This past Sunday, my sermon was on the idea that Positivity is not naïve. At the core of my message was the idea that God’s promises are bigger than our problems. The longer way of saying this is that positive living is not naïve; it is instead a reflection of the deeper reality of hope. But what is our hope?
Hope is a powerful word. Yet, often we do not use it for powerful moments. For instance, I’ve caught myself saying things like, “I hope my favorite TV show is not a repeat tonight.” Or, as a rabid sports guy, “I hope the Gators/Panthers get it together for next week.” This isn’t using the word hope in the wrong way, but it is not the type of hope that truly inspires. It’s what I would call the “lighter version” of hope. Christian hope is much more powerful and transformative.
At the 11am service on Sunday I had a revelation. I had just finished my third sermon that morning on positivity. During the final song, I looked up at the stained-glass window that is now the logo of this wonderful place called Assurance. It hit me in that moment that for me that window is a lens of hope. Meaning, as I look through that window I feel my sprits are lifted and my heart is warmed. As I explained to those at 11am, I can’t even find the correct words to describe what was happening in my soul. The words don’t exist. And yet I realized that whatever I bring into that worship space on Sunday mornings (good, bad or in the middle) is seen differently when I look at that window. And once again, while I cannot fully explain what I am trying to say, I do think I can say that this happens because I believe that symbol reminds me of the hope that is found in the name of Jesus Christ, and how Assurance desires to be a communal witness to that hope to all we encounter.
Paul offers words of great comfort and hope to us in his letter to the Romans. I read these words on Sunday. Here was a man who knew what it was like to endure hardship, to experience difficult times. And out of the depths of these experiences, he says with confidence these hopeful words: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul’s hope is that nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, is more powerful than the truth found in Jesus Christ our Lord. And with that ultimate truth, all other truths in this world pale in comparison. As I explained Sunday, hardship is a reality. And there is indeed, as Scripture says, a time for weeping and mourning. But the trajectory of our lives should be centered on the fact that the tomb is empty. And because the tomb is empty, our hearts are now full of the hope that overcomes the world.
I can’t help but think about the song “ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from getting to you.” That’s what God is saying to us. Evil and heartache do not have the final word in God’s kingdom. Pain and sorrow and suffering do not have to define us. Situations may hurt us and bring us down, but in Christ, they do not have to overwhelm us or defeat us. Because none of these things in all of creation can separate us from God’s love.
As we have discussed on Sunday mornings throughout our series on positivity, the world is not going to offer us everything we desire. In fact, it is often the exact opposite. Yet while the world may not offer these things to us, the one who created the world does. He offers us hope through the story he tells us in the Bible. It’s my story. It’s your story. It’s Assurance’s story! And because we all unite around this story, we are able to be a people of hope in a world so desperately needing and desiring it.
As we conclude our series “15 Days of Positivity” on Sunday, I pray that you and I (and all of us) will have the audacity to live in this chaotic world with hope. Not just up to this Sunday when the series concludes, but through Sunday as well. I pray that positivity, inspired by the hope in our hearts, becomes our go to emotion and attitude. That everything we see around us is seen through the eyes of the stained glass window of God’s potential.
And the wonderful thing is that I know we will. And I know we will do this because in just a few weeks I have discovered how amazing Assurance is as a local church. We are indeed a place of hope. And hope is indeed a powerful word!