Today’s challenges require courage. Tom Berlin reminds us that hope is the wellspring of courage for Christians. And he outlines six practices that can rekindle our hope and refortify our strength to persist in our Christian callings.
Courage is essential to the Christian life, but it must be yoked to hope in the power of God in our lives. Courage wakes us up every morning, yells “Rise and shine,” and tells us to get dressed and get to work. Yet courage fades. Courage needs hope to serve coffee in the late afternoon, when the work is not done but we feel that quitting time has come. Hope reminds us that, with God’s help, we can do the things God asks us to do.
Hope arises out of the ongoing relationship that we have with Christ. The radiant presence of Christ within our lives is the light others observe when we do the work of our calling. We must evaluate whether Christ is still present when we look within. It is easy to become so busy with the work courage inspires that we forget to attend to the relationship with Christ that sustains our hope over time. Once that flame has burned out, Jesus tells us that it will be dark indeed.
If the flame is low, then something must be done to rekindle it before darkness overcomes the light that Christ intends in our lives. It takes more than a one-time decision to maintain the light of Christ. Intentionality is required of those who want to keep the flame of the lamp alive.
Courage can wear you out if you are not careful. This is what you never think of when you first catch the clear glimpse of the good God calls you to do. You can see the goal. You can sketch out a path between where you are and where you must go if that is to be accomplished. Then the obstacles come. Then the controversy breaks out. The money runs low and the supporters walk away. Soon a vision that was burning in your bones becomes the cause of a bad case of indigestion. You lose sleep. You feel stressed out, worn down, and are ready to cash out. It sounds odd to say that if persons want to sustain hope, they need to disengage and experience a period of recovery. Daily this is done through proper sleep and exercise. Regularly it is wise to pull away, as Jesus did, from the crowds and demands of life. Rest has the capacity to restore us.
2. Read the Bible.
I have read the Bible a lot over the years. Even though I know the story, I need to be reminded of it regularly. When I read the Bible, I renew my relationship with God, the person of Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. I am amazed how a chapter of the Bible can give me wisdom I need for that particular day and how it can calm my spirit. I have found that using an audio version of the Bible helps me connect to the Bible in a fresh way. No matter how I experience it, I am reminded that God is with me.
3. Surround yourself with wise people.
Listen to people who have wisdom about the Christian faith. Get in a group with them. Develop a friendship. Interview them. Let them talk about why their marriage is so good, how they dealt with their health crisis, how they raised their children, and how they did so well in their vocation. Listen for people who have joy in life because they have a friendship with God. They are a gift, like the girl in math class who would let you come over after school and would explain calculus in ways that made sense. They give hope because they offer wisdom about how faith in Christ brings goodness to your life.
4. Connect with people of peace.
When Jesus sends out 70 of his disciples to do the work of the reign of God, he instructs them, “If anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:6). Jesus tells them to find the people of peace in the village. People of peace are those who extend a welcome to you. They show you hospitality. They are the people who invite you in because they know how to connect to others. Such people restore hope because they are easy to be with. They fill you up rather than sucking you dry.
5. Practice silence and Christian meditation.
Jesus demonstrated the power of silence and prayer. In Scripture, God commands, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). If we want the Holy Spirit to open the streams that fill our hope reservoirs, we are wise to attend to the practice of silence that is focused on the holy. Gain spaces and practices that wall off anxiety and allow you to be at peace. Search for beauty, walk a dog, hike in the woods, play with a child, admire someone’s ability or work, sit on the beach, go to a museum, listen to a concert, attend the performance of a dance company, enjoy a sunrise, and then go watch the sunset. Do things that help you take in the beauty God has made, which is both in nature and in the beauty that humans produce in so many varied ways.
6. Claim your “ebenezers”
The prophet Samuel gives us a hopeful practice when he “took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12). It is important to find ways to mark occasions and remember the times in life that the Lord helped us. It may be a stone, but it could be a photo album or a joyful conversation where you reminisce with a friend. When we find ways to remember how the Lord has helped us, we foreshadow the good God will continue to do in our lives in the future. We realize that just as our life has endured hardship, it also contains miraculous moments of goodness. The hymn writer testifies, “Here I raise my Ebenezer” as a suggestion to the rest of us to remember that if God was with you in the past, then God is with you today. From such knowledge hope is renewed.
This article is excerpted from Courage: Jesus and the Call to Brave Faith (Used by permission, ©Abingdon Press, 2021) by Tom Berlin. The book, a DVD for group study, and a leaders guide are available at Cokesbury and Amazon. Watch the first video session at AmplifyMedia.com.
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