A Hope That Doesn’t Disappoint

Mar 01

A Hope That Doesn’t Disappoint

cross01Awhile back, several of us from our church made a group decision to invest heavily into a certain segment of our church. We believed that if we presented the truth of the Gospel not just in words only, but also in an extreme sacrifice of ministry to them…that there would be fruit from that–that lives would be forever changed by God’s Spirit.

That isn’t what seemed to happen, and several people from the ministry team have shared their feelings of disappointment. I, too, was disappointed. What does it take for people to see the light of the Gospel, and be forever changed??

Over time, though, there have been other people in the church who have “caught the flame” of what it means to follow, serve, and love Jesus. It has been awesome to see the beginnings of this work of God in the lives of people within our church.

But I keep coming back to those whom we attempted to heavily invest in. We had such great hope. And now there is a great disappointment there. Paul says in Romans 5:5, “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Although Paul says that this hope doesn’t disappoint, we might beg to differ. And sometimes, this disappointment makes you want to give up. Why? Because we all know that only God can change someone’s heart–we can’t do it. So when you give it your all, and strive to depend on God for the results, not your own abilities, and then still nothing happens…well, if God’s not going to come through on His end of things, why should we try anything on our end?

Awhile back, I had a conversation with a friend about my struggles to understand why it seems that so many people who go to church regularly just never seem to “get it,” no matter how many times you preach the message, no matter in what ways you present the message, no matter how well you live the message. It really makes you feel like, “God–what else can I do? It has to be You who does it. And yet it seems like You’re not doing anything!”

My friend eventually wrote me back a letter with his response. In it, he said that he keeps coming back to Jesus’ words–the way is narrow, and only a few find it.

I guess that disappoints me. It disappoints me that the masses of people who call themselves Christians may never get it, no matter how hard we try, and no matter what God does or doesn’t do.

I just got done listening to a talk (online) by Francis Chan at the Verge Conference. He started his talk by giving some encouragement to the church leaders in attendance. He said it’s easy to become disappointed, and to start thinking, “Well, I can’t control the Holy Spirit, but I can at least make an engaging worship service.”

And so we stop trusting in the Holy Spirit, and start leaning on our own abilities/wisdom/strategies. After all, at least the worship service won’t suck. But this is in contrast to the Apostle Paul, says Chan, who determined to know nothing else but Jesus and Him crucified, even though it was foolishness to the Gentiles and Jews. He could have given eloquent speeches, but instead he chose to look dumb.

I think it would be easier to make that choice if the Gospel always–or even usually–had such a saving effect on people, but it seems as if that’s too high of expectation, based on Jesus’ words, the words of the Bible, and life experience. It only happens to a few, not the masses.

So how can Paul say that hope does not disappoint? In context, he is talking about the great hope that we, who have trusted in Christ by faith and have thereby been justified, will be saved.

Truth is, there isn’t much hope for anyone else–even if they fill a seat in the pew. They are lost and without hope, and without God in the world. Their lives reflect it. It saddens me. No matter what “great lengths” (hardly) I have gone for their sake in God’s kingdom, it pales in comparison to the lengths Jesus has gone. And even so, the vast majority of the world will never embrace the narrow way that leads to life.

Is there any hope for such people? Yes. There is still hope because there is still yet more time. We cannot give up on those who have not yet received that great hope of salvation. We must refuse to believe that they are all destined to be lost. There is still hope that their eyes will be opened, that their heart will be pierced, that their knees will bow and their mouths will confess Christ as LORD!!!

And now, what about the few that have already found eternal life in Jesus? What about the few in my church who are already being touched by God’s Spirit? The few who have clearly trusted in Christ for salvation and have been justified by His grace? It is a stark contrast to the rest of the congregation in your church or in mine. When no one else seems to have the time to invest in other people spiritually, these people do. When no one else seems to have the excitement of following Jesus, these people do. When no one else seems eager to learn all they can from God’s Word, these people do. Day by day, they are going through tribulation, and out of that struggle there is real fruit being borne–perseverance and godly character. And interestingly enough, over time there are more and more of these “few” people. God is indeed at work, even when it’s hard to see so.

These children of God may find themselves disappointed when they give it their all for Christ, and see little results. But deeper inside, there is a hope that doesn’t disappoint. There is a love from Jesus that goes beyond how other people respond or don’t respond to Jesus. It isn’t based on external results.

It is internal. And–we hope–it is eternal.

One comment

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Thn4fgLvOfo

    You have a powerful, powerful calling on your life. I am confident God will complete the work He began in you and that your life will bear much fruit, even if you don’t see it now. Keep persevering and enduring and letting God lead you to wherever He wants you to go.

    Like: Thumb up 1

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