6 August 2020

Dear Friends,

This extended time of uncertainty and stress due to Coronavirus is deeply wearying. And now I find myself shocked as I wake up to the images of that terrible explosion in Lebanon.

In all this, the Lord seems to have brought the word ‘hope’ to my attention. Perhaps it’s obvious, but our world really needs hope right now. And it’s Christians who can offer it.

In Joe’s recent mini-series on Ephesians 2, we see the dreadful alternative: to be “without God and without hope in the world”. Little wonder, mental health professionals and social workers are so worried for our world right now.

Positively, the author of the letter to the Hebrews describes Christian hope as “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure”. Spiritually, this hope has already entered the inner sanctuary, in God’s heavenly temple, taken there by Jesus, our great high priest, risen and ascended to God’s presence, forever. The author also makes the point that God doesn’t lie about this sort of thing (see Hebrews 6:17-20)!

So I have begun trying to meditate on our hope. Perhaps you might join me. The book of the New Testament that mentions it most is Romans. Here are some samples…

In Romans, chapter 5, Paul says that by trusting Jesus (not our good deeds) for our justification, we have peace with God. And we can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Then he adds, vv3-5:

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

I think it’s saying that hard times, rather than destroying our hope as we might expect, can actually increase it. Doug Moo says, “Hope, like a muscle, will not be strong if it goes unused.” But we have the Holy Spirit to help us hope in suffering, by reminding us of God’s love in Christ. That should build hope.

One key focus for our hope is the bodily resurrection of the dead. We say we believe this regularly in the Creeds. And we can do so with confidence because Jesus is risen. Here is Romans 8:22-25…

‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’

It’s on the basis of the resurrected future God promises us in the new creation, that Paul can write,

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” [Rom 12:12]

And he gives us a prayer we could pray for one another. Please pause to do so, right now!

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.” [Rom 15:13]

Hopefully, in Christ,
Sandy Grant
Senior Minister