“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:5
We talk a lot about hope.
We hope the weather will be good for our family vacation. We hope that our favorite team will win the Super Bowl—or at least make it to the big game! We hope that we get just what we want for Christmas.
But for many of us, hope lacks a sense of certainty. It is more like a wish—something that we want to happen but have no way of knowing that it ultimately will. So we keep our fingers crossed and “hope” that everything will go the way we want it to.
The reality is that often life doesn’t turn out the way we hoped it would. Hope is a fragile commodity. When life is disappointing, our optimism is replaced by feelings of discouragement and hopelessness. Before long we run the risk of becoming cynics who believe that there is nothing in which we can confidently hope.
This was the landscape of life when Jesus entered the world. The prevailing mood of Israel was anything but hope. The once proud nation was now a puppet state of the pagan Roman Empire. The common person lived under the defeating burden of the exaggerated requirements of the religious establishment. Centuries before, they had been promised a deliverer who would restore Israel to its former glory, but it had never happened.
Into this sense of cynical hopelessness, true Hope was born. But the tragedy of that first Christmas was that very few realized the hope that had been introduced. Hope for the forgiveness of sins. Hope for a bright future—forever. Hope for God’s presence and power in daily living. Hope that would enable us to forget the past and set our sights on stuff that doesn’t disappoint. A hope that, because of Jesus, is a certainty and not just another wish to be dashed on the rocks of reality.
I love the honesty of the psalmist who said, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” We’ve all been there. But let’s not stop there. Keep reading! “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). Rejoice that Jesus came to give you something better than the disappointments of life on planet earth. And when by faith you embrace Him and all that He promised, you can have a hope that is no longer a fingers-crossed wish that you harbor in your heart, but rather a confident, courageous optimism that is rooted in the certainty of His Word.
Pin your hopes on Jesus this Christmas—you won’t be disappointed!
From: Streams in the Desert
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”—Matt 26:36
It is a hard thing to be kept in the background at a time of crisis. In the Garden of Gethsemane eight of the eleven disciples were left to do nothing. Jesus went to the front to pray; Peter, James and John went to the middle to watch; the rest sat down in the rear to wait. Methinks that party in the rear must have murmured. They were in the garden, but that was all; they had no share in the cultivation of its flowers. It was a time of crisis, a time of storm and stress; and yet they were not suffered to work.
You and I have often felt that experience, that disappointment. There has arisen, mayhap a great opportunity for Christian service. Some are sent to the front; some are sent to the middle. But we are made to lie down in the rear. Perhaps sickness has come; perhaps poverty has come; perhaps obloquy has come; in any case we are hindered and we feel sore. We do not see why we should be excluded from a part in the Christian life. It seems like an unjust thing that, seeing we have been allowed to enter the garden, no path should be assigned to us there.
Be still, my soul, it is not as thou deemest! Thou art not excluded from a part of the Christian life. Thinkest thou that the garden of the Lord has only a place for those who walk and for those who stand! Nay, it has a spot consecrated to those who are compelled to sit. There are three voices in a verb—active, passive and neuter. So, too, there are three voices in Christ’s verb “to live.” There are the active, watching souls, who go to the front, and struggle till the breaking of the day. There are the passive, watching souls, who stand in the middle, and report to others the progress of the fight. But there are also the neuter souls—those who can neither fight, nor be spectators of the fight, but have simply to lie down.
When that experience comes to thee, remember, thou are not shunted. Remember it is Christ that says, “Sit ye here.” Thy spot in the garden has also been consecrated. It has a special name. It is not “the place of wrestling,” nor “the place of watching,” but “the place of waiting.” There are lives that come into this world neither to do great work nor to bear great burdens, but simply to be; they are the neuter verbs. They are the flowers of the garden which have had no active mission. They have wreathed no chaplet; they have graced no table; they have escaped the eye of Peter and James and John. But they have gladdened the sight of Jesus. By their mere perfume, by their mere beauty, they have brought Him joy; by the very preservation of their loveliness in the valley they have lifted the Master’s heart. Thou needst not murmur shouldst thou be one of these flowers!
“The last Adam.”
1 Corinthians 15:45
Jesus is the federal head of his elect. As in Adam, every heir of flesh and blood has a personal interest, because he is the covenant head and representative of the race as considered under the law of works; so under the law of grace, every redeemed soul is one with the Lord from heaven, since he is the Second Adam, the Sponsor and Substitute of the elect in the new covenant of love. The apostle Paul declares that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him: it is a certain truth that the believer was in the loins of Jesus Christ, the Mediator, when in old eternity the covenant settlements of grace were decreed, ratified, and made sure forever. Thus, whatever Christ hath done, he hath wrought for the whole body of his Church. We were crucified in him and buried with him (read Col. 2:10-13), and to make it still more wonderful, we are risen with him and even ascended with him to the seats on high (Eph. 2:6). It is thus that the Church has fulfilled the law, and is “accepted in the beloved.” It is thus that she is regarded with complacency by the just Jehovah, for he views her in Jesus, and does not look upon her as separate from her covenant head. As the Anointed Redeemer of Israel, Christ Jesus has nothing distinct from his Church, but all that he has he holds for her. Adam’s righteousness was ours so long as he maintained it, and his sin was ours the moment that he committed it; and in the same manner, all that the Second Adam is or does, is ours as well as his, seeing that he is our representative. Here is the foundation of the covenant of grace. This gracious system of representation and substitution, which moved Justin Martyr to cry out, “O blessed change, O sweet permutation!” this is the very groundwork of the gospel of our salvation, and is to be received with strong faith and rapturous joy.
“Lo, I am with you alway.”
The Lord Jesus is in the midst of his church; he walketh among the golden candlesticks; his promise is, “Lo, I am with you alway.” He is as surely with us now as he was with the disciples at the lake, when they saw coals of fire, and fish laid thereon and bread. Not carnally, but still in real truth, Jesus is with us. And a blessed truth it is, for where Jesus is, love becomes inflamed. Of all the things in the world that can set the heart burning, there is nothing like the presence of Jesus! A glimpse of him so overcomes us, that we are ready to say, “Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me.” Even the smell of the aloes, and the myrrh, and the cassia, which drop from his perfumed garments, causes the sick and the faint to grow strong. Let there be but a moment’s leaning of the head upon that gracious bosom, and a reception of his divine love into our poor cold hearts, and we are cold no longer, but glow like seraphs, equal to every labour, and capable of every suffering. If we know that Jesus is with us, every power will be developed, and every grace will be strengthened, and we shall cast ourselves into the Lord’s service with heart, and soul, and strength; therefore is the presence of Christ to be desired above all things. His presence will be most realized by those who are most like him. If you desire to see Christ, you must grow in conformity to him. Bring yourself, by the power of the Spirit, into union with Christ’s desires, and motives, and plans of action, and you are likely to be favoured with his company. Remember his presence may be had. His promise is as true as ever. He delights to be with us. If he doth not come, it is because we hinder him by our indifference. He will reveal himself to our earnest prayers, and graciously suffer himself to be detained by our entreaties, and by our tears, for these are the golden chains which bind Jesus to his people.