The Incredible Power Of Hope
Years ago Joel and I, along with our family, were booked to sing at a function in the western part of the United States. The man who scheduled us had made a name for himself during the cold war by his stand against communism. He had a voice, a platform, much like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck today. He held pro-Christian, anti-communist rally’s, was quoted in the newspapers and heard on the radio around the nation. His was a household name.
When our family was called to participate in his anniversary celebration, circumstances surrounding his cause had changed dramatically. He had suffered a moral failure and we’d heard of his problem years back, the whole nation did. The crowd was small that night, possibly one hundred or so faithful followers. It was sad to see what had happened to such a strong, passionate man.
We had accepted the invitation to sing for him in hopes that he had regained his footing and was making a comeback. But that wasn’t the case. From the platform that evening, as we were singing, I happened to glance at our host. What I saw nearly took my breath away. Even though he was enjoying our music, in an unguarded moment, his eyes mirrored the depths of his despair. It was like looking into pools of fathomless grief. The fact that he had thrown away the greatest opportunity that he would likely ever have, lost his credibility, and tarnished his reputation, left him paralyzed with regret. It was plain to see that he had not, and could not forgive himself, even if God had. This was the first time that I had ever witnessed such hopelessness, and I’ll never forget it.
Later we sat down with this man in private and spent time talking about the Bible. We quoted him Scriptures and tried to give him hope. We showed him how God had restored others and was fully able and willing to do the same for him. He listened intently but his final answer was, “Yes but not for me.” As far as he was concerned the promises and faithfulness of God applied to others, but not to him. But they do apply to all of us and we should claim our benefits as children of God. When we stumble, fall, and make mistakes, it just proves that we are human.
Our Heavenly Father is the greatest parent in the universe and loves us beyond measure. He “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). Peter said also; “Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (I Peter 5:6-7).
We can’t make it without hope. Hope causes us to look forward with expectancy. It produces strength and vigor. To quote from a great old hymn, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings are mine, with ten thousand beside!” To live in hope is a must. It helps us surmount every obstacle and defeat every foe. On the other hand to live without hope is to despair.
Joel and I live in hope. Sometimes it’s against all odds. If we were to look at how great our task is, we would be like Peter walking on the water to Jesus, when he looked down at the waves lapping around his feet. We would go under. Hope and faith go hand in hand. The Scripture says it this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). In another place Paul said; “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” (Rom. 5:3-5).
When the Lord redefined mine and Joel’s calling twenty-five years ago, he gave us specific instructions. We were to carry a message that he gave to us to His people. He said “the ground is hard. Plow it strongly and plow it fiercely.” He also said, “it is my message, you just give it and I will add the power behind it.” We have been “plowing in hope” for a long time, waiting on the harvest. To be honest, at times Joel and I have compared this hard ground to asphalt. But the calling of God gives us confidence to keep plowing and scattering the seed of His word.
Like Abraham’s wife Sarah, I am watching my youth fade and my strength wane as I continue to wait on my promises. But I cannot afford to do as she did. She started looking through the eyes of her natural abilities. When she lost her natural abilities, she lost hope. When hope was gone she became desperate and made a grave mistake. Sarah watched her body wither like a flower. Time was against her. She didn’t have the Scriptures to learn from as we do. She was just a woman. All she had to go on was a seemingly impossible promise from God. Doubts crowded her mind as she pondered God’s words. Maybe she didn’t understand what God meant. Maybe there was something that she had to do.
Sarah got into trouble when she started trying to figure out how she could make it happen. She thought that God needed help, that he must have forgotten and had waited too late for the child of promise to come from her. We know the rest of the story. She gave Hagar her handmaid, to her husband Abraham to produce a son and the whole world is still suffering from that mistake. All the turmoil in the Middle East stems from the question: “Which son of Abraham is the son of promise?” Is it Isaac or is it Ishmael?”
On the other hand, Abraham this great father of the faithful, “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God…and therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:20-22). This righteous man, righteous simply because he believed that God would do what He said, set his mind for the long haul. He didn’t put a time limit on his promise. “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (Rom. 4:18). He absolutely ignored the fact that he was a hundred years old and that Sarah was far passed her child-bearing years. As far as he was concerned these things didn’t enter the picture. Hope energized him. It kept him going: “he rejoiced in hope, was patient in tribulation and continued diligently in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).
The first man that I described lost faith that God could give him a second chance. In that, he was the total opposite of Abraham. He “fainted” in his heart and all hope was gone. When Abraham made his mistake he kept going. He believed God could, and would fix it. He continued walking it out, knowing by experience that God is the God of yesterday, today, and forever. He is the God who changes not and is able and willing to bring to pass all of His promises.
We see another great man in the Bible, King David, who struggled against hopelessness. His pain, fears, and sins are all written in Psalms so that we can see and learn by them. David’s victory over fleshly desires [which were his greatest battles] were won through praise, trust, and hope. He said; “Praise the Lord, O my soul. While I live I will praise the Lord. I will sing praises unto my God while I have my being. He healeth the broken in heart…The Lord lifteth up the meek…The Lord taketh pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his mercy” (146:1-2; 147:3, 6, 11).
“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).
And I say a hearty Amen!!