"When you place your hope in Jesus, you can't help but live differently"
-Matt Galacia, April 28th, 2013
Meditate on the above statement which Matt shared in his sermon this past Sunday. These are powerful words for turbulent times. I want to encourage you to take this statement to heart and personalize it because the lost in America are longing to find real hope. We live in a country which is pessimistic and hopeless. Hope has become nothing more than a political statement with no vibrancy or power. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 10 adults in the United States suffer from some level of depression (http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression/). Anxiety disorders cost the United States more than $4.2 billion annually, which is almost 1/3 the total mental health bill in the country (http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics). Over 11% of the United States population (34 million Americans) were taking antidepressants in 2011 (http://voices.yahoo.com/number-americans-taking-antidepressants-surges-10244047.html). This doesn't even include the number of Americans who have turned to other substances (Like alcohol, marijuana, speed, cocaine, etc) to numb their pain so they can face their daily lives. We live in a culture which appears hopeless and clueless to do anything about that condition except medicate the symptoms.
I listed those statistics above to let you know how many Americans have no hope. Even in the church, we have turned to doctors and medication to treat the symptoms rather than the problem. The problem of hopelessness is one of faith. It really is. The object of our faith determines whether we will have hope or not. If the object of our faith is fallible (Like trusting in ourselves, the government, our money, a spouse/friend/parents, etc.) then our hope will ebb and flow with circumstances. However, when we place the hope of our future into the nail-scared hands of our Savior, we are trusting the One who is totally trustworthy. We don't have to construct an elaborate theology when we trust Jesus. We show we trust Jesus by following His commands and directions for our lives. Too many in the church want to "tweak" God's Word to meet their living condition rather than changing their living condition to meet the standards of the Bible. It's kind of a backwards way of following Jesus, which simply exasperates our hope and patience. We put our hope in Jesus by seeking His direction, following that direction and trusting the future into His hands. The hope of tomorrow is based on the "God" we serve today.
If our hope really is in Jesus, we will live differently than those around us. Often, this calls us to make what appears to be a sacrifice. Everyone else may already be at peace with compromise and expect us to just go along with them. But because our hope is in Jesus, we just have a different set of priorities. Just think about Sunday mornings: If our hope is in Jesus, we look forward to being in church, corporate worship and the accountability/encouragement from our church family. It's not a discussion point for us. We will just be in church each Sunday morning. Our family members who want to have a family party know that they must wait until after church before we will arrive. Our neighbors know that a block party won't happen until after church. Our bosses know they can't schedule us for work on that day. There will be times when this seems like a huge sacrifice and we will be tempted to compromise. But since our hope is in Christ, we just have a different set of values and priorities. We shouldn't expect others who don't have this hope to understand and support our decisions. Sunday morning is just one example of how our hope in Christ causes us to live differently. We study harder, work harder on the job, love our spouse/children deeper than we did before we came to Christ.
Those around us are looking for authentic hope. They know they won't find it in "Christians" who live like them, cuss like them, drink like them but throw a little Jesus on life. Others around us are slowly being sucked into a pit of hopelessness. We can be salt and light, just like Jesus told us to be...IF...we will put our hope in Jesus. Once we do this, the living takes care of itself. So, who is your "God"? In whom or what are you putting your hope? May this Sip from the well refresh your soul to trust Jesus afresh and anew today.