Episode 1. Is Life Tearing You Apart?
Sometimes, it feels as though things in life are tearing us apart. But let me ask you – are you torn between this life and the next? Are you torn between living a full life here and now, and spending eternity with Jesus? If you’re not, you should be. It’s great to be starting a […]
Sometimes, it feels as though things in life are tearing us apart. But let me ask you – are you torn between this life and the next? Are you torn between living a full life here and now, and spending eternity with Jesus? If you’re not, you should be.
It’s great to be starting a new series on a subject that pretty much all of us are really interested in. Hope. I don’t know how much you’ve thought about it, but having hope for the future is fundamental to our wellbeing today.
Think about it, if you don’t have anything to look forward to, if you have no hope for the future then you and your life are, what we call, hopeless. And hopelessness – if you’ve ever been there – is the place where people start thinking about taking their own lives, because they have nothing left to live for. The future looks so bleak that they come to the conclusion – well, what’s the point.
I once read a book about a holocaust survivor, Victor Frankel and he makes the point so powerfully when he recalls an experience from the concentration camp. Have a listen to what he writes:
The prisoner who has lost faith in the future, his future was doomed. With his loss of belief in his future he also lost his spiritual hold. He let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate. We all feared this moment, not for ourselves which would have been pointless but for our friends.
Usually it began with a prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed and wash and to go out on the parade ground. No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any affect; he just lay there hardly moving. If this crisis was brought about by an illness he refused to be taken to the sick bay or to do anything to help himself. He simply gave up, there he remained lying in his own excrement and nothing bothered him anymore.
What a devastating picture of hopelessness. But a lack of hope in our lives takes many different forms. Sometimes, it’s not as desperate as that, it’s just that we have this … this numbness, because we’re so buried in the minutia. We worry about this and that … we worry about, well, just about everything really. Saw a great quote the other day on Twitter – that went something like this: Worry is nothing more than your imagination creating negative visions of the future.
It’s true isn’t it? We create all these negative snapshots of how things could turn out – as thought that’s any way to live your life. Hope is the complete opposite of that. Hope is about creating positive snapshots. It’s about a vision in our heads and our hearts, of a life that’s worth living.
And the sort of hope that God is in to, is the sort that makes a powerful difference in good times and bad. We don’t find it particularly difficult to have hope for the future when things are going well. The time we struggle, is when things aren’t going well. And it’s right in that place, that God wants to pour His hope into your life and mine. Romans 12:12:
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, persevere in prayer.
Did you pick it? God’s hope is right in there, next to, butted up against, tribulation – a word which in its original Greek language, literally means to have the life squeezed out of you. So, when you’re being squeezed, crushed, when it feels like your very life is draining out of you, it’s right there that God plans to give you His hope.
Our problem is that the hope that we’re all too often looking for is way, way too short-sighted. We hope that the pain will stop. We hope that the thing that’s causing us grief will go away. Not next month, not even next week, not even tomorrow. We want it fixed now. But it doesn’t always work that way. I can’t tell you the number of letters and emails I receive from people who’ve been suffering for a long time – some of them, a lifetime – and they want to know, “What the blazes is God up to?! How can I possibly have the hope that you’re talking about?” Those are eminently reasonable questions to be asking.
So let’s lift our gaze and take a much bigger, more expansive view of the sort of hope that God has for each one of us, by listening to the Apostle Paul who was going through his own tribulations, on death row in a Roman dungeon:
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. (Philippians 1:18-26)
So much hope does Paul have in the eternity that he is going to spend with Jesus, that instead of panicking about the consequences of being on death row, he’s actually torn – not between this and that in this life – but between continuing in this life, or moving on to the next. Just stop and think about that for a minute. Take a deep breath and let it sink in.
Paul has so wrapped His heart and His mind around the amazing eternity he is going to spend in the Presence of God, with Jesus – that he’s completely torn between finishing the course that God’s set for him on planet earth, and letting it come to an early end so he can be with Jesus.
So let me ask you this question? How different would your perspective on your life be, if you had that sort of hope filling your heart right now, tomorrow, the next day? Well, that’s precisely why we’re going to be talking about this hope – the hope we have in Christ for eternity – in this series that I’ve called Merchants of Hope.
Why have I called the series, “Hope Restored” – well quite simply for this reason. Because not only is every man, woman and child who believes in Jesus called to be filled with the same hope of eternity that Paul had, not only is it meant to make a powerful difference in our lives, it’s meant to impact the people around us.
Look at the needy people out there – your family, your neighbours, your friends, your work mates. Look at how many people are struggling through this and that; how many of them are in desperate need of real hope in a real future today.
Have a listen to the Apostle Paul again – Romans 15:13:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Just picture a life – your life – abounding in hope. Abounding, flooded, overflowing, with so much hope that you can’t contain it. With so much hope that it flows into the hearts and lives of those around you. With so much hope that eventually, they want to know what you’re on, because they want some too.
I believe that every Christ-follower is called to be a merchant of hope. Someone who shines the light of hope into the hearts of others. Because when they discover the hope that we have in our hearts, they’ll discover the One who put it there. Am I right? But before they can discover the hope that Jesus has for them, we ourselves need to be abounding in hope.
Well, that’s what this series of messages over the next couple of weeks is all about. I believe that the Jesus who died for you and rose again to bring you newness of life, want you to be abounding in hope; torn between this life and the next.
I believe that it’s time to stop being so myopic and short-sighted in our hope, and wrap our hearts around the eternity Jesus has planned for us. Are you ready?