“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Some of my most vivid memories are of my years playing basketball. One thing I can still feel is the exhaustion of giving it all during a tough match-up, only to have the game extend into overtime. After the exertion required for the first 32 minutes, the thought of summoning maximum effort for another five seemed impossible.
It feels like we are in a similar position now. I’m not sure about you, but I know I’ve had multiple heavy conversations over the past several weeks, grappling with difficult problems that seem to be intractable–strife, mistrust, disease, restrictions, and on and on. As we throw ourselves into trying to be good enough, strong enough, powerful enough to make these situations better, the normal responsibilities of life still beckon; work, finances, relationships and family need no less of our attention. To top it off, the news with which we are perpetually accosted reminds us just how broken the world is. Headlines are designed to steer our thinking and provoke emotion. We see depravity and humans being inhuman to one another, and wonder, how long, O Lord? I think we would all admit the same thing: we are weary.
The reality is, outside of the grace and strength and peace of a wonderful Savior, it’s impossible NOT to become weary. But here enters the beauty of the living Word of God. Because as overwhelming as the world around us seems, our scenario is not new. The Bible is full of stories of oppression and tyranny and hardship, many beyond what we could imagine in 21st century America.
Surely the giants of our faith felt this weariness as they traversed the globe, taking the gospel to one broken city after another. There had to be days when they wondered if they could summon the energy for another task. Yet some of Paul’s last words to us before his martyrdom are as moving today as they must have been to Timothy nearly 2000 years ago: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7)
How could Paul say such a thing with his world in the state it was? It wasn’t the fact that he was good or strong or powerful. It wasn’t that he had fixed all of the brokenness around him. Paul had one thing to cling to that superseded everything else – the hope of eternity with Christ. And I have no doubt that everyone he encountered during his ministry knew the reason for the audacious hope he displayed.
As we begin a new year with all the challenges set before us, my prayer is that we would cling to the hope Peter speaks of. Our journey here will be rife with the ugliness of a fallen world. The enemy will be hard at work to discourage us. But our hope is not in a perfect world or an easy walk; it is Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)