|Vol. 16 No. 10 October 2014||
As we move from late May to early June, across our nation colleges and high schools celebrate students who have achieved whatever it is that organization has required for them to graduate. Graduation cannot be seen as an end, whether it is from pre-kindergarten (yes, they even have those now), to kindergarten (yes, even those) to sixth grade (yes…) to high school, to an AA, a BA, a MA or even a Ph.D. Graduations, which are seen as an end, do injustice to the doors they open to one’s future. Graduation is all about opening more doors.
The doors of life are many. The journey we call life is filled with many opportunities and obstacles. Both opportunity and obstacle have a way of becoming either positive or negative based on how an individual handles them. The greatest journey we are all on is the journey we take, the path we walk as we live our Christian lives. Jesus stated, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
The most important graduation we all will experience will be the one from this mortal body to an immortal body. It is an eternity in heaven we must spend this life pursuing. Taking up our crosses involves taking on those hardships, making them opportunities and those opportunities with the right frame of reference. The reference we must have to be one of Jesus’ is that of self-denial and humility. It may be hardship, obscurity, persecution and dishonor we must endure in a world that knows not our Lord and Savior. If any of those constitute our crosses, then we must take up those crosses and bear them with a joy and a peace that only a Christian can know.
As Christians move from one phase of life to another, whether that phase is a school graduation, a life change such as marriage, having children, having grandchildren, retirement or any of a number of significant life changes, each one brings with it a number of crosses. It is up to us to bear those crosses in as much the same way that we can as our Savior did as He bore His cross for us. He bore that physical cross and mental cross in a way that allowed Him to serve as a sacrifice for each one of us. We must bear our crosses in ways that glorify Him. To do anything less is to deny Him. Rather than deny Him, deny yourself, live sacrificially each day in a way that allows your Christian light to shine and glorify our Creator and Savior. Take up your cross. Follow Him through every door (phase) of life.
Hope is a “four-letter” word that means so much. When we have hope, we have a feeling that what we desire will happen or that what we want will come to pass. Hope causes us to expect a good outcome. It causes us to desire what Abraham Lincoln said in speaking of the American Civil War. “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.” He hoped for something that did come to pass and we’re all blessed for it.
Alexander Pope, an 18th Century English poet, made a statement that we’ve all heard at some time: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” The explanation for his statement is that he believed people would always continue to have hope, and we do! Even though we may have sufficient evidence that things cannot possibly turn out the way we want them to, we still have hope that something will happen to cause things to turn out the way we want. In a sermon at one of the meetings he held here, brother Dean Fugett defined hope this way: “Hope is the confident expectation of something that has been promised.” When one is told or believes “it will get better,” there is an earnest expectation for that to happen.
The apostle Paul frequently spoke on the subject of hope, helping us to understand what hope is. He said, “Abraham, the father of us all, who, against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations” (Romans 4:16ff). We know that by faith Abraham and his seed received the promises of God. Paul defined hope this way: “In hope we are saved; but hope that is seen is not hope for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for it? But if we hope for what we don’t see, then we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24ff). This is confident expectation!
Paul approached the subject of hope another way as he said, “He that plows should plow in hope and he that threshes in hope should thresh in hope of partaking of his hope” (1 Corinthians 9:10). This is just good old “down-to-earth” reasoning from Paul as he knew that those who planted hoped to see the results of their efforts by reaping a good harvest. Can we ever think any less of our hope in Christ Jesus? Paul said we even have to exercise our faith in that hope to go beyond the grave for he said, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians15:19). Just as farmers plant to reap a harvest, Christians must spend their lifetimes planting for the Lord in order to receive the harvest of eternal life.
Paul told the Gentiles, “Remember that, being Gentiles in the flesh, you were without Christ…having no hope and without God in the world but now in Christ Jesus are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11). Just as the early Gentiles were without Christ, so are those who don’t follow Christ today without Him, and therefore, without hope for “Christ is the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). In describing the Christian armor, Paul said to put on “for a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). He told Titus, “Being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). Eternal life is the hope of a Christian.
We read in Job 27:8, “Though he has gained, what is the hope of the hypocrite when God takes away his soul?” Faithfulness to God in this life is our hope for eternal life with Him in heaven. David spoke of this hope of everlasting life in Psalm 16:9, “My flesh shall rest in hope [that is, safety].” And he said, “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help and whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).
We have a short time in a fleshly body to sow our good deeds and love in order to reap the outcome of a good harvest. My prayer is that your “hope” is in Christ and that you are sowing to reap an eternal heavenly home with Him.