Hope in the Night
As we begin our new sermon series on 1 Peter and Habakkuk, Pastor Eugene encourages us to cling to Christ, our hope.
When he was merely a teenager, Elie Wiesel was sent to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during the Second World War. Having survived the horrors of his captivity, Wiesel later recounted his harrowing experiences in his book, Night. This is how he described his first night in the camp: “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed... Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
Wiesel’s powerful words convey deep and dark despair. But what is most poignant is not Wiesel’s sorrow; it is his loss of hope. The loss of hope can be devastating. Hope sustains and strengthens us by directing our gaze forward, away from the circumstances of the present or past. Hope helps to fuel faith. It can fortify our hearts with the assurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel, even in the darkest of times.
Last weekend, we started a new sermon series focusing on the theme of hope in 1 Peter and Habakkuk. Both these books of the Bible encourage God’s people to hope in Him, especially in this fallen world’s vale of tears. May we be encouraged to take Peter’s exhortation to heart: “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Pet 4:19)
We are to set our hope in God, because what ultimately matters is whether the object of our hope is truly trustworthy. My wife, Claire, and I regularly conduct pre-marital counseling for couples to help prepare them for marriage. Engagement is an exciting time, as the couple anticipates the arrival of their big day. They have plenty of expectations of each other. While it is good for the couple to make much of their marriage, I also encourage them not to place all their hopes on each other. Otherwise, they will end up frustrated and disappointed, because neither of them is able to fulfill each other’s hopes. The true hope for their marriage is not ultimately found in either of them.
How will our hopes weather the storms of life? We are often too easily content with lesser hopes. Pride can lead us to hope in ourselves and our accomplishments. The world tempts us to put our trust in what our culture values: things such as health and wealth, or earthly success and security. But Scripture calls us to turn away from counterfeit hopes and to cling to the one true hope that will never let us down. God calls us to put aside our broken cisterns that can hold no water, and to return to Him, the fountain of living waters.
Adversity has a way of exposing our hearts and revealing what we truly depend on for happiness and security. Trials test the reliability of our hopes. They topple the props we may be leaning on, so that we see our need for God and run to Him.
In the Old Testament, God weans His people off their false hopes through their exile to Babylon. False prophets were giving the people false assurance, saying “peace, peace” when there was no peace. The exile put paid to that. But against the dark backdrop of Judah’s Babylonian captivity, we see God’s steadfastness in sharper relief. When all false hopes are stripped away, we are left with the One who will never forsake His people. While lamenting the dire condition of God’s people, the prophet Jeremiah could still affirm: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” (Lam 3:22-24)
Jeremiah’s hope is not wishful thinking. Refined by the fires of trials, it is founded upon God Himself—His character, His word, and His covenant. Regardless of Judah’s present rebellion and exile from the land, the prophet can still be confident that the Lord will fulfill His plans for peace for His people, to give them a future and a hope (Jer 29:11).
Dry bones can indeed live again. What is impossible for man is possible with God, who is able even to raise the dead. He says through Ezekiel the prophet: “And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.” (Ezek 37:13-14a)
We are encouraged to look forward to the day when the faithful God will graciously keep His promise to save. He will forgive sins and remember them no more. He will reconcile estranged sinners to himself, to be His beloved children and treasured possession. God will raise the dead to new life.
True to His word, God has kept His promises by sending His one and only Son for us and for our salvation. Jesus Christ has come to “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79).
Jesus is our hope. We are born again to a living hope through His resurrection from the dead (1 Pet 1:3). Jesus has defeated sin. In Him, there is no condemnation because He has fully atoned for our transgressions and iniquity through the cross. God has exalted His obedient Son, appointing Him as King forever through His resurrection. The sting of death is no more, because Jesus has died and risen! United to Christ by faith, we shall also be resurrected with Him in glory. We can look forward to the consummation of our hope when our Lord returns.
Jesus’ resurrection not only secures our future, it also transforms our present. Hope becomes a reality now, as we live in the life of our risen Lord. We have the hope of holiness. We have passed from death to life. Hence, we can live faithfully as elect exiles, as we pass through the wilderness of this world.
In Christ, our status has changed from sinner to saint. Sin no longer rules over us, since we have been made alive together with Christ. We are His new creation, made anew for good works. Set free from the shackles of sin and our efforts to justify ourselves, we have the freedom to worship and serve Jesus with wholehearted devotion.
Thanks to the power of Christ’s resurrection working in us, we can walk in newness of life and to seek the things that are above. We have the spiritual resources to display Christ-like love, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. We can forgive others, as God has forgiven us.
We have the hope of community. The church is a gathered people, comprising all who have a share in Jesus’ resurrection. The new life that we have received from Christ unites us to one another in bonds of brotherly affection. Through our Lord, we have access in one Spirit to our Heavenly Father. We are no longer orphans and strangers. We belong to God as His people. We are living stones “built up as a spiritual house” (1 Pet 2:5a).
We have hope amid suffering. We can even rejoice in our trials, knowing that they produce endurance, character, and hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God has loved us and given His Son for us.
Because of Christ’s resurrection, our faith is not futile. We can set our hope on the regeneration of all things in the new heavens and new earth. Therefore, we can be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labour is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
Jesus has been raised from the dead. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. The sun of righteousness has risen with healing in its wings. Bitterness will give way to joy and hope. Therefore, we can assuredly affirm Habakkuk’s hope: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab 3:17-18)
This Friday evening (Aug 27, 8pm), as we meet for our monthly prayer meeting over Zoom, let’s unite our hearts to draw near to the God of our hope. Do join us to pray for one another, and for the work of the gospel in GBC and the world.
Meeting ID: 890 9907 9298