Hope in the wilderness…as the events of this week progressed in our country and around the world, this sermon on hope began to take on a whole new meaning. Our wilderness, our time of seeking the voice of God has changed into more of a time of worry and anxiety. As our world faces this time of uncertainty, I ask each of us as followers of Christ to be the calm in our community’s storm. We may be scared ourselves, I know I am, but let us take to heart the promises of hope that God has given us in His Word.
Schools have been shut down, more and more businesses have closed. Nearly every form of entertainment we may use as an escape has been put on hold – our world as we know it has been put on hold. We truly have been tossed into the wilderness. A wilderness filled with thoughts of how we will pay our bills? Who will take care of our children IF we are able to work? Will there be any food at the grocery store when we run out? Just as Jesus was tested in the wilderness, we are being tested. Will we hold fast to the truths we know and hold dear or will we succumb to fear? Let’s read today’s verse again.
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
So because of our faith in Jesus, we can have peace, and we can boast in these sufferings, why? Because suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces what? HOPE! And hope does not disappoint us. We need to go through the wilderness, the hard times so we can cling more to our God and see with our own eyes that God will see us through to the other side of this crisis.
I love the verse from Philippians, which I use often…”Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses ALL understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Yes, our lives have been turned upside down but God calls us to be anxious for nothing and remember all that we still have to be thankful for. I saw a meme on Facebook yesterday that really sums this all up and really puts life back into perspective. “Love has not been cancelled, Prayer has not been cancelled, conversations have not been cancelled, kindness has not been cancelled, reading has not been cancelled, worship as a way of life has not been cancelled, HOPE has not been cancelled. Embrace all the good that remains.
Some of our privileges and comforts may be temporarily gone – but we still have so much to be thankful for and must embrace it. We can still be the church God calls us to be during this time, even though we may have to slightly modify the way we carry out the message. In an email that was sent out from our conference minister Franz Rigert, he asks congregations to begin to imagine ways we can still connect as a beloved community even if we may have to cancel upcoming services. We can make more phone calls to one another, post more encouraging things on social media, continue to support our church by sending in our offerings, drop off food or needed supplies on someone’s doorstep. We can FaceTime, Skype or whatever you can think of.
We may feel lost in the midst of this crisis but we can take refuge in God’s Word. Deuteronomy says “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. God will never leave you or forsake you.”
Let us continue to look for that budding flower in the desert. The spring that will come after our winter. Isaiah says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” We may not be able to see what God has planned for our lives or the future of our world just at this very moment but God promises that God will bring us through.
I’ve found that when I take my eyes off my needs and focus on how awesome and powerful God is, my troubles disappear in God’s presence. Doing this gives me confidence that whatever problem I may be facing today, it pales in comparison to the majesty of my Heavenly Creator.
So let’s make a choice to stop looking at the “mountain” we face and start looking at Jesus. Stay focused on who He is, and stand on God’s Word no matter what we see happening around us.
I found beauty and hope in this poem written by Hannah Adams Ingram that I pray will give you hope in the coming weeks.
“There is so much I do not know
There is so much I cannot see
There is so much I cannot control
In the moments I feel powerless, I will take a deep breath
trusting that I am tasked only with doing my part, not the whole.
In the moments I feel unsure, I will take a deep breath
trusting that I am not alone and that together, our wisdom will be richer.
In the moments I feel anxious, I will take a deep breath
trusting that there is no depth I can fall out of reach of the Spirit that holds me close.
What I do know is that my life and love and worth extend far beyond my work
What I can see is that spring follows every winter and new life pokes out from cold ground
What I can control is my breath and the love I inject into a world so clearly lacking it.”
This week let us ask God to give us a new perspective, showing us who God is and who we are in Christ. Our God is the Creator of the universe, and we are God’s workmanship, God’s child, and the love of God’s life. God will never let us go, not even in these times of uncertainty. Let us choose to cling tightly to our Beloved Creator, from whom all our help and hope come from. Amen.
Scripture Reading for March 15, 2020 Romans 5:1-11
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.