“On the day that God came to live among us, the fears of all the years were intersected by the Hope of all nations.”
We all have hopes and fears. Every day we face the uncertainty of life, the tension between all that we long for and all that we do not know. In the face of that uncertainty, do we choose to have hope or do we succumb to the waves of fear that threaten to overwhelm us?
We hope for those we love, that they will flourish physically, emotionally and spiritually. In faith, we pray and trust God for these outcomes in their lives. But if we are honest, we also fear for them when they experience a crisis, or we fear that a crisis might occur. (Imagined fears can be just as daunting as those that stem from actual experiences.)
As followers of Jesus, we are wired to hope for a better day. We have good news and we try to live our lives as an expression of God’s love, justice and transformation in the world. Our hope and confidence are in God. We trust Him. The challenge we face is the barrage of political, socio-economic, environmental and moral chaos that wages war against this life of hope. Followers of Jesus can often experience emotional and spiritual depletion. Loss of hope fills the heart with fear. Fear can lead us to retreat into isolation or to attack out of insecurity. Neither of these is a response of faith, hope or love.
My own interaction with hope and fear has intensified recently. As a Christian leader, my vision of the purpose and destiny of Christ’s church is rooted in a faith-filled hope. That vision has been challenged many times, but the Spirit has always provided a gift of faith to strengthen my spirit and renew my hope.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the PAOC’s incorporation, I am motivated by the conviction that Jesus has a purpose for us, and that He is able to fulfil that purpose through us by the power of the Spirit. But I have also known some dark nights of the soul. What I see, both inside and outside of the church, has caused me to wrestle with fear. I will not live in denial. We face huge spiritual, theological and missional challenges in the Western church, issues that must be addressed by God’s people here in Canada. Hope and fear are at war in our personal lives, our families, our churches, and our nation. Hope must conquer.
Lately, in the midst of the battle, I have found myself humming a very familiar line from the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem”: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” The context into which Jesus was born was a mixture of hope and fear. The people of God were oppressed and living in fear. Their everyday lives were hard and often subjected to the unjust mandates of both religious and political leaders. Life was a struggle for survival. Yet there was hope to be found in the prophetic promises:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).
The promise of a Messiah offered Israel hope to address all their fears.
“Listen to me, my people;
hear me, my nation:
Instruction will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.
My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
The islands will look to me
and wait in hope for my arm” (Isaiah 51:4,5).
Paul reminds us that this hope reaches beyond Israel to all nations: “And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope’ ” (Romans 15:12).
On the day that God came to live among us, the fears of all the years were intersected by the Hope of all nations. And the hope Jesus offers continues to address our fears. Our fears concerning the church and the culture we live in are met by the hope we have in our living, active Lord. He is still committed to building His church and transforming lives, families and communities.
As you engage the hopes and fears of your life, I offer you this prayer that Paul prayed:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
This hope we have in Jesus has inspired us to craft a series of “I will” statements. We believe these commitments need to be made now more than ever. Throughout 2019, we will be addressing the challenges Canadians face as followers of Jesus, and through avenues such as testimony, our Every Day Faith emphasis, and other communications we will declare these “I will” statements.
Because we believe Jesus’ call to be His disciples must be taken seriously, we will start the year off with the statement, “I will be a disciplined follower of Jesus.” The challenge of theological drift and of living a life marked by grace and truth are just some of the other issues we will address with “I will” statements.
Our PAOC mission is: “To glorify God by making disciples everywhere by proclaiming and practising the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Fear may cause us to question if this is possible in our current Canadian culture, but Immanuel—God with us—has met those fears with hope.
This article appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.