During the past few years when I have reflected on hope it has often been through the lens of suffering. When times have been tough my hope in Jesus Christ has inspired me to persevere (1 Thess 1:3). From that hope has sprung the faith and love (Col 1:3-6a) to deal with all that life brings. We trust that we are now moving into a different season of life, not devoid of struggle but somewhat freer of the kind of things that have characterised the past few years. As we do so I am beginning to think afresh about what it might mean for me to share hope.
Peter is clear that we should be prepared to give an answer to any who ask us to give the reason for the hope that we have.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. 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
This verse makes me think about what I would say if someone asked me to give a reason for the hope that I have, a hope (as I have shown in numerous posts already) that in the Bible is firmly based on Jesus Christ. It is a hope that is not like the wishful thinking we often associate with this word but is a confident assurance and expectation. It is a hope which is rooted in the unfailing promises of our faithful God. In this post I want to share hope for people in different situations. I trust that these words will be an encouragement though I realise that words are just that words. What we ultimately need is a fresh experience of the ‘God of hope’ to fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (adapted from Romans 15:13).
Sharing Hope for the lost – In John 4 we have a record of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. It was an unlikely encounter for Jesus who was taking the direct route through Samaria (usually avoided by Jews) rather than the long route across the Jordan. There would have been much prejudice towards this woman because she was (a) a woman, (b) a Samaritan and (c) had a somewhat colourful past (presumably the reason why she went to the well in the heat of the day). Against all odds Jesus engaged her in conversation asking her for a drink. The woman was shocked and a little confused but Jesus told her that if she had known who He was she would have asked Him for living water. Such water says Jesus will cause those who drink of it to never thirst and will “become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Hearing this the woman is sold, she wants some of this ‘living water’ though she is clearly still grappling with who Jesus really is and what He was actually offering her. Jesus asks her to go call her husband and come back leading her to confess that she had no husband. In fact Jesus says she had had 5 husbands and the man she was now with was not her husband. Jesus exposes the fact that this woman was thirsty and looking for satisfaction in relationships. In contrast Jesus offers her true satisfaction which He alone offers us. The woman went back to town and told people to “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could this be the Messiah?” (v29). Many Samaritans became believers because of her testimony. Jesus came and stayed with them and they said “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world” (v42).
It is this same Jesus whom Paul (writing to Timothy) describes as “Christ Jesus our hope” (1:1) and then later says that they “labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people…” (4:10). Just over 24 years ago I came into a relationship with Jesus Christ, the hope and the Saviour of the World. He (said Jesus Himself) came to seek and to save that which was lost. If that is you I would love to chat with you about what it might mean to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.
Sharing Hope for the broken and hurting – This side of eternity, life it seems (amongst other things) is characterised by struggle, frustration, disappointment, sickness and loss. We live in a broken world still living out the consequences of the fall. Suffering is part and parcel of our daily lives as we await the return of Jesus Christ our Lord. Such suffering arises for a variety of reasons; sometimes of our own making (i.e. the direct consequences of our sin) and at other times without an obvious cause. Knowing what it is like to be in this place amidst the challenges our family have faced these past few years I know that the ‘answers’ we seek are often quite elusive for they rest with the divine purposes of our creator God whose ‘thoughts’ and ‘ways’ are above our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). So against my nature as someone who likes to ‘fix’ things, I endeavour to offer you no patronising solutions. Instead I invite you to experience the God who is working out His purposes for our good and His glory; the Father who is described as the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3-7), the Son who understands how we feel because He has been there in our place (Hebrews 4:15-16) and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and works to give assurance amidst our suffering (Romans 8:16-17).
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
Moreover the second part of these verses from Hebrews makes clear that in approaching the throne of grace we find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. Not only does Jesus sympathise when we suffer but He also provides the grace to stand up under it. Paul’s comment in 2 Corinthians about what the Lord told him when he was facing great suffering is very relevant once again here; “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (12:9). There is hope because Jesus gives us the grace to keep going.
Sharing Hope for the needy – Paul is no stranger to need, in fact he says that he knows what it is to experience both need and surplus. Yet he also says he has learned the secret of contentment; “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:12-13). Paul is so thankful for the gift they had sent him and his conclusion for them in return was that “God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (v19). Not so long ago some will know that the unexpected arrival of child number 5 got me very concerned about whether we would continue to all fit in our current 3 bedroom abode. That was January. Then came God’s unexpected and lavish provision of all that we needed to undertake work on our house to build a loft conversion. That was Easter through to early summer. Then came a feasible, well worked plan to implement the work which was completed in excellent time. That is where I am now sitting working in my new office area of our new 2nd floor bedroom which allows the kids to spread out downstairs. That any many other stories of God’s provision give me enormous hope whenever I face times of need. Hebrews encourages us accordingly; “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23). Truly He is faithful and whatever our situation will meet all our needs.
So I don’t know which of this scenarios you most identify with right now but I hope that you see that in each case Jesus is our ultimate hope. He is the Saviour of the World and came to seek and to save the lost. He is one who brings comfort and can truly understand what we are going through and provide the grace to stand up under it. He is the one who provides for our needs and helps us to be content whatever life brings our way.
A pointer to eternity – The above picture is of the Buttermere valley in the Lake District. I chose this picture (which I would have to admit is not my own) because for me it is a symbol of hope. The Lake District and the Sognefjord in Norway are both places which point me to my true home, Heaven. There is something about mountains which helps me to lift my eyes up and see that my help comes from the Lord (See Psalm 121).Wherever you are at right now be encouraged that there is hope, there is always hope. This hope has a name and that name is Jesus Christ. I would encourage you to hold onto whatever points you to the eternal future that awaits us.
If you don’t know Jesus for yourself let me encourage you to take the life-changing steps to get to know Him. If Jesus Christ is already your Lord then be encouraged that our hope is rooted in our eternal future with Him in the New Heavens and the New Earth.