Not too long ago there was a letter to the editor of the Arizona Republic newspaper. This writer was speaking of the year that 2020 has been. He called it a terrible year. This man referenced being trapped at home because of the pandemic. He bemoaned all the campaign nastiness. He spoke of the heat of the summer, once again the hottest on record. He said the summer had been a Dante-like experience. Not many would argue with him until his last sentence. This man’s last sentence showed the hopelessness so many people know today. He said, “For those of us destined for the infernal region, I pray we get credit for time served.”
Picture your life with your only hope for the future being the infernal region. Picture your life thinking there is nothing but the fires of hell to look forward to. This is the outer darkness that comes with weeping and gnashing of teeth. And, truth be told, that is what all of us were destined for until Jesus came. What sort of life might there be knowing eternity without God, and your hope is that the suffering might be shortened because of extra credit earned here?
The psalmist writes in 119:116, ”Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.” God's people have been turning to Him for thousands of years because they know as do, we that if we put our hope in things of this world, our hopes will be dashed. Every single thing in this world has been tainted by sin...our sin. And because of that we know these things will fail us. Things of the world break, get stolen, rot and rust. When we put our sole trust in people we will be let down, guaranteed. Because we have been tainted by sin as well. The only place we will not find hopelessness is in the Lord.
The apostle Paul has much to say about hope. We read this in the Book of Romans. ”For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4. We have God's Word so that we have a place to meet Him. It is in His Word that we find the assurance that we never walk alone. We see that God keeps His promises. We find examples of His great love for every one of us. We see God's power, sovereignty and grace. Scripture is where we encounter God. It is where we read the promises of hope for an abundant life in Jesus now and eternal life after this life is over. And that life does not include time spent in the infernal region. It is eternity spent in paradise, where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us.
To piggyback on the Romans scripture, we find these words In Ephesians 1:18-19. ”I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” These months have been a challenge for many, and the challenges seemingly endless. Paul reminds us that hope is available to us...just for the asking. And it isn't just any old hope we might find lying around. It is a glorious inheritance. This is not a punishment but a mighty gift. We do not need to ask for credit for time served here. This is the promise we have been given. And it is for there for all who choose to believe. There are those who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ. They live with no hope because they do not know it is a possibility. Others have been introduced to Jesus and have invited Him out of their lives. They have no hope for the future either, except the infernal region. That is a choice they have made. But Jesus always waits for them to return. He pursues those who have walked away, just like the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to find the one who is lost.
We live in a world that is badly broken. We will encounter things in this life that seem hopeless, unending and evil. Jesus knew that. That is why we have these words of His to remind us that even when things do seem insurmountable, there is hope. These words are part of Jesus teaching just prior to the last supper and His arrest, trial, crucifixion and death. Jesus has promised to send the advocate...the Holy Spirit. He has promised to speak clearly to the disciples. And then John 16:33, ”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Notice there is no promise of smooth sailing. In fact, it is in the rough times people look to those of us who believe only to see peace and calm. There are troubles. There always will be. But Jesus has overcome. He is still on the throne, large and in charge. We need only hang on and He will see us through.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W