Hope in the Middle of Despair

For many people in our world, Easter is just another opportunity to take an extra day or two off of work and spend it with family and friends. The Easter story is about a man who lived two thousand years ago. He walked the Earth teaching about peace and God’s love. Eventually, He got enough of the establishment upset with Him and He was crucified and according to the Bible, three days later, He rose from the dead.

So how does the Easter story affect my life today? Each of our lives is filled with challenges. With the COVID-19 pandemic and our current economic situation, there is much uncertainty and fear. Maybe it is not the pandemic or your work? Maybe it is your family? Our children, our siblings, our parents, our friends; each bringing a measure of stress and concern into our lives. How do we cope with it all?

When Jesus told His disciples that He was leaving, many of them panicked. You can’t do that Lord! But Jesus didn’t leave them or us alone. He encouraged them that the Spirit, the Comforter, would be coming. When we accept Christ, the Comforter comes into our lives.

The Spirit’s presence in our lives has numerous benefits. Through Him, we have power, patience, wisdom, strength, love and most importantly, His presence, to face any obstacle that we may face. All we need to do is yield our lives to Him.

Even when times seem the toughest, God’s promises are true and secure. Matthew 28:20 says, “I will be with you.” In John 14:27 we read: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and petition, present your requests to God.” 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” All of these promises and more are available to us. He promised to care for us. We can count on it.

The most important benefit of the resurrection is it gives us hope about the future. Many long to know: “What’s going to happen after I die?” For some “nothingness” is their hope. For others, their hope is there is some sort of benevolent God who will look at their lives, weigh out the evidence and based on their goodness, allow them into some sort of Paradise. For Christians, our hope, our eternities are far more secure and assured.

Throughout the Bible, there are many references to the “afterlife”. Jesus said in John 14:1-4, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. [and Jesus is the key] You know the way to the place where I am going”

The Book of Revelation gives us a description of heaven that is mind-blowing. Heaven exists. It’s real. But what the Bible also tells us is that heaven is a perfect place, where God reigns. If it is perfect, I would think that we would have to be perfect to go there. And you know what, we are not. As good as we may think we are, none of us are perfect. We all fall short of the standard that the Bible sets forth.

Some try to get to heaven by practicing certain behaviours or following specific rules, some think their heritage ensures them a place in heaven while still others try to compare themselves to others to make them seem better. In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The two men come to the Temple to worship. The Pharisee prays and thanks God he is not like the bad people, specifically people like tax collectors. He extols his virtues about his fasting and tithing. But the tax collector takes a different approach. He stands back from the altar, keeps his head low, beats his chest and says, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I think we know who Jesus sided with.

God’s plan for his imperfect people is that if we trust Jesus as our Saviour, we will go to heaven. Look at the thief on the cross – he had nothing to offer Jesus, his past (he was a robber – he was bad), his present (he was being executed on a cross) and his future (he did not have one) yet when he called on Jesus, how did Jesus respond… NO, you’re not good enough? No. Jesus welcomes him into paradise

Our security is not founded on us or what we can offer God… it is founded on what God has offered us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus’ perfection became our perfection when we put our faith in Him. That is our security… that is our hope

When I worked for the Mustard Seed, part of our role was to help people transition from homelessness to integrating back into the mainstream of society. Living in a winter climate, many of these people dealt with cold, drugs and alcohol abuse, sexual exploitation and some physical violence and death.

But the truth be told, some at-risk people would rather stay put than be led to safety. That’s what helicopter pilot Iain McConnell and the rest of his air station crew discovered in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

McConnell and his crew were told to keep five H-60 helicopters airborne on missions around the clock to airlift stranded people from their rooftops and deliver them to the Superdome in New Orleans. But they were only able to help relatively few survivors. “On our first three missions, we saved the lives of eighty-nine people, three dogs, and a cat,” McConnell said. “On the fourth mission, to our great frustration, we saved no one — but not for lack of trying. The dozens we attempted to rescue refused pickup!

Why were the results so minimal? He added, “Some people told us simply to bring them food and water. ‘You are living in unhealthy conditions, and the water will stay high for a long time,’ we warned them. Still, they refused.” In truth, they did not know how desperate their situation was.

There are billions in our world who do not know how dire the situation is. As much as we fear our current crisis, the truth is more face an eternity separated from God and are unaware. Both situations lead to the same outcome – death. Facing what every one of us will face one day, that is death, is made more palatable knowing that what lies on the other side is an eternity with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

To many people in our culture and society, Easter is just another long weekend we look forward to. For Jesus, it was a very long weekend He was not looking forward to. He suffered physically, mentally and emotionally, and spiritually. He knew it had to happen because what Jesus accomplished through His death on the Cross and the Resurrection, changed the course of humanity and human history.

Colossians 2:13-15 says that Jesus cancelled every debt we would owe on the cross. Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins is like an Etch-A-Sketch: we draw pictures and when we make a mistake, we erase them by shaking the frame. Our pasts are dealt with through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Romans 8:1 says, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. This is a truth as Christians we are called to believe, live out and experience it daily. 1 John 1:9 tells us when we confess our sins, we are cleansed. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our sins are forgiven, and like that etch a sketch, when we confess our sins, we are cleansed. Isn’t that a wonderful freeing truth?

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event in human history. It defined who Jesus is and what He accomplished can redefine your life if you put your trust in Him and in being in His loving and powerful hands we can face any challenge life brings upon us.


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