Bailey and Potter, CPA

A Lighthouse in the Village

Pastor Don Nelson

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Dante envisioned those words inscribed over the gateway to hell. 

If anyone had an excuse to abandon all hope, it was the apostle Paul. He endured extreme suffering and rejection to proclaim a Messiah whose Gospel is {1st Co 1:23} “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” and to build congregations of (generally) ignorant, lowly people who were (for the most part) easy targets for heresy, legalism, sexual sin, and divisive conflict within the Church, and social oppression and violet persecution from without. 

Paul was executed in about 67 A.D. At that time, the Jesus Movement appeared to be in serious danger of becoming a minor footnote in the pages of history. Humanly speaking, despair was the logical option.

Yet though he was sometimes {2nd Co 4:8} “perplexed,” he was “not in despair.”  He stood firm in hope to the end: {Ro 5:3-5} “we…glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Was Paul just another annoyingly naïve optimist who maintained the illusion of hope by ignoring the truth and embracing false hope? By no means! He was a realist.  His letters reveal that he was not one to bury his head in the sand. 

How then, was Paul able to cling so tenaciously to hope?

1st, he lived in light of Jesus’ completed death and resurrection. Nothing destroys hope as effectively as death. It follows that when the Son of God rose up from the grave, he destroyed death and triumphantly revived hope!      

2nd, he lived in light of his ongoing experience of transformation from hyper-religious, self-righteous persecutor of the Church to its foremost missionary and early theologian. A God who is able to change a Saul into a Paul can do anything!

3rd, he lived in light of future resurrection and eternal life. Christ will fulfill this promise at his return. It is both guaranteed by, and foreshadowed in, the resurrection of Jesus and the transformation of God’s people. And, far from making us “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good” this hope can equip and strengthen us to be God’s faithful, fruitful children here and now.          
In light of our struggles we might be tempted to “abandon all hope.” I urge us to live in victorious hope! 

{1 Pe 1:3-4a} “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hop through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”    

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