Pastor Dr. T. Valson Abraham Founder/President India Gospel Outreach President India Bible College & Seminary
We live in dangerous times. How easy for us to become alarmed, discouraged, to despair that God has abandoned us.
We all need hope in our times – hope greater than wishful thinking, knowledge based upon fact. Hope greater than mere optimism. Hope based upon the Word of God, upon His character that never fails. Hope as an assurance, a conviction, freedom from all doubt that God will “come through.”
The apostle Paul lived in perilous times and faced personal dangers most of us never face. Yet he lived with great hope that rose above his circumstances. Consider his frequent sufferings from stoning, floggings, shipwreck, imprisonment, betrayal, hunger, thirst, a “thorn in the flesh.” He lived under a tyrannical emperor who murdered his own mother and threw Christians to the lions. Paul’s own beloved Jewish people despised his message.
Based upon his circumstances alone, Paul had every reason to despair, yet he lived with great hope which continues to encourage us 2,000 years later.“Christ in you, the hope of glory”- this was Paul’s hope in the midst of his great trials. For him, this was not only a theological concept, but a living reality, a personal experience.
What did he experience? In Colossians 1, we get a portrait of the Christ he experienced in the midst of his trials. He speaks of Christ, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Christ, who created all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, all thrones and dominions, rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Christ, who is before all things. Christ, in whom all things hold together. Christ, the head of the body, the church. Christ, the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. Christ, the preeminent one. Christ, in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Christ, who reconciled to himself all things on earth and in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
All of this was more than a concept to Paul, but also an experience. How does one describe such an experience?
How could Neil Armstrong fully describe that unprecedented moment he became the first man in history to walk on the moon? How does a bride describe the moment when the ring of her beloved slips over her finger, fulfilling the unspoken dream of her early girlhood? How do a father and mother fully describe the miracle of holding their first-born child for the first time?
What these people know differs from that of bystanders who merely watch. These personal experiences cannot be described. Only personal experience brings full understanding. Such experience changes us forever and lifts us above our ordinary or negative circumstances to live on a higher plane.
“Christ! In! You!” What Paul’s words embody, and what Paul experienced, dwarfs all other human experiences. Those without Christ know nothing of it. Often, too many believers know little of it either because they have fooled themselves (or have been fooled by Satan) to expect little from God.
This should lead each of us to ask, how much do we expect of God? Our expectations of God are only as great as the vitality of our relationship with Him. Our vital relationship with Him determines our hope in Him.
Paul makes clear that his experience of Christ in him is to become the experience of all believers, not just a select few “religious” people. Paul invites us “to comprehend with all the saints [you and me] what is the breadth and the length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…to be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).
In whatever prison we find ourselves—and we all know these prisons–let us each accept Christ’s invitation to know and grow Paul’s experience for ourselves in our uncertain and stormy times. Then we will become more motivated to offer that Good News to others.
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Father God, as I begin this New Year, help me to experience you in ways I have never experienced you before. Open my eyes anew to the wonder of your Grace which put your Son on the cross to redeem me while I was still dead in sin. This year, help me to know what it means to hope in you, and in you alone. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.