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Jamie Johnson
3 January 2013

Where is the Hope?

A year has passed and a new year is upon us. At this time, we look at what has occurred over the past year and anticipate what will happen in the next. Sometimes we look at the past year's events, which will be etched in history - good and bad. Some make resolutions for the year to come while others simply anticipate what is to come.

We have a Christmas tradition that we began the other year where we write on a piece of wrapping paper and offer up to Jesus what we want to give Him in the coming year. I chose to give Jesus my hope. I want Him to be the source of my hope, not a circumstance, not a declaration, not who is or is not elected, not sensationalism.

Back in 1994, the late Chuck Colson stated the following in the introduction to Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Heaven in the Real World":

"Where is the hope? I meet millions of people who feel demoralized by the decay around us. The hope that each of us has is not in who governs us, or what laws we pass, or what great things we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people. And that's where our hope is in this country. And that's where our hope is in life."

It is easy to become cynical and demoralized by what has occurred around us. From small things to large things, we see a broken world. Just read the headlines. The media sensationalized the Mayan calendar and some panicked over that while ignoring the Word of God. I read recently that 60,000 have died in Syria. We read about increased godlessness in our own culture. It seems that every other week, there is an abduction or murder. There was a murder a few days after Christmas just up the road from where I live. And how can we forget the tragic murders of those who died in Newtown, Connecticut. And most recently, I read an Associated Press article about bullet-proof clothing for children to protect them at school, many clients being in the United States. Can you imagine having to send a child to school in bullet-proof clothing? Some are doing just that! I can understand why people may lack hope when they look at our world, when they look at the circumstances.

Some choose to shake their fists at God and ask, "Why?" in anger as a response to the brokenness in this world. In his book Why Does God Allow It?, the late A.E. Wilder-Smith mentions how he admired the great architecture of the cathedral in Cologne before World War II. However, by 1946, this great cathedral had been bombed (along with the rest of Cologne), and he saw it was full of holes and in shambles. Smith points out that this was not the architect's or builder's fault. Likewise, we must accept the fact that we live in a broken world, a fallen world. And it is a result of the Fall that results in such atrocities as Newtown. Rather than shaking our fists at God, we need to run to Him.

In Things People Should Never Say They Never Heard at Your Church, Kevin DeYoung writes about things that every Christian should know. One of them is "Christians suffer." How many of you suffer? Some buy into the lie that Christianity is the key to the easy life, free of hardship and pain. That is false. While what awaits the Christian is Heaven without tears or pain, in this fallen world, there will be hardship and pain. Jesus even said this in John 16:33 (NASB):

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

There is trouble, but there is hope in that He has overcome the world. I remember a college buddy of mine had a drawing of Jesus hanging on his dorm room wall with the following words: "I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it." Do you have that sentiment? Do you agree that no matter how hard this life is, that following Jesus is worth it?

The Scripture is real about suffering in 2 Corinthians 1:3-10 (NASB), but also full of hope:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort."

"For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many."

And later in that Epistle in chapter 4:8-12, Paul wrote of the reality of suffering, but listen to the hope therein:

"we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you."

And by verse 17, the Scripture states, "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" (NASB).

Do you have that hope? Do you have the hope that the afflictions you face now are momentary, light, and if you are in Christ, that an eternal glory awaits you that outweighs it all? Do you have the hope that is in Jesus Christ? I remember when The Passion of the Christ was in theaters and our church showed a trailer for the movie, which showed the resurrected Jesus on the shore. The pastor joked that he did not mean to ruin the ending of the movie for us. Why did he joke? Because he knew that we already knew the ending of the film. He knew that we knew and know that Jesus is alive, that Christ the Lord is risen! Do you know that? Do you trust that?

The late Chuck Colson's question, "Where is the hope?" still echoes today. The fact is, we are all sinners and sin separates man from God. There is nothing in and of ourselves that we can do to please God. We are tainted with sin. Whether big or small, we have sin. However, God had a plan. He sent Jesus, His Son, to be our substitute on the Cross to remove the power of sin. He was buried. And then what? He rose again, offering us new life in Him, clothed in His righteousness -- our sin for His righteousness. Psalm 20:7 (NIV) states, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." In what or whom are you placing your hope? Is it in circumstances, in people, or is it in Jesus Christ?

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