Watching the famous Rose Parade on New Year’s Day of 2020, I remember being inspired by its theme, The Power of Hope. After the ups and downs of 2019, it felt like all of us could use more hope in our lives.
Little did I know how true that thought would turn out to be.
In February and early March, news sources began featuring stories about an illness that was spreading at an alarming rate. Soon reports about the increasing number of deaths from this new disease not only escalated anxiety but also expanded health recommendations. Before long, rarely used terms became part of everyday vocabulary: social distancing, coronavirus, and pandemic.
Most of us remember those days in late winter, praying for others stranded on cruise ships and in countries far away. By the time spring arrived, we had added family members and friends to our prayer list. Time for such petitions became much more prevalent as we found ourselves at home under “shelter in place” mandates.
Over the past few months, I have had lots of time to ponder the theme of hope I’d been so excited about on January 1st. In fact, during this COVID-19 crisis, hope could have seemed nothing more than an elusive fantasy—but because of my faith, I knew hope had not gone anywhere. You see, hope doesn’t march down the boulevard on a bright sunny day, and it does not need throngs of people welcoming its presence. Hope doesn’t’ come and go. Hope is here and now, forever and for always. How do I know? Because hope begins and ends with the Creator of all things, just as the Apostle Paul so beautifully explained to Christians centuries ago: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 8:13).
Notice that Paul’s prayer for believers confirms who God truly is—our source of hope. This verse also provides those of us living in 2020 with a simple formula for finding more and more of it, no matter what may be going on in our lives or in the world around us:
Trust in God + the Holy Spirit’s power = Joy, Peace, and Confident Hope
I don’t know about you, but I certainly could use more joy, peace, and confident hope in my life right now. But in order for any of us to receive these amazing blessings, we must analyze our level of trust God. This type of trust is really what faith is all about, as Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” In other words, our faith is intricately connected to what we hope for and experiencing a “confident hope” depends upon our complete trust in the Lord.
It is crucial to understand that faith requires action on our part, and faith must also be maintained over time. The Apostle Peter explained why this is important: “So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:17-18). Bad experiences and unscrupulous people are a reality of life on Earth, but our efforts to grow and develop our faith can counteract such negative forces. Indeed, it is during difficult times that I find it necessary to dig deeply into the Word and be encouraged by truths found in songs like this one:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
As you look over these few stanzas, you will note that once again we are called into action in order to develop our faith. We are asked to choose the source of our hope. We must decide if Jesus is the foundation of our faith—or not.
This faith-based, hopeful approach to life is of paramount importance in witnessing to others too. Here’s the way Peter explained it: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (I Peter 3:15-16, NASB). This “hope that is in you” refers to faith: our trust in God, His promise of eternal life because of what Jesus did on the cross, and the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.
Maintaining this hopeful spirit isn’t easy, especially in the midst of a crisis like we’ve been experiencing. Yet it is in unsettling times that our faith can increase exponentially. Striving to expand our trust in God is essential work, and so is reaching out into our world to offer others a glimpse of the “Source of Hope.” Here are some ways people have put this kind of hopeful spirit into practice during the past few months:
- “Pass it on” movements in drive-thru restaurants: I’m not sure who starts these each day, but at a local Starbucks, the employees have shared how customers pay for others’ orders for almost two hours at a time. Similar acts of kindness have popped up everywhere as individuals strive to encourage people around them.
- Virtual visits: With social distancing, people have become increasingly creative in how they connect with others, especially the elderly. One inspiring story occurred outside a nursing home in Kentucky where handlers brought horses to “visit” residents at their windows just to brighten their day.
- Church on wheels: A body of believers in southern California decided to rally church members to collect non-perishable goods for a local food bank and do a “drive-by drop off” at various sites.This food drive ended up becoming the largest ever in the food bank’s history, and church members spread God’s love while remaining safely inside their vehicles.
- Adopt a child: Despite the increasing number of unemployed and underemployed, Compassion International experienced an amazing Mother’s Day weekend. Almost 1000 children from Ecuador were sponsored through one church alone. These kids will receive monthly support that includes materials to help encourage their walk with Jesus.
These examples of people reaching out to others are encouraging, spreading hope in a world that needs much more of it. They are also signs that the Source of Hope is alive and well, at work around us while we await eternity. And while we wait, let’s continue to place complete confidence in the Lord—He truly is our only hope.
All of us at Sonkist Ministries hope you and your family have a peaceful, joy-filled summer season.
Thought of the Summer
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.