Six reasons to have hope
Posted by Steve Wilcox, 9 Apr 2020
Steve Wilcox offers six reasons why Christians can continue to have hope even in a time of pandemic.
Right now we’re in lock down: we can’t meet – friends, family, church family; we dread turning on the news or looking at the paper to see things getting worse and worse; we’ve had to cancel good plans; many of us are feeling isolated; worst of all we don’t know how long it will go on for.
Many people are choking in an atmosphere of anxiety and despair but as Christians we have lots of reasons to hope. Here are six to remember:
1. Our good and loving Father is in control
When something like this happens it’s easy to think that God’s lost control – that this is beyond him. But the Bible is clear that God is in control even over so called “natural” events. For example:
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38).
“When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:6).
“Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.” (Psalm 46:8).
These words are written to encourage us. Because God is in control. He’s not having an off day; he’s not been taken by surprise; he’s still on his throne.
We won’t always understand what he’s doing; things often won’t go the way we want. Christians as well as those who are not Christian will suffer and will die – some already have. But God is in control.
2. We can talk to our good and loving Father who is in control
Think about the first four words of the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father in heaven.”
This God who is in heaven, the God who is in control, is our good and loving Father. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? Isn’t it wonderful to know that however isolated some of us feel – however lonely – we have a good and loving Father who is with us? And we can talk to him.
We can pray the Lord’s prayer: your will be done; give us our daily bread; deliver us from evil.
We can bring our anxieties to him. “Do not be anxious about anything,” says the apostle Paul, “but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God… And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
And of course he hears us and he will answer us – with good things. It might not be the good thing we asked for; it might be a hard good thing. But he will answer.
Are you worried about loved ones? Pray.
Are you worried about catching coronavirus, or a loved one catching it? Pray.
Are you worried about work or finances? Pray.
Are you wondering what to do with your time? Pray and spend time with your loving heavenly Father. He loves it when we talk to him.
3. God uses hardships to draw people to himself
Most of us live very independent lives. We think everything’s fine; we can do what we like; we can do it by ourselves; and we can ignore God. Yet when something like this happens – suddenly we find we can’t take anything for granted. It seems that everything we’ve relied on is being undermined: our jobs; our finances our health; our health service; our pensions; the relationships we depend on.
Jesus said lots of hard words. These are some of the hardest, found in Luke 13:
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5).
What’s Jesus saying? He’s saying that hard as suffering is, it serves a purpose. One purpose it serves is to cause people to examine their lives and come to repentance.
Everything that is happening now is nothing compared to the judgement that is to come. Judgement and condemnation for those who have ignored God all their lives will be far worse than Coronavirus could ever be. And, therefore, any suffering in life is a mercy which calls people to turn back to God.
Let’s pray that many do turn back to him across the world, across the UK, in the coming months and years.
4. God uses hardships to strengthen Christians
You’ll remember the story of Joseph, the favourite son of Jacob whose jealous brothers sell him into slavery in Egypt and tell his father that he’s dead. Joseph had a very difficult life – working as a slave; then unjustly thrown in prison. But after many years he is raised up to be the most powerful man in Egypt after Pharaoh. And God uses him to save his brothers – and the whole known world - from starvation.At the end of the account, after their father dies, we find his brothers worried about what Joseph will do them in revenge for their act of betrayal many years earlier.
But here’s what Joseph says:
“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” (Genesis 50:20-21).
Joseph was able to see the hand of God in all that had happened, working for his good, and for the good of his people, and the good of the world.
The God of Joseph is our God. He is working for the good of his people – those who are his people and those who will become his people. Can we understand how this might be? No, certainly not at the moment. Are we angry with God? Perhaps some of us are, and that’s okay, as long as we bring the anger to God and seek to deal with it in our relationship with him.
Do we hate it when people glibly say “God works all things for good to those who love him”? Yes.
But it’s still true.
5. Our greatest disease has been dealt with
All suffering, all disease, all natural disaster that we face in the world is indirectly, because of the action of the first man and woman, a result of sin. In Genesis 3 the first man and woman reject God’s good rule – and the whole world becomes cursed. As God says, “Cursed is the ground because of you.” (Genesis 3:17).
So we can say that every natural disaster, every tear, every experience of pain, every disease has indirectly been caused by a greater disease – the disease of sin.
That is not saying that people who suffer more have sinned more than those who don’t. The previous point shows that must be completely wrong. But it is to say that the disease of sin which came into the world at the Fall and which affects every human being (except Jesus Christ) is our greatest disease.
The wonderful news of Christianity is that for those trusting in Jesus and seeking to follow him, that greatest disease – sin - has been dealt with. As we celebrate this season of Easter we remember Good Friday, when Jesus, the God-man who had never sinned, hung on a cross bearing all the punishment for our sin, taking it in his own body so that we don’t have to. Jesus died so we might be forgiven, so we might be healed from our greatest disease, that is, sin, and all its consequences.
If we’re trusting in Jesus we have been freed from the penalty of sin – which is hell; we are being freed from the power of sin over us; and one day we will be free from the presence of sin and all its consequences. Which takes us to our final reason to have hope.
6. Our future is guaranteed
Over the coming weeks and months, some of us will die from coronavirus, and some from other causes. But for those who trust in Christ and follow him, death is not the end. In fact, it’s just the beginning.
Just as we are convinced that Jesus rose again from the dead, so we are convinced that all who believe in him will be raised with him. Our future is guaranteed.
And it is glorious. Paul writes in Romans, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21).
So whatever happens as a result of this new disease, we can rejoice in this: a day is coming when this broken, cursed, damaged, diseased world will be renewed. Sin and all its consequences will be history. And we will enjoy the freedom and glory of the children of God.
If you are not a Christian, you too can become part of this glorious future. Turn to Jesus today; ask him to forgive all your wrongdoing; say you want to follow him from now on. He will forgive you. Your greatest disease will be dealt with. Your future will be guaranteed. I urge you to do that today.
If you are a Christian, have hope. Have confident hope, because your good and loving Father is in control of all things, past, present and future.
Steve Wilcox is vicar of St Mark's and St Peter's churches in Anlaby.
Photo by Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash
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