Hope Discovery of the Day:
Our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Christ alone.
Scriptures of the Day:
19 “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
14 “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.
Sometimes our hope can be stolen from an unlikely place. Paul is not mincing words in this passage. To say that all the believers except Timothy sought after their own interests is astounding. Of course, this is one verse of many and Paul often spoke with great encouragement about the believers he was working with.
Perhaps in this season, in particular, he did not “feel the love” from the believers surrounding him. I confess I have wanted to avoid this topic, but it has played such a big role in my healing as well as in my suffering. It is the elephant in the room that we want to avoid, but needs to be discussed in the hope of healing hearts who have been wounded by spiritual abuse or the Christian culture gone awry.
The first time I stepped into a church that was alive with joy and hope and fervent praise it felt like coming home. This is what it was all about – coming together and rejoicing in this new hope we had found. Church had been rather boring growing up – I did not know the LORD and we rarely went to church.
But then God saved me and I went to an amazing church, unlike any I had ever been to. There were exciting times serving in campus ministry, helping to start a church plant and serving on the worship team. Sweet, vibrant times of discipleship, fellowship and growing in the LORD.
When I was persecuted for my new faith, the church was a refuge, the believers all surrounded me and it was family. Sometimes you wish you could bottle up the joy you have from one church experience and open it up from time to time when needed.
The church can serve as a great catalyst and cultivator of hope, but it can also serve as a place of great pain.
The pain is worsened by the fact that church is a place where we come for hope – a place where we know we are all accepted by Christ – but not necessarily by other Christians. When Christians sin, it just hurts worse. It is not expected, but maybe it should be.
When we understand that the church is a place filled with sinful people, we clear up our disillusionment with the church. There is no perfect church and people sometimes can be prideful, selfish, legalistic, used as tools by the enemy.
Sometimes when life crushes our hope, we run to people or to the church as our refuge. This can be a source of inspiration, but it can also be a place of great stress and sorrow.
When my children and I were suffering greatly, we felt isolated and judged at church. The church simply did not know how to handle our situation. At the time it was very painful, but now I understand that they were just ill-equipped. Sometimes people meant well and sometimes they tried to manipulate us. It is what we do with people’s actions that matters. Will we allow bitterness in? Or will we give the grace we longed to receive?
When the church becomes a place of pain, it can hurt our faith. But God. Jesus brings healing and opens our eyes to realize that our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone.
As we walk through life and encounter seasons that threaten to destroy us, we need to be in God’s word foremost and to find like-minded believers who will stand with us. The people who caused us pain or judged us self-righteously – we can forgive them and realize they are misinformed and focused on earthly matters. Sometimes we, too, are small-minded and need grace.
The Holy Spirit can help us to get over our shock from snubbing, gossiping, jealousy, anger, and rejection that come from believers. All of us are desperate for the grace of God and need to keep the main thing the main thing – being a beacon of hope to the world that desperately needs Jesus.
The church is not perfect, but the bride of Christ is indeed beautiful. Christ redeemed her and He will complete the work He has begun in her and in us. Letting go of the judgments of man and embracing the acceptance we have in Christ offers a hope that never ends.
A Time to Worship
Stay where you are planted and help encourage the culture within your church to be one that pleases God. This song by Twila Paris is such a reminder of Who the church is: How Beautiful.
Lord, help us to keep our hope in You alone. Everything else disappoints, but You never do! Help your church to rise up and be loving and accepting, able to provide the hope You have given so abundantly.
This devotion is excerpted from the devotional: 31 Days to Hope Reinvented, available on Amazon.