Pulpit Reflections by Pastor Wayne James Hopelessness is the prevailing attitude in our day. Hopelessness stirs up strife in the inner city. Hopelessness spawns inhumane treatment in third world countries. Hopelessness triggers suicide in people of all ages.
So what can we do as Christians in an America which is permeated with hopelessness? Our primary responsibility is to be distributors of hope, to share with the world a pathway that will take them from the profanity of hopelessness to the profundity of hope.
The first step is faith. Faith hooks us up with the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that gives us hope. The Psalmist tells us: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (Psalms 42:5) Faith in God is the first step in moving from hopelessness to hope.
The second step is focus. Ever since someone placed a glass of water on a table and asked whether it was half full or half empty, we have been aware that facts are not as important as our perception of those facts. The hopelessness of not being able to solve the problem is turned to hope by a different focus.
Hopelessness comes when we focus on our problems which are bigger than we are. Hope comes when we focus on the problem solver who is bigger than our problems.
Hopelessness comes when we focus on what we can't do. Hope comes when we focus on what God can do. As Paul put it in his Roman epistle, "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31). The proper focus moves us from hopelessness to hope.
The third step is forgiveness. Being able to forgive and forget is an essential part of moving from hopelessness to hope.
Hopelessness comes from the realization of the mess we have made of our lives. As a result, we sense a feeling of estrangement from God. The good news is that the Bible says God is a good forgetter, that He is willing to take our sins and failures from yesterday and bury them in the deepest sea and remember them no more. This is the noble promise of 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." No exceptions. No exclusions. Forgiveness.
Hopelessness comes from the assumption that we have destroyed a relationship because of what we have done or not done. As a result, we sense a feeling of estrangement from people that are important to us. Forgiveness makes possible a reconciliation.
The possibility of forgiveness, from God and from others, moves us from hopelessness to hope.
The fourth step is fellowship. Hopelessness comes when we feel like we are all alone. Fellowship provides the strength and support of a group from which we can receive encouragement and hope. Paul found hope in the fellowship with other Christians when he was in prison in Rome. As he expressed it in his Philippian letter: "I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance" (Philippians 1:18-19). The fellowship of the church enables us to move from hopelessness to hope.
The fifth step is future. The promises of God for our future enable us to move from hopelessness to hope. The classic expression of this truth is found in Romans 8:18: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
Someone has said an optimist is a pessimist who has quit watching the evening news! Watching the evening news is enough to give us a dose of hopelessness. The answer, however, is not to quit watching the news. The answer is to incorporate into our lives the five keys. After we have incorporated these steps into our own lives, we need to share them with others. That should be our legacy to America as Christians, to help as many as we can to move from the profanity of hopelessness to the profundity of hope!