Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:1-5)
The reason that I was drawn to these verses is because they speak of hope, the hope that we have in God, a hope that will not be disappointed – the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ: salvation now, but right into eternity.
I have been meditating this week on the thought of hope, and I acknowledge my debt to Billy Graham, whose Hope for Each Day I often read. I love his writings. There’s such a clarity in them, he has such a clear, straightforward spirit and good old-fashioned Christian values, and I always find it such a relief to go to him. This week’s reading included this verse:
My heart is glad, and … my flesh also shall rest in hope. (Psalm 16:9)
He speaks of the importance of hope and quotes from various outstanding medical people who say that hope is vital both psychologically and physically; one of them actually said that hope is the best cure that he knew for most conditions. There’s a well-known quotation, Abandon hope, all ye who enter here, that I remember was once posted over a leper colony, and that may perchance come to your mind or heart or spirit if you’re not pleased with life – ‘Abandon hope!’ But, mercifully, hope is quite hard to abandon because, in the words of another saying in our language, Hope springs eternal in the human breast. And thank God for it: the gift of hope. Paul says: Now abideth these three: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of them is love – but hope is a close second. I think it’s a wonderful quality, a wonderful gift that God has given to the human heart, and how much more to the Christian heart. For when hope dies in us over a situation or over ourselves – if it dies, say, over a weakness that you have and you have no more hope that you’ll ever change, then you’re not likely to change. But if instead we hear a whisper in our spirits: Try again, hope resurges, and then we are much more likely to get victory over whatever we need. It is the same when it comes to being burdened for other lives – and surely as we go on as Christians a great deal of the suffering that comes into life is actually for the sake of others and their needs. Madam Guyon describes how latterly all her suffering was because of her care for other lives. It becomes essential to our spirits that we dwell in hope, that God dwells in hope. Even our flesh also will rest in hope, and we have the hope of the glory of God.
It is actually one of the titles of God. He was often referred to by His people as the Hope of Israel, which I think is a lovely name for God. The word hope has different translations. When it’s referring to God, one of them is confidence. It’s a bit more than, ‘It might happen’: it is a confidence, especially in relation to God. Sometimes it means expectation: the Hope of Israel is the Expectation of Israel, the One that they were waiting for, and He of course has come in the person of Christ. Sometimes it means refuge. The prophet says:
The Lord will be the hope of his people. (Joel 3:16)
That means that the Lord will be the Refuge of His people: that is often the meaning applied to God, and it is a wonderful one. When we have a refuge, then we have hope. When we have an expectation of something good happening in the future, it gives us hope. And He is our confidence.
I want to give one or two examples of the wonderful hope and refuge that God can bring from the lives of people that I knew. One was a lady in our church who many years ago, when I was a child, had gone out to the mission field in answer to the call of God. She spoke quite publicly of how she had had an open-eyed vision of Africa. She had gone and served there as a nurse. She came into a very difficult time, and also was pulled home by the illness of her mother. As she said, in spite of advice that she was given, she came home. And she suffered desperately. She felt that she had abandoned the call of God, and she was in agony of spirit for many months if not years. There had come over her a black despair. Now the devil is very cruel. I am quite sure he was tormenting her in a way that God did not mean her to be. Miss Taylor (one of our founding leaders), who lived near this lady, told us one day that she had been walking up a street in Greenock when they met at the top of Terrace Road, near Regent Street. When Miss Taylor saw her friend, she immediately realized that she was in desperate despair – the blackness was all over her. She just said her name … they stood together, and as they were standing there, Christ came in visible form and stood beside them. They didn’t say a word to each other; they just waited; then they parted in silence. Hope – our Hope – He came.
As I tell that story, I think of a time in my own life when I was in desperate despair, not seeing how I could cope with the future. And the Lord Jesus Christ came into my room. I didn’t see Him with the physical eye; I didn’t need to, I saw Him so clearly with my spiritual eyes, and I knew He stood at my bedside, and all was well. What a Christ we have!
In another situation someone was in desperate need, with terrible weakness in their own life that led them into real trouble. They said that one night an angelic being, if not Christ Himself, came and sat at his bedside, and said: I have come down to help thee, thou sorely tried one.
And I would say, just to remind us all: Try Jesus. Try God. Don’t give up hope, even if you feel that you have failed. In the case of the lady missionary, though she felt she’d failed – and failed God – that wasn’t His verdict on her. He came to her. And He comes to us. We never need to lose hope. He is our hope of glory.
Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself. (1 John 3:3)
To be purified often means to go through refining fire, and we have to go through refining fires because a lot of refining is needed before we are ready to meet with God. But we have this hope, the hope of Christ’s appearing, and that when He appears we will be like Him. And because of that hope, we want to be ready, and we want Him to refine us, refine our fallen natures, until we are prepared at least to begin to be like Christ.
A lot of our suffering ultimately can be related to our care for other lives and our desperate longing that they will find Christ as Saviour, and having found Him will keep following Him, and will find Him really deeply. There comes an agony on our spirits at times that another life will come into the knowledge of the glory of God and the freedom that there is in Christ. Sometimes we can be tempted to give up hope. I’ve known myself be almost ready to give up hope for another life, and find that God has compelled me still to have hope, still to pray, that that He is going to win that one, that they’re not going to be lost.
As I was meditating on hope last night, my book opened at a poem of Amy Carmichael’s. One verse and then the whole poem really lived for me. It will be especially relevant to those who are finding in themselves a care for other lives. We have just completed an Alpha course in Greenock, taken by some of the younger generation. By last Wednesday night there were definitely six people who had found Christ as Saviour, and one of them was also baptized in the Spirit. I am sure that for those of you who have been running that course, your deep care is now that they will keep following and find more of Christ. And others of you will be burdened for various people in various ways.
Let Us Believe
Saviour, who bore the bitter Cross,
That he* for whom we come today
Might be redeemed and purged from dross –
To Thee, triumphant Christ, we pray.
What though our faith be swept by storm?
Thou who hast promised wilt perform!
Faithful art Thou to perfect those
In whom Thy grace begins to move.
Changeful the tide of feeling flows,
Changeless Thine everlasting love.
Not hell itself can countermand
The saving strength of Thy right hand!
Renew within us quenchless hope,
O God of Hope, though oftentime
He slip upon the upward slope;
Let us believe that he will climb.
O let us sing before we see;
And glory, glory be to Thee!
*or ‘she’, and so throughout.
‘Renew within us quenchless hope, O God of Hope’ – isn’t that lovely? As we pray to Him, and as we find Him, we find hope.
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