O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities. (Psalm 130:7)
I’ve recently been thinking a great deal about hope and what hope is and means for Christians. Oftentimes, I am discouraged through circumstances. I am in the process of moving to Alabama to be a part of a new church community and to be with my fiancee, but the process is difficult. Satan is constantly challenging the truths that I cling to.
I have heard that a lot of people have doubt when they are about to get married over whether or not their fiancee is THE one. I’m not struggling there. Ashley is wonderful, and though she is not perfect, she is perfect for me. Instead, I have found myself struggling with the truths that Christ is sufficient.
I’ve left my church family, people who I trust and love with a depth that I’ve rarely known. Naturally, Satan is whispering doubts in my head, much like the doubts that some had in Matthew 8.
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18-22
It would be much easier for me to stay home, and “bury my father.” But I must follow the Lord, where he is taking me. Yet, how do I hold on to the truth in the midst of my struggles?
That probably sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? The natural answer to doubt should be reason, study, a new apologetic, rethinking, etc, and not hope. But hope is the answer.
Hear me on this, doubt is not a sin. Doubt is not something that should be dismissed. In fact, reason, thorough study, and more ought to be done in the face of doubt. (For more thoughts on this see this blog from Gospel Centered Discipleship.)
Job faced doubt, when everything that he had was taken away abruptly: family, wealth, servants, health. Yet Job, in the midst of his questions begged God for one thing: Let me see you. (Job 6:28; 7:8; 9:11; 12:4; 13:3, 22; 17:15; 19:26-27; 23:3)
Everyone had an answer for Job. Everyone’s answer was that Job had brought down the wrath of God by doing wrong, but Job knew himself. He knew that He had not done anything to cause this tragedy in his life.
It would have been much easier and more simple to abandon God, but Job knew the Lord, and he knew that though he didn’t understand, God’s revelation would explain everything.
Where I constantly have to redirect myself is the truth of the Gospel and the sufficiency of Christ. If Christ really is enough, as I have believed for years, then I must put my faith on that truth. I must remember the truth that has moved me and shaped me and formed me. Not blindly, but actually.
Have you wondered why the Bible is 66 books written about the same story? The story of the God who longed to save the world and set his plan out to do it, and then accomplished it though the Son? Its a little long right? But its thorough, thick and good…
It is a book written to a forgetful people. A wandering people who constantly put other things before God, and more often than not, its themselves. They wander and they seek satisfaction in everything they possibly can, and they forget that they have been delivered.
That’s the point I’m getting at.
Christ lived, died and rose again.
That truth is what I need to remember.
It is where I find hope.
Reason through it, consider it, delve into it, find yourself in it.
Bonhoeffer, in a profound manner, argued it like this:
“It is not that God’s help and presence must still be proved in our life; rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, in God’s Son Jesus Christ, than to discover what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I will die. And the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, will be raised on the day of judgment” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
I’ve been leading worship for a number of years in various capacities, and at various churches. I have a background that is more than a little bit odd. I love liturgy and church history, and I love the charismatic church; two things that can seem to be at odds in Christian culture. I’ve made a bunch of mistakes and I’d like to think that I’ve learned a lot from them and from men and women who have been willing to calm me down and impart wisdom. I’ve picked set-lists from the Contemporary Christian Billboard Top 100, and I have tried to please everybody, so please don’t take this as a holier-than-thou moment.
Hope is crucial to Christian worship. Every person deals with so many different things during the week: deaths, arguments, depression… And the reality is that I don’t have the answers. I don’t know why your dad died of cancer, and I don’t know why your wife left you, or why your daughter ran away. What I do know is that God has promised to make all things new, and has begun that work with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I have attended worship services, even recently, that have focused on me, and I have left empty. Now, I’m not opposed using the I, me, my, our language in worship music, but I think wisdom ought to be employed. If we are singing more about ourselves than we are about Jesus, then maybe we ought to rethink what we are singing. Worship leaders, ask questions like: what are we singing about? is what we are singing true? what are we focusing upon? I walked away from a service recently where I ached, because I had not sung the praises of my King, but I had sung the praises of how much God valued me. The sermon reflected the Gospel, but the music was incredibly one-sided. Is that really what the Gospel story is about?
“So when we gather, we sing to each other. We declare the truths of the gospel to one another. Our presence and our participation is not merely for the sake of our individual relationship with God, demonstrating our confidence and hope, but it’s also for our brothers’ and sisters’ sake.” (Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace, 85.)
Our worship is multifaceted. We are singing the truth of the Gospel to God, as a declaration that we believe alongside our brothers in Christ, and in the process we encourage them in this truth, this hope that we have!
Pay attention to what you are singing in church. Are you singing about the lost-ness of man and the grace of almighty God? Are you singing about the most important events in all of eternity? Are you singing about the lamb who was slain, who defeated death and who will rise again? Or are you singing about something else?
For a long time, I didn’t understand why a lot of the older people in the congregations where I was leading didn’t like the songs. For some of them, it was the arrangement or the volume, but for the wise ones, it was because they needed then, what I need now. Hope in the face of struggle and doubt.
Worship leader, Preacher, Bible Study Leader, if I can give you one word of advice, give your people Hope according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.