Hope for Then and Now (7)
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5.9-11
The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is a community of hope. We are one Body, comprised of many members, but we only have one Head and Lord and King. As we look together to Jesus, standing in His grace and focusing on the living hope of His glory, we become together a presence and force, greater in potential impact than any one of us could ever achieve on our own.
To encourage us in becoming this powerful presence in the world, the New Testament urges a variety of kinds of one-anothering by which we build one another up in our hope and as the Body of the Lord.
The list is considerable: love one another; bear one another’s burdens; teach and admonish one another; pray for one another; correct one another; help one another; comfort one another; stimulate one another to love and good works; and so forth. All this reaching out to one another, with the view to building each other up in the Lord, is simply a more corporate way that we demonstrate our living hope to the watching world.
And it’s an important way we reinforce our hope and thus strengthen our souls.
Salvation bound and blessed
As Paul reminds us in our text, we are salvation-bound, and salvation-blessed. Regardless of how this old world comes to its end, or our lives in it, we know that Jesus Christ has secured our salvation, that He ever lives to intercede for us, is preparing a place for us in the glorious dwelling place of God, and will come again to raise our bodies, take us to Himself, and fete us forever around His eternal banquet table of glory.
We know this, that we are bound for salvation, but, like Peter, walking on the water, we can sometimes become distracted. And, when we are distracted, it can be hard to refocus on our living hope.
This is where we can help one another, by praying together and searching the Scriptures, to remember all that has been accomplished and is being prepared for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. We need our fellow believers to help us grow in and keep focused on the coming hope of glory that Jesus is preparing for us.
But we are not only salvation-bound, we are salvation-blessed as well. We know, and expect to know even more, the reality of our living hope by all the ways the Lord blesses and uses us in the here and now.
But we need the help of our fellow believers to remind us to count our blessings, or to count them for us. When we feel our souls cast down, and the hope within us is no longer so obvious, we need other believers to come alongside, as instruments of God’s Holy Comforter, to set our hearts back on our living hope.
The practical benefits of living hope
The living hope into which we have been begotten by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is not just something to be enjoyed for ourselves. We hope in the glory of God – to be with Him forever, and to see and live for His glory day by day – and as we do so, our souls fill with peace, joy, and courage to live and bear witness for Christ.
But we also want to comfort and edify those who, like us, have a share in this living hope, and therefore should enjoy it more fully and advertise it more consistently to the world.
The word in our text rendered comfort can just as truly be translated encourage. To focus on our hope is to possess a great resource for encouraging – literally, building courage into – the hearts of all who share this hope. And as we are encouraged, we are also built-up in the Lord, and we become more like Him, both individually and in our communities. Thus the living hope in which we stand is magnified by our encouraging one another in the Body of Christ.
We are guarding our hearts with all diligence, therefore, and strengthening our souls together, when we keep our hope focused on that which does not change, on Him Who has accomplished our salvation, and Who will keep and preserve us to the Lord and in His glory forever.
Many false hopes will try to insinuate themselves into the driver’s seat of our souls. In this materialistic age, we are continuously challenged to seek our happiness in things and circumstances, rather than in the Lord. At times, we will need the help of our brethren in Christ to keep focused on Him, His glory, His rule, and His return.
If we can stay focused individually on the living hope we have in Jesus Christ, we will be ready, when needed, to help our fellow believers recover that focus, so that we may know the peace that passes understanding and the hope that nothing can overthrow.
1. What encourages you? What does it mean to encourage another person? How can our living hope serve as a source of encouragement for our fellow believers?
2. Suggest some ways church members might consistently encourage one another to keep focused on our living hope.
3. Explain the relationship between fearing God, loving God and neighbors, giving thanks, and living in hope. Why are these affections so important in keeping our hearts with all diligence?
Next steps – Demonstration: Whom can you encourage in our living hope today? How? By what means? Make sure to do so as often as you can.
T. M. Moore
Focusing on Jesus
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.