Hope


Who has ascended to heaven and come down?

Who has gathered the wind in his fists?

Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?

Who has established all of the ends of the earth?

What is his name, and what is his son’s name?

Surely you know!

Proverbs 30: 4

 

The answers to these questions might seem obvious to most of us who are reading them in the context of Christian faith. Even that last question in the series readily calls forth the response, Jesus, the Son of God. Yet, we know that the writer of this proverb did not have that answer in mind when he set out these words. He was probably indicating the fact that everything in this list of actions was something that only God could possibly accomplish; so, no human, whether father or son, can do the things that God has done in creating this world and in engaging in its operation. The wonders of this world are far too great to be the workmanship of mere humans, and the remarkable and intricate way that it all continues to do so is utterly outside of the capability of our chaos devising hands. But that is not all.

 

God’s Word is complex and multi-layered. There is meaning and content present within it that often takes us beyond the intent of the human author and into the heart and the mind of God, Himself, as the inspirational and the creative force behind the crafting of the words. All of these questions involve existence, the world as it was on the day that they were first written and the world as it has continued to be over the time since. I think that they also suggest the possibility of the future. They enter into God’s promise of redemption and restoration for all of Creation. All of the elements of this world that are set forth after the first question in this series and before the last one are subject to the brokenness in this world that has come about as a result of our sinful rebellion against God. All of these things which were proclaimed as good by God have become dangerous and harmful in various ways and at certain times.

 

Yet, there is a Holy God who seeks to bring all of His created world into the safety and the security of His presence. We can know this God by coming to accept and to know His Son, Jesus Christ. There is redemption to be gained in this relationship with the Father through the Son, and we can know the deep peace that comes into existence within our souls when we yield our lives to Christ and follow His will for the conduct of our days. Then, the God who manages wind and the waters of the seas and who has set into place all of the corners of the planet that we stand upon enters into the minute details of our lives and grants to us His love, grace, wisdom, and perfect will so that the life that we are living is one that now possesses the presence of the divine and is filled with the glory of that presence in all situations and circumstances. God the Father is the great creator, the Son is the perfect redeemer, and the Spirit dwells with us to grant us all knowledge of our God and to guide us into the absolute wisdom of His Word.

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And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say just as the Father has told Me.

John 12: 50

 

The primary reason that Jesus was sent by God, the Father, to live among us on earth was to provide a direct, simple, and understandable way to change from the sin-riddled people that we were into ones who were suitable to spend our lives in the presence of God in all of His perfect righteousness. Jesus is the complete expression of who God is, His words provide us with God’s thoughts regarding life that was being lived in the moment; for, as Jesus encountered situations and responded to the people that He met, He spoke God’s truth about living righteously in those times. Still, although spoken in that moment 2,000 years ago, those thoughts are also completely true to this day.

 

God’s truth is eternal, and it is totally contemporary. His words of wisdom and of understanding apply to everyone, and they speak to absolutely every situation and circumstance that life brings our way. Everything that Jesus said and did was a part of a great master plan that God had devised from the beginning of time to bring His people out of the oppression that evil has held us under and into freedom for our souls and for our bodies. Thus, it is necessary to know Jesus in order to have that freedom, and when we do truly know Jesus, we gain eternity.

 

Just as Jesus was commanded by the Father to speak and to live out God’s truth, people who know Him are also commanded to do the same. We can truly know God by living inside of His word and by seeking its direction and wisdom in all areas of life. The more we seek to follow God in everything, the more intimate our relationship with Him will become; then, His mind begins to take over more of our thinking. When this happens, we are doing what Jesus did in that we are bringing eternity into our world, and we are also bringing some small portion of this world closer to its eternal redemption in Christ.

 

 

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5: 5, 6

 

All of life involves waiting and hoping. Early on, we wait for an age or a time when we will be old enough to do certain things, and we hope that when we get there that the anticipated event or permission will be worth the energy expended in that anticipation. Later on, we wait and hope for that perfect person to enter our world and complete our life, and we search and hope for the great job or the dream house or other tangible signs of achievement in this world. Following Christ and committing one’s life and its course to Him should have a real and a tangible influence on all of this, but it doesn’t eliminate the fact that we still wait and hope. The desires that we wait upon and the reason for our hopefulness are just changed, and this is something that happens over time and at a pace that is more of God’s choosing than of ours.

 

In Christ these various worldly things, even the most significant or important of them, hold little meaning in and of themselves. In Christ the only thing that does matter is the nature and the quality of the life that we live, and this is a life that is fully submitted to God’s will and ordered under the direction and the authority of Christ. Most of us struggle in this area of the reason for our waiting and the object of our hope. The idea of full submission to anything or to anyone is hard for us to engage with and even harder to actually do. We want to retain control, and we desire to select the order of priority of our hopes, dreams, and objectives in life. So, surrendering all of this to Christ and doing it in the absolute and irrevocable manner that He demands of us is not something that we do readily. Thus, this very foundational aspect of our spiritual lives becomes another element in which we are required to hope and wait.

 

Yet, over time and through patient faith, the Spirit works within us to give us the required understanding of Christ and of His will for our lives and to provide us with the strength and the will to proceed along its course with ministry to Christ and to His Gospel message of love, peace with God, and eternal hope as the principle thing that our lives are committed to serving. With our hearts and minds so oriented toward Christ, all other masters and priorities become secondary in importance, and the goals that we set out for our days are established in light of those things that matter most to God. In light of this economy we can wait on Christ’s transformative work to have effect in people’s lives, we can hope and pray for Christ to work miracles in situations and circumstances that seem beyond all possibility, and we can continue get back up when we sinfully fail and fall down, for we know that Christ is continuing to perfect His lovingly devised good work in us in the certain hope of our eternal home in glory with Him.

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

Luke 18: 16

 

On the surface of it all, it would seem that Jesus liked children. Now I think that He probably did enjoy them. Although, He had none of His own, it is easy for me to envision Jesus playing with a group of children, telling them stories, and comforting them when they fell and were scraped and bruised. All of that seems reasonable, and it all fits into my image of how God views the behaviors of children, too. The Lord delights in the simple innocence that they bring to much of what they do, and He also is overjoyed when that innocence in life transitions into a simple and easy faith in God, Himself. God is fully aware of just how much harder in becomes to have faith in Him as we gain in years and grow in the depth of our human understandings. The knowledge and the experience that we acquire tends to get in the way of accepting Christ based upon faith alone.

 

So, Jesus wanted to have the opportunity to engage with the young ones who had not become too wise and gained worldly understanding that was greater than their own good. They were easier to talk with about living in the manner that God desires for us to live. They were open to having their lives shaped by God’s Law as they gave themselves over to following the Lord in all aspects of life. Unfortunately, this sort of total and absolute surrender becomes ever more difficult for us as we become older, for then we believe that we know better than do others, including God, and we think that we have too much to lose in surrendering our lives to Christ. All of this is untrue; yet, this is the sort of thinking that holds people back from entering into a relationship with Christ, and this is also a part of what keeps those of us who already know Him from opening up and yielding all of ourselves to the transformative work of the Spirit.

 

In fact, we do not need to be young in years in order to come to Christ and to enter into a full and complete relationship with Him; however, it helps greatly if we have an attitude of youthful enthusiasm for Christ and for His Word and if we can set aside complex reasoning and simply accept eternal truth as being real, valid, and absolute. There come times in all of our lives when we must enter into this sort of surrender. We will all encounter situations and conditions in life that are beyond our ability to reason them out or to think our way to a satisfactory conclusion. The necessity of faith is inevitable, for we all will come to a place where the only option available to us is the one where we come to Jesus and let Him give us the comfort, care, and strength that we need to continue on through the day. There will be a time when everyone needs to be like a little child in the presence of the One who loves us beyond this life and into eternity.

 

My heart is in anguish within me;

the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest;

yes, I would wander far away;

I would lodge in the wilderness.

But I call to God,

and the LORD will save me.

Psalm 55: 4; 6 & 7; 16

 

David feels like each of us has probably felt at one time or another. Whatever the cause of the fear and the anguish, it is real, and it is oppressively bearing down on him. There is no escaping the weight of it as there appears to be real opposition coming from within those who should be closest to him. Let’s face it, almost everyone faces times in our lives when even the friendliest of gestures can be misunderstood as being intended for conflict so that there is no rest to be found in the course of the day. These are hard times to be in the middle of, for it does seem like the safest and the best thing that can be done is to get far away from the situation at hand and from the people who are in our lives. Thus, we want fly off into the unknown out there as that far off land cannot be worse than the pain that is pouring over our heads in the present time and place.

 

Yet, there are not a lot of situations and circumstances where God actually tells us to run, to escape, or to flee to a far-away place. Most of the time, the Lord asks us to stay put and to trust in Him to come into the middle of the struggle and to join us in overcoming all that is causing the anxiety and the distress. Sometimes He reorients our thinking so that the real issues are sorted out from the ones that we are perceiving. This is often the case when we believe that the problems that are before us are being caused by people so that eliminating those people from our world looks as if that is the solution. God rarely leads us away from people; instead, He usually works in our hearts and minds to achieve understanding, forgiveness, and grace so that relationships are built rather than terminated.

 

Calling out to God is not always the easiest or the safest thing that we can do. Frequently, He asks us to engage with people and in activities that are uncomfortable or that even seem emotionally unsafe at that time. This is the place where our human frailty and our tendency to rely upon ourselves as the primary resource that we utilize in navigating life’s challenges collides with faith in Christ and with trust in the Lord to be our strength, wisdom, and true source of deliverance in all aspects of life. Christ asks us to follow Him into the stormy waters of this world, and He calls upon us to leave behind our apprehensions and our fear-inspired tendency to seek escape when things look too hard or when the task before us seems daunting beyond our capacity. These are those moments when we have little left to rely upon other than our voices, weak as they may be at that time, so that we can follow David in crying out to the Lord in anticipation of the saving grace that He will pour over us.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Jude 20, 21

 

Jude is dealing with the fact that there were people inside of the church who were not following the teachings of Jesus as they were taking people in a direction that was dangerous to their souls and that was destructive to the life of the church at that time. So, Jude counsels the people of the church in how to remain true to Christ and to stay on the path that leads to salvation. These are the sorts of issues that have existed throughout the history of the church, and they continue to trouble us today. Staying true to Christ has never been easy. There will always be people who believe that they have a better way or that there is an alternate doctrine that will make life more enjoyable and less challenging to live than does the rigid doctrine that comes out of a strict reading of God’s Word and a dogmatic following after of what Jesus taught and demonstrated.

 

Thus, Jude instructs us to stay engaged in and with God’s Word. This is the primary way in which we build ourselves up in our faith. God’s Word is dynamic and alive with truth that has no boundaries of time or place attached to it. The more that we encounter it in the course of living out our days, the more of the content of those days that will be spoken to by that living word. Through it God supplies wisdom, counsel, guidance, and the capacity to apply it all to living well in the time, place, and situation where we have been placed by God to dwell. Everyone who knows Christ has a place and a purpose in the church and in this world that we are to fulfill. God has useful and important plans for every life, and His will is often found and is always more fully comprehended through study of His Word and by virtue of meditation upon its content and meaning.

 

In addition to study and contemplation of God’s Word, Jude tells us to pray. Talking it all over with God and listening to the ways that the Lord speaks into us and responds to us is a vital part of living out our days as a follower of Christ. The Holy Spirit imparts that same wisdom, counsel, guidance, and application to us and helps us see all that is contained in God’s Word and guides us in applying it to our own situation and circumstances. The Spirit also comforts us when we are troubled and distressed, and He gives us the gift of courage when it is needed and pours strength into us when we are facing challenges of all types and causes. God’s love is found in His will, and it is expressed by us by embracing that will with all of our being. This is accomplished by entering fully into the truth of God’s Word as we communicate with God in prayerful submission to Christ in all things. The path through this life can be hard and the journey is filled with challenges and trials, but Christ has promised us His presence for every step of the way, and eternity with Him at the end of our travels.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5: 1

 

Peace, we all want it; yet, it seems to work at being elusive. Peace is so hard to catch up to, it runs ahead a stays just one turn in the street and a couple of steps beyond reach all of the time. Despite the desires that most of us possess, a state of peacefulness is hard to settle into. Even the idea of resting peacefully can be disturbing and unsettling in itself. Turmoil and agitation are such a regular part of our world that they often define normalcy for us, and their absence is the thing that troubles the spirit and that incites the feet to run toward change. Yes, we are strange creatures, we humans; for, we claim to want to know peace and to have it settled deep in our beings; yet, we do almost anything to overturn its presence when it does happen to invade the place that we live.

 

Perhaps the issue is more with the place where we are looking for that peace and with the nature of the thing that we think that we desire. The peace that God wants to provide for us is different than that which we often say we want. Our first priority is for calm, quiet, and a form of settledness of the spirit that can accept life as it is with trust in God’s provision of an acceptable outcome. In itself, this is not a bad perspective, but it may not be the beginning place for the peace that God desires to see exist with us. The peace that God seeks to bring about in our lives starts at a higher place and has a purpose that transcends this world and our lives and that ventures forth into the eternal. The peace that comes through and by Christ comes about with no effort of ours and is a state of being that we either accept or fight against as it is conferred upon us by God.

 

All peace starts with Christ. There is no other way to commence understanding of it than by accepting Christ. He brings about healing and transformative change in our relationship with God, for Christ grants a new, redeemed relational status to each of us who surrender to Him. The war with God that exists from birth for each of us is settled by the blood of Christ’s cross, and we are established as residents in the Kingdom of God from that moment forward. This is not just a treaty status that can be easily revoked or modified; rather, it is a permanent recasting of the entire relationship with God that is formed out of faith in Christ and that is devised by God to grant us unending direct access to Him. This is the peace that all people actually need in order to know the sort of peace of the spirit that we think that we desire. The ability to live life with the certainty of our eternal status and with a state of being calm even in the great storms that come our way is the result of the peace that exists between ourselves and God, and Christ alone brings this peace into our souls.

 

 

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