The Anchor of Our Hope
Longfellow was speaking about the nation, but he might well have been speaking about the Church, when he said:
Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Words like that can really stir the soul! They are the essence of a message that, in my judgment, God would give to the Church in our time. What I want you to consider is something that touches every one of our lives: what is The Anchor of Our Hope? How are we supposed to react to the staggering changes taking place in a world like this? If we are born-again children of God, our answer is in the Bible.
Be of Good Cheer
May I give you, first of all, the advice of Jesus Christ? Speaking about His own in times of trouble, He said:
Behold, the hour comes, yea, is now come, that you shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:32-33).
Lets face it, we live in a world that is very concerned about many things. Take a look across the world. Look at Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, the United States, Latin America, the Far East, or the islands of the sea. The name of the game, in todays world, is trouble.
In fact, people are starting to talk about something called existential despair. Thats a heavy word to describe a kind of a cosmic sadness that has come on our world. Perhaps youve noticed how now, more than ever, the press is talking about disillusionment. You hear about the breaking of our icons, and the disappearance of our values. People are wringing their hands and saying, What about tomorrow? Im very concerned about it.
You, as a Christian, have no such problem. You, as a Christian, are advised by Jesus Christ to be of good cheer. Now if the Bible talks about anything, it talks about how Christians should be a people who are happy, and rejoicing.
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4).
On virtually every page of the Bible, there is justification for great rejoicing on the part of a Christian. Be of good cheer is the word that God gives to us. After all, We have good reason to possess great joy, do we not?
We live in a world that is very problematic, but we who know Jesus Christ as personal Savior know things that the rest of the world doesnt know! We are to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6). We are to be filled with a historic optimism, because we know what God is about to do. In fact, we should be filled with bright anticipation, as we watch His hand moving in our modern world, and understand what Hes doing for us, even now.
Be of good cheer: is that a phrase that you feel is relevant to your soul today?
In the last analysis, why should we rejoice? Should we rejoice because, as Christians, we are promised peace, prosperity, good health, the affirmation of our friends, and every wonderful human thing we could imagine? I think not. The things of the world are not guaranteed to bring happiness. Thats why the Bible says:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof; but he that does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17).
The Bible says that the things of the world are falling apart. Just take a look around you, and youll see it for yourself. The world is not getting better and better. The utopia promised by many people appears not to be happening. Even Christians notice this, and therefore they ask, In what shall I rejoice? I cannot depend on the rewards that the world promises. It doesnt deliver! If there is to be a reason for my rejoicing, it will have to come from a better source than the world.
The Christian has a better source! God has planned an exciting life for you and for me that defies human logic.
Tribulation in the World
When we hear Jesus say to us, Be of good cheer, its easy to fall into the trap of thinking like the world, rather than like Christians. All too often we assume, Well, thats a promise of prosperity, and health, and wealth. I can be of good cheer, if I live in a palace, have no problems, and everything is going in my direction. Surely, this is what He is promising when He says, Be of good cheer.
Im afraid that is not the case. Rather, Jesus said to us, In the world you shall have tribulation. This is a very good time to remind ourselves of the truth: the world promises, but it does not perform. The world will fool you, if you dont watch out. The world will fill you with its papier-mache expectations, and then leave you in the lurch. Thats why the Bible says, In the world you shall have tribulation.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29).
It was Oswald Chambers who once said, The blessing of the Old Testament is prosperity. The blessing of the New Testament is adversity.
For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives (Hebrews 12:6).
Now, why, really, is that the case? Should I not, as a child of God, enjoy every good thing in this world? Well, if these were the days of the Kingdom, the answer would be Yes. But this isnt the Kingdom, its the day of Grace. This is the day in which God speaks to us in the midst of the problems of life, and says:
My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Theologically, why is this the case? Its because the physical world is not yet redeemed. When I accept Christ as my personal Savior, I am given everlasting life in the spiritual realm. It is the soul that is born-again. But the body is still subject to the vicissitudes of this world, a world wracked by sin. The Scripture teaches that the soul has been redeemed, but:
the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. . . waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:22-23).
If we were instantly healthy, instantly wealthy, instantly fulfilled by the things of the world, the world would have a legitimate reason to question our motives. The world would accuse us, as Satan did Job, Well, youre just in it for what you get out of it. Youre just a Christian because of the sidebar benefits of knowing Christ, the health, the wealth, and the rest of it.
Well, thats not the case, is it? Rather, the world can look at us, and, because were living for Christ, they can discover within us, a fountainhead of optimism, joy, and bright anticipation that is not exactly consistent with the conditions they see on the outside.
What is the ultimate reality of life? It is the presence of Jesus Christ, not a cooperating culture in the midst of which we live. We have the Word of Christ for it, do we not? In the world you shall have tribulation.
Those to whom He spoke on that occasion were to move into the world as disciples of the Son of God. What did they encounter: happy approbation and quick acceptance? Did the world give them a round of applause because they were Christians? No. Eleven out of the twelve final disciples were martyred because of their faith in the Lord Jesus. And every one of them suffered real privation.
Virtually every one of the epistles contains words of consolation to New Testament Christians, who were facing unspeakable problems. The early days of the Church were filled with tremendous concern. The Church was born in the shadow of the oppressive Roman Empire, many times viewed as a paradigm for the awful reign of the Antichrist, that would come later.
Often, confessing Christ as Savior would cost you your life. Consequently, there were tens and tens of thousands of Christians who gave the last full measure of devotion for Christ. They lived out their faith in a perfect fashion. Most of them were offered a choice: worship one of the gods of Rome, and you can go free. Stay true to Christ, and we feed you to the lions, or we cut off your head. What did they do? It was a very rare thing to see a Christian turn on the Lord and give himself back to Rome, just for the saving of his life. The common thing was, that the Christian stood resolute.
Did this destroy the Church? No. Irenaus, one of the early Church Fathers, said, The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church. Outsiders looked upon the courage, and the intrepid lives of these Christians, and asked, What has happened to them thats so real, that they can stand cheerfully against all of the oppositions of the world? I must know that kind of reality! Thousands came to Christ. There was massive spiritual revival. Many, many beyond number came to believe the Gospel, because of the testimony of Christians in the midst of adversity.
The Great Overcomer
In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
So what is the Anchor of Our Hope? Where do we find the strength to stand firm, in times like these?
The answer comes from Jesus Christ: I have overcome the world. Yes, Hes already been down the path that lies before us. He knows today, and presides over every one of our tomorrows. He is the King of all kings, and His decree provides our anchor: I have overcome the world.
How has Jesus overcome the world for us? Well, first of all, He has overcome the power of sin in our lives. Every person, before he is a Christian, is subject to sins terrible power. He is helpless before the dreadful temptations and spiritual subversions of this world. He cannot really stand against them, because despite a concerned conscience, he doesnt have the strength to do it.
But when Christ steps into his life, things change. Youll recall that when Jesus Christ saves us, He saves us in three different ways. He saves us from the penalty of sin, which is hell. He also delivers us from the power of sin.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).
The world is under the dominion of sin. It cant help itself. But you and I, because we have come to know Christ as personal Savior, are now no longer dominated by the fearful, terrible power of sin. The Bible says we have been delivered from the bondage of corruption (Romans 8:21).
Think of the amazing capability that grows in the life of a Christian who discovers this. He is able to mount up with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31). He realizes what it takes, not only to be saved by grace, but also to operate with the freedom that the grace of God provides. Daily he enjoys the deliverance from sin that Jesus Christ has wrought for us on the cross of Calvary.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).
On the cross, Jesus Christ cancelled the validity of every one of the anxious issues of life. Because of the death of Christ, those things which used to seem so troublesome no longer give rise to concern. We come to know what is really important!
That Great Overcomer has come to live within me.
Have you read a little history? I hope so. In fact, the history of how the Church and the Roman Empire faced each other in those early days is really something. The Roman Empire looked so big, so strong! It tried to overwhelm the Church by its persecutions. But inch by inch, and hour by hour, there was that recession that came in Rome because of its corruption. In contrast, there was that beautiful expansion that came in the Church, because of the massive truth it possessed.
Sholem Asch, writing about this, finished his book about the Apostle Paul by saying, The sword conquered for a time. But the spirit conquers forever. Jesus Christ conquers forever. He says, Come and share that victory with Me. When you step into that position, you will be a Christian who rejoices in the Lord every day that you live, because God in Christ, the Great Overcomer, has come to live within your life.
From the writings of Dave Breese
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