The last few days have served to be a revealing time in my life and I believe within the Church. With news of the possible revival at Asbury the responses have varied. Understandably, there have been many questions and investigations into what’s happening there. This article is not about Asbury as much as it is a reflection on what has risen to the surface. More than anything, I pray it is an encouragement to those who feel that hope is distant and have unlearned how to hope in a very antagonistic culture and dare I say…cynical Christian culture. One that I’ve been a part of. One that I need to repent of. One that I am eager to have no association with in word or practice. I feel a bit of fire in my bones about this one. Because of the weight it has brought to my heart. Although, at the same time I am thankful. It has revealed to me how often I lean towards pessimism regarding how the things of God unfold around me instead of leaning towards hope.
Friend, there is nothing wrong with hope. Maybe you need to be reminded of that. I fear that most of us have allowed fear of sin to influence our outlook on life more than the fear of God. It is right to live in light of the danger of sin, and heed the words of Christ to cut off what causes it. Yet, perhaps we have forgotten what’s to be the overwhelming theme of our lives. The cadence of our steps. The stirring within our souls.
As believers we are susceptible to live with navel-gazing, sin-paralyzed, overanalyzing, pessimistic attitudes that quench the Holy Spirit. Where we trade carefulness for idleness. Caution for cynicism. Discernment for constant questioning. And last of all, hope for hopelessness.
Yes, we should live as wise men and women of God who are not influenced by the foolish agendas that surround us. James clearly lays out what marks earthly and unspiritual wisdom.
But it is the overwhelming attention focused on our interpretations of every major event, controversial stance, and relevant happening which has led to a deep weariness in my life as of late. I look around and see more arguing about what camp does it better, whether we follow Paul or Apollos, and whose stamp of approval is given out from our most respected Christian authors and preachers. And this creates more frustration, division, and self-focused conversations than dialect revolving around the riches of grace found in Jesus. Leading to a generation of men and women who are unable to be encouraged in the work of God because we are so trained to be pessimistic about anything good.
It is okay to hope. It is good to reflect Jesus in this. Who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. Who did not let the questioning Pharisees derail the fervency in His spirit to accomplish the work God set out for Him to do.
Like Noah, who was mocked for his unconventional trust in the word of God, and his persistence in building what seemed so foolish to those around him.
Like Abraham who hoped against all hope. Though his circumstances begged him to waver in faith, he set his attention on his promise-keeping God, giving glory to Him.
What helps us to hope in a cynical age? Where most of our reasons to be cynical are validated? Shifting the weight of our hope off of people and onto God again. It is as simple as that. Consider that most of your hesitation to hope comes from resting the attention of your heart on men rather than on God.
I think about what Paul says the the Galatians. A letter written to a people who misunderstood both the law and grace. There were those who were unsettling many by their constant enticement to focus on how well they were upholding the law. Their emphasis was on their works rather than on Jesus who fulfilled every requirement on the cross. This was no small matter. Paul reminds them of one very important distinction they have overlooked. Love.
After he says this, he gives a strong warning.
Overwhelmed by theological disagreements, their thoughts were no longer consumed with the amazing grace of Jesus in securing their redemption but rather with one another. No longer was it about using their freedom to “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13) but it was about serving their own pride and being right. It is hard to hope when we look at one another.
Weary with the constant attacks against hope, we can be revived as we remember the love of Jesus. In his life, death, and resurrection we have been invited into a hope that will not put us to shame. Where we are free to hope for the best. To believe in His protective power and sovereign orchestrations of all we see. It is freeing to remember that he has placed us where we are to serve in love, not control what we see. This helps a weary saint like me to breathe. And to not be afraid to hope. Shouldn’t we be the most grounded, hope-filled people? We have seen the darkness in our hearts and perversions of truth found in the Church…yet He has not left us. His Bride is being prepared for His return, however it may look to us. And in that I gladly hope!
All that to say, don’t be afraid to be a vocally hopeful Christian in a very vocally hopeless world. I look at Asbury and I pray it is a genuine move of God. I hope that God is moving. And I am not afraid to say that I am eager to hope in the Lord and His ability to spread the renewal of His love to the ends of the earth. And I pray this has helped you, even if it’s just a little, to learn to hope again!