The Washington Post made a powerful statement the week of August 5 about mass shootings in the United States by printing the names of every victim killed by such acts since 1966. “Eleven hundred ninety-six,” the newspaper tweeted with an image of the list. “That’s the number of names on this page. People who were doing ordinary things until they were shot to death by killers bent on mass fatalities.”
These past few days we ask ourselves, “How can there be such horror and devastation in the world today, and as Christians, what are we to do with all of this...?
Many of us have experienced times and situations where Hope was lost. Can you remember the last time that happened to you? There are SO many Biblical references of hope lost -- and hope restored! For example, the Israelites wandered in the desert, Jeremiah’s lamentations of sorrow and grief, and even Good Friday, our remembrance of the ultimate day of despair, when sin colored the world and evil seemed to triumph. But even then, Hope was restored!
What does Hope feel like? What is it? Hope isn’t a flat line – in fact, it can be a roller coaster! From Isaiah – “Hope is near” - Christ has come… “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 NIV). And, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honor Galilee of the nations…” (Isaiah 9:1 NIV).
We can experience tremendous physical and emotional pain – and we can be lost – It is the “Hope -- but not yet”; Hope is what is “hoped for – but it is ‘not yet!’”. We haven’t experienced the fullness of God -- BUT Scripture reminds us that with faith -- WE WILL! Remember the story of the woman in Mark who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years? The woman was able to simply touch Jesus’ clothes and “But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:32-34). Sometimes we just “tap out” as humans, and when we’re in our “Emotional ICU”, Hope and faith bring us back from pain and despair.
Our Hope is that God is with us; God is real and “on the move!” Not only do we hope and show our own faith, but we are reminded that our God is faithful to us! “Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-26 NIV). His faithfulness to us is Hope rekindled: “Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:12 NIV)
And from the refrain of one of our greatest Hymn’s, our Hope derived from “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Our faith tells us that even in the horror and depth of despair of these terrible worldly events, we are never alone, and that our future is one of incredible joy and promise. Hope is not lost for Christians: There’s no running from you, Your love is present everywhere I go, I will hold to the Truth, That your’re the God, Who won’t ever let go (lyrics from Hope is Not Lost; Willow Worship).
What is on the Amazon Wish List of your heart? All of these will come true one day with hope and faithfulness! In these tough and tumultuous worldly times, strive to encounter God - that is what He wants for us! Can we ever overflow with hope? Yes! “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” (Romans 15:13)
“… and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NIV, abbreviated).
In His name,
Ted Lithgow, Ruling Elder - HOPE Church Raleigh
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