The English poet Alexander Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest.” Hopeless is a horrible feeling. You might say that as Christians, we are never without hope. Christ Jesus is our hope in our every circumstance. But there are times when we feel utterly hopeless. When our hopes and dreams are shattered, never to be fulfilled. When we can’t see beyond our pain to grasp the hope He offers. To believe there will never be a better day on the horizon.
The Apostle Peter wrote these encouraging words to some “suffering saints,” some Christians who were being persecuted for their faith in Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). He describes their hope as a living hope because Jesus rose from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead means that sin, suffering, and death do not have the final word. His resurrection guarantees us that we, too, will be raised one day (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-57). That is a promise. It is a promise that provides hope
beyond the grave. It is a living hope because Jesus is alive!
That living hope belongs to those who have embraced the Living Lord through their trusting obedience. Is there any hope? Because of Jesus, the answer is “Yes!”
A certain king was very rich. His power was known throughout the world. But he was most unhappy, for he desired a wife. Without a queen, the vast palace was empty. One day, while riding through the streets of a small village, he saw a beautiful peasant girl. So lovely was she that the heart of the king was won. He wanted her more than anything he had ever desired. On succeeding days, he would ride by her house on the mere hope of seeing her for a moment in passing. He wondered how he might win her love.
He thought, “I will draw up a royal decree and require her to be brought before me to become the queen of my land.” But, as he considered, he realized that she was a subject and would be forced to obey. He could never be certain that he had won her love. Then, he said to himself, “I will call on her in person. I will dress in my finest royal garb, wear my diamond rings, my silver sword, my shiny black boots, and my most colorful tunic. I will overwhelm her and sweep her off her feet to become my bride.” But, as he pondered the idea, he knew that he would always wonder whether she had married him for the riches and power he could give her.
Then, he decided to dress as a peasant drive to the town, and have his carriage let him off. In disguise, he would approach her house. But,
somehow the dishonesty of this plan did not appeal to him. At last, he knew what he must do. He would shed his royal robes! He would go to the village and become one of the peasants. He would work and suffer with them. He would actually become a peasant. This he did. And by identifying with his subjects in this sacrificial way, he won the heart of his wife.
In like manner, our Creator also considered how He might win the hearts of humankind. And then at just the right time, God in Christ robed Himself in human flesh and became one of us, taking upon Himself the very form of mortal man to dwell among us (John 1:14). Then, in the fullest demonstration of His great love for us, He died on the cross for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Has His love won YOUR heart?
John Lewis is a chain of up-market department stores operating throughout Great Britain. The chain is known for their heart warming commercials. One of their Christmas themed commercials featured a little boy and his pet penguin named Monty. The little boy does everything with his pet penguin: watches television, plays hide-and-seek, jumps on the trampoline, plays under a makeshift tent in the dining room, and takes a walk in the park. As Christmas approaches, the little boy and Monty are watching an old movie with the boy’s parents. Monty is transfixed on the TV screen as a husband and wife kiss on TV. Later, when the little boy and Monty are sliding down a snow-covered hillside, Monty stops and is mesmerized by the sight of a couple walking arm in arm and gazing into each other’s eyes. And on a bus ride home, the little boy sees Monty gazing out of the window at an elderly couple tenderly embracing on a park bench.
On Christmas morning, the little boy wakes Monty who has been sleeping at the end of his bed. He covers Monty’s eyes as they walk into the room where the Christmas tree stands. The little boy removes his hands and Monty sees that for which he has been longing: a female penguin with which he immediately falls in love. As the little boy’s mother walks into the room, she smiles as she sees her son playing with two stuffed penguins; a brand new one along with one that is weathered and worn because of use, whose name is Monty. The tagline of the commercial says give someone the Christmas they have been dreaming about. Even a little boy understands that we all need to have someone to love and to have that love reciprocated. That someone also needs to be someone with whom we can relate – whether it’s a fellow penguin or a fellow person.
That’s the beauty of the Gospel message: God loves us so much that He came down to us and became “one of us” in the person of Jesus, His Son. “For this reason, He had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). God became “one of us” to demonstrate His love for us by identifying with us and then by dying for us so that we might be saved from our sins and receive the GIFT of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
In an article in Campus Life a young nurse writes of her pilgrimage in learning to see in a patient the
image of God beneath a very “distressing disguise.” Eileen was one of her first patients, a person who was totally helpless. A cerebral aneurysm had left her with no conscious control over her body. As near as the doctors could tell Eileen was totally unconscious, unable to feel pain and unaware of anything going on around her. It was the job of the hospital staff to turn her every hour to prevent bedsores and to feed her twice a day.
Caring for her was a thankless task. “When it’s this bad,” an older student nurse told her, “you have to detach yourself emotionally from the whole situation…” As a result, more and more Eileen came to be treated as a thing, a vegetable. But the young student nurse decided that she could not treat Eileen like the others had treated her. She talked to her, sang to her, encouraged her and even brought her little gifts. One day when things were especially difficult and it would have been easy for the young nurse to take out her frustrations on the patient, she was especially kind. It was Thanksgiving Day and the nurse said to the patient, “I was in a cruddy mood this morning, Eileen, because it was supposed to be my day off. But now that I’m here, I’m glad. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss seeing you on Thanksgiving. Do you know this is Thanksgiving?” Just then the telephone rang, and as the nurse turned to answer it, she looked quickly back at the patient. Suddenly, she writes, Eileen was “looking at me … crying. Big damp circles stained her pillow, and she was shaking all over.” That was the only emotion that Eileen ever showed any of them, but it was enough to change the whole attitude of the hospital staff toward her. Not long afterward, Eileen died. The young nurse closes her story, saying, “I keep thinking about Eileen. It occurred to me that I owe her an awful lot. Except for Eileen, I might never have known what it’s like to give myself to someone who can’t give back.”
When WE were helpless in our sins, Jesus Christ gave Himself for us that we might be saved from our sins (Galatians 1:4). Jesus offers HELP for the HELPLESS! When we could do NOTHING to save ourselves, He provided the way for our salvation by dying on the cross for us. Our response should be one of extreme GRATITUDE that is demonstrated by our trusting obedience to His will.
In the book, “Failure: The Back Door to Success” Erwin Lutzer, pastor emeritus of the Moody Memorial Church of Chicago, wrote, “Are you ready for this? It is possible to attend church regularly, participate in the service, and not worship God at all! Worship isn’t listening to a sermon, appreciating the harmony of the choir, and joining in singing hymns! It isn’t even prayer; for prayer can be the selfish expression of an unbroken heart. Worship goes deeper. Since God is Spirit, we fellowship with Him with our spirit; that is, the immortal and invisible part of us meets with God, who is immortal and invisible. Prayer can be worship; singing may be worship; reading the Scriptures may be worship–but not necessarily.”
Whether you worship during your church service depends upon you. When you come to church, is it to meet God, do you do it out of tradition, or just to hang out with your friends? Sometimes we are distracted. Sometimes we are more interested in what is going to happen after the service than what we have an opportunity to do together during the service. So how do we make sure that we worship God when we are together?
Realize, first that it is all about Him, not about us. In other words, we worship God for who He is, not for what we can get out of it. Knowing we are harboring the guilt of willful sin hinders our ability to worship God. God is holy, and we can only approach Him in a way that is worthy of who He is. But the promise is that “if we confess our sins (and repent of them) He is faithful to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. We worship both individually and as a church. Community requires unity, which is only possible if we love one another. Hebrews 10:25 says not to forsake the assembling together of ourselves. In other words, we are commanded to meet together for worship – in unity and love. And in that God is glorified.