Hope that does not disappoint!

Liza first came into our circle several years ago. We met her through our friend Catherine who had an amazingly fruitful ministry among the women on the streets of Saint John. Liza was homeless and Catherine literally took her in. They became more than room mates. They became good friends. Liza went on first to employment with the Y and later as sexton at Stone Church. She would come to our Bible Study on her breaks and she was an energetic volunteer in the days when we put on community meals. She used to bring a box of doughnuts to our Sunday evening services. She would make sure no one took the apple fritter which was designated for me nor the Boston Cream which was for her. She could be gruff but despite herself she revealed a heart of gold. We shared innumerable meals together. She loved to share her cheesecakes with us.

About two years ago she was given a diagnosis that shook us all! She had only a year to live! Through these last two years she suffered much pain all the while continuing her two physically taxing jobs. She became so thin that you could probably circle he calf between thumb and forefinger.

During this time, I often thought about the passage from Romans “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, he has given us.”  Liza suffered and she persevered valiantly and by doing so evidenced Christ-like character. She knew a hope that sustained her, because she experienced the love of God. This is a hope that does not disappoint!

I imagine her now swapping cheesecake recipes with our Street Hope friend Larry, who went before her. They both loved cooking and sharing their efforts. Liza has realized her hope! To be absent from the body is to be with the Lord!

We already miss her terribly, but we are rejoicing that the suffering is over and that she no longer has to persevere. God’s final refining of her character is complete, and she is at rest.

We laughed and cried together, and we shared a hope that never disappoints!

Last night we celebrated another example of hope at a friend’s 14th anniversary of sobriety. While we congratulate our friend, it is the hope that this same ‘miracle’ is available to any who turn in submission to God and walk in obedience to his way. It is, again, a hope that does not disappoint!

 

And the award goes to …

Often in conversations the topic “Who was the greatest?” crops up. Who is the greatest hockey player? (Gordie Howe). Who is the greatest hockey goalie? (Terry Sawchuk) Who is the greatest actor (Meryl Streep) etc.

This week a new question arose. Who is the Old Testament character who is most like Christ?

One nominee is Moses. He was instrumental in the deliverance of his people. He taught them a new way of living. He interceded with God on behalf of his people. He had an intimate relationship with God. He too, had a miraculous birth story. On the flip side he had a temper that caused him to: murder, shatter tablets, and strike a rock he was told to speak to.

Another nominee might be Joseph, who bore injustice and remained faithful. He became the instrument for saving the people of Israel. He is the very picture of mercy and forgiveness in the face of egregious treatment at the hands of those he loved. In all things he resisted the worship of Mammon and stayed true to God. Adversity made him better rather than bitter.

King David might be another. He is described as the “apple of God’s eye”. His kingdom is looked upon as the Golden Age for the nation of Israel. He is a worshipper who points others to God. He is a conquering warrior. In so many ways he demonstrates a heart for God but at the same time he demonstrates so many flaws that he better represents you and me than he does Christ.

My nominee though is perhaps a little ‘off the board’. I suggest that Hosea is likely the most Christ-like of all the Old testament characters. In obedience to God Hosea sets his affections on an unworthy object. Gomer is a faithless idolatrous and adulterous woman. Hosea commits himself unconditionally to her. Time and again she turns from the purity of his love for her to the pursuit of trinkets and short-term pleasures. Finally, when she has hit ‘rock bottom’ and carnal pleasures have faded and failed, Hosea, at great personal expense buys her back. He literally redeems her! She has done nothing to earn or deserve this. It seems to me that it is in offering unconditional love that Hosea is most Christ-like.

This is a reminder to us as Christians (people who are called to be like Jesus) that we are most like him when we actively love the unlovely. The love of Christ ought to constrain us to love in kind with a Saviour, who lavishes that love on unworthy recipients like you and like me. Like Hosea I want to be obedient to God in loving and not letting love be contingent on reciprocation.