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Friday, 5 January 2018

Hype - or Hope?

As our car was being serviced today, I was left to do some more not-unwelcome 'foot-slogging'! This time I passed two buildings that caught my attention. One was a night-club venue, in the centre of Motherwell that had, as part of a sign (can't recall the whole sentence!), the word "Hype". Well, I knew what that word meant but, just to be sure, looked it up in an online dictionary. The definition provided reads: 
"anticipatory excitement, especially when the actual thing doesn't turn out to be as good as expected." (The Online Slang Dictionary). 

There is definitely a lot of "hype" in our modern society! Even the more recent expression "fake news" is often just a synonym of 'hype'. I suspect that 'hype' is most common in the world of advertising - as many will doubtless have discovered in the aftermath of the Christmas spending orgy! How many of the gadgets that we purchase fully live up to the expectations that were engendered by the advertising material? Has that latest face cream truly made any difference to the lines of age, or of worry, on our faces? Hpw long will it take before we notice any appreciable difference resulting from the latest dietary fad? You get the picture!

The other building that caught my attention was that used by a fellowship of disciples of Jesus. They have chosen to name themselves "Hope Church". In the interests of fairness, I again consulted an online dictionary. Two definitions stood out:
"To wish for a particular event that one considers possible." (The Free Dictionary). That, I would suggest, is a very positive attitude. It certainly goes beyond the 'hope' of Charles Dickens' character, Mr Micawber, whose philosophy of life was based on the 'hope' that "something will turn up" to get him out of some predicament (usually financial), or another.

However, the dictionary provided a second definition that I found to be of even greater interest:
"Archaic To have confidence; trust." It's that definition that is the Biblical definition of 'hope'. For example, in Acts 16 we find the record of Paul being used to free a slave-girl from demon possession. This poor young woman had been a source of income for her owners, who used her as a fortune-teller. We read, in vs.19-20, after her deliverance, that "... when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the rulers; and when they had brought them to the magistrates they said, “These men are Jews and they are disturbing our city." The owners did not merely wish for a possibility; they had an assurance that this girl would provide them with an income!

Writing to his Christian friends in Philippi, Paul states: "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you." (2:19). The second clause in that sentence indicates that the apostle had confidence that Timothy would not only reach Philippi, but also return to him with the expected news.

Just one more example. Paul is writing, on this occasion, to the Colossian believers and, in that letter he gives them - and all disciples of Jesus - this wonderful encouragement: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (1:24-27). Did you notice? "... the hope of glory." That is a deep confidence that any true disciple of Jesus enjoys. I have a very dear friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer of the liver that, on investigation, has turned out to have spread to one of her lungs. The medical prognosis,she knows, is not good. However, as a child of the King, her attitude is simple. She has shared that she is in a "win-win" situation! How? Simply because if she receives a miraculous healing, she will have more time with her husband and family. However, if she does not, then she will be with her Saviour, and Lord, and King. That is not her vague desire; it is her confident assurance!

Do you have such an assurance? It is there if you are willing to take the step, at the beginning of a new year (or, of course, at any time!) of acknowledging your sins, and sinfulness, before Almighty God; of accepting that you are incapable of doing anything about them by, and in, yourself; and of accepting the salvation that He has provided through the shed blood of the Babe of Bethlehem Who became the Christ of Calvary. Will you take that step now? Will you? You'll never regret it if you do. There is no hype involved - but you will be filled with true hope!

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