Hope is a Person!
LRE: How would you describe hope?
DM: As I think
about hope, I immediately think about a scripture song from the book of
Lamentations which is a book of lament.
It was written during the
time of the exile when Jeremiah was left behind. Things looked hopeless. Speaking under the inspiration of
the Holy Spirit, he says, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your
faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22, NKJV).
But note what follows in verses 24 and 26: “The Lord is my portion, says my
soul; therefore, I hope in Him. . . . It is good that one should hope and wait
quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
I think what Jeremiah is saying is that hope sees beyond the present
situation. Hope can look at a hopeless situation and still see that something
good is coming. I think it’s really important for our readers to realize that
that kind of hope is not found in ourselves. If we feel helpless or even hopeless it does not mean that
there is no hope but that our hope is found in God.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness”
LRE: So in times of stress, hope still hangs on?
DM: Hope in
such situations can seem absurd to the unbeliever. Take for example the poetry at the end of chapter three in
Habakkuk. If we put it in a modern
setting it might sound like this:
“When my car breaks down and I’ve just been fired from my job, and the
pathology report comes back that I’ve got some disease”—things that might
concern us today—Habakkuk says, “I am going to hope in the Lord.”
LRE: What brought Habakkuk to have that kind of hope?
DM: He was
challenged by the fact that it seemed like the wicked were doing better—they
were prospering when others were not. Regardless, he chose to believe that “the
just shall live by faith.” This kind of
faithfulness is like Job’s which says, “No matter what happens, I’m
going to hold onto God. I really believe that my Redeemer lives, and that He
will stand on the earth in the last days.” So I think hope is really more of a
way of looking at life—one that is centered in a relationship with God.
LRE: If that’s the case, how does one prepare to have
DM: Jesus says,
“Come to Me when you are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Scriptures are not just ancient records. They are present truth. So as I read
the words of Jesus, He says, “Learn from Me, and you’ll find rest for your
souls.” That hope is found in a relationship with God. When I was younger,
Titus 2:13 was often quoted: “Looking for the blessed hope….” I thought the blessed hope was the
event of the coming of Jesus. In fact people sang about it that way. However, if I read the text
correctly, the blessed hope is a Person. It’s Jesus. The text concludes with,
“the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Jesus is our Blessed Hope today as well as our Blessed Hope when He returns in glory. To me this means that seeking Him and having a living connection with Him, is where hope is found, even in the most apparently hopeless situations.
Jesus is our Blessed Hope
today as well as our Blessed Hope when He returns in glory. To me this means
that seeking Him and having a living connection with Him, is where hope is
found, even in the most apparently hopeless situations.
LRE: How can a family have hope or even think about
being faithful with tithes and offerings
when jobs are lost or when an expensive illness hits them hard?
DM: When I was
a young pastor, someone came to me and said, “I just want to tell you that
there was a time when I decided I was not going to return tithe, that I needed
all of the resources.” Then he said, “I discovered that I was worse off with
100 percent than I was when I put God first!
I began my ministry in
northeastern Pennsylvania, and it was not a particularly affluent area. And I
would have been embarrassed to speak to them about faithful stewardship if I
did not believe that God is faithful to all of His promises. Some of the
promises that come to mind immediately, of course, are “Prove me now, says the
Lord, if I will not open the windows of heaven” (Mal. 3:8-10). You know, “Bring
all the tithes into the storehouse,” “Will a man rob God?” Some people read
that only as a legal obligation but I don’t. These words come as a wonderful, gracious invitation from a
loving God who says, “Prove Me if I will not open the windows of heaven and
pour out such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
Again, it comes back to the relationship.
If I have a relationship with God then it doesn’t feel like an
obligation but a privilege. If I’m ministering to a family going through an
economic turmoil and upheaval, I would say, “We need to trust the promises of
God even more now and rejoice in the promises of God.”
LRE: What kind of counsel would you give a pastor who is
reluctant to speak to others about being faithful with returning their tithes
DM: During my
last pastorate we spoke very little about tithe yet it more than doubled. It
was clearly taught and understood. Our approach was to present a clear vision
of what God wants to do, to present clearly the Blessed Hope, to present Jesus
and the hope of His soon return and the mission to share that message with the
world. When God has our hearts, He has our resources. He has our time, He has
our energies, and He has our finances.
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good tidings."
LRE: As faithful stewards, are we only recipients of
hope or are we also ambassadors of hope?
DM: A steward
of hope is a bearer of glad tidings. I love the text quoted by Paul in Romans
10:15, where he says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good
tidings.” And in the same context he says, “Everyone who calls upon the name of
the Lord will be saved.” So he’s coming as a bearer of glad tidings—as an
ambassador or steward of hope. He
comes as someone with good news! In the same passage in Romans 10, Paul says,
“How can people believe if they haven’t heard?” So if I know that life has
hope, and that hope is centered in a Person and not in possessions and I do not
share that hope, I think I’ll be held accountable for that.
LRE: In Romans 5:5, Paul says, “Hope does not
disappoint.” How does hope not disappoint us when I’m broke or when a disaster
hits my family?
The context in Romans 5 is speaking about tribulation, which produces
perseverance. It’s not talking about easy times. Paul had reminded us in chapter
one that, “The just shall live by faith.” Now he reminds us that hope does not
disappoint. What is that hope? Or should I ask, “Who is that hope?” In Romans
5:6, the very next verse,
Paul says that God’s love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Clearly, God’s love will not disappoint us. “And these abide—faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love”
Clearly, God’s love will
not disappoint us. “And these abide—faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of
these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Hope perseveres because God’s love has been
poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit. It is a miracle. Regardless of the
circumstances, hope is not taken away! My hope is grounded in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of
God. The Holy Spirit is the One
who effects that miracle, as Romans 5 says, “God has poured out his love into
our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Like the old hymn says,
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Faith
enables me to see beyond my present situation. Hope is a result because my faith is anchored in God and His
LRE: From your own pastoral experience what have you
learned with regards to encouraging others to be faithful stewards of God’s
DM: I have seen that the most powerful
teaching is personal example.
We’re not Jesus, but Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Peter
said, “Be an example to the flock.” My challenge to pastors or lay leaders in
the local congregation is for all of us to experience the miracle of being a
faithful steward. If others see that this woman or man of God truly believes
the promises of God and that they can stand as a rock-solid hope no matter
what’s happening, they will too. It will become believable! So I would say, “By the grace of
God, let it begin in the heart of the leader. And that joy will not be
contained, but it will be a blessing to those around them.”