By Joel Hess –
In 2007, the great crystal ball that was dropped in Times Square was called the “Star of Hope.” It was comprised of a bunch of triangles with different hope themes such as “hope for peace” etc.
Probably an appropriate title, right? So many of us put a lot of hope in the new year. You? Hope for a better economy, a better job, a better health report. Or perhaps you have some personal goals – a better body, better diet, better workout routine – a workout routine. And of course we all want our favorite college football teams to win their bowl game!
I hope you put a couple of other hopes and goals in your arsenal this year. A closer walk with Christ. Better behavior toward others. Better reading of Holy Scripture and prayer. A stronger faith.
What hopes do you have this year?
Don’t stop hoping. Don’t stop going forward or trying to better yourself. These are all good things.
But we know from God’s Word and from experience, there are plenty of obstacles to our hopes and dreams.
No matter what happens this year we know sin and death will fight against us. We will fail. We will fail others. We will fail our Lord. We will continue confessing our sins, and hold out empty beggar hands, and enjoy the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ.
Paul says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
Now before you start thinking: cool, I’m going to get that new job. Paul was definitely not referring to conquering in these ways. In fact, he was talking about the certainty of suffering in this present age. He himself found himself beaten and broken by those who hated his message of peace in Jesus. He was talking to himself. He was talking to a church persecuted and scattered.
He was talking to you when you are drowned in tears as you feel guilty by your sins. He was talking to you when you are tired of struggling against your vices and weaknesses.
He was talking to you when you get hit hard by sin, death, and Satan.
It may not look like it, but God is for you! The battle is bloody but the victory has already been won! You will be all right. Jesus has already conquered sin and death FOR YOU! You are forgiven. You will rise again from the dead.
I love the quote from the 2006 Rocky movie. Rocky is talking to his son who wants him to stop fighting because he’s getting too old and his competition is too young.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life…
But it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take, and keep moving forward…”
That’s the Christian life. That’s life under the cross! Brothers and sisters you are going to get hit this year. You are going to fall. You are going to fail. You are going to get hurt. You are going to hurt others. You are going to get pounded in that ring!
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!
Your story isn’t over! Your story is intimately tied to His story.
We know how that turned out! Christ took a hit! Boy, he could have hit! He could have hit the world, every one of us in our sins. We deserve to be hit hard for the way we act. The way we speak. What we have done to one another. What we have done to God’s creation, and to ourselves.
But instead of hitting, He took the hit! Stepping in front of the glove of justice for us! Fulfilling what we are unable to do. Receiving what we should deserve.
We are forgiven. We will rise again!
Every time you get hit this year, praise the Lord with your bloodied mouth and remember:
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”