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Thought

The God of hope

As a new year and a new decade begin our world is a troubled place. Perhaps you have thought carefully before wishing family and friends a happy new year because you sense the coming year may be not be altogether happy. Increased tensions in the Middle East suggest there are turbulent times ahead. The bush fires in Australia continue to rage and make us all aware of the consequences of climate change. The increasing global influence of China and Russia brings new challenges. In many places in Africa there is conflict, drought, disease and poverty. Personally, family life may not be easy. We, or other family members and friends, may be facing serious illness or the challenges of living longer.

So where is hope to be found? When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome he said, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Paul himself, and the Christians in Rome, knew what it was to suffer. The Roman Empire was cruel and severely punished those it disapproved of, especially Christians. Soon after Paul wrote this letter, he became a prisoner and was later beheaded by the Roman authorities. In 64 AD Emperor Nero blamed Christians for a great fire in Rome. Innocent Christians were nailed to crosses, torn apart by dogs the arena, and set on fire to provide evening lights.

However, Paul and the Christians knew that whatever happened to them in this life they had a sure future hope because they trusted in the living God who is “the God of hope.” They and their loved ones were powerless to stand against the unjust persecution they faced, but they were safe in the hands of God. Knowing God gave them a true peace and joy even in the face of the most terrible adversities and their hope even overflowed. They knew that whatever happened to them in this world they were safe in the care of Jesus and would one day go to be with him in heaven for ever.

One Sunday evening a Christian minister went to visit one of his members who was very seriously ill in hospital. Another Christian in the same ward overheard their conversation. The sick man said to his minister, “They’ve told me there’s no hope.” The minister replied, “Dear brother, from now on it’s all hope!” That’s what it means when we trust “the God of hope.”

Categories
Thought

Hope for the Future

It is a beautiful autumn morning. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. The evenings are noticeably colder and there have been a few slight frosts. The summer is passing and the winter is approaching. Another year will soon be over.

The passing seasons remind us that time is always moving and our little lives pass by so quickly. Those who are older say that, for them, it seems as if time passes even more quickly than it used to. It is only too easy to look backwards and to wish that we could regain our youth or return to the happiest days of our lives. But there is no way back. It is to the future that we are travelling. We cannot stop the world and get off.

One of the recurring themes of the Bible is hope for the future. At the beginning of time, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and were sent from his immediate presence, God gave a wonderful promise, which pointed forward to the coming of Jesus. A man born of the woman’s line would reverse the defeat and disaster of Eden and win a great victory for his people. When the Jewish people were facing 70 years of painful exile in Babylon, God gave them a promise to hold on to. “I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

The last night before he went to the Cross Jesus spoke to his disciples about his resurrection and told them, “you will see me again.” He also told them that he was going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house and promised, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

God is the source of all hope. In Jesus he broke into the apparent futility of this world to give us a future and a hope. Trusting in him we know the best is yet to come. There is a place where there is no night, no pain, no tears, no parting, and no death. There God dwells with his people in blissful and unending blessing. We have his word for it.