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Exclamation points!


Many entry ramps access the unmarked paths of emotional and spiritual darkness. All of us can create a personal list of disappointment, failure, unresolved conflict, career twists and turns, relational tension, family drama, health threats, and tragedy that can register hopelessness in our life system. At the same time, most of us are familiar with the superficial rest areas cultural hope provides at every mile-marker. They are as plentiful as the creative mind of man. Even so, they are more definitive of human ingenuity than exits from the grueling way ahead. Rah-Rah-Sis-Boom-Bah brings a smile, perhaps a momentary lift, even a small glimpse of encouragement. They are, however, punctuated by question marks. There's little certainty in our many human schemes. Question marks are not suitable for life in complex times.

Biblical hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised. It is not a catalog of question marks annotating our wishes, dreams, and desires. Instead, biblical hope is punctuated with exclamation points (!!!!!) as expressions of certainty based on God's faithfulness. This hope gives us assurance in the dark night rather than the verbal hop-scotch of ifs, ands, and buts. It is the final answer in our moments of indecisive wavering, fearful decisions, and unknown outcomes. The Apostle Paul prayed for the Romans, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Romans 15:13, ESV). He knew they faced seemingly impossible situations as they served Christ in the alien Roman culture. He wanted them to abound in biblical hope, with God as the source.

And, this hope is the product of genuine faith. The anonymous author of Hebrews clarified this source of biblical hope when he wrote, "Now faith is the assurance of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1, ESV). It happens beyond the scope of our contrived plans, our mere human calculations, and the egocentric manipulations that give us questionable choices and options in our darkest nights. Earlier, the Hebrews author had given the expectation of this hope to his readers when he wrote, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10: 23, ESV). He knew even then, two thousand years ago, the truth of one of our old Christian sayings: Life with Christ is an endless hope and not a hopeless end! Exclamation point.

That sounds so impossible for us mortals, holding fast to this hope without wavering. Being stable and steady in these fast moving, complicated times is among our greatest challenges. The information age thrusts us into a high volume life that changes by the nano-second. Velocity changes Interrupt every segment of our daily existence. The roller-coaster of relationships, economic pressures, government intrusion, health concerns, death and tragedy, and so many other variables rob us of certainty, and security. The dark nights of emotional and spiritual stress in such an uncertain world often leave us confused, disoriented, and therefore, discouraged. Hopelessness is the dangerous cloud that overwhelms so many of us.

But, the answer to this hopelessness is fixed, certain, and reliable. "For he who promised is faithful"! You know, with exclamation points. Genuine biblical hope derives from the confession "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV). And, of course, that is the real problem in a secular, egocentric culture. It is true that, according to studies by the Pew Research Center, 80% of Americans believe in God. The asterisk alongside that stat in those studies is that the majority of those surveyed don't actually believe in or trust the God of the Bible. In the fluctuating religious landscape of our nation Pew identifies "the God of our own making" as the central deity. And, that fact alone is the prime marker in our quest for hope. This "God of our own making" thing is simply another shallow, superficial spiritual whim that cannot deliver genuine hope.

Scripture reveals truth, certain and sure. Paul reminded Timothy that, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). Being competent for every good work is living this life with exclamation points rather than question marks, grounded in the certain faithfulness of God. And, of course, that kind of faith produces genuine hope.

Once again, the author of Hebrew wrote about this hope.

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the

unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two

unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge

might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as

a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind

the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high

priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6: 17-20, ESV

That's it, biblical hope. A sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. An exclamation point that is our anchor in the dark night.

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