‘Hope Dawning’ – January ’23 Pastoral Devotion
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."
The picture above that I took during a walk I had with Fenny is a reminder of God's goodness - a beautiful break in the sky from storm clouds that typically filled up the sky in recent weeks. The reflection of the scenery on the pond also reminded me to take time to reflect on God's goodness for the past year, and to look ahead to whatever God has in store for me and my family for the new year.
The coming of the new year brings new aspirations and hope. Each year also brings uncertainties that we can't predict or anticipate, but God has given us His assurance that hope is the remedy for any anxieties that we might have, or trials we are facing or will experience. So what is this hope on, or where does it come from? Hebrews 10:23 reminds us that our hope is in our faithful God, Jesus Christ. Glorious hope has already dawned in Jesus' incarnation, and propels us to not only look to Christ's return, but also to live this life we have with purpose and the expectation to be transformed in Christ-likeness.
Christ has given us new life and hope through faith in His finished work on the cross and resurrection, and endowed us with the Holy Spirit to walk in this new life, rather than our old sinful ways. The follow-on verses speak of persevering from sin, even as we're suffering or being persecuted. Verses 36 says, "For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." Verse 39 adds, "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls."
Although trials are painful, they're opportunities God uses to mould, refine, and grow us. It seems paradoxical, but trials can be seen as blessings in disguise. By trusting in Christ's finished work on the cross, and anticipating His final judgment to come in vindicating His children, we can endure family brokenness/tensions, colleagues who backstab us or overbearing bosses, grief over loss of a dearly loved one, temptations that beset us, or being in financial, physical, or emotional distress. And when we experience highs and celebratory moments, let us be humbled that it is God's grace to bless us this way.
God has also given us Christian community for mutual support and encouragement, rather than internal strife. So we are not alone, but we need to heed God's command to seek unity within the church. God's community ought to be an encouraging one, a hopeful one. The next two verses in verses 24 and 25 speak to this. May non-Christians and even Christians see this in us, so that they don't get turned off from Christianity due to our hypocrisy. Let us instead show others the hope we have in Christ, through our words and actions.
Our Heavenly Father, we give you praise and thanks that hope has dawned through Your Son Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, help us to exhibit that hope in our words and deeds regardless of our circumstances, and practice community that loves one another as You have loved us. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
~ Ps. Tim