7
I can find grace and mercy to help in times of need – Heb 4:16
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me – 1 John 5:18
I am Significant
I am the salt and light of the earth – Matt 5:13-14
I am a branch of the True Vine, a channel of His life – John 15:1-5
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit – John 15:16
I am a personal witness of Christ – Acts 1:18
I am God’s temple – 1 Cor 3:16
I am a minister of reconciliation for God – 2 Cor 5:17-21
I am God’s co-worker – 1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm – Eph 2:6
I am God’s workmanship – Eph 2:10
I may approach God with freedom and confidence – Eph 3:12
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – Phil 4:13
I am Loved
Even if I am His enemy He loves me – Matthew 5:44,45
Only my will, not my guilt can keep me from His love – Luke 13:34
Because I believe Christ, He loves me – John 16:27
I am loved with all He had when I was the worst I could be – Romans 5:8
He loves me so much and He calls me His child – 1 John 3:1
I am loved yet He will rebuke and discipline me – Rev 3:19
I am His great delight and He rejoices over me – Zephaniah 3:17
My face is beautiful and my voice lovely to Him – Song of Songs 2:14
I have been upheld by Him since my conception and will be until my old age – Is 46:3,4
I am engraved on the palms of His hands – Isaiah 49:15,16
I am fearfully and wonderfully made, He knows me intimately – Psalm 139:14,15
God made us with intrinsic needs for ‘security’, ‘to belong’, to ‘be loved and accepted’, to ‘be significant’. We live in a world crying out for these things. We live in a world that is seeking these things from all sorts of places, not least our work/career, our friends/family and our relationships. What should be clear to us by now however is that God is the only source of these things who is faithful, trustworthy and who will not let us down. When we are struggling these things take on even more importance and we seek all the harder to find them because often it is these things which are being challenged.
When I read Anderson’s list the thing that really stands out to me is the word ‘delight’. To think about the fact that God delights in me is staggering. You may remember that Debbie’s poem (quoted in A change of perspective) was based on 2 Samuel 22:17-20 in which David testified that God rescued him and brought him into a spacious place;
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. 2 Samuel 22:17-20
Notice that in v20 David says that God rescued him because he delighted in him. Just as God delighted in David so he delight in us too. God’s delight in us is not based upon any sense of merit on our part but upon the character of God. He loves us and He delights in us because it is in His nature to love and delight in us.
Psalm 147:10-11 puts this idea of ‘God’s delight’ in us together with that of hope. It says that God delights in those who fear Him, in those who put their hope in His unfailing love. In this verse there is a condition attached to God’s delight, namely that God delights in those who fear Him and put their hope in His unfailing love.
As I reflect on the significant challenges we have faced over the past two years several things are clear. While the challenges and difficulties have varied immensely and affected us and our family in a whole host of different ways, the way that God sees us has not changed. He still loves us just as much (if not more) than He did before these two years began. Even if I don’t know what the future holds, God still values me and who I am just as much (if not more) as He did when I was running like crazy in student ministry. Even if we feel abandoned by God the truth is that He loves us so much that He would have us journey through even the hardest of times to grow our faith – because He loves us.
Over the course of our lives we will face a whole host of challenges that call into question what we believe about God and about ourselves. I would challenge you to think now about your convictions of what you believe about God and about what He says about how He gives us worth, significance, security, acceptance and love. I don’t profess to have found this especially easy to put into practice as you will see from previous posts. I, like many find it all to easy to search for these things in work, in ministry and in relationships. Yet when all is stripped away what is clear is that ultimately God is the only person who can truly deliver. God delights in me. God delights in you. No challenge, circumstance, crisis or problem can ever change that. Know the truth and the truth will set you free to hope in the Lord and walk with Him even in times of suffering.