Pastoral Perspectives

A Hope Like No Other

Over the past few days, many of us would probably have heard various testimonies or read different posts on social media about the recent Celebration of Hope (COH) held at the National Stadium. As one amongst the many thousands who volunteered for the event, I must say it has been such a tremendous encouragement for me to see God’s people from over 200 churches serving together and doing their part for this massive evangelistic event.

Although we may never be able to measure the full impact that COH had, I think we can safely say that there is rejoicing in the heaven as people repented of their sins and placed their trust in Jesus through this event. It was also heartening to know that the livestream garnered about 100,000 unique viewers on the internet, with viewers tuning in from as far away as Mongolia.

We trust that through the sharing of personal testimonies and whenever the Gospel is faithfully preached, the seeds have indeed been sown into the hearts of those who came or viewed it online. Furthermore, as the Christians around them continue to pray, demonstrate God’s love and engage them in spiritual conversations, surely one can look forward to more “harvesting” in the time to come.

While the COH has come to an end, it marks a new beginning for those who have prayed to believe in Christ or rededicated themselves to God. Even as they have “found” true hope, they now need to be discipled in a local church and be taught to go on sharing this hope with others. After all, the COH is but one way that God can use to save souls. Regardless of how many people responded during these rallies, God’s call for his people to be involved in personal evangelism and making disciples of all nations should not be put on hold until another evangelistic event.

Indeed, I trust that none of us are merely waiting for the next big rally and thinking that explaining the Gospel is best left to the celebrities or gifted evangelists. Instead, let us pray that the COH will serve as a catalyst reminding every Christian about how God is at work in the hearts of those around us and spurring us on to be loving people with God’s love and inviting them to the “Hope that we have in Christ” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

When the Apostle Peter gave his pastoral instructions, it was to all believers who have been “born again to a living hope” and who will be receiving “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading” (1 Peter 1:3-5). This suggests that every Christian must and can learn to share about why true hope can only be found in Jesus Christ. Unless we ourselves are uncertain of what we believe about Jesus or are unconvinced about the goodness and greatness of God as revealed in the Bible, otherwise there is really no reason for us to be indifferent towards evangelism.   

For the Christian, hope in Scripture is understood as something definite – something that can be relied on as certain to happen. This is in contrast to wishful thinking or having false hopes where one cannot be sure whether what he places his hopes upon will come to pass. Indeed, the kind of hope that the Bible speaks of is to be differentiated from say how someone may hope to find a life partner or to be healed of his terminal illness after hearing about the amazing recovery of another. While we certainly can pray for the concerns of our friends or loved ones, we also need to be careful to avoid giving them any misconception about what God has actually promised.

To a people who were going through challenging times because of their faith in Jesus, Peter did not try to raise their hopes up by assuring them that their lives were going to improve. Instead, he exhorted them to “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”” (1 Peter 1:13). No matter how difficult life is going to be and how some may experience grievous losses, they can still have hope. This is because their hope is founded upon the certainty that their Risen Saviour will continue to sustain them till the day they come before God in his holy and loving presence.

During the rally, the speaker Canon J John explained how where one looks and how one looks determines what one sees. He shared that in contrast to the Soviet cosmonaut who concluded God didn’t exist because he didn’t see God in space, the American astronaut concluded that he didn’t see God because he didn’t go far out enough.  

In our case, how does having hope in God shape the way we “see” about our past, present or future? Despite our messy past, do our lives reflect hope because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the Cross? Are we known to be hopeful people even though our current situation seems bleak? Is there a humble confidence and sincere yearning that something gloriously good is ultimately headed our way since God is seated on his throne?     

Admittedly, hope doesn’t just spring forth automatically even for the believer. The trials of life have a way of turning our focus inward and unto the things of the world. But we thank God that believers can have a faith community to help us be intentional about turning our eyes Christward lest we slide into lethargy or complacency or be tempted to dull our senses through pleasure-seeking or busyness. And even when sometimes individuals from this faith community fail or become a stumbling block, we need not lose heart. Thanks be to God, our hope was placed on someone else in the first place.