#8 Moments of Hope with Pastor Jerry Rice

Imagine Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace. How excited must they have been when God miraculously delivered them from death? An incredible story. Now imagine Stephen being stoned to death because he followed Christ. There was no miraculous rescue as Stephen died, becoming the first Christian martyr. Did the three Hebrew men have more faith than Stephen because they were rescued and he was not? Of course not. Your faith is not determined by your life circumstances. As the Bible says in Hebrews 11:1 , “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
We live in a fallen world. Sin. Disease. Violence. Hatred. Suffering. But Christians are a people of faith. Yet faith does not mean that bad things never happen. As of now, over 25,000 people have died due to the Coronavirus. Some of these people may have been faithful Christians. Jesus makes it very clear that those living on earth will face difficulties. John 16:33 tells us “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus lets us know that we may have problems, but he also encourages us by reminding us that Christ has the final victory over every evil.
Many heroes of the Bible knew how it felt to struggle. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses are a few examples of people who kept the faith even though they had not yet received everything God had promised. Hebrews 11:13 says of these men that “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”
We, too, may see some difficult times, but we will not respond in despair, even if the world around us is in despair, because we know how this story ends. The world may not understand our faith in the midst of suffering. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” What sets Christians apart from the world is that we have faith in God despite our circumstances. Our faith may seem foolish. Our hope may seem foolish. But we know that our faith and hope are centered on Christ.
Reality forces us to recognize that bad things are happening in our world: war, conflict, a global pandemic. But in order to have faith, we cannot focus only on what is happening here and now, because we know that our final home will be in a heavenly kingdom. We are strangers on this earth. We should certainly pray about current events and for all those serving in our government, but we should also always keep in mind that this world is not our final destination. Until that day when we return home, may we be faithful stewards of the message of the cross, anticipating the glorious day we enter through Heaven’s gates.
“What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see….what a day, glorious day that will be!”