As for me, I shall always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long – though I know not how to relate them all. Psalm 71:14-15
Psalm 71 is an individual lament, a cry to God for protection and deliverance from enemies. The psalmist has a sure and certain hope in God – He is the rock, the refuge and the one who saves. God’s righteousness and total faithfulness are the grounds for hope. The psalmist leaves to God the timing of the answers to his prayers for deliverance. He is already praising God in anticipation of this deliverance!
What and example to us! How easily we can be distracted and dismayed when things are hard and we feels surrounded or overwhelmed. At times like these we can lift our eyes to God and praise him more and more in the sure hope of his ever-present grace. How much more joyful and fruitful the times of hardship could be…
Lord, thank you that your grace is more than enough for my every need today – please lift up my head if I start to look down. Help me and sustain me today – I will praise you because I know you will deliver me.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for what they will face in the days ahead. His arrest, his death, their desertion, the despair and confusion between Friday and Sunday. Jesus has forewarned them that he will leave them, but that he will return again. Even after his glorious resurrection the remaining 11 disciples faced troubles – in fact every single one of the them, apart from John, died a premature death at the hands of persecutors.
We now live in an in-between time. We know that Jesus is alive and that he has conquered death and sin, and yet we still live in the fallen world. We are waiting for the final restoration and renewal of all things. Jesus knew that his disciples would need supernatural encouragement to make it through the days that would follow. He offers the same encouragement to us – no matter what the world throws at us, it will be OK, because he has overcome the world!
Jesus wants us to have peace. This does not mean an absence of trouble, but an ability to remain focussed, grounded and filled with hope and joy even in the midst of trials. Notice that the way we obtain this peace in him. We are wasting our time trying to find it in anything else.
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 1 Peter 3:15-16
Before we do anything, we need to remember who is Lord – Jesus. He alone is the one to whom every knee will eventually bow. If we’ve truly grasped this, and allowed him to be the pre-eminent one in our lives, we can be freed from inappropriate fear of other people. We should have a visible hope that prompts others to question ‘why?’. This hope is not false optimism or unrealistic idealism, but a steady, unshakeable certainty that God is in control and nothing that happens in this life is beyond his control or outside his will.
We need to be able to explain this hope clearly, gently and with respect for the other person’s point of view. There is no need to be loud, forceful or defensive – God’s truth is powerful and effective and it will work even when we feel rather inadequate!
We need to be living for an audience of One. The opinions of other should factor pretty low! Too often we are kept silent by fear of what others think. It is also good to study, discuss together and consider how to explain our faith and how to counteract misunderstanding.
I’d recommend Tim Keller’s book, The Reason For God, as a possible starting point if you feel ill-equipped to counter the criticisms that people have of Christianity.