Monday, September 16, 2013

hope: history and energy

we are in the middle of yet another series at our church (catawissa avenue umc) about hope.  hope has been our major theme over the last two years, as we have come to see that our vision is to be a people of hope, sharing the hope of Christ with our neighbors.  and since we see it as our calling to have hope be the defining characteristic of our church's personality, we continue to grow in understanding of what it means to be full of hope. 

yesterday in worship we talked about the power of hope to help us persevere through the difficult seasons in our lives.  there are a variety of ways that hope can do this, but we talked about two ways in particular: history and energy. 

first, history.  our hope is not just wishful thinking.  it isn't just a vague belief that "everything will work out alright in the end because that's how all my favorite movies end."  no, hope is based on something.  ultimately, as Christ-followers, our hope is based on Christ and his resurrection, but part of the way that can manifest itself is through our own personal history. 

like my dog, max.  max is snoring away contentedly in that peaceable kingdom now, but when he was here with us, he usually spent his time snoring in the back bedroom, on any pillow (no matter the size) or blanket that might have been left on the ground.  you could pet him, shake him, pull him, and even ride him, as quin often did, but there wasn't much you could do to make him move.  except for one thing: peanut butter.  peanut butter always made max move.  he could be sound asleep in the back room, sawing bulldog-sized logs but 1.3 seconds after i opened that jar of jif in the kitchen, he was at my feet, looking up longingly, full of hope.  now, you know why max was so hopeful? 

history.  that's right, history.  you see, the past had shown him that i would demonstrate my love for him by giving him a lick of peanut butter.  i couldn't resist.  and he knew it.  he wasn't just wishing on a wing and a prayer that maybe, somehow, it might just happen.  no!  he was confident that i would come deliver on this creamy delicious promise, because i had in the past.  and so i would.  everytime. 

its the same for us.  God longs to give us every good gift; to provide for all our needs in abundance.  when we face a difficult situation, we can persevere by the power of hope because of what we have experienced in the past:  that God has always provided.  God has always been by our side.  God has never failed us.  God has been faithful.  life has been difficult, and there have been moments and days when we had no earthly idea how we would possibly get through it, and yet, by the grace of God, we did.  if God has delivered on the promises in the past, why not this time?  we hope with confidence because of our history, and so we can persevere through those dry seasons in our lives. 

but wait....there's more. 

there is energy.  i don't know about you, but life gets exhausting sometimes.  just plain overwhelmingly exhausting.  i've got a to-do list that doesn't fit on the page i've scribbled it out on.  and then there are all those things that you don't (and can't) plan for.  the emergencies.  the call from the school.  the call from the doctor.  the results of the bloodwork.  that passing comment by your spouse, and suddenly, you just can't take it any more.  its too much.  and you just quit. 

i get this same feeling when i'm running.  i try to run on the treadmill at the gym, and i usually do at least 3 miles.  sometimes its tough to get started, but once i get going, i get into a groove, and i'm fine, especially if i can distract my mind.  but there is always this moment somewhere around 2 and a half miles when my mind starts telling me that i have to stop.  that i just don't have any energy left.  i need to quit, or at the very least, slow to a walk.  "if i don't, i'm going to die."  yeah, my mind can be that dramatic.  don't lie, yours can, too. 

and it reminds me of our lives.  we get to a point where everything in us is just screaming to quit.  we just can't take it any more.  "we're going to die."  and so we quit.  and so often it is right before a breakthrough....right before a big milestone.  right before we get a second (or third) wind.  but we just don't have the energy. 

but guess what?  we do.  we can persevere with hope in what God will do in us because we know that God gives us the energy we need.  Paul talked about it right there in colossians at the end of the first chapter.  after talking about the complexity of his work, and all that he has to do, and the high calling involved in it (sounds exhausting, right?), he says this in verse 29: "to this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me."  that's right.  Christ provides the energy we need to strenuously contend with our to do lists and our emergencies and our minds telling us that we can't possibly do it. 

so there you have it.  we can persevere through the difficult times with hope, both because of the history in which God has provided for us time and time again, and because of the energy God can work in us. 

rely on that.  peace.

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