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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hope in Christ Changes Your Life

Hope in Christ Changes Your Life

My neighbor Suzie, died last week. The light in her window is out now and her house is dark.  For the last thirteen years we have been neighbors and the flickering light from her television set has been on day and night. Over the years when I would wake at any hour of the night and glance outside I would always see her window lit up from the light of her television screen. Year after year she lay in bed watching television and talking about how she wanted to die.

Doctors treated Suzie for depression and told her that she was in good health.  They encouraged her to get out of bed and exercise and go out with friends. But Suzie complained that all was hopeless and that she was too old to get out of bed. She lived with her son and a maid came regularly to clean. Several of her daughters lived nearby and visited often and her ex-husband came by to do chores for her. Everyone tried to cheer her up but Suzie continued complaining that her life wasn’t worth living.

Neighbors brought Suzie food and invited her out, but she usually refused the food and the invitations.  I invited her to come with us to church, but she fussed that church goers are all hypocrites.  As the years went by she became more bitter and angry at her world.  Feeling sorry for herself she began showering guilt and criticism on family members and neighbors and on anyone who dared to come near her, driving many away.  

Finally, last week Suzie telephoned some of her friends and family members and told each of them “Goodbye”. She assured each one that she had no reason to live. And then that very night she went to sleep and never woke up.  Her son found her the next morning, dead in her bed. She had wanted to die for so long and finally she had gotten her wish.  Did she take her own life by overdosing on sleeping pills?  No one knows for sure. Family and neighbors (myself included) feel like we have failed her.  I sadly look across the street at her window that has finally gone dark and wonder if I could have done more to give hope to this woman so nearby who felt so hopeless for so long.

The Bible says: “Without hope (a vision) the people perish…”  (Proverbs 29:18)   How many people like Suzie are also struggling with feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide?  We Christians have the hope of salvation in Christ and we have been called upon by God to share that glorious hope to our world. (Matthew 16:15)   Scripture says: “The fields are ready to be harvested, but the laborers are few…” (Matthew 9:37, Luke 10@, John 4:35) Here in our scripture, the “fields” that are ready to be harvested represent people who are looking for hope.  These people are ready for us (the laborers) to bring them the hope we have in Christ.  Not just any hope will do but hope in Christ. We humans cannot live without hope. Hope is to the soul what oxygen is to the lungs. 

When we put our hope on other people, they can disappoint us.  And when we count on our money to take care of our needs, it can be stolen and our stocks and bonds can lose their value. When we trust in our good health, it can fail us at any time. The things of this world can let us down.  But when we put our hope on God in Christ, He will never let us down!  Scripture says: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  (Colossians 1:27)   God promises his followers: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)   and ‘Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion which can never be shaken but endures forever.” (Psalm 125:1)

We may ask how can we prove that God is real so that we can put our trust in Him?   Consider this: -If God could be seen through a telescope or under a microscope, He would not be the Almighty God proclaimed in His Word.  He is the Creator and as such God cannot be studied in the same way as His creation!  If we humans could understand the God of the universe, He wouldn’t be the God of the universe.

 Scripture says that we need to “see” God with the eyes of faith and hope and that God gives each of us a “measure” of hope and faith in Him.  But we can close our hearts and refuse that “measure” of hope that we have been given. (Romans 12:3)   It is a mystery but if you will step out and believe in the God who is there, you will find that God is there for you.  God will give you that saving faith in Him if you ask Him for it.  It is God’s will that everyone have faith in Him and live.  (2 Peter 3:9)  Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God.”  (Hebrews 11:6)  Hope and faith are a mystery but if we open ourselves to believe in God, we will believe in God.  It’s that simple!   

Romans 8:24-25 says: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”   Another Scripture hints at this truth.  “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:18) And Hebrews 11:1 states: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
One of the Bible scriptures that shows us a sneak preview of the end of the age when Jesus Christ comes again in glory, never fails to give us hope: “Listen, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep (die) but we will all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead in Christ will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  (Our dead bodies that only lasted a lifetime will now be changed into bodies of life that will last for eternity.) Then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O Death is your victory? And Where O Death is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God who gives us the hope and the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Hebrews 11 is called by some the “Hall of Fame of Faith” chapter because it lists and honors many of the great men and women of faith we read about in the Bible.  God used about half of these people who had great faith in Him to perform great miracles and heal many.  But the other faithful half are still waiting for God to answer their prayers. Scripture says: “These (half) were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.  God has planned something better for them so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”  (Hebrews 11:39-40)

In Hebrews 11 some of the believers in God received what they were promised, while others didn’t – at least not here on earth.  Why didn’t they?  How do we handle it when we have prayed for decades for something we know God would want and the prayer is still not answered?  We know that with God nothing is impossible. (Luke 1:37)  Ah, the mystery of prayer!  The answer to these questions is that God always answers our prayers.  But some of our prayers may be answered on the other side.  Sometimes our hopes and dreams don’t seem to be working out here on earth.  But in eternity, all of our hope is realized. 





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