Gungor – Beautiful Things (acoustic)
Sometimes it’s hard to remember a world without hope. I was such an optimistic young boy that it’s hard to believe I ever lived in a place where something great wasn’t sitting on the horizon. I had plenty of reason to know and believe that the world was broken, that I myself was held together by bits and pieces, but I seemed to always think it would all turn out okay sometime soon. Little did I know, then, that I had no idea what hope even was. Better yet, I didn’t know who hope was. I had yet to meet Him. And then everything changed…
In 8th grade, while at a bible camp called Castle Bluff, I heard someone really, clearly lay out the Good News to me for the very first time. It impacted me immediately. I always tell people that I’m thankful that God gave me a heart that was “easy to believe”. I know there’s not a lot of people out there like me. I sincerely accepted Christ into my heart and felt the full weight of his heart changing mine. I didn’t realize that Amazing Grace was so amazing until I realized how lost I’d been, how blind I once was. When you’ve been walking around in your own 2-D existence, 3-D sure seems like a whole new world, and it certainly puts the old one into perspective. As an 8th grader, I saw hope for real, for the first real time. In fact, I met the man. It changed the way I lived.
While teaching the middle school students on Sunday, though, I explained to them that simply living out the Christian life isn’t all we’re called to. There’s a very important next step that took me a while to learn. After my own middle school experience, I changed my speech and actions and desires and dreams, I longed for more. At times legalistic, at other times simply following hard, I began to find myself in this faith. I thought that was all that was important. I hoped my “good example” was “good enough”. 1 Timothy 4:12 says,
12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
Even in my young age, I was trying to influence others with the way I lived my life. But, as I told these students, there’s more to it than just being a “good example” and striving to be “good enough”. I found it the first time I stumbled across 1 Peter 3:15:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
We are called to this, and what a sweet, sweet calling it is. That’s the “something more”. We, as Christ followers, are beckoned to tell others why we follow who we follow. I don’t think it’s talking about knocking on doors throughout the neighborhood (or dorms!!! man…that brings back some awkward memories…) and randomly sharing your testimony with unexpected, wide-eyed strangers. Maybe I’m wrong in this. I think, though, that it’s about those smaller moments with people you’re more comfortable with. More importantly, with people that are more comfortable with you.
I think you’ve got to have your ears to the ground for these kind of situations. When I’m having a real conversation with someone, I’m listening at two different levels. I think you have to. I’m doing my best to sincerely hear what they’re actually saying (come one now…I’m a guy…listening isn’t always easy). I nod and smile and frown and fret and laugh and cry (okay…probably not cry) when necessary. But there’s this whole other level going on as well. It’s in that second sphere that I’m trying to hear this moment from a more spiritual level. I’m not really speaking of anything supernatural here. I’m just trying to have my heart open to connecting this story back to God’s Story. Without that connection, there is nothing for me to really offer. Nothing in my broken human body is saving anybody from anything. I am not hope. But hope is not lost.
Back up a few verses from that little nugget in 1 Timothy and you’ll find something immeasurably valuable:
9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. 11Command and teach these things.
Verse 12 right there says, “Command and teach these things.” What things? And going back even more, verse 9 says this is what we “labor and strive” for. What do we labor and strive for? The answer is right there in the middle. Verse 10: “that we have put our hope in the living God.” This hope is all there is and this is the hope we are called to share. This is what’s missing in most of our Christian lives on a regular basis. We’re hoarding hope. We’re hiding the big work that God is so magnificently doing in our little lives on a regular basis. We’re holding on to our own stories of salvation, of God’s saving grace working in us every day. I wanted to get over that. I wanted middle school students to push beyond their own discomfort there. And so we did…together.
Last Sunday, as I was finishing teaching, I shared three different reasons that I have hope in the living God. I could’ve shared more. I could’ve shared all day long. But three was just enough to give them an idea of what I was looking for. And so I charged them to share with each other. One at a time, to simply share one reason for the hope that they had. I was hopeful that God would work in a mighty way in this time. Hope answered my prayer.
After a minute of awkward silence, students began to stand. One by one by one. They’d lift their little, gangly middle school bodies off the ground and stand upright in front of all of their peers. Some softly, some boldly, some painfully serious, some beautifully simple. They began to share their hope.
“I have hope because my grandmother was supposed to die three different times, but she is still living today.”
“I have hope because even though I lost my parents as a young boy my grandparents took me in and brought me up.”
“I have hope because even though I’m different than other people, I know God still loves me just the way I am.”
“I have hope because God is always with me.”
“I have hope because even though one of my parents has been battling addictions, I can still find peace in God.”
“I have hope because of the beautiful weather God has given us today.”
“I have hope because I’ve been given a clean heart.”
“I have hope because God helped me survive multiple heart surgeries.”
“I have hope because God is good.”
“I have hope…”
These kids could’ve gone on. And on. And on.
Doesn’t that give you hope? Doesn’t that spread the love and heart of God like a wildfire? Doesn’t that make you look into your own life and wonder where you’ve seen God’s hope? It’s contagious. It’s affecting. It’s pointed. It’s beautiful. And it’s something we’re called to do. God’s not begging us to hand out leaflets and bibles and canvas neighborhoods and lost cities. He’s simply asking us to share our hope. Hearing those students speak God’s truth from their own lives broke my heart. I can’t tell you how many tears I had to fight off. These stories, the big ones, the small ones, any and every in between, these are the stories of God moving in miraculous ways. It may not always be a parted sea or manna from heaven, but it certainly is our daily bread.
Are you holding on, hoarding, hiding hope? Share it. Today. Somewhere. Somehow. Pass it on. Spread the word. Let people know that hope is here. That He is here.