The early church had hope even during struggles. Paul wrote of being under great pressure, beyond his endurance and said he despaired of life (2 Cor 1.8) Paul was honest about his struggles. He could talk about hope and suffering in the same breath. “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, and he went on to say, And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2–5) Note in this verse the reason he had such hope. It was because God’s love had been poured into his heart by the Holy Spirit.
The coming of the Holy Spirit, poured out upon the first disciples on the day of Pentecost empowered the church and gave them hope. Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit is, among other great moments the anchor of hope that grounds all Christians. The Creation of the world, the nature of God, the giving of the law, the teaching of Jesus, his accomplishment on the cross, his victory over death, his ascension into heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the empowerment and mission of the church – all add to the hope we have. Hope grows in the fertile soil of what Jesus has accomplished and is watered by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can be a community of hope. The church is a reservoir of hope, in a world suffering from a drought of hope. “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11) Through the Holy Spirit we drink of the Living Water, our souls are refreshed and our hope renewed. Hope brings strength and healing. We all know what it is to be down and weary. When we are in such a position it is hope that can lift us. Through Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, there can be reconciliation, damaged relationships can be repaired, and past wounds can be healed. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God says to us in a verse Matthew applied to Jesus, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.’” (Matthew 12:20–21)
What difference does this make to us? There was a day when the first disciples looked on as their hope was nailed to a cross. As one of them said of Jesus at the time, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) We had hoped – but that hope died with him. Christians know and have experienced the depth of hopelessness, but we have two clear moments in history that restore hope: The resurrection with the empty tomb and the day of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Because of this the Apostle Paul was able to write of the hope held out in the gospel. This hope is ours. In an uncertain world we have the certainty of God’s love and God’s promises. We have the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. We have the gospel of forgiveness through Christ Jesus, a spring of living water welling up to eternal life. Because of all this we have hope in abundance.
Therefore, we are a community of hope, trusting in Jesus who comforts us saying, “‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’” (John 16:33) Later the Apostle John also wrote, “You, dear children, are from God and … the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Christ is the reason for our hope, greater than our obstacles, greater than our problems, greater than anything we face and therefore with Christians of all generations we take heart. So, let us have hope, create a community of hope, and offer that hope to others. I pray that as people come to worship with us, their spiritual nostrils will be filled with the aroma of hope. Hope they will find attractive and comforting. Hope to sustain them. Hope that they and we together can take with us and spread among those we meet.
- What could we do so as to strengthen the aroma of Christ in us?
- What tends to drain your hope or restore it?
- How was the hope of the early Christians challenged and what do you think restored their hope? Luke 24:21
- What made it possible for Paul not to be overwhelmed by his suffering and what part do you think the Holy Spirit plays in this? (Romans 5:2–5)
- Read Isaiah 58:11. In what ways do these verses point to hope?
- What hope can we find in Matthew 12:20–21, and how might this relate to our own lives or the lives of those we know?
- What do you think Paul meant when he spoke of the hope held out in the gospel? Col 1.22-23
Rev John Malcolm