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Hot This Year! - Messages of Hope

Posted on March 20, 2008
(This newsletter is a little off the beaten path for me.  It's a little controversial.  But am I on target?
Messages of hope have caught fire this year in America.  Hope is the message of a presidential candidate.  It is also the message of an extraordinarily popular pastor on national TV.  They've both struck a deep chord with Americans.
The politican puts hopes in terms of enlarged government to provide all sorts of provisions such as good educations and jobs as well as health care for all.  On the other hand, the pastor frames hope in the context of God's provision of all sorts of benefits such as good educations/jobs and promotions.
I'm going to compare the pastor's message of hope to what I understand to be a biblical viewpoint as well as the experiences of most Christians.  (I'll leave the assessment of the politician's message of hope to you)
There is no question that the Bible offers numerous promises of hope, mentioning the  word hope nearly 40 times.
But hope in the Bible doesn't seem to refer to such material things as education, jobs, good health, and promotions.  Biblical hope points to eternal truths as opposed to the hope dependent on external circumstances.   
If I hang my hat on only the hope of changed external circumstances, I only have to look around to observe that kind of hope doesn't hold up to the experiences of most Christians today or ever in history. 
As affluent Americans (even our poor in America are affluent compared to most people in other lands), our vision of hope is greatly skewed.  We can't help it.  That's the way we've grown up - accustomed to full stomachs, roofs over our heads, warm houses, phones, cars, TV's, etc.  So, it's only natural that such spiritually soaked messages of hope have immense appeal to the upward mobile in our materialistic culture.
But let's look at hope from the viewpoint of the more than one billion self proclaimed Christians who're mostly poor that live in non-western nations.  Do you think poor Christians in Latin America, Africa, and Muslim nations view hope from having good educations and jobs?  Realistically, what prospects do they have of such regardless of how much hope they have in this life time? 
Wouldn't such external things seem far fetched to most non-westerners? By necessity they have to be fixated on just putting food on the table and roofs over their heads, as well as dodging the threats of authorities and other enemies for just being dispised Christians (1 Corinthians 6:4-5). 
But if wonderful external things are really the essence of God's hope, wouldn't it be reasonable for Christians all over the planet to hope and dream of them?   Shouldn't they be able to hope for the same opportunity for enormous external circumstances as do we upward mobile Americans, provided they merely open themselves up for God to work in their lives?
Not that God doesn't ever change external circumstances. He can and does.  And even if we're doing it without God, we westerners can capture some hope for ourselves.  It can done with self improvement, hard work, and positive attitudes.  We're blessed to live in a country that offers enormous personal opportunities to prosper.  Not a bad thing!  This in itself can bring an element of hope (athough we all are personally aware of affluent people who're pretty miserable).  
But changing external circumstances is not God's bottom line (1 John 3:22 & 1John 5:14-15).  His bottom line is all about a close personal relationship with him and with fellow believers here and now as well as in our next life.  (Read Blessings Even in Divorce, my blog this week)
God may or may not deem our need to be one of living in a free country, being worldly successful and pain free, having a great house, or getting a promotion. Instead he gives us the real hope of being in deep friendship with Him and with other Christians who surround us with displays of his love for us, and us for them.
Deep spirited relationships and the expectation of salvation are the kind of hope God promises and guarantees.  Isn't this the most extraordinary hope of all!
For a further glimpse at the unsurpassed hope that God's love offers, listen to my two 8 minute radio shows:
Our Greatest Psychological Need - Unfailing Love
The Father's Love Letter - I Wait for You

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