My Hope from the Heart
In spite of the dire circumstances that we may face, I’m here to tell you that there is hope. As the brave men and women put their lives on the line in our hospitals and face COVID-19, as the virus strikes closer and closer to home, as people we know become sick and some end up in the ICU—I have faith that there is hope. Why? God tells us, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NASB).
During this time and once this unsettling time has passed, there will be those among us who turn to God and there will be those who rail against God and blame Him for COVID-19, they will blame Him for all of the deaths and we can be sure that there will even be those who ask, “Where was your God when all of this happened?” I know that this will happen because I would have been one of the one’s to ask such a question before Jesus turned my heart away from what it used to be. I used to ask God why He let my sister die? Why did it have to be because of me that she died? Why did He allow a 14-year-old to go to prison and hit a maximum-security yard at age 15? Why did my family and I have to endure such pain?
He finally opened my eyes to why and the truth that NONE of this is His fault. All that we endure, all that we struggle through and all that happens is not on God. He is eternal and He is unchanging. As parents, we talk about parenting in a style that is consistent. Dolling out punishment in a manner that holds up time and time again. Well, as our Heavenly Father, we know God told us that the moment we ate of the fruit, we would die and when did not only was our soul at risk, but our flesh was, too (Genesis 3). He told us what would happen to us if we disobeyed and that punishment, that consequence has been there since the Garden. Death is part of the consequence for our disobedience. Sickness and decay and our world being in a state of fallenness, enduring the consequences of our own personal living and other people living in a fallen and sinful state is all part of it.
The truth of the matter is that neither God, nor Jesus ever promised us a life on this side of eternity that was going to be easy, beyond blessed, full of wealth or without sickness. Find it in the Word of God. In fact, one of the most misquoted sayings is that God will never give us more than we can handle. That is not actually true. The Bible does tell us that none of us are tempted beyond what is common to man and that He provides a way out for us (1 Corinthians 10:13). But, that is regarding the temptations that we face in life. Be it the temptation to slander or gossip about others, the temptation to lie on others, the temptation to tear one another down rather than build one another up; or the temptation to give into our flesh while living out it’s lusts: be it in extramarital trysts (sex before marriage, affairs while married, including delving into porn—all the same in God’s eyes), disobeying the law/authority of the land (Romans 13:1-5, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-17) as well as drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18).
We are only ever promised a way out of temptation. That may look like going to your spouse and having Covenant Eyes placed on all of your digital devices, so that you aren’t looking at porn. That may be deciding to actively share all passwords to your social media account, while blocking people on various platforms (as well as in your phone) so that you are not tempted to sext, SnapChat or in any other way talk to members of the opposite sex in an inappropriate manner.
Unfortunately, this may even include keeping distance between those who choose to continuously bring up your indiscretions, missteps and failures because if you have asked for forgiveness and turned from your sins, God does not keep a record of our repented wrongdoings (1 Corinthians 13:5). Our sins are forgiven if we have repented and confessed them with our mouth, and those sins are cast as far as the East is to the West (Psalm 103:11-12). In fact, Micah 7:19 tells us that He will cast all of our sins into the depths of the sea. Thus, be wary of those who seek to constantly point out or point to that which you have turned away from and have demonstrated repentance by the fruit you have produced. Now, understand, I am not referring to our choosing to use our stories to encourage others or our pastors asking us to share our stories so that others may see that they are not alone. No. I am referring to those who bring up our pasts as digs, as passive aggressive barbs and as a means to check us or put us in our place because we used to be…that is not of God. Therefore, be wary of those who demonstrate self-righteousness.
I used to be a lot of things. I have been the liar, the pariah, the addict, a cheat, the angry, the anti-Jesus, a thief, guilty of being responsible for another person losing their life due to my own gross negligence, stupidity and actions which were focused on taking my own life. In fact, there really is not much that a person can call me that my wife, those who do life with me and our amazing God is not already aware of. Might I direct your attention to such posts as Post-Prodigal, as well as There is Hope: Persevere! However, I use all that I have failed miserably at within my own strength to show that there is a strength that we can rely on. That strength is found in Jesus Christ. He may not promise to give us only things that we can handle. He may not promise that our wildest dreams will come true on this side of eternity. But, He does promise us that in Christ Jesus we can do all things because it is Christ Himself that will give us strength (Philippians 4:13). The trick is relying on Christ and not ourselves.
That is where having faith in what we do not see comes into place. If we draw our attention back to Hebrews, we can see that through faith we understand how the Word of God prepared the worlds (Hebrews 11:3). We know that that Word was God and is God and that the Word became Flesh and that the Word was with God in the beginning and nothing came into being apart from the Word (John 1:1-3). We know that Abel had great faith and God saw him as righteous even though he suffered death at the hands of his brother (Hebrews 11:4). We know Enoch had such great faith that God took him up rather than let him die (Hebrews 11:5). We know Noah’s faith better than most, and he was laughed at, ridiculed and scoffed at even as he built the ark; but he continued to do what God required of him (Hebrews 11:7). Most everyone has heard of Abraham. Here is a man who told kings that his wife was his sister in an attempt to avoid being attacked due to them wanting her. Sort of the reverse of what we see in today’s society where some call non-related people brother or sister to mask the inappropriate closeness that exists between them. Abraham repeatedly dropped the ball, even had a kid with Sarah’s “assistant” but God still saw his faith and counted it to him as righteousness (Hebrews 11:8-12).
All of them had faith in God to do what they knew God said He would do. In spite of what their kin ended up doing to them over being faithful. In spite of what the town had to say regarding the crazy project that they undertook that made no sense. In spite of even facing possibly having to give up the very promise that God had given. They had faith that God was faithful even when we are not, and He would keep His promises. Thus, knowing that all they lived through was, but part of what God promised throughout Scripture which pointed to Jesus Christ, what a blessing we have that we can have faith in Him and His strength!
Micah 7:7-20 tells us that God is the source of Salvation and Light. Micah says that he will wait expectantly for Yahweh, for He is the God of his salvation. I love what Micah goes on to say: “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, Yahweh is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of Yahweh because I have sinned against Him, until HE PLEADS MY CASE AND EXECUTES JUSTICE FOR ME. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness. Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, ‘Where is Yahweh your God?’”
We know that Jesus’s name in Hebrew was Yeshua, Yahweh will Save. We know that Jesus was Yahweh in the flesh. We also know that He came, He lived a sinless life, and He chose to die for our sins so that we could be restored to Him without the need of a priest between us, without need of a temple-system, where obedience and not sacrifice reign because He was our sacrifice and He is our Holy High Priest. We also know that He died on that cross and He rose on the third day as a testament to His redeeming us from all of the curses of the Fall. Part of the curse that we suffered from Adam and Eve’s disobedience is death. Yet, Jesus rose from that death to show us that He has power over all things, including death. This world is fallen, this world is Satan’s playground, but we do not have to be afraid of any of that! We have a hope that cannot be quenched: Jesus rose from the grave. He conquered death and for those of us who call on His name, who profess Him as our Lord and Savior, we do not have to be afraid of the viruses and ails of this life. We have the promise of life eternal in His Kingdom.
But how can we have such faith? How can we know for sure that the Gospel is real? That it is not just some story that we tell ourselves to allay the twinge we feel when we consider our own mortality? Well, that is pretty simple. We often look back at the time of Christ and those who lived then as being so different from us. Yet, their drives, feelings and motives for doing things are no different from what we experience today. They wanted to feel safe and loved and special as we do today. We can see that in the Apostles wanting to know who the greatest was going to be in the Kingdom, or in more modern terms, who the favorite was with Jesus (Luke 9:46, Matthew 18:1), as well as when they were terrified in the boat out in the middle of the sea’s storm swearing they were going to die. We can see that they feared men and authority by how they fled from Jesus at His arrest and denied even knowing Him. John Mark got grabbed by the “cops” and he fled butt naked (Mark 14:51-52); and Peter denied Jesus not once but three times.
Sounds like us, right? Who is the favorite of the pastor? Or, just another episode of LIVE P.D.! Right?! But, those same guys went from that sort of mentality, to boldly professing the Gospel wherever they were, no matter the cost, even when told to stop and even in the face of some of the most gruesome deaths imaginable, nerves severed as they were crucified, the agony of being burned with oil and then exiled to an island, being beheaded or being hit with rocks like Stephen until they ceased breathing. The fact that they had such an about-face tells me one thing: something happened after Jesus died that changed them. Something so major occurred that they did not care anymore what was done to their bodies. They knew that He was risen. They knew He had been with them! They had seen Him, touched Him and ate with Him because nothing else lends a logical explanation to why so many of them were as eager to endure all that they did if He never ventured out of that tomb.
So, in this crisis, we have hope because Christ conquered the grave. We have strength because He lends it to us. And, if it falls on us to help our neighbors and our fellow men, let us do so in wisdom, let us follow the authority God has placed over us in the CDC and Federal Government. Yet, when our systems fail as they will because we are all human, let us be brave in showing our love toward our friends and toward those who need it because our faith gives us hope, and strength; and ultimately: Christ commands us to love one another, just as He has loved us. He tells us that there is no greater love than for us to lay our lives down for our friends (John 15:12-17). In faith, we can rise to this commandment because we know, we have faith that He conquered the grave and He is Salvation!
Until Next Time,