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The Weekly word: Endurance and hope

By Tim Purcell, Superintendent of the Iowa/Minnesota District of The Wesleyan Church

Wow! What a year 2020 has been! As if dealing with the challenges and uncertainties of COVID-19 for the past 7 months wasn’t enough, many in our state have had their lives upended by the derecho storm that cut a massive swath through Iowa on August 10.

The fact is that dealing with the challenges of 2020 is taking a toll on us. Anybody getting tired and maybe a little bit discouraged?

The Weekly word: Endurance and hope
Tim Purcell
Superintendent of the Iowa/Minnesota District of the Wesleyan Church

Yeah, I thought so, me too. Some of you probably feel like the circus performer who posted an ad in the paper reading, “Lion tamer seeking tamer lion.”

Recently I was drawn to something Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 1:3, “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Did you catch that? Love and faith motivate us toward serving and right living, but it’s hope that builds endurance and gives us the strength for the long haul. Hope is what enables us to hang in there during extended times of trial.

The problem is that hope can be one of those nice-sounding spiritual words that gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling but we don’t stop to think about what it really is. So first, let’s clear up a couple of misconceptions.

  • Hope is more than wishful thinking. I hope the Broncos win the Super Bowl, but let’s be honest, that’s probably nothing more than wishful thinking.
  • And it isn’t just blind optimism. Real hope is rooted in reality. It’s not pretending like everything is OK when it isn’t and living with your head in the sand
  • And hope isn’t just having ambitious dreams. I hope to retire comfortably, so I’m going to discipline my spending so I can invest. That’s not hope, that’s just good planning.

If you want a good definition of hope, here it is. Hope is the confidence that God is in control and that he will keep His promises. This hope goes beyond wishful thinking or optimism. The pessimist sees the glass half empty. The optimist sees it half full, but the hopeful person sees the glass firmly in the grip of God.

Hope sounds like a great thing to have, and it is, but here’s the thing you need to understand about hope — you need trouble in order to have hope. Without trouble, there is nothing to hope for. If you’re healthy, you don’t hope for healing. If you’re wealthy, you don’t hope for money. The reality of it is that the only reason you need hope is if you have trouble.

Do I ever have good news for you! We all have trouble. In fact, Jesus said that we would.

“In this world you will have trouble…” John 16:33 (NIV). Know why? Because there is so much in life that is out of your control.

You can’t control other people’s decisions. You can adopt a healthy lifestyle, but ultimately you can’t control your health. You can’t control what your grown children will do. You can handle your money wisely, but you can’t control the economy. And now we have coronavirus! If you need trouble in order to have hope, we’re great candidates.

I love what Billy Graham said about hope: “Our confidence in the future is based firmly on the fact of what God has done for us in Christ. No matter what our situation may be, we need never despair because Christ is alive.”

You may be familiar with the story of the small village that was to be submerged where a lake was to be built. One day a visitor noticed the run-down appearance of the houses and shops. When he asked about the condition of the town, he was told, “Why paint, why put on new roofs, when in a short time all will be washed away?”

That night the visitor wrote this in his notebook: “Where there is no hope for the future there is no power for the present.”

That’s true, but so is the reverse. Where there is hope for the future there is power for the present. And we, my friends, have hope for the future because of Jesus. And because we have hope for the future, we have power for the present. That is the power of hope.