Coronavirus: the word on everyone’s lips and the fear in (almost) everyone’s hearts. Response to the pandemic has been mixed. We cannot fail to be impressed by the commitment and selfless dedication of medics and others in the front line of the battle. Acts of kindness abound – from cafes delivering free food to the vulnerable housebound, to ordinary folk just looking out for their neighbours.
But humanity’s baser nature has also been on show. Shelves have been cleared of essential (and some less-than-essential) goods, leaving elderly and many health service workers without. The ‘new’ phenomenon of social contagion caused toilet rolls to disappear from shelves – social media showed it happening in Australia and very quickly it spread across the globe. In many countries, advice on ‘social distancing’ was ignored. As a result, the UK governments (like many others) have put the country into lockdown, directing people to stay at home and prohibiting gatherings of more than 2 people in public.
Anxiety levels are soaring and among many there is a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. These are extremely difficult days for all of us.
But as Easter approaches, we rejoice in God’s marvellous plan of salvation and see the Cross as the antidote to that first and worst social contagion – the sin which has infected and afflicted every man, woman and child, apart from Christ. And it is the Lord’s death and resurrection which gives hope even in the midst of anxiety, suffering and despair. When Paul said ‘if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable’ (1 Cor 15:19), he both reminds us of the future hope which we have beyond death and reiterates the reality of the hope in Christ which we have even in this life.
Hope is inherent in our Christian faith and…it is securely and unshakably grounded in Christ.
In Job 8:13, we read ‘Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish’. In stark contrast, Job could assert of himself: ‘Though He slay me, I will hope in Him’ (Job 13:15). The Psalmist repeatedly encourages us to hope in God (e.g. Psalm 42:5; 42:11; 43:5). In Psalm 130, he expresses his own hope in God’s Word (verse 5) before encouraging Israel in verse 7 to hope in the Lord: ‘O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.’
Paul’s post-conversion experience involved great suffering and persecution for the cause of Christ. In many places, he was forced to defend himself before the authorities. By the time we reach Acts 26, he is again in Court, this time before King Agrippa. But why? Paul is unambiguous in his defence before Agrippa: ‘And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers’ (Acts 26:6, echoing his earlier statement in Acts 23:6).
Hope therefore is inherent in our Christian faith and as Hebrews 6:19 reminds us, it is securely and unshakably grounded in Christ.
I have personally been much encouraged recently by a relatively new hymn and trust that it might encourage you too – you can hear the whole hymn on YouTube here.
What gift of grace is Jesus my Redeemer.
There is no more for heaven now to give.
He is my joy, my righteousness, and freedom,
My steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace.
To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
For my life is wholly bound to his.
Oh how strange and divine, I can sing: all is mine!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me.
The night is dark but I am not forsaken
For by my side, the Saviour He will stay.
I labour on in weakness and rejoicing
For in my need, His power is displayed.
To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend me,
Through the deepest valley He will lead.
Oh, the night has been won, and I shall overcome!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me.
For such a time as this, I feel that Paul’s injunction in Romans 12:12 has great resonance. So, may we ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer’. And ‘May the God of hope fill [us] with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit [we] may abound in hope’ (Romans 15:13).