Truth Is The Word

world

Hope Feature image

We All Need Hope

Top image of HopeWe all need hope. The three greatest qualities of a Christian are surely Faith, Hope, and Love. They are also the three greatest needs in the world today.

Hope Defined

We can best define love as unconditional self-giving, which is the opposite of the self-serving greed that drives our world system. One way of understanding faith is that it is complete trust and confidence in God. This is something greatly lacking in the world and, sadly, in much of the church where it has been replaced with faith in faith, or faith in wealth,  or science, or self.

A good way of understanding hope is that it is an expectation of future good, light shining in a dark place and an anchor for the soul.
For many of us, the light of hope has become small and uncertain. Our current politics, economy, the levels of violence, and our personal stress weigh more towards hopelessness than hope. The conditions in the Apostle Paul’s day were also violent and stressful yet this is what he wrote to the Christians in Rome: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 15:13).  Here he identifies God as the source of hope, the one who gives us hope. But, hope in what?

Our Eternal Hope

Above all else, the hope that God gives to those who trust in him is eternal life. No matter what happens to us here and now, we have the expectation of continued life in the presence of the Lord. Paul expressed this in his letter to Titus as follows: ‘When the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life’ (Titus 3:4-8).

Hope for Today

However, God also provides hope for here and now.  But what is the hope we have for the here and now?

  1. We believe that Jesus is always with those who are born again of His spirit. Matthew 28:20 records the Lord’s assurance to His disciples; “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
  2. Our hope is that, because of his presence in our lives, ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28-29).
  3. Our hope is based on the fact that we trust Jesus completely. John 4:1 has, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, you trust in God, trust also in me.” So we have the hope of his ongoing presence with us, the expectation that he works in and through us to achieve the highest good, and we hope because we trust him. Therefore, we can have the joy and peace of which Paul writes.

Romans 15:13 again: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’.

Joy is a calm delight, and Peace is quietness, rest, oneness with God, with others, and with life in general. These are the results of placing our hope in God, of believing him and trusting him.

When Joy and Peace are Missing

I have been going through a period where my level of joy and peace has been low. Among other things on my mind, the condition of our nation seeks to rob me of joy and peace. But many folk I know of have, in addition, very difficult personal circumstances, financial problems, relationship breakdowns, and so on. However, all of us need to take to heart Paul’s words in chapter 14 vs 17 of Romans: ‘For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Now, if this does not describe our current reality, then what should we do about it? Here are two things that I believe we should and can do to re-anchor our souls. Firstly, spend more time with the Lord in Bible and prayer dialogue. And I do mean ‘dialogue’, which is talking to him in prayer and reading the scriptures with an openness to his talking back to us. Secondly, we should cry out to him to fill us again with the sense of his presence and the Holy Spirit, and expect him to do just this. Luke 11:13 “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” These seem so obvious and simple, but it is often the obvious that we do not see and the simple that we do not do.

Overflowing Hope

However, the benefits of hope should not be restricted to our own joy and peace, because others are supposed to benefit as well. God expects us to overflow with hope to others. Hope is a bright light we are to shine into the darkness that engulfs so many fellow believers. Many are overcome by the darkness of the world today. Perhaps the deepest darkness engulfs those who have hoped in medicine, or advice, other people, or even in their own ideas of what God should do for them. Proverbs 13:17 states that ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick.’ Do you think we can just say to these people, “It will come right”, or “you will soon be out of pain”, or “you will get a job”, or “in time your broken heart will heal”?  Is this the hope we are to offer them, the light we shine into their darkness? No, surely not! Rather, what we can and should do is shine a light focused not on their human expectations or fallible possible solutions, but on Jesus. Show them Jesus in their future, Jesus with them now, and Jesus working good in all things.

Three New Questions

As the face of Jesus our true hope comes into focus, then the questions so often asked in difficult times fade and three new questions form:

How can my current condition help me to know Jesus better?

How can this help me to become more like him? and

How can I use this to help others to know and become like him?

Hope for Unbelievers

However, we also need to shine the light of hope into the lives of those who are not yet believers in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:12 describes the condition of the unbeliever as ‘without hope and without God in the world.’ The Apostle Peter also wrote, ‘in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ (1 Peter 3:15-16). The world needs light, our nations need the light of hope, and Jesus said that we are the light of the world because we know the source of light. the Lord Jesus Christ himself!

A Work of the Holy Spirit

Now, while Jesus is the object of our hope, the Romans 15 text makes it clear that the overflowing of our hope is a work of the Holy Spirit. When we, as individuals, overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, we call it renewal. When the church on mass overflows with hope in Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, we call it… revival! And what South Africa, and indeed the world needs now more than anything else, is true revival!

‘May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word’ (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

As with the world, so with the church

From time to time members of my local church leave to join another Christian fellowship in the area. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is always a painful shock. The reasons given usually have something to do with one of the following: the children need a bigger church group; the music is too loud/quiet/fast, or slow; the preaching is too expository and not topical enough; or someone offended them.

These losses to the local church family sadden and confuse me. I feel like a father who comes home from work, notices that his daughter is missing and asks his wife, “Where is Sandy?” “Oh” his wife responds, “She says the food is better at her friend’s house down the road, so she’s gone to live there!”

The church is the household of God. It is a unique family, based on the relationships within the Holy Trinity, and with Christ Jesus as its head. Ephesians 3:14-15 and 21 capture this essential nature of the church; ‘For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name…’ And, verse 21, ‘to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’

Now I realise that the church is more than just the local church. Most of the church is already in heaven, and the church still on earth is spread across the face of the planet. Never the less, only the local church gives expression to the church universal in a particular location and time. The church universal is more a concept for most of us, but the local church is a concrete reality.

Paul addressed his letters to actual local churches in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and so on. When he was on route to Jerusalem for the last time, he called for the Elders of the church in Ephesus, and this is what he said to them; “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) Of course, Christ died for all of humanity, so that the church universal might come into being, but here Paul applies the blood of Christ to the local church. The local church is of huge value to God, but how important is it to us?

The local church is an extended family, and a family is defined as ‘a group of people, related to each other in some way, who have a long-term commitment to support, nurture, protect, and develop one another.’ A natural family has a parent as its head, but the local church has Christ Jesus as its head. The local church is a group of people related to each other through the new birth. We have the same spiritual DNA. We also have a long-term commitment to support, nurture, protect, and develop one another. A natural family produces sons and daughters whilst a local church family produces children of God.

The local church is important. Christ died for it. It is the tangible expression of the universal household of God. It is a family. So why then do members leave it to go down the road and live with another family? I believe there are two major responses to this question.

Firstly, the family model in modern society is, in many cases, corrupted and dysfunctional, and people project this broken model onto the church. Fathers leave their families and move in with the woman down the road. Mothers neglect their children for the sake of a higher standard of living. Children demand and get self-centred instant gratification. As with the family, so with the church.

The second reason is that many churches have abandoned the extended family model of church life. They position themselves instead as spiritual schools, cinemas, or supermarkets. They see themselves as suppliers of spiritual and psychological goods, and their members as consumers. I call this Ecclesiastical Consumerism.
Consumerism is all about satisfying wants; it’s about getting. “I want my church to teach me how to get on in life and be prosperous. I want the music to make me feel good. I want the church to entertain me and my children.” Now, if I regard my wants as a high priority, and I regard the local church as a supplier, then I will surely leave the church if I don’t get what I want, and I will join another church I think will supply what I want. Sadly, many churches support this attitude by having professional music groups, fog machines, constant dynamic life-skills preaching, self-improvement programmes, and so on.

How then should we respond to these two dysfunctional models? Concerning the breakdown in the family, I believe that churches need to work hard in strengthening and equipping families in every way possible. Regarding Ecclesiastical Consumerism, we need to present the local church, not as a supplier but as a participating family of God. Most of all though, each of us needs to recognise our role in the local church family – we need to live out the definition of the church as ‘a group of people related to each other through the new birth, who have a long-term commitment to support, nurture, protect, and develop one another.’ We, together as the local church, are the environment where people can come to know Jesus, become like Him, and help others to do likewise. This is our unique role and responsibility.

As with the world, so with the church? Perhaps, but this is not how it is supposed to be. It should be ‘as with the church, so with the world!’

 

Follow by Email

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar. I have started a site called Classical Guitar SA to serve classical guitar enthusiasts in South Africa.