We’re in the second of the four weeks of Advent that remind us of the four great virtues (love, joy, peace, hope) found only in Christ.How do we find and maintain hope, especially when the evidence around us seems to be pushing us in the other direction?
Picture this with me: You’re in a busy hospital waiting room. As soon as you sit down you start to feel uncomfortable. There is something disconcerting about the not knowing how long you will be there and the uncertainty of what the doctor will say when you finally get in. You rehearse what you will say, but you’re still fidgety and you keep glancing around the room.
The waiting room is filled with people, each with their own worries and preoccupations. They have no idea the thoughts racing through your mind. You pick up the nearest magazine try to distract yourself with whatever appears on the page. You keep glancing at the clock but it barely moves. Sound familiar?
It would be great if everything in our lives went as planned or as we wished. No setbacks, no unexpected turn-of-events - just smooth sailing. Well, yeah, that would be great, but we all know that isn’t the real picture of life. So, as followers of Christ, how do we posture ourselves to face an uncertain future? Do we work hard to manage every detail of our lives…..or do we just say a prayer and let it play out? Or is the answer somewhere in between? To help us look at this, I’ve asked a good friend, Gary Lord, to share his story.
I turned 62 this spring. I hadn't had a physical in three years; I never had a colonoscopy or stress test on my heart. I finally made an appointment with my doctor. Everything went well except my PSA score went from 2.7 three years ago to 4.7. My doctor wanted me to see a urologist for further examination. He didn't like the looks either so he wanted to do a biopsy and make sure. Sure enough, it came back positive. I had an aggressive prostate cancer. Cancer wasn't even on my radar when I went in, so I was in a bit of shock. When I got home, my wife and I had our first of many good cries. Over the next couple of weeks, I met a lot of people who wanted to examine my prostate.
I don't believe for one minute that God gave me cancer. I belive that I have cancer because I live in a fallen and imperfect world. But I do believe that God has prepared me to have cancer. The first thing I saw was my relationships. My wife is absolutely my biggest supporter. In the last 5 years, I have made a number of good friends that I have talked with a lot. The first Sunday after my diagnosis, I came to church and told a friend about the cancer. It has made the last six months a whole lot more bearable. Without the support of my family and friends, suicide might have been a very viable option.
My third daughter from my first marriage told me six years ago that she didn't want to see or speak to me ever again. She didn't, even when she got married and had a child. This summer I got a letter from Katie saying that she was sorry to hear about my health issues and maybe it was time to put the past behind her and build a new relationship with me. Since then I have seen her several times, and I met my son-in-law and my new grandson for the first time.
Things are not perfect, but I would call it miraculous how well things are progressing. Though my wife and I have had a lot of trouble in our marriage over the years, the last six month s though have been amazing. We have had probably some of the best cries we have ever had, but surprisingly we are laughing more than we ever have. I'm not talking about the stupid jokes I make when she asks me to do something and I tell her I can't because I have cancer; I think I am enjoying life more than any time in my life.
God is doing amazing things. I still don't like having cancer, and sometimes think what a crappy thing it is to have to go through. But I can still be a poster child for Jimmy Stewart because this is a WONDERFUL LIFE. A life filled with wonder, amazement, and hope not just in the future but today. We are the FAITHFUL, JOYFUL and TRIUMPHANT because all our hope is in HIM. I'm Gary Lord, and I have cancer. But more importantly, I have Jesus and I have Hope!!
During Christmas we talk about advent, which means "coming" or "arrival." For centuries before Christ came to earth, the Hebrew rabbis methodically taught the Jewish people that a Messiah was coming to bring the peace they so desperately wanted! Under harsh Roman file, their lives were hard and often short! They lived with all of the fears and uncertainties that we face today plus the threat of dungeons, lions, hangings and crucifixions.
The Jews were taught that this Messiah would rescue them from their awful plight, and they eagerly awaited His advent (or coming). When we use the word advent, it is intended to remind us of the anticipation and expectation held by the people of Israel as they waited for their Messiah and promised King.In the Old Testament we see this Messiah referred to repeatedly as the Hope of Israel - the one who would rescue them.
The biblical definition of hope is "confident expectation." In the New Testament, the idea of hope is the recognition that in Christ is found the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. Matthew quotes the prophet, Isaiah: "This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him: “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, and I am very pleased with him. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout; he will not raise his voice in public. He will not crush those who are weak, or quench the smallest hope, until he brings full justice with his final victory. And his name will be the hope of all the world.” (Matthew 12: 17-21)
What makes biblical hope different? It’s just as Isaiah said: The essential difference is really in its source. Hope is real because it is founded on faith in the factual content of the gospel.
- Jesus, the promised Messiah, was delivered to death because of our sins.
- Jesus was buried in the tomb.
- Jesus was raised from the dead on the 3rd day (just as the Scriptures foretold).
- And though believing in Him we are no longer condemned (but righteous). It is on this basis (faith-belief) that we have HOPE.
Wishing deals with probability! Biblical hope involves the idea of certainty, not simply probability. And it becomes possible when our belief is in the living God who acts and intervenes in human life and who can be trusted to keep his promises.
"All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while." (1 Peter 1:3-6)