Monday, December 28, 2015

Delighting in the Hope of God

Human beings are prone to hope.  However, we do not always place our hope in appropriate ways. I misplace hope when I expect my health to hold out, ego to ease up, children to take kindly to my lessons (I give them many), car to keep running, and sports teams to achieve victory. People, places, and things cannot bear the weight of my hope. Neither can verbs or adjectives, for that matter. Enduring hope requires an eternal, fixed object.

Simply defined, hope is the ability to look beyond present circumstances to a preferred future. When we Christen the term, hope is the ability to look beyond present evil and partial glory to a perfect future brought to us in Christ. Like any Christian virtue, we may develop hope over the years.

Peter Kreeft calls hope “the hidden virtue of our time, for hope means hope for Heaven... Hope means that our heads do not bump against the low ceiling of this world; hope means that the exhilarating, wonderful, terrifying winds of Heaven blow in our ears” (Back to Virtue, 74).

Having grown drunk and dumb by the world’s deluding pleasures (e.g., TV, tanning beds, and around the clock shopping), we have traded in our hope of Heaven and Its Father for hollow persons, places, and things (as well as verbs and adjectives). To regain our hope… yes, verily, to reclaim the clamor of Heaven… indeed, to delight in God’s hope, we must revise a few of our patterns.

Delighting in God’s Hope means resurrecting the hope-bearers…
Hope is the work of the artist and visionary, parent and preacher. They can transform a blank canvas or bleak landscape into something magnificent by the grace of God. Hope-bearers have eyes to see beyond, like Lewis’ Reepicheep who incessantly scans the Eastern Horizon for Alsan’s land. Gifted storytellers must rise up and bear hope.

Hope-bearers have ears to hear, like King David who meditated on the sweet Law of the Lord with a lyre in his hand. Gifted songwriters must rise up and bear hope.

Hope-bearers have skillful hands, like the surgeon who removes the cancer and sews a thin stich; or mother who attends her child’s wounded ego with a warm embrace. Gifted workers must rise up and bear hope.

And hope-bearers have soothing words, like the preacher who mediates God’s presence with a powerful reenactment of His Word; or a teacher who gives instruction with the clarity of a swallow’s song. Pastors and teachers must rise up and bear hope.

How can you bear hope as a parent, artist, student, or employee?

Delighting in God’s Hope means rediscovering the glory of heaven…
Echoes of Eden resound in the Scriptures. From the blessing of Judah and his wine-stained teeth (Gen. 49:12) to the ornamented tabernacle crafted in the desert (Ex. 25:8) to Isaiah’s oracles concerning the New Heavens (Is. 65:17-25) and Prince of Peace (11:1-10) the resurrected Jesus breaking bread and speaking peace to his disciples (Luke 24:13-58), Eden reverberates. And God continues to call us home through a melodious sonnet, stirring film, candlelight dinner, child’s laughter, and seasonal growth of garden produce. All the partial glories are pointers to a greater reality. Our lingering sense of longing would be satisfied by a greater dose of reflection on heaven.

When did you last ponder the echoes of Eden and glories of heaven?

Delighting in God’s Hope means repenting of lesser hopes and rivals…
But heaven has its rivals. Too often we allow the signposts to serve as destinations: We sit on couches for primetime or stand on sidelines for game time, only to amuse ourselves with the fleeting pleasures of this world. Sports and sitcoms have their place, but for too many of us these take up most of our living room and weekend schedules. Of course our recreational habits form an easy target. My lesser hopes include a tasty meal, more income than expense, a good night of sleep, quality family time, a four-mile run, and job satisfaction. These partial glories should serve as reasons to praise God, not to feed my addictions. If keep these matters out of balance, my need for God grows faint.

What lesser hopes curb your appetite for heavenly hope?

Delighting in God’s Hope means restoring a proper perspective of God’s work…
Paul’s ministry aimed to make others complete (full or mature) in Christ.  He wrote, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27-28). The apostle understood this to be the overarching, good work of God, justifying the called and moving them toward glory (Romans 8:28-30). God is making us “little Christs” C.S. Lewis pronounces at the end of Mere Christianity. Thus, the image of Christ should likewise serve as our reference point, toward which we should direct all our activity.

Sometimes God uses suffering to fine tune this image (Romans 5:3-5). Other times he uses personal discipline (Bible study, prayer, fasting). Spiritual community—in the form of corporate worship, accountability, and encouragement—likewise contributes to our hope of glory. Finally, moments of intimate communion with God make His hope personal, making delight in Him second nature.

And so, to all my hope-seeking and hope-bearing readers, I leave you with this prayer:

“Now may the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NASB).

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