“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
We live in a time of uncertainty, of hopelessness. There is a continuing pandemic with more than half a million dead in the US alone, in addition to the usual winter weather with its gray, gloomy skies. While the local weather may have taken a turn toward the better as I write this, many people are still experiencing emotional gloom. And the church is continuing through Lent and toward Good Friday and the remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion.
It can be hard to remember, as night continues unabated, that morning is ever going to come. Our traditions have taken new forms, with temporary tattoos taking the place of ashes and Facebook videos substituting for live, in-person worship. Sometimes it may seem as if things will never return to “normal.” We might ask, as did the people of Israel, “How can we sing the LORD’s song / on foreign soil?” (Psa. 137:4 Holman Christian Standard Bible). We may not be “on foreign soil” but we are in a world that many of us don’t recognize.
Those same spiritual ancestors knew what it meant to feel hopeless and what it meant to find strength in their faith. The words of scripture are testimony to their faith and to the faith they wished for us, their descendants in faith. The scriptures we have inherited are both a record of what they believed and a guide to what they wanted their readers—including us—to believe.
The author of the gospel of John believed it was important for us to believe that Jesus is “‘the way, and the truth, and the life’” (John 14:6). The author believed we needed to hold onto Jesus’ promise to his disciples, then and now, that “‘I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.’” (John 16:33 HCSB). It was important, then and now, for followers of Christ to believe in Christ’s victory, to have peace in him and in his message. That message continues today and throughout the generations of those of us who believe.
Jeremiah wrote, “‘For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the LORD’s declaration—‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jer. 29:11 HCSB). Jeremiah’s people were in captivity, subject to the Babylonians, and they needed a reason for hope, a vision of a better future, as have persons of faith throughout the ages, and as do we. Their faith gave them a reason for hope and that same faith is available to us, just as it was to them. Nothing was too hard for our God then, and it isn’t today (32:27).
The psalmist wrote many times of the hope he had—and we have—in God (Psa. 33:22, 46:1, 62:8, 71:14, 130:5). No matter the circumstances, he knew God’s love wouldn’t fail, that God would deliver him and his people. While he may have been frustrated by waiting for God’s ultimate victory, he had a hope based on faith. And he knew the importance of conveying that faith to those who would hear his psalms and read their words. One especially moving example is Psalm 62:8, written by King David himself. “Trust in Him at all times, you people; / pour out your hearts before Him. / God is our refuge.” (HCSB).
The author of 1 Peter urged his readers to “honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Pet. 3:15 HCSB). As Pastor Kim noted in a recent newsletter, we emerge little by little from our darkness and despair. If we can hold onto the hope we have, we can be an example, a living witness, to the reality of the faith we have inherited. Each of us is a link in an unbroken chain of faith that stretches back thousands of years, through countless generations. Little by little, we can add our own stories, our own testimony, to those of Moses and Miriam, Jeremiah and Esther, Ruth and David, John, Mary and Peter. God will never break the chain, God will always be faithful. God will know us and not abandon us (Nah. 1:7). If we are prepared to stand up for God, God will stand by us.
“‘I will not reject or abhor them so as to destroy them and break My covenant with them, since I am Yahweh their God. For their sake I will remember the covenant with their fathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God; I am Yahweh.’” (Lev. 26:44b-45 HCSB.)
Copyright © 2021 by David Phelps