Updated: Apr 20, 2022
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NASB
I play a sport called pickleball, which, by the way, for the few of you who don’t play it, is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. It originated on Bainbridge Island in the late 1930s. When I came home from playing today my wife said, “Well, how’d you do?” I answered, “Oh, I could have done better.” “Why are you always so negative?” she responded, “After all you haven’t played for over a month.”
I had to agree as I’ve heard her admonition many times in our 53 years of togetherness. All my life I’ve tended to look first at the things that went wrong or could have. Of course, pickleball is just a fun sport and has nothing to do with the future of our world, but it got me thinking not so much about being more positive or optimistic but about being hopeful. However, can we be hopeful with what’s going in our world today?
The times we live in are difficult. Disease, death, growing tribalism, polarization, injustice, social breakdown, loss of trust largely fired by social media, and pessimism about the future of our children and society has deepened in the past 15-20 years according to polls and surveys. And then there’s depression, addiction and loneliness in most of our liberal societies. Loss of a vision for a shared common good has shattered the idea of a bright and better future for everyone.
What we need is a huge dose of hope. I’m not talking about a glass-half-full kind of hope, but about THE hope. I’m referring to the empty tomb of the resurrection of Jesus, which is accepted by most scholars, the hope that grew suddenly some 2000 years ago because hundreds of people claimed to have seen the risen Christ. Dead people stay dead. No one could have made this up because of all the Christians who immediately believed. The resurrection has left an enormous footprint on history. However, we draw strength from the resurrection only if we believe it happened.
The fact of the resurrection doesn’t just mean some kind of afterlife, but that we can have hope for a future, not based on scientific advancement or social progress but on God himself. It’s more than knowing about the resurrection but knowing what the power of the resurrection means. (1 Peter 1:21) Christianity’s unique message is that you are saved not by what you have done or must do, as good and necessary as it is, but by what God has done. The crushing weight of self-salvation is lifted from us. The historical gospel takes the burden off us.
When Jesus rose from the dead, he brought the future kingdom of God into the present. He brought heaven to earth. Entering this kingdom means to come under a new set of allegiances, grow into new loves, and submit to new guiding values of life. Then hearts, families, relationships, communities, and fields of human culture are healed and rewoven as they are redirected toward the glory of God and come under the authority of Jesus the King, through his Word and Spirit.
In our time the Christian message is seen as something traditional rather than radical and disruptive. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s kingdom will subvert dominant beliefs of our own culture. And our culture is full of false gods such as military might, material prosperity and comfort, sexuality and romance, technology and science, state power, nationalism, capitalism, and socialism. The Bible often is seen as a series of stories about how to save ourselves through moral living, instead of as a single, coherent story about Jesus, and how belief in him could positively upturn our hungry world.
If you’ve ever received an email from me, you may have noticed a sentence at the bottom which says:
“The winds of hate and despair will never sink my ship. Persistent hope is my anchor.”
Most people might interpret the word hope in this sentiment as being positive, upbeat, and generally hopeful. Actually, I’m referring to THE HOPE. No, I don’t always sense this, but it’s what I aspire to and what I believe.
And the next time my wife asks me how I did in my pickleball game, I’m going to surprise her by saying “great,” but maybe with my fingers crossed behind my back.
(Acknowledgement: The source of some of what I’ve written is from Hope In Times of Fear by Pastor Timothy Keller which I highly recommend)