This was the theme of last weeks service at St Peter’s. We were reminded that we can have hope because we love, serve and worship a God who keeps His promises. Through Cassie's story we were reminded that God hears the cries of our heart and answers those in His time, which as I most definitely know is not always the same as mine! Johnny reminded us that we live in times that could steal our hope and invited a ‘hope strategy’ for 2021 – how do you and I grow in faith, hope and love in this new year?
I love this picture because of the truths it contains …
‘Hope says … you are loved’. You and I are loved by the God who doesn’t just say words but lived it out in action by sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for you and I. We are loved, truly, deeply, sacrificially by a God who is consistent and always, always keeps His promises! It’ not a ‘come and go love’, it’s a faithful, enduring, ‘I know who you are and I love you anyway’, love. It’s not dependant on human mood or consistency; it’s dependant on the character of God Himself whose words and actions don’t change!
‘Hope says … you have a purpose’. When I took very (!) early retirement in August 2019 I struggled to know how I would answer the question ‘so, what do you do?’. I could no longer answer that I was an adoption social worker; yes, I volunteered part time at church and as a Trustee of two charities but somehow it didn’t describe who I was. I then realised that what I am in terms of role and responsibility is not who I am, and God spoke to me very clearly that I, like you, do have a purpose, we were lovingly and intentionally created to worship, to be His son or daughter, to follow and serve Him, to be salt and light, to be His hands, arms and feet in this world. What other ‘purpose’ do I need?
‘Hope says … you belong’. What a wonderful word ‘belonging’ is … it means to ‘be in the right place’. Where do you belong? I belong to God, I know when I am in the right place with Him, that sweet, thin place where He is very real and present but, I also belong, when I am being a prodigal, wandering after greener pastures, not spending time reading and praying, worrying rather than trusting, looking down rather than looking up. The invitation is always ‘come home, come back where you belong’
‘Hope says … you are needed’. In these days where we feel helpless and powerless to act or change anything about the situation, it’s hard to know that we are needed, that we are wanted and valued. Our Life group is learning to trust and be open, to admit our failings and fears, to stand together and pray for each other. I do need others to stand with me, to hold up my arms when the battle is raging, just like others need me to do the same for them. Us sharing together shows that we are ‘better together’; each is needed to play their part, to be the part of the body of Christ that they were intended to be, whatever that is, however large or small or seemingly insignificant. You and I are needed to be light bearers and hope carriers. What is in your hand? What are your five loaves and two fish that God needs to use to feed and nourish others?
‘Hope says … you have a choice’. You and I have a choice; we always have had a choice to respond, to follow, to serve, to love, to engage, to be compassionate, to be inward looking, selfish, prideful … Our series on ‘Defiant Joy’ reminded me that I need to choose joy daily; it’s not about my feelings although at times they can be overwhelming and very loud! It’s about what I do know and have known through 46 years of being a Christian - God doesn’t change; He is the same yesterday, today and forever, He can be relied upon because, as I said at the beginning, He keeps His promises. He won’t abandon or forsake me even when others do, He does not exclude or alienate, He does not cast off; He invites in, welcomes, says ‘come, draw near, look up …’
So… part of my Hope strategy for 2021 is daily being grateful, daily making choices that bring me closer, running towards, rather than away from the Father. What is yours? Choose well.