Pastoral Perspectives

Hope – An Anchor for the Soul

What is hope?

The dictionary explains ‘hope’ as “to want and expect something to happen or be true”.

Why is having hope important?

In his book The Anatomy of Hope, Dr Jerome Groopman, a professor in Havard Medical School investigates how hope affects human beings who are either undergoing medical care or have a family member that is critically ill. Apart from distinguishing between the types of hope, such as whether someone is experiencing false or true hope, Dr Groopman wanted to discover whether or not hope can change someone’s physical well-being.

In the course of his research when he diagnosed patients with serious diseases, he discovered that all of them, without exception, were looking for genuine hope. That hope was of greater significance than anything he could ever prescribe as a doctor.

In his book, he highlights the importance of hope, saying “Basically, hope is the ability to see a potential path to the future. When someone is facing dire circumstances, they need to see a potential path that can get them where they want to be. Once they see that, there’s a tremendous emotional uplift that occurs.”

The doctor added: “Hope has been, is, and always will be the heart of medicine and healing. None of us can live without hope. Even with all of the medical technology available to us now, we still come back to the profound human need to believe we can reach a future that is better than our life in the present.”

Why am I sharing about hope this morning?

In 1883, a man named William Alexander Smith from Scotland was affected by his observation that many youths in his time were living without discipline, hope and purpose. This resulted in many of them picking up bad habits and being influenced by bad company in the streets.

As a Bible teacher in his church and a former military officer, William Alexander Smith was concerned for these young people. He wanted to bring some discipline and hope to these youths. He initiated a program to reach out, encourage and develop the teenagers through activities like outdoor camping, foot drills and physical training. In the process, he slowly built up their confidence and instill in them character traits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline and Self-Respect. His work slowly became what we know today as The Boys’ Brigade.

As William Alexander Smith continued with his work among the youths, he knew that deep down inside, the emptiness that these young people felt in their lives cannot be filled with just outdoor activities. They needed something or someone who can be a strong anchor in their lives. Their hope and purpose in life needed to be anchored.

He was encouraged by the Bible verse in Hebrews 6:19 which says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

The words ‘firm and secure” are the modern translation of the old English words ‘Sure and Stedfast’. This Bible verse reminded him that hope and purpose can be found and anchored in Jesus Christ.

Later on, the words “Sure and Stedfast” (retaining the older spelling of the word) with the picture of an anchor became the motto and emblem of the Boys’ Brigade.

In Singapore, the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade are recognised internationally as uniformed youth organisations and recognised by the Ministry of Education of Singapore as a Co-Curricular Activity in the schools.

To continue their spiritual links with the church, every BB and GB Company has a sponsoring Church that cares and provides:

  • spiritual care & nurture through her Christian Education and Character programs
  • support for the ministry & activities of the BB or GB Company – both financially and help through volunteers from the church

We give praise to God that since it’s humble beginnings, both BB and GB are still actively involved in the transformation of young lives.

On this BB Enrolment Sunday, I choose to share about hope because I am reminded of how desperately I needed hope as a young boy. During my growing up years, I gave my teachers and principals so much trouble in secondary school that in their eyes – I was a hopeless case, a boy who was incapable of change.

I was also in a seemingly hopeless family situation. My parents broke up when I was 5 or 6 years old. My dad remarried and my step-mother would occasionally beat me up or cane me for every little mistake I made as a young boy. I grew up becoming angry, revengeful and rebellious. I hated school, hated my step-mother and family. I would run away from home, play truant from school, getting myself into all kinds of mischief and trouble. My dad was so exasperated with me that he considered sending me to a Boys’ Home to keep me out of trouble.

As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. In my case, guess what my Discipline Mistress did to me after I got into a fight?

Now usually, the good students are the ones who are earmarked to be school prefects, right?

Instead, she made me a school prefect just to keep me out of trouble. Each time I carried out my duties as a prefect, my school mates would giggle at me. They just couldn’t accept that I have now become a prefect.

I recall lying on my bed each night hoping that things will get better for me. My hope then was – for better parents, better family, a better day and a better life. My hopes were just wishful thinking.

However, all that slowly began to change when a neighbor invited me to a church program held each Saturday afternoon. They were known as Royal Rangers and they had activities that were similar to the Boy’s Brigade. I decided to join them because that was the only opportunity for me to get out of the house each Saturday afternoon.

I learned camp craft, how to do foot drills, set up tents, cook using mess tins, iron my uniforms. Taking part in hikes helped me learn about endurance. Learning to work together with other young people helped me to be less self-centered. Earning all the different adventure and camping badges gave me something to work towards to and when I finally got to pin the earned badges on my sleeve, I felt a sense of achievement and pride.

But what I appreciated most about this community was I felt truly loved. I felt like I was in a family that I’ve always longed for. I experienced love, forgiveness and acceptance. I also slowly learned about God who created me, who loved me and sent his son Jesus Christ to die for me so that I can be forgiven of my sins and that I may have eternal life.

Initially, all these sounded very alien to me. I just knew that I felt happy going to church every Saturday. I also learnt to pray and one night as my dad and step-mother had another fight at home, I hid in my room and prayed and told God that I needed him and asked him to come and help me and save me.

That night after praying, I felt an unexplainable sense of peace in my heart. I knew that peace I felt came from God.

Sadly, two years later, my dad’s second marriage broke down as well and my siblings and I had to go through another painful and uncertain period in our lives.

I was in Sec 3 then, and the brokenness in my family affected me. I lost focus, did badly for my studies, failed my end of year exams and I had to be retained and repeat my Sec 3.

After one year, I did just enough to be promoted and took my O level exams. However, my results were not good enough to get into a course in the Polytechnic. In the end, I not only repeated my Sec 3, I had to repeat my Sec 4 as well. I can still remember vividly the sense of hopelessness that overwhelmed me that day.

A friend spoke to me that night and encouraged me to put my hope in God because God never

fails. Even though sometimes, things may not work out in the way we want them to be, God still has a plan for us. We can put our hope and trust in him.

A year after I retook my O levels, I was thankful to God that my results were enough to get into a course in Polytechnic. The days after weren’t any easier but my hope in God helped me through life’s many difficult moments.

Through the years, knowing and believing that I have a God who created me, saved and loved me, who forgives me of my sins, and is forever watching over me – gives me hope and purpose in life. And this hope is anchored in His son Jesus Christ who died and rose again to give us eternal life.

I have learned to put my hope in Jesus in my moments of despair and hopelessness. I have learned that Jesus is my anchor and He is sure and steadfast. Without Jesus as the anchor in my life, I would not be who I am today.

As we come to see our Boys being enrolled today, it is encouraging to note that both the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade movement had their roots in the Christian Church. Both began as work among troubled youths pointing them to the hope they can find in Jesus Christ.

As parents and friends of our BB Boys, I hope that you will be encouraged as you see the good work that God is doing in the lives of the Boys.

We live in a complicated and troubled world today. The world is longing to have hope in their lives. From the Bible, we discover that true hope can be found in Christ alone. 

We will experience hope when we find our salvation in Jesus, when in faith we call on him through our prayers. Indeed, when we put our hope in Jesus Christ, we can be ‘sure and stedfast’ because our hope is anchored in Him.

I would like to end by sharing the lyrics of a Christian song which tells us that we can find our hope in Jesus Christ. The title of the song is called In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

Here in the love of Christ I stand.