Far More Hope

As you think about life, are you hopeful or hopeless? Your answer will be determined, in part, by where you are placing your hope.

Sometimes we place our hope in things that change. When they are going well, we are hopeful, but when they take a downturn, so does our hope. For example, if we hope in financial investments for our security, each time the stock market dips we will doubt our future. But when our hope is placed in the unchanging, it remains steady when circumstances shift. We have hope that a new day will dawn because it always has; the darkest nights have always given way to daylight and we are confident that will continue to happen.

During this uncertain time, where can we place our hope that is secure? The Bible offers an answer:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)

Far more life is built on an active relationship with the God of hope. Do you think of Him as the God of hope? When I hear that phrase, I am reminded of His character, both what I have read in the Bible and what I have experienced:

God keeps His word. The Bible is filled with promises, some already fulfilled and some yet to be fulfilled. Since God has faithfully kept His promises we can have confidence that He will continue to do so. Keeping His word confirms He is the God of hope.

God’s plan prevails. When God created the earth, He had a plan: an eternal relationship with us. He has communicated that plan to people throughout the ages, inviting them to join Him in fulfilling it. Yet His plan is not dependent on us, so we cannot ruin it by refusing to join Him or making mistakes. Far more life on this earth is part of His plan, but the best is yet to come! Revealing and enacting His plan shows He is the God of hope.

God is powerful and good. He sets the course of each celestial object in the universe. He arranges each atom just as He wants it. He controls the seasons, the tides, the span of each life. Yet his goodness is revealed in every detail as well. Our bodies are perfectly suited for life on earth. We experience happiness and satisfaction. He promises to reward righteousness and punish evil. He offers us forgiveness. Demonstrations of His power and goodness prove He is the God of hope.

God is love. We are designed to put our hope in love. That is why so many books, movies, and songs focus on love. The message is reinforced by well-known sentiments such as “love conquers all”, “love means never having to say you are sorry”, and “all we need is love”. But humans are incapable of being a stable source of love. God’s love, however, never wavers. We can be confident in it because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose perfect love led Him to sacrifice Himself as the ransom our lives. And this gives us hope! Sacrificial, unconditional love sets Him apart as the God of hope.

Keeping our hope fixed on God, through Jesus, is an important aspect of far more life. But God asks us to take it a step further and share our hope with others:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  (I Peter 3:15, NIV)

I was recently challenged with this question: what source am I most actively promoting as the reason for my hope during this pandemic? Is it a particular doctor? An elected official? A political party? A line of research? Or am I primarily hoping in God and pointing people toward Jesus?

Far more life has hope in eternal life, with God through Christ, which is evident in our words and actions. Hope allows His Spirit in us to stand out: we can remain calm when others panic; we can act with kindness and generosity when others are rude and selfish; we can grieve what we have lost while wholeheartedly celebrating what we have. During this time, hope in God opens the door for us to share how a relationship with Jesus gives us far more life, empowering us to live above our circumstances and remain hopeful.

This is how far more life puts hope into action:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (I Peter 1:13, NIV)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24, NIV)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5, NIV)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114, NIV)

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12, NIV)

Make this your motto: my hope is secure in God! Share it with those who are seeking hope. Far more life is the best gift you have ever received…and the best gift you can give to others!

Sisters,
Are you hopeful or hopeless?
In what are you placing your hope? Is that source secure or shifting?
What confirms to you that God is the God of hope? What causes you to doubt?
What source of hope are you promoting to others?
Who in your circle is seeking hope? How can you share the reason for the hope that you have?
Thank God for the hope of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Far More Good News

I have been contemplating the question, “What do our lives look like when we are passionately pursuing Christ?” I’ve been wondering about the commonalities among people living this way. During one of my God Times, this passage caught my attention:

Live as citizens who reflect the Good News about Christ…don’t let your opponents intimidate you in any way…God has given you the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him.  (Philippians 1:27, 28a, 29, GW)

It seems the Philippians were passionately pursuing God. Three things stood out to me about Paul’s instruction: reflect the Good News; don’t let opponents intimidate; and it’s a privilege to suffer. Let’s explore them.

First, like the Christians in Philippi, we are surrounded by bad news. We constantly hear of problems, tragedies, evil, and dissatisfaction. I am tempted to withdraw from media to avoid the negativity it promotes. But the bad news around us creates a perfect backdrop for the good news of Christ! The message of Christ offers the safety people are seeking. Far more life shares the Good News of peace and hope in Christ.

When we experience far more life, we naturally want to tell others about it. We want them to know Christ and discover the richness of a relationship with Him, too. We hear the bad news that burdens them and want to offset it with the Good News that changes everything. Sometimes we have the opportunity to speak, other times we do not. Either way, I appreciate the heart Paul had for the Thessalonians:

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (I Thessalonians 2:8, NIV)

Far more life is sharing life with others. There is something special about relationships that are centered on following God. There is a depth of connection that forms as we walk through life together. I have belonged to small groups and ministry teams that sacrificially supported each other through hard times, genuinely loved each other through trials and misunderstandings, and joyfully celebrated together when God blessed a member or granted our prayers. Many defining moments of my life have been shared with these dear people! We live far more life together.

Second, we face opponents who want to intimidate us. A Christian worldview is not popular, in fact it is often denounced and ridiculed. We are wise to carefully choose what we say and when we say it. But we don’t have to be intimidated about believing and living out the Good News of Christ. Far more life is boldly accepting and living out God’s love.

When I think of loving boldly in the presence of intimidating opponents, I appreciate the example of Guido in the movie Life is Beautiful. Despite being in a Nazi concentration camp, he goes to great lengths to keep his young son physically and emotionally sheltered from the reality they are facing. He also finds a way to communicate to his beloved wife that he is still alive. Guido successfully lives within the restrictions placed on him by the Nazis but is not intimidated by them. He lives out his love with boldness. No external situation he faces can extinguish it. The same is true of God’s love within His children. Far more life stands strong against opponents.

This leads us to the third statement: God has given us the privilege of suffering for Christ. Privilege of suffering? We think of privilege as an easy life, removed from difficulty. But God has a different perspective:

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God (1 Peter 2:20b, NIV)

Why is suffering for doing good commendable before God?

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.  (I Peter 4:14, 16, NIV)

God’s children are not understood by this world. That leads to insults and suffering. God is proud of His children who endure that suffering graciously because they understand the Good News of Christ and the spiritual dynamics of this world. He is pleased when we keep doing what He says is good despite being misunderstood and oppressed. What was true of the first century Christians and is true of many Christ-followers around the world today:

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:33-34, NIV)

Far more life takes suffering in stride and remains focused on eternal glory. It remembers this world is not our true home and this life is just a moment in eternity. Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of men and women who lived out that reality. After a long list of examples, the writer concludes: “the world was not worthy of them” (verse 38). Those men and women put their faith in God and the Good News of Christ above all else. They lived far more life and they suffered at the hands of those who could not comprehend it. We are not alone. We are not the first. We are probably not suffering the worst. But we can live far more life in our suffering.

So, what do our lives look like when we are passionately pursuing Christ? Far more life!

Sisters,
How do you reflect the Good News of Christ?
How do you share your life with others?
Does opposition intimidate you? Or make you bold?
How have you experienced the privilege of suffering for Christ?
Embrace far more life as you passionately pursue Christ this week!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso