I was a late addition and very grateful that I was invited to the party. The purpose: a clay pigeon shoot. The venue: a stately home. The host: a member of one England’s great historic families. And best of all, my fellow guests were the most eclectic group of men you could hope to meet.
The existing friendships were genuine and deep, formed in life’s trenches of challenging circumstance. Newcomers like myself were made welcome, making the possibility of new friendship highly likely. No surprises therefore that conversations were rich, real, informed and varied.
As different individuals spoke about where life’s journey had taken them and what they were now doing, the honesty and reality led to our conversation occasionally becoming dark, and at times hope-less.
Not the hopelessness of apathy or frivolity or shallowness. Rather, the hopelessness formed by personal experience of life’s complexities meeting faith — where an easier path of simply following biblical rules and statutes would be desirable but not available, where wisdom and courage were both required as a response to a need.
At several points, I found myself thanking God for some of the men present, especially those who had made real sacrifices at great personal risk to serve others.
I retired to bed at 1:30 in the morning on the first night and laid awake for another hour as I chewed on the conversation and the Stilton cheese — it was that stimulating and challenging.
It caused me to reflect on the role that hope plays in my life and how much of my worldview, heart and mind posture and resulting action is framed by the gift of hope.
I cannot imagine a world without hope.
That gift of hope originates in God from whom every good gift derives.
Hope, as revealed in the Scriptures, is based in the character of our God, who, with all authority and power in His universe, is working out His good plans and purposes.
In this sense, hope is directional in that it will culminate in time, and — because of its origin — is guaranteed. Origin determines destiny, especially given the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth (God in flesh) and the work He undertook during His life, death, resurrection and ascension.
The good news for us is that His ongoing work, now at the right hand of the Father, is bringing this plan into reality. The astounding news is that He chooses to involve us in this work too.
This revelation was the stuff of missional communication and drive for the disciples, the early church and for all true believers since. There is a new King in town, forever.
It validates us, our human-ness and our work. Our co-operation with the King really matters on every level.
This reality — the fact that God in the person of Jesus is in charge — has been captured in art form of all types, but especially in the icon of Christ Pantokrator. He loves us. He forgives us completely. He is with us, for us and by His spirit lives in us, forever.
“Jesus Christ, detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul” by Edal Anton Lefterov licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Our world and the mission field we have been specifically called to is facing tremendous upheavals of all sorts. There is fear and uncertainty on every level. Few of us will be immune to the impacts in our personal lives, families and communities. And yet, there He is: King of the universe, hand raised in blessing, in fulfillment of the hope of the ages.
No thing, no circumstance and no one can alter that or defeat Him in what He has done. His accomplishment is no less than a new creation.
Our privilege is to proclaim and practice this good news, especially in the dark places of prisons, where hope can be in short supply.
In 2023, I intend and pray that I might be an ambassador of hope, wherever I can, including this first 2023 Touchstone introduction.
May the bolded encouragement be a best practice transfer for all of us.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.” Romans 15:13-15, NLT