The God of Hope – When hope becomes a person! Back to blog list
‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit’ – Romans 15:13 NIV.
At Christmas 2004 we returned to New Zealand to spend a holiday with our family in Tauranga. On Boxing Day we climbed Mt Maunganui and viewed the beautiful scenery of the peaceful Pacific shoreline stretched out below us. Little did I realize that at the same moment a catastrophic event was unfolding in another ocean on the other side of the world!
That evening as I switched on the TV, a news flash announced that many people had been killed by huge waves in Sri Lanka! As more news came in I frantically tried to call home, but all communications were cut off. Realizing the situation was extremely serious, I took the next flight back home, and at each airport my eyes were glued to the TV as the magnitude of the devastation unfolded and the number of dead climbed from hundreds to thousands. This was the Asian Tsunami of 2004!
After my return I called leaders together to assess the effects of the disaster, as the nation was paralysed with shock by the scale of the loss. In approximately 40 minutes we had lost almost 40,000 people, 100,000 houses were damaged and nearly half a million displaced. Our pastors were burying the dead and sheltering the homeless, and we were gathering whatever relief material we could to give to them.
I took a group of young people to the southern city of Galle where we attempted to do what we had never done before – clean up a city! To begin with we walked through the devastation of rubble in all directions, mingled with decomposing bodies where traumatized people were frozen in shock. Later that evening I stood on the high walls of the Old Dutch Fort and looked over a city which resembled a war zone; the cricket stadium below me was strewn with buses, large boats and debris. The chaos of the city was overwhelming.
Suddenly, hope flooded into my heart and I began to prophesy over the city and declare life in place of death. Looking at the devastation this hope seemed impossible and irrational, because there was enough rubble to bury all hope. Yet, hope emerged and stood above the impossible to create a different picture. Hope was no longer a doctrine or a concept; suddenly ‘Hope’ became a person! The God of Hope came through!
“Project Hope’ was born right there in the midst of that devastation. Our perspective changed, possibilities emerged, resources poured in and people were mobilized because of this hope. This project eventually helped to care for 25,000 people, providing food, clothing and shelter, and subsequently building 1,000 houses and restoring communities again.
Hope and a Future.
Hope can enter into any desperate situation because our God of Hope is present with us at all times. Hope in itself has no substance without God; “For faith is the substance of things ‘hoped’ for.” Hope is the first step of faith to create your new future. To the Jewish exiles who had an uncertain future in Babylon, Jeremiah declared that God had plans to give them a ‘future and a hope.’ It is this hope which creates a new beginning for people and points the way to a better future despite present realities, for “Hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” Anyone can allow hope to define a new reality for what lies ahead of them.
Dealers of Hope.
Napoleon once said, ‘Leaders are dealers of hope’. Despair presses people into a corner to force them to accept their fate instead of fulfil their destiny, but in this place of despair, leaders are called to lead them out of it by providing hope instead. The Bible is full of accounts of leaders who dealt hope to their followers so that the ‘God of Hope’ could deliver them from seemingly hopeless situations. Moses and the people of Israel at the Red Sea with the Egyptian army pressing them from the rear is a case in point (Exodus 14:10-29). Often the seemingly impossible challenges we face are first addressed through hope which enables us to rise above them. Leaders must listen to those inner promptings and promises which can arouse hope and release divine possibilities hidden within them.
When Paul was sailing to Rome, a storm threatened the future of all passengers. Luke reports this event as follows: “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days … we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” Yet, nothing could take away Paul’s ‘God of Hope’ even though he was outnumbered by 275:1. Remember, it is the minority that brings hope for the survival of the majority.
Hope and the miraculous.
Hope ignites faith to expect the miraculous. Abraham created hope when it was nonexistent, for he “against hope believed in hope…giving glory to God” to experience his miracle. Hope is sustained by praise in adverse conditions to bring us towards our miracle. David stirred up hope by talking to himself: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? …hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Praise expressed in hope brings you out of despair and advances you closer to your miracle.
A Door of Hope.
The God of Hope can also give you courage to face the realities of life beyond death. God comforted Israel with a promise: “I will make the Valley of Achor (Trouble) a door of hope.”
I remember conducting a memorial service for a church which had lost 50 people in the tsunami. On the Sunday morning of the tsunami this church, which was only 100 metres from the shore, was engulfed by 10 metre high waves, but miraculously the congregation was saved, because they were worshipping on the upper floor of the building. Sadly, however, women and children who were at home that day were washed out to sea and perished. It was one of the saddest moments in my life to grieve with those who had lost their family members and possessions; the reality of death was a great challenge to our hope in the midst of this tragedy.
However, as we began to thank God for those precious people who had died, we realised that although their bodies were lost, their souls were saved, and suddenly ‘a door of hope’ opened up in the valley of tears to assure us of the reality of eternal life! The ‘God of Hope’ not only comforted the survivors turning their sorrow into joy, he also turned their rubble into a new reality. They rebuilt their church as a relief centre for tsunami victims and also established a new housing community for them. Hope refuses to die in the face of the worst tragedies!
Finally, in a materialistic world which seeks meaning and fulfilment only in present realities, we “have the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” The God of Hope has given birth in us to “a ‘living hope’ through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”, and therefore we have life in us capable of ‘rising up’ in situations which others consider ‘hopeless’ and ‘final’.
Let the God of Hope fill your life today with all joy and peace!
Romans 15:13, Hebrews 11:1, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:24, Acts 27:20, Romans 4:18, Psalm 42:5, Hosea 2:15, 1 Timothy 4:8, 1 Peter 1:3.