By Allen J. Huth, President of the Ezra Project |
Coronavirus, market crisis, economic uncertainty, travel bans, and home quarantines may have you scared, worried, on the verge of hopelessness. How long will it last? Can I survive? Is government really the answer? I invite you to a more reliable source for answers, the Bible, the best-selling book of all-time.
In the Book or Esther chapter 3, King Ahasuerus promotes Haman, “and set his throne above all the officials who were with him.” Haman sought to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom. When Mordecai, a Jew, hears about Haman’s scheme, he “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” Mordechai was in despair. The circumstances around him appeared hopeless, like yours. But the Book of Esther does not end with chapter four!
Today, we face a world in despair. We see wars and rumors of wars, nations rising against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, famines and earthquakes in various places, many falling away betraying one another and hating each other, lawlessness increasing, false prophets outside and even inside the church leading many astray, and the love of many growing cold (Matthew 24:6-12).
I see hopelessness around my own life, and surely you do too; people who have reached the end of their ropes. Earlier this year, a young man, walked into his front yard with a gun in his hand. His neighbor saw him and knew of his struggle with depression. He tried to talk with him, but instead witnessed him pull the trigger, ending his life. He was the son-in-law of a very dear friend of mine. Before that, the wife of a pastor of a church Terry and I used to attend, walked into her home, to her husband hanging in her front room. He suffered a brain injury years before, and was never quite the same. He battled depression and finally took his own life. And before that another friend lost his wife to cancer. He missed her so much, he couldn’t live without her. In his hopelessness, he took his life to be with his wife in heaven. Do you know what these three had in common? They lost hope.
We see our culture deteriorating before our eyes. We are see a global pandemic and ask why? We lose our jobs by no fault of our own and ask what happened? We can’t go to our favorite restaurant and ask when?
We are even confused about personal relationships like marriage—pre-marital sex, couples living together before marriage, same sex marriages, and rampant divorce. We are confused about the Biblical principles of God’s provision, money, debt, and living beyond our financial means. Many are hopelessly in debt, living pay check to pay check, have no savings to handle a crisis like COVID-19, We are desperate for a better way. We long for hope, like in the days in the Book of Esther.
In John Maxwell’s book, Leadership Promises for Every Day, he references a story about World War II. He titled it Hope Springs Eternal. He wrote:
- One of the greatest gifts leaders can give to those around them is hope. Never underestimate its power. Winston Churchill was once asked by a reporter what his country’s greatest weapon was against Hitler’s Nazi regime. Without pausing for a moment he said, “It was what England’s greatest weapon has always been—hope.”
- People will continue working, struggling, and trying if they have hope. Hope lifts people’s morale. It improves their self-image. It re-energizes them. It raises their expectations…Maintaining hope comes from seeing the potential in every situation and staying positive despite circumstances.”
What is hope? According to the fount of all knowledge today, Siri, on my apple smart phone, hope is, ”a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It is grounds for believing that something good may happen, a feeling of trust.”
Another source of knowledge, even more accurate and dependable than our smart phones, is the Bible. What is Biblical hope? According to John Piper, a pastor and chancellor of a seminary in Minnesota, “Biblical hope not only desires something good for the future – it expects it to happen.” “Hope is like a reservoir of emotional strength.”
The word “hope” is found throughout the Word of God! One of the famous references is in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” Love is defined in that chapter and faith is defined in Hebrews 11, but what is hope? Let’s dig a little deeper.
- In Romans 5:4 the Bible says, “character produces hope.”
- In Psalm 42:5, the Bible says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God…”.
- In Psalm 39:7, the Bible says, “My hope is in you.”
- In Lamentations 3:24, the Bible says, “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.”
- And, in Colossians 1:27, the Bible says, “Christ in you the hope of glory.”
From a Biblical perspective, it is not so important to understand the word hope. It is more important to know who we hope in! Our hope is in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is not in the hopelessness the world has to offer!
ABOUND IN HOPE
As we abound in Biblical hope, the hope within us will become contagious. We will be attractive to our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues, and we will be attractive in the traffic lanes of life as we offer hope to those without hope. Hope makes you attractive!
Eli Fangidae, a businessman in Indonesia had lots of troubles in his life. He lost his hope. “I had no joy or peace in my heart. Once I lost lots of money gambling and decided to commit suicide. I hanged myself in my room, but my brother-in-law found me hanging and cut the rope. My body fell to the floor and I began to breathe again. I told my family that they should not try to save me, because I had already decided to commit suicide. My family was so frightened, they sent for a policeman. I was taken into custody and taken to the police station.
I had hid a razor blade in my pants pocket. After I got there I was looking for a chance to end my life. In the night, when the policemen had all gone, I entered the bathroom and took the razor blade from my pocket. I came back into the room and put my left wrist on the table, I was about to cut my wrist when, at that very moment, my attention was drawn to a small book on the table. It was an Indonesian Gideon Testament.
Out of curiosity, I opened the book. My eyes were drawn to 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” How could that page be opened at the very moment I was going to commit suicide? There were no earmarks on that page, no verses underlined. When I thought of those verses given to me by God, I shook out of control. I knelt down and cried, “Oh, God, forgive me. Have mercy on me! Oh, God, forgive me.” These words I repeated over and over until the policeman on duty sent for a minister, who came and prayed with me. I have never been the same again.
The following year I entered Bible College. Now I am Christian pastor in Kupang, Indonesia. If the Gideon Testament had not been on the table that night, I might have gone into eternity without knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior.”
Eli Fangidae found hope in the Word of God and in Jesus Christ, our living hope! We can abound in hope because Jesus Christ is our living hope! As we abound in hope others like Eli will discover there is a way out of despair, depression, hopelessness.
Back in the Book of Esther, we left Mordecai hopeless, in despair, in sackcloth and ashes. But, Mordecai turned hopelessness into hope. He went to Queen Esther and challenged her, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
Our world is hopeless, in despair, in need of sackcloth and ashes. Will we turn hopelessness into hope? If we keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the world from another place. 2 Corinthians 11:14 reminds us, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” If we do not seize the moment, if we do not offer Jesus Christ, our living hope to the world, who knows, you and I may perish. But, maybe, just maybe, we alive for such a time as this!
“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.” Romans 15:13