Serving a Living Hope

January 10, 2022

We didn’t start 2022 the way we wished. I believe we can say without objection that to a person we hoped to enter this new year with the pandemic gone or the assurance it was leaving soon. If not that, we at least wanted to have some questions answered about when and how we will beat it. We wanted answers about political unrest and any number of other things. Instead, memes abound about the “ground-hog day” feel of the new year—it feels too much like the last two years.

Instead of the optimism and hope we even had last year that the new year would bring relief and a fresh start, there is still much anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Many have a sense of despair and a hopeless, helpless perspective. Yet you and I as believers, as followers of Jesus Christ, are serving the One who has successfully dealt with all of these situations and conquered them. He assures us that He has overcome the world and we can live in that victory. Following and serving Him not only gives us that victory and assurance but appoints us as His representatives. We are called and empowered to be Jesus to those around us. We offer His hope, stability, and peace. It is absolutely vital that followers of Jesus do not get caught up in the tsunami of fear, cynicism, and anxiety sweeping those around us into an ocean of despair. Jesus IS the Living Hope.

Peter and John were Jesus-followers living in a similar day of challenge. They were under the thumb of Rome. Religious and political leaders were corrupt and no one in authority looked out for their interests. Thieves, robbers, and worse roamed the streets. There were few ways to protect yourself. Diseases of many types and kinds were so prevalent. With only primitive means of care, to get sick was likely to die. Leprosy was so disfiguring and deadly that if you got it you weren’t just quarantined—you were banished for life even from your own family. Providing the simple basics of life for yourself and your family consumed the day of the average person. But Peter and John were so filled with their confidence in and relationship with Jesus that they stood out like neon signs in this world.

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Acts 3:1-10 NIV

When Peter and John saw the needs of this man and heard his request, they knew they didn’t have what he wanted. He wanted money to meet his hunger and get him through this moment. Peter and John saw beyond his own perception of what he needed and ministered to his true needs through the power of Jesus. Their power in Jesus threatened the powers of the day and those powers tried to shut these men down. Neither the circumstances of the day not the opposition around them affected them. The disciples prayed for more power and determination: “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30 NIV

We are in just such a world. Going about our daily activities, just as Peter and John were doing, puts us in contact with needy and despairing people. They believe in their pain that they need all kinds of things. Some of the things make their situation worse; others only help momentarily. Their true need is to experience and come to know Jesus personally. And that’s what we have to give. We can’t answer their questions or be their source—but we can give them what we have. What we have is access to the Power and Wisdom and Hope that can change everything. We can introduce them to the power of Jesus.

Don’t you want to do that? Let’s be bold and courageous and pray for those God brings across our paths. Pray ahead of time and be ready for the opportunity. Then when we meet a person in need, have the courage to be like Peter and John. Pray for them at once, right on the spot. Jesus will do what you can’t do when you bring Him into the situation. You might be the first one who has ever prayed with that person—you might be part of a bigger miracle than you dream. Nothing is more important or fulfilling for you and me than becoming dispensers of hope in the midst of the negativity and fear that are filling our communities and world.

Just one more reminder: All of us are like Peter and John in this way. We can only give what we have. That means we are either giving hope and peace or we are adding to the despair. We give what we have. Fill up on the power of Jesus today.