A Different Hope

What are you hoping for? What are your big hopes?

I find hope to be a very interesting idea. It’s about looking forward to good things or better times even though we don’t yet see any evidence of the object of our hope. Sometimes we can be in a dark place but hope says there’s something better on the way.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
– Desmond Tutu

Most of the time when we talk about hope it really is a desire or wish for something to happen. That desire can be stronger at some times more than others and there can be a higher possibility of that desire being fulfilled at times, but it’s still looking ahead with a desire that may or may not come to pass.

When we say, “I hope this year is better than last year”, we’re stating a desire for something good but we have no way of knowing if that will be the case. Maybe the year will be worse.

If someone says, “I hope I won’t lose my job.” It’s possibly because they see that things are tough and their job isn’t certain. They have a desire that their job will continue but we’re not sure.

There are a lot of desires that we express in terms of hope.

“I hope the weather stays nice this afternoon.”

“I hope the economy improves soon.”

“I hope the West Coast Eagles can win the premiership this year.”

There is a different kind of hope.

The kind of hope that we find in the Bible is different. When we put our hope in God we are certain of the outcome. It’s not about wishing for something that may or may not happen. God has provided certainty through the gift of his son Jesus.

Biblical hope is not a mere desire for something good to happen. It is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. Biblical hope has moral certainty in it. When the word says, “Hope in God!” it does not mean, “Cross your fingers.” It means, to use the words of William Carey, ‘Expect great things from God.”
– John Piper

The Bible tells us that we are born again to a hope that is alive. The hope that we as followers of Jesus have is the hope of eternal life together with our saviour. It’s a hope that keeps us alive, supports us, motivates us and drives us forward.
 
It’s a hope that invigorates and spurs our souls to action, to patience, to perseverance to the end.
 
But there’s more to it. It’s a hope that comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and it comes with an inheritance. This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
– 1 Peter 1:3-9

This kind of hope doesn’t ignore our dark days or the difficulties we face, instead it looks them in the face and says that all those trials cannot compare to what is ahead of us. That’s real hope.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peter talks in the Bible about the various trials that test the genuineness of our faith. He talks about our faith being precious but says that it will be tested.
 
There’s a rejoicing that comes despite circumstances because we have this living hope. It’s more than a desire for things to be different. It’s more than hoping that better times are around the corner. It’s a confidence and an expectation that there’s something better waiting for us.
 
This kind of living hope works in us despite our surroundings, trials and circumstances.
 
The passage from Peter wraps up saying, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
 
So right in the middle of testing and trials, this living hope, grounded in Jesus Christ, his work on the cross and resurrection, lets us rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.
 
This living hope bubbles up and overflows because we are certain of the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
 
This kind of Biblical hope is so different to the kind of hope the world offers.

If your hopes have been dashed again and again, can I encourage you to cling to a different kind of hope … a living hope.

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Going the Distance

It seemed like a strange thing to do for a young man who had never really been interested in any kind of sport. Riding over four and a half thousand kilometres across Australia was surely the domain of fanatical cyclists yet there I was, an overweight guy in my mid-twenties getting ready to pedal from Perth to Canberra with around a dozen other cyclists.

That was thirty years ago.

Thankfully I made the distance and loved it so much I did the same fund-raising ride the following year. Two years after that I cycled from Perth to Adelaide. Some years later I also undertook rides from Perth to Sydney and then from Perth to Hobart.

So far I’ve cycled across the Nullarbor five times.

I’ve tackled the ride in my twenties, thirties and forties but I haven’t attempted it in my fifties. That all changes next year when, at the age of 55, I’ll be back on my bike for another crossing of our wide, brown land. The thought of taking to the roads again both terrifies and thrills me.

So, what’s getting me back on my bike after all these years? For the last three and a half years I’ve been working for Compassion, a Christian international holistic child development organisation.

I’ve visited Compassion’s work in 7 of the 25 developing countries we serve and I’ve met many children living in extreme poverty who are being released from poverty in Jesus’ name. I recall the faces of children like little Ammanuel in Ethiopia as his mother stood in the small room with its dirt floor that is their home.

She told me through her tears that neither of them would still be alive today if it weren’t for Compassion. That compels me to do whatever I can to bring hope to more children.

The Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will see around 25 cyclists and their support crew travel over 4300 kilometres from Perth, Western Australia to Newcastle, New South Wales. There’ll be 28 days of riding an average of just over 150 kilometres with the biggest days reaching almost 200 kilometres.

There’s no denying that my ageing body won’t find the journey as easy as it did thirty years ago but I’m looking forward to cycling into Newcastle in October next year.

I’m still looking for some team members, both cyclists and support crew, who might like to join me on what will be an amazing adventure. So, if you’re looking to stretch yourself and to make a difference for the most vulnerable people in our world, children living in poverty, get in touch either through my Contact Page, leave a comment on this post, or head to the Ride for Compassion page. Registrations are now open.

Compassion’s programs are delivered in partnership with local churches. These local congregations can best identify the specific needs of children in their community, supporting them through every stage of life, bringing lasting change to their families and communities. While Compassion is a distinctly Christian organisation, they assist children and their families living in poverty regardless of their beliefs, gender or background.

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Useless Faith

It all stands or falls on this. There’s no middle ground. Jesus’ life isn’t simply an object lesson on living well.

The faith of many millions over centuries hinges on the resurrection that Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday (and throughout the year). If that one moment in history didn’t happen then our faith is a complete farce.

In a letter that he wrote to the church at Corinth a couple of thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul claims that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the whole Christian faith is useless and all the world’s Christians are poor suckers who should be pitied.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Paul’s saying that the idea of Jesus being a good teacher who said some interesting things isn’t an option. He’s telling us that the whole Christian belief rests on the crucifixion and resurrection being historical fact.

For many, that’s too much of a stretch to believe. How can it be true that someone could be brutally killed yet return to life three days later?

But imagine for a moment that it is true. That would mean that death doesn’t have to be the end because it has been beaten at its own game.

We’ve all been inspired by the lives of others, even knowing that they have died or will at some stage die. Once they’re gone the story of their life, their trials and triumphs continue to influence and motivate us. Surely the story of someone who even triumphed over death itself should give rise to even greater admiration and inspiration … but of course only if the story of them defeating death is true.

When we look at the evidence, the truth of the resurrection emerges very clearly as the best explanation. There is no other theory that even come close to accounting for the evidence. Therefore, there is solid historical grounds for the truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. – Matt Perman

In his article, Historical Evidence for the Resurrection, Matt Perman takes a brief look at some of the reasons that many people over the past two thousand years have believed that Jesus rising from the dead isn’t just a nice story, it’s fact.

I don’t have time for a useless faith.

I’m not prepared to believe fairy tales and so while many will scoff and think I must be crazy, I will say that I believe that death has lost its sting because God raised his son Jesus from the dead.

That’s what I’ll be celebrating today and for all eternity.

I pray that you’ll take time to consider the significance of the Easter story this Resurrection Sunday.

The good news is that God, out of His love, became man in Jesus Christ in order to pay the penalty for sinners. On the cross, Jesus died in the place of those who would come to believe in Him. He took upon Himself the very death that we deserve. The apostle Paul says “He was delivered up because of our sins.” But the apostle Paul goes on to say “He was raised to life because of our justification.” Paul is saying that Christ’s resurrection proves that His mission to conquer sin was successful. His resurrection proves that He is a Savior who is not only willing, but also able, to deliver us from the wrath of God that is coming on the day of judgment. The forgiveness that Jesus died and rose to provide is given to those who trust in Him for salvation and a happy future. – Matt Perman

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Betrayed

We’ve all been let down. People close to us have hurt us. We’ve been disappointed by those we thought we could depend upon.

Have you ever come to a moment of great need and found yourself alone? Have you had to face trials on your own while those who have previously pledged their friendship and loyalty have scattered?

That’s the kind of thing we remember on Good Friday. Imagine facing the following scenario on your own.

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. – Mark 15:15-20

The most amazing thing in all of this is that amidst the torture, the pain, the horror of a barbaric death, Jesus was thinking of others. He even prayed for forgiveness for those who had caused his pain. I don’t know about you but I tend to get angry when someone causes me pain or discomfort. I can forgive them later, but at the time I can get pretty annoyed. Jesus was still in the middle of being tortured to death while he was offering forgiveness. Makes the ‘injustices’ I suffer seem fairly inconsequential.

Incredibly, he even promised forgiveness to a common criminal who was suffering the same fate that he was. There were two criminals being slaughtered alongside Jesus. One hurled insults. One asked to be remembered by Jesus. The one who asked to be remembered could see beyond the grave. He could see that death was not the end. He talked about Christ entering his kingdom. Jesus promised him a direct trip to paradise.

A lot of pictures that depict the life of Jesus show him as an otherworldly kind of figure, detached from the worries of our day to day lives. It’s good to remind ourselves that he knew what it was like to suffer pain and betrayal of the worst possible kind.

Even if you’re the kind of person who really can’t identify with Jesus, it may help you to remember that he can certainly identify with us and everything we’re facing.

The greatest news is that the betrayal and suffering of Good Friday was not the end. Sunday was coming; a day that would change our world forever.

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Well, that was weird

I was ushered into an incredibly bright room and removed my clothing … well most of it. The fact that the doctor that I had only just met was very good at creating friendly conversation didn’t make it feel any less awkward.

I lay on the examination table while he used even brighter lights to examine every millimetre of my skin. In his hand was a camera that he would hold above any spots or marks that he wanted to see more clearly. Those tiny spots would then be greatly magnified and displayed in living colour across his supersized flat screen TV.

Approximately, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, with more than 750,000 people treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year. Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common in men, with almost double the incidence compared to women. – Cancer Council

After asking me about a small, scaly piece of skin on my left forearm, the doctor grabbed his liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy a small keratosis. It was harmless but left too long it could have developed into something very serious.

Apart from that one small issue I was given the all clear.

What a sense of relief.

Until that point I had no idea if I had anything lurking on my skin that could do me immense harm or even take my life, yet still I had never taken the time to get a skin cancer check. I always knew that I should but just didn’t.

I must admit that the weirdness of stripping down and having someone getting that close and personal was a bit of a demotivater. Even the thought that there could have been something, that left unattended, could kill me, failed to fully motivate me to get checked out. I didn’t want my body to be put under the bright, unflattering lights of the skin clinic.

It probably won’t surprise you that it was actually my wife who made the appointment for me. Of course she asked if that was OK but it was her initiative.

So here I am, a 53 year old Australian male who spends a fair bit of time cycling around with exposed skin, avoiding the opportunity to have someone examine me thoroughly. Talk about ridiculous. While I was busy avoiding my own embarrassment, there could have been something silently killing me.

I think many of us live our lives like that. We avoid the kind of examination that could save our lives.

There are often actions, thoughts and habits in our lives that we try to ignore because we don’t want to have to deal with what might really be happening. We don’t want to be put under the light even though that kind of examination could save our lives.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. – John 3:20

I had a keratosis that could have developed into something worse but by being put under the harsh white light of the examination room, it’s now dealt with and I can get on with life. Am I prepared to put the rest of my life under that kind of scrutiny, knowing that I’ll be able to have someone deal with whatever they find or will I stubbornly continue with that constant, low-level sense that things are not quite right.

If skin cancer is left untreated too long, you’ll eventually know it’s there … and not in a good way. If those areas of our lives that don’t measure up are left without examination, they’ll eventually come to light … and certainly not in a good way.

For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. – Luke 8:17

The true story of Easter is that God not only wants to examine our lives but to deal with those issues that can bring our destruction. He has offered a way to be rid of whatever entangles us through the life, death and resurrection of His son Jesus.

Easter tells us that our past doesn’t have to determine our future.

What the Bible calls sin, our desire to live contrary to God’s direction for our lives, has consequences.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

The free gift we are offered from God means that whatever our past holds, it can be dealt with completely through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And Easter isn’t just about cancelling the debt of sin, it’s about restoring relationship with the one who created the universe. Rather than seeing God as an old man waving his finger at us in disapproval, we get to know God as a friend through Jesus Christ.

That’s why we celebrate Easter. The debt that we’ve incurred can be completely cancelled. Our past can be over, our future can be secure and we can be directly connected to the one who would hold nothing back for us, not even His own son.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

After my initial misgivings, I felt secure letting a doctor shine a light on anything that needed to be treated because I know that he wants to deal with things that could cause me a great deal of harm.

This Easter, maybe it’s time to let God shine a light into your life, knowing that He wants to lovingly and completely deal with things that can cause us ultimate harm.

My prayer is that this will be an Easter that you can truly celebrate.

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