AGAINST ALL HOPE: DO NOT GIVE UP
ROMANS 4:18-25 NIV
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23 The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Destruction, desolation, despair, disconnectedness, disease, disrespect, deceit, divisiveness, degradation, debauchery, destitution, and death are all the main staples of the day. Despite the number of vacations, excursions, retreats, and respites that one takes, the presence of suffering is prevalent throughout the land of GOD. Consequently, there is no escape from its presence nor its impact in our lives. While some persons opt to bury their heads in the ground; still others opt to self-medicate; even still others appear to move through existence unscathed as long as such pandemic suffering does not happen in one's pseudoprotected private milieu; suffering and its impact on the quality of one's life is real and enervating!
Over the past week or so we have witnessed the bombing in Jordan; the war in Iraq, which continues to result in the deaths of numerous people, innocent people on both sides of this travesty; the tornado in Iowa; violence in France; the election controversy in Liberia; and a plethora of local pathos that is prevalent throughout every state in the United States!
Such hopelessness and brokenness provokes the people of GOD to raise some very critically existential questions about the purpose of our journey in the "here and now" on our return to the Celestial City of GOD! Many of GOD'S people have walked away from service; they have walked away from love; they have walked away from tolerance; they have walked away from a genuine desire to understand; they have walked away from openness as it requires too much authentic introspection; they have walked away from passion; they have walked away from integrity; they have walked away from power because they feel, far too frequently, defeated by the daily malaise of making it from one moment to the next. In essence, GOD'S people do not believe that there is "anyway" of possible rebound or hope for authentic transformative change and reconciliation, but they do believe that there "AIN'T NO WAY" of possible rebound or hope for authentic transformative change and reconciliation, which gets at something more guttural as such an utterance is unrestrained and unrehearsed! Help us GOD! LORD, we pray, "your people need you! LORD, we need you!
Significantly, there is not a domain to which any one of us can escape that is devoid of traits or blatant indicators that are suggestive of the relinquishment of steadfast hope. In the quiet of our homes, schools, communities, jobs, churches, and even in the quiet of our prayers and reflections, we have entertained the thoughts of "giving up" and/or flying right into the flames in our desperation as we are inundated with daily news that has very little to say about goodness, brotherhood, sisterhood, charity, tolerance, gentleness, or hope in the land.
The events in our society bring to mind a powerful story entitled The Story of the Three Kingdoms, written by Walter D. Myers and Ashley Bryan. The narrative illustrates that there were three kingdoms of the world, namely, the kingdom of the forest, ruled by the mighty Elephant; the kingdom of the sea, ruled by the ferocious Shark; the kingdom of the air, ruled by the powerful Hawk. And there were the People, who warranted access to the forest, the sea, and the forest for survival. However, the People were small in relation to the animals and weak and perceived themselves no match for the masters of the forest, sea, and air as each of the animals boasted about their omnipotence, thereby, causing the People to walk with their chins upon their chests and their eyes cast down.
One night, at the campfire, the places where stories were told, one of the villagers spoke about a large boulder that he had seen, which was situated at the place where the villagers desired to erect the center of their community. Subsequently, the community mobilized their strength and were able to move the boulder. Meanwhile, Elephant falls into a pit and they help him out by attaching vines to the boulder and moving it. Elephant promises to share the forest with the people. Secondly, Shark gets caught in a net and makes a vow to share the sea at his release via the People. Thirdly, Hawk is trapped as he rests in a baobab tree and makes a promise to the People that he would share the air upon his release.
Significantly, each time the People helped one of the aforementioned animals, they gathered around the campfire to narrate the event, which fortified their strength, renewed their hope, and reignited their purpose. In essence, their strength not only came from a power much greater then themselves, but their strength emerged from their ability to remember and tell their stories!
We, GOD'S PEOPLE, have been caste down and discouraged far too frequently because we no longer tell nor believe our stories! Have we not wondered to where/whom should we turn when things went wrong? Have we not wondered to whom we could run to find a shoulder to lay our heads upon? Oh yes, we have wondered these things and many more? So too did the People! Significantly, so too did Abraham and Sarah! GOD, our GOD is the force behind the power and the force of possibility against all hope!
The barren Sarah and Abraham, in the late Winter of his years, appeared ready to cross the chilly banks of Jordan and contemplated with regularity, giving up the ghost! But, the LORD, our SAVIOR, ROCK, FORTRESS, DELIVERER and SHEPHERD in AGES PAST, had other plans! GOD requested that Abraham not waver in his belief, but to remain strengthened in his faith and his reverence to the LORD. GOD promises for that kind of tenacity and commitment that he would make Abraham the father of many nations. BELOVED, GOD promises you too that he would open up the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that you would not have room enough to receive, but hold on to that FORCE that is the POSSIBILITY against all hope, JESUS!
In times of distress, darkness, despair, danger, and death, the LORD provides a prescription to the PEOPLE, you and me, to overcome the attraction to embracing those things that are against all hope; i.e., giving up! Beloved of GOD, DO NOT GIVE UP as the answer nor the resolution is in burying one's head in the sand, self-medicating, constructing pseudo structures of protection, nor flying into the flames of desperation! You must hold on even when it hurts and the capacity to understand no longer anchors itself on the banks of logic when dealing with spiritual matters! True, we live in some very difficult times, but we serve a gracious, loving, and mighty SAVIOR! GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE! YES, HE IS! GOD'S answer is couched in the request "DO NOT GIVE UP" itself!