by Roland W. Keith
“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” (Hebrews 6:17-19). There is a phrase you may have heard on occasion: “to hope against all hope.” When someone uses that phrase, it is tantamount to wishful thinking— they are hoping for something with very little expectation of it actually happening. Compare that to what Paul wrote his fellow Jewish Christians. To describe the hope we have as Christians he used terms such as “strong encouragement to hold fast,” and a “steadfast anchor of the soul.” In other words, we, as Christians, are not hoping against hope. What we look forward to has a strong foundation. Yes, we look forward to something as yet unseen (Romans 8:24-25), but our confidence in the outcome is founded on an extraordinary life and an equally extraordinary event.
Jesus Christ lived His life as no other person has, setting the stage for the most singular moment in human history. Paul also wrote, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (I Corinthians 15:19). But we are not to be pitied, nor is our hope limited to this lifetime. All because of that single moment in time. The moment that the lifeless body of Yeshua bar Joseph was reanimated in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. A fact attested to by the eyewitness accounts of over 500 people who saw Him after His resurrection. Have you ever stopped to think about how Christianity could have survived the first century if the claims of Christ and His disciples were false? Christianity was born in the crucible of a Jewish nation in turmoil, clinging to its national identity and unique religious heritage.
Many have written about the providential timing of Christ’s arrival on earth. The world stage had been set. It was a unique time in history, perfectly suited for the spread of the gospel. It also provided the perfect proving ground for God’s truth. During the first decades of the Church’s existence religious and secular forces would be arrayed against it to not only stop its spread, but to destroy it. A small group originally accepted by the world around them became an outcast community expelled from synagogues, falsely accused of heinous crimes, persecuted by their own nation and the Gentile world around them, men and women driven from their homes, and forced to identify themselves to each other with secret symbols as they sought refuge in catacombs and secret meetings. They were rounded up to be imprisoned, beaten and put to death. Yet their faith persisted. Not only that, but they found strength in their shared plight (II Corinthians 1:7; Romans 12:12).
In the end the church thrived because the evidence of Christ’s life and achievements, His miracles and teachings, were too much to be refuted. Even after His death the power of His teachings, validated by the miraculous powers bestowed upon His followers were too much for opposing forces to overcome. Yes, there were scoffers, there will always be scoffers. There were those violently opposed to the truth. There were the false teachers and the naysayers. But none of them were a match for the hope of those early Christians. They placed their hope on the amazing things that they had witnessed and the power of the living word, which they passed on to future generations. The words of Gamaliel proved true, when he told the other members of the Sanhedrin, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men... So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:35, 38-39).
For over 2,000 years the world has railed against us. And still the Church stands. In his first epistle Peter wrote, “He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (I Peter 1:20-21). The hope of the first century Christian lives on in the Christian today. The Gospel message and the other New Testament scriptures founded on it continue the witness of Christ, and those who stand against it find themselves in opposition to God. In describing his ministry for Christ Paul wrote: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:7-18).
Paul recognized something that is vital for all of us to know. That we are weak, but God is strong. Yet, in our weakness we need not be bowed down by the world. If our faith and hope is in Jesus Christ, we will prevail and be brought into the presence of God to spend eternity there. Even as we are momentarily oppressed we can be filled with joy, when we are being tossed about in the storms of life we can find peace. When darkness surrounds us, we can hope in the light (Romans 15:13). I have heard it said of someone who had passed on, “He lived life well.” A fine tribute to a man deemed successful by the world’s standards. But as Christians we should want more to be said of us. Maybe we are living life “well.” But are we living it Godly, in faith, in obedience, with joy, with faith, with hope? Can it be said at our passing “He lived for Christ?”
The world sees what it wants and goes for it. The golden ring. The promotion. The fame and fortune. As a Christian what do you want? It is alright to want a successful career, a nice house, and a certain amount of wealth. But all of those things are temporal. What do you want beyond what the world offers? Or, do you even think about it? Do you “hope for things unseen?” (Romans 8:24-25). Are you looking forward to the one hope that is in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6)? Do you look forward to the promise of eternal life (I John 2:25)? And, if you want these things are you preparing yourself for them (I Peter 1:13)? These are questions we should all ask ourselves. Is Christ Jesus and the righteousness we find in Him truly our hope (I Titus 1:1; Galatians 5:5)? Usually when we consider such questions most of us probably become introspective and analyze the focus of our lives— how we are living. But here is something else to consider as something of a litmus test for our hopes and dreams. We tend to share them with others.
Speaking of his ministry Paul wrote, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:27-29). How involved are we in bringing others to Christ? This is something of a failure in my own life. Jackie and I recently finished an evangelism class with several other brothers and sisters at our church, and it made me realize how frugal my efforts have been in this area. Over the years, like others, I have been active in teaching and have even given the occasional sermon. So, I thought I had been a pretty good servant, until we took the class and it dawned on me that sharing the gospel with others has never really been a focus in my life. I have not given others the same hope that someone gave me, something I must strive to remedy in the future.
Having said that each of us have different talents that are put to use in many ways in God’s service. Whether we are working in evangelism, benevolence, teaching or in other areas the main thing is that our hope drives us forward in the work of the Lord. As Paul wrote, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:10-12). If we are faithfully exercising the hope that is in us we will be rewarded. Keeping that in mind next week we will look at what exactly the Christian hopes for and the end result of our hopes.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.