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A Cry for Hope
It is public confession time. Let me level with you. In the past six months, I have been downcast. I’ve complained about people. I have grumbled about things. I have murmured, whined, nagged, and criticized in my heart. I have let little things bother me. I lost hope; more accurately, I have forgotten about hope. This is not good. Sure, I could give you a million reasons why I might be justified in being downcast; unplanned bills, cloudy skies, heart surgery, plantar fasciitis, unthankful people, being tired, blah blah blah blah. I’ve had a spell of melancholy. Not a depression that has kept me in bed with the covers pulled up; but one that has been more like something you see in a cartoon, a tiny “rain cloud over my head” kind of depression. Dumb. I know.
What is most bothersome is that I know I have things pretty good! I am one of the last people on this earth that should be complaining. I have seen true poverty and find I am not poor but rich. I have witnessed affliction and find I am not afflicted but most fortunate. I have a great wife. I have a ton of friends. I am thankful for my ministry. My material possessions exceed that of the majority of the world’s population. Really, what is my problem? Snap out of it.
Sin. My problem is sin. I have been unthankful, complaining, and self-centered. I have gone to lengths to hide my sin. As a husband and father, my lost hope affects the spiritual leadership of my family. As a member of the body of Christ, my lost hope spilled in to the church through sullen expressions, somber conversation, and completing tasks more from a sense of duty than of privilege and joy. I have encouraged people to follow after Christ to pursue joy knowing that my heart was far from being joyful. My sincere apologies to all. My hope is this, if I confess my sin God is faithful to forgive and cleanse me. If we confess our sins to one another, and pray for one another there is hope for being healed.
God tells us to set our mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. I need a major mind change, a renewing. I need a transformation of my thinking. What has happened is my hope has been deferred, delayed, because I have put my hope in the wrong things. I have put my hope in places that will never provide hope. Proverbs says hope deferred makes the heart sick.
Now what? What do I do about being in a foul mood? I need to repent. Repentance is more than being sorry for my sin, it means that I do something about it. I need to have a mind change, a new paradigm. I need to fight for my joy.
I know one thing for certain; I have only one place to turn. I need to dig into the Word of God, the Bible. Just as Simon Peter said to Jesus Christ 2000+ years ago, I say today, “where else can I turn, only Christ has the words of eternal life. Only Jesus Christ can fill the longings for joy that I have within. In His outstretched hands, He offers fruit from the tree of life. There is only one place I can stand to rid myself of being downcast, and that is at the foot of the cross. I read the words of a man that has stood at the foot of the cross, the Apostle Paul, and already I am greatly encouraged. He writes,
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; 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, 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, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” … “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Therein has been my problem. I have been looking at the things which are seen. My bad.
Perhaps you are reading this, and you find yourself in the same state of mind. May I encourage you to pray this prayer with me?
Lord God, restore my hope. Help me to find joy again. Restore unto me the joy of my salvation. Sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. You, Lord, do not delight in my “sacrifice of service or duty or money” if it is not done with a humble spirit. But, if I come to you with a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise my request. Have mercy on me.
What is God doing about Evil?
There are a number of ways to answer this question. My reply to the question of evil is simple, “read the Bible.” Perhaps the subtitle on the cover of every Bible should be, Jesus Christ Overcomes Evil. The entire Bible addresses the question of evil. God does not like evil, He hates evil, and He has a vested interest in doing something about evil. In fact, God radically address evil. This is what the Bible is all about; God addressing the problem of evil.
Think about this, evil results in death. Every evil action, even a seemingly mundane evil act like gossiping, has the ultimate outcome of death. This is why we all hate evil. Humans want to live forever, but we can’t because of evil. War is evil, it kills people. Violence is evil, it kills people. Stealing is evil; it results ultimately in hunger which kills people. Easier to argue is the antithesis; evil acts never result in giving life. Evil never helps us live longer. Goodness brings life, evil brings death.
How does God address evil? Jesus stared evil in the face. He literally took evil upon Himself; He absorbed it and let evil take His life. Jesus fully bore the death evil brings so we would not have to bear the outcome of our own evil. The Bible says Jesus became sin for us so we could be made right. We need to put our faith in Jesus, who He is and what He did. This is the Gospel. God gave His only begotten Son so whosoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life. Those that believe in Christ have the evil in their life eradicated.
After taking evil upon Himself, Jesus destroyed it completely. The evidence of this is Jesus rose from the dead. Christ continues to live with the power of indestructible life. Evil has no hold upon Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the “Firstfruit” of those who die; which means He is the first to rise in an immortal, indestructible body, and as such He heads a whole new order as its Sovereign. Jesus Christ brought everlasting life to a dying Creation infected by evil. The Apostle Paul proclaims Jesus Christ as firstborn from the dead. This means Jesus has all the rights and privileges of all that exists in eternal Creation.
The resurrection proves Christ’s victory over sin, evil, and death. The resurrection of Christ is why we have hope. The resurrection is the reason why evil does not shake our faith. We know evil has an end.
Without the resurrection, our view and thoughts regarding the events that take place around the world, the horror, the evil, we can easily be filled with despair. No words may sufficiently describe how evil impacts our lives. Human justice is unable to hand down adequate sentences for the evil we see committed. Besides; no human judge can restore life after evil steals it away. Without the resurrection, we are most miserable.
God has seen our need for a Savior from evil. We look at the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The power over sin and the hope of resurrection over death is the only adequate answer to provide peace of mind when it comes to the question of evil. Christ the Judge of the living and the dead and Christ is the giver of eternal life. He is our hope, our light in darkness. He has already judged evil.
People are looking for answers. The answer they need to hear, “evil, sin, destruction, and death do not have the last word.” Jesus is not finished speaking and Jesus has the last word. Evil and death are defeated by Jesus Christ. The grave is not the victor; death has lost its sting.
There is no place of darkness where the Prince of Glory may not shine His light. There is no door he cannot open. He has the keys to every kingdom and every domain. Every knee bows and every tongue confesses to Christ. He is supreme over all. Our Savior has first place over sickness and death. He has first place in everything.
Rejoice O, Christian Rejoice. Rejoice in the supremacy of Jesus over evil and death.
God’s Will in Christ Jesus & Perseverance of the Saints
The Apostle Paul told the Colossians a specific prayer he had for their church. The prayer was they “may be filled with the knowledge of His (God’s) will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding …” (Colossians 1:9).
God’s will is the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. This is known as giving Jesus Christ preeminence (first place) in all things. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess Jesus is Lord. God has put all things on earth in subjection to Christ; every dominion, tribe, kingdom, ruler, authority, and government is under His Lordship. All the principalities and powers of the heavens are subject to Christ’s rule as well. It is God’s perfect plan, and God’s good pleasure, in Christ all the fullness will dwell. Nothing will stand in the way to prevent God’s will from taking place.
The Apostle Paul desired Christians to understand God’s will fully, completely and practically. Paul understood how the knowledge of God’s will ought to shape and control the life of those that follow Christ. Our ambition, energy, words, accomplishments, and our response to every situation and circumstance we face (every function of our being) must always have the goal of exalting Christ. In even the most mundane, ordinary tasks of everyday life; Christ is to have first place. Anything and everything we do that is not Christ-like, not exalting Christ, not giving Jesus Christ first place; is outside of God’s will.
Paul told the Colossians an outcome of the prayer would be their being strengthened for perseverance (1:11). The strengthening would be with the same Holy Spirit power God anointed Christ with for ministry; declaring Him to be the Son of God with power; the power for Christ to do good, heal the sick, and cast out demons. It is the power strengthening the Gospel for salvation. It is the power raising us up on the last day.
Just as God wanted the Colossians to know His will, God wants us to also know His will. God also wants us to know as a result of this knowledge, we will be strengthened for all steadfastness and perseverance.
God grants tomorrow’s resurrection power today so we may persevere, overcome sin, walk in the Spirit and not the flesh, power to continue walking in Christ. God gives us this power, “according to His glorious might.” The Greek word used here by Paul means a “power able to overcome any resistance.” It is God’s miracle working power. Nothing may stand against God’s power. It “disarmed the rulers and authorities of darkness, and made a public display of them, having triumphed over them.” It is the power giving God the name, “Almighty God.” The power of almighty God to split the Red Sea, crumble the walls of Jericho, the power used to spin a tornado, and the power used to create the Universe and set it in motion, is working in us so we steadfastly and patiently persevere.
It is this almighty power of God keeping the saints steadfast in faith, even in the worst of circumstances; even the intense persecution described at the end of Hebrews 11: torture; destitute conditions; affliction; ill-treatment; wandering in deserts; mocking and scourging; chains and imprisonment; put to death with the sword; stoned; and being sawn in two.
The Saints in Christ are given this miraculous power to steadfastly continue in the faith, waiting patiently for God’s sure deliverance, never losing hope.
We cannot save ourselves and neither may we continue in our salvation on our own. It is only by the power of God we can continue in the faith. The Saints walking in Christ are not ill and weak Christians, but able to stand strong in every situation.
Why, because this is God’s will in Christ Jesus. Think about this. God has ordained a body of believers to be members of the body, with Christ as the Head. How does it bring Jesus Christ glory if He loses even one member? How is Christ preeminent if one, which God ordained elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), is lost along the way? Paul told the Philippians, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God purposes to complete each and every work of salvation that He begins. All the Father gives Christ, the Father keeps in Christ. The Body of Christ, the Church, the Bride, will be presented on the last day with EVERY member present, complete, to the glory of God.
God is our deliverer, nothing can snatch us out of His hand, and nothing can separate us from His love. His power cannot be overcome. God will not and cannot be defeated. Knowing God’s will, with all spiritual wisdom and understanding, allows us to face any circumstance and know we will be with Jesus someday. Knowing God, whose plans cannot be thwarted, is highly exalting the Son allows the Saints in Christ to see HOPE brightly shining in the darkest of nights.