On the first week of Advent, traditionally, we look at Hope. Let’s take a look at the hopeful message of what the Bible promises that we who follow Christ have to look forward to.
· Be hypocritical, doing the things we desperately hate the most to the point of being the worst of sinners ourselves.
· Be required to walk the hard unpopular road.
· Deal with FRIENDS that WILL put us to death, abandon us when we're poor, avoid us like the plague, ridicule us, cross the street to avoid us, want to blot us from their memory, forget us like a corpse in a grave, discard us like broken dishes in the trash, gossip about us calling us "criminally insane", behind locked doors they will plot how to ruin us good.
…and that's our friends. OK what else?
· People who we love will slander us... and we'll be asked to love them back.
· God may make us blind, sick, covered in boils or afflict us in creative ways for His purposes.
· Our churches often have fighting in them over stupid things
· Our relationships will include MANY misunderstandings and infighting a plenty.
· If someone hits us, we have to offer them other side to hit too.
…so not just a beating but a DOUBLE BEATING! More? How does a physical and metaphorical thorn in your flesh sound?
· Asked to not worry about the biggest worries our age has ever seen including wars, revolutions, disease, hunger and natural disasters.
· Not allowed to care to much about stuff like buildings, houses, or even how we're going to feed and clothe our families.
· Persecuted... even hauled out of churches to stand trial before high-ranking government officials, maybe be jailed... and maybe even be killed for believing in Jesus
Oh wait there's more...
· Your parents and family may hate you and reject you... they themselves might be the ones who kill you
· You'll likely struggle not to go nuts because of what you're being asked to endure because it will be excruciatingly emotionally and physically demanding.
· God will use you to make arguments that everyone will think are foolish... intentionally.
And if that’s not enough…
There is a supernatural being who will never relent in trying to steal from you, destroy you and kill you. It will use other people… OR it will even use YOU against YOURSELF... or sometime do it will just do it itself.
What’s hopeful about these enticing prospects?
Because God graciously let us know that we should be expecting it (or some fancy new form of ugliness) in our hopeful new 2011. And like Bill Murray famously rallied the Camp North Star campers in Meatballs… “It just doesn’t matter”
This is how the Message translates Paul’s message of hope in suffering from Romans 5:3-5
“We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”
Passionate patience that turns into steel virtue!
See it just doesn’t matter! It's all part of the package… because this world is broken and we only live here for a little while. But believe it or not, it's a beautiful world that God's using you to woo it back to Him. The God who allowed His Son to be born in an animal-feeding trough is in love with you. This Era is a drop in the bucket of time, and frankly it's not half as bad as it sounds because:
1) His presence makes the importance and relevance of EVERYTHING else melt away… leaving you with you a refined, mature, sustaining, redeeming hope.
2) We're called to model Jesus ability to overcome these things. Other people, who don't have the benefit of a personal relationship with God, go through some of the same issues. They need you to help them through. They need… Hope.