The challenge of walking with the God who knows me  

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Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.

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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17

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1 Peter 1:13

“Set your hope fully on the grace to be given when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

It was the summer conference.  All the conferees were divided up into groups with representative leading each one for a Bible study.  So, here we were sitting round in a group to get to know one another.  As I looked around, I realised that with a group of this size, twelve or thirteen people, and meeting only four or five times through the week we were just going to be just about gelled together as a group by the time we left.  We obviously needed to do something to draw us all together, some sort of activity, a game.

The only problem with that was that I was not ready with the preparation work for the group.  All the time that I had set aside had been swallowed up trying to prepare a seminar.  So now I was left with a quandary.  Do I give my time to serving these people in love while letting go of control of the time I could find for preparation.  Or, do I listen to my fears and sort myself out first, using the available time to prepare the sessions so that at least I have done my basic responsibility.  Everything inside me shouted out to do the latter.  Get myself sorted out, and then I would have space to help others.  Yet the quiet voice of Jesus said, let go and serve in love.  As I thought about it, I realised that again I could say, my hope is in Jesus.  So, we arranged to go out that afternoon as a group and play a game of rounders or baseball.

It was soon clear that the game had worked.  The group came together with a great deal of openness very quickly.  People were ministered to and hearts were touched.  God had been at work.  It also became clear that God could provide spaces in the timetable to allow for the preparation.  It was not as thorough as I would have chosen, but it was certainly sufficient for the time.

One of the key issues that came out of this for me, was about the nature of hope and faith.  Over the years, God has lead me quite clearly.  He has given passages of scripture that have been directive about what I should do.  Sometimes, they have led to doing things that seem utterly foolish and the only reason they are done is out of obedience.  In each of these cases there is an act of faith.  One is reminded of Abraham’s first act of faith where God tells him: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12:1 NIV)  He did it and it showed he had faith in God’s word.  In this situation however I had no directive from God as to what to do.  There was a freedom to use the time as I thought best.  If I had a directive then I could go in faith that God would pull me out of the hole because I had obeyed.  Here however, there would be no promise to stick my neck out over.  The only thing I had was the character of God, I had to set my hope on him, that he would be faithful and that his grace would be revealed, even though there was no indication of it at that point.  The key difference between faith and hope then to my understanding, is that faith has something concrete to go out on, and with a right faith that ‘thing’ has its origin in God.  Hope on the other hand is more of a state of mind.  There is no certainty of what will happen.  There is no certainty that God will pull me out of the hole I am digging for myself.  Yet I have a hope, an assurance that the grace that he will reveal will lead me to look back on the events to say: Yes, he was good; he was faithful; he was worthy of my trust.