“With the faithful You prove Yourself faithful; with the blameless man You prove Yourself blameless;
with the pure You prove Yourself pure, but with the crooked You prove yourself shrewd” (Psalm 18:25-26).
What we perceive in life is often a reflection of our inner contemplation. We can attract the very ambiance we have embraced in our own hearts. If we are a hopeless person, we see hopelessness everywhere. If we are a hopeful person, we can have optimism in the midst of despair. Hopelessness is the lifeblood of the enemy and he desires for us to live without hope so we can stop being hope bearers to a despairing culture.
Now, the hopelessness in our culture is not an illusion, it’s quite real.
But its reality is not our destiny.
It is also not the only thing in life we can see. Seeing is certainly a way to believe, but hope goes beyond what is seen and embraces what is expectant.
In order to truly overcome our culture of hopelessness, we must change our inner view on life’s brokenness and change it to a life of promise in God, Himself. His promises, provisions and purpose exceed our brokenness and they can give us great confidence in the midst of the turmoil that swarms about us.
People of deep suffering can see hope. Why? What are they looking at to get this hope? Are they looking at their current circumstances?
I’m sure at times they experience the pain and despair of their current circumstances, but if they follow Christ, they choose to look beyond their forlorn conditions and see what David saw in the Psalms.
David lived in and through some despairing situations. He describes them in the Psalms. But in the midst of his hopeless conditions, David chose to seek the Lord, and was confident that He would answer him. He trusted in God’s deliverance from all his fears – not all his situations. He found comfort in God’s Presence more than his current discomfort. His hope was in God’s encampment around him even in the midst of pain and what seemed like hopelessness.
As we wait upon God for His divine release, we can put on new lenses:
- We can be confident in His Character.
- We can remember who we were in God’s Kingdom, not who we are in the current land we live.
- When our faith is sure, we can remember that we are renewed by faithful material, therefore, we can see that God is also faithful.
- We can remember that God has positioned us as blameless under the banner of Christ’s blood, therefore, we can be assured that God proves Himself blameless to us.
- With purity set in our heart (which can only come from true humility and repentance before a Holy God), we can trust that God will show Himself pure within our current condition.
Suddenly strength comes to us supernaturally; in a way that is not explainable.
What seems hopeless suddenly turns into anticipation for what great things are about to be revealed.
There is nothing as hopeless as Pastor Saeed Abedini’s situation in the Iranian jail – Rajai Shahr prison. While American Pastor Saeed was serving in an orphanage in Iran, he was arrested in July 2012 by the Iranian government. He was charged with “threatening the national security.” The government sentenced him to eight years in their prison – a prison with horrible living conditions. Not only does evil darkness pervade the environment, the meager food given keeps its prisoners weak. The prisoners bed down with roaches and mice. They eat from filthy utensils that they have to buy themselves. The stench of human feces and urine overwhelms the nostrils. Inmates being dragged to the gallows are a daily occurrence. The screeching of murder and violence overwhelms the dreams of the living.
Must I continue? I think I will, because there is still hope in all this.
While in this prison, Pastor Saeed has been beaten horribly to the point of needing medical attention. And in this need for a prolonged time, he has been denied the treatments necessary. This length of time has created more illness. He suffers greatly. His humiliation and maltreatment gives graphic meaning to the what Paul says, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…(Philippians 3:10-11). In all this Pastor Saeed is still standing firm in his faith in Christ. His hope in Jesus will not be disappointed nor banned in heart or action.
Pastor Saeed continues to share the gospel in this prison. Many Iranian prisoners are coming to Christ. When word comes that the prisoners are gaining faith in Christ, the guards move Abedini to another prison. The same happens. Pastor Saeed shares Christ and then more come to faith in Jesus. Again, the guards move him. And the same thing happens. They finally move Abedini to a prison where the prisoners are told to kill him if he shares Christ. So the faithful Pastor prays for God to intervene. The prisoners have dreams where Jesus visits them; many convert to Christianity. There is no stopping the gospel when the Spirit of God is shaping the hearts of man!
As the song says, “You can bury the workman, but the work will go on…” (Unspoken).
As a Christian, our mission is to be hope bearers! Pastor Saeed knows this and lives it as an example to all of us. There is hope in the Rajai Shara prison! And that hope is found in Jesus living through Pastor Saeed! But more than what Pastor Saeed displays, is his choice to see hope in the midst of this horror. For example, when he is assigned to clean the filth of their living quarters, he sees hope. He chooses to thank God for saving him from the filth of his own sin. When he is able to take his one shower a week in the cold water, he is thankful for God’s provision. And even though he suffers internal injuries, these move him closer to the one source that can ease his pain – Jesus!
We pray for Pastor Saeed’s release – as we should. We know that God can miraculously release him, but at this time is He willing? His willingness is not dependent on just relieving Pastor Saeed’s pain, but on whether He chooses to remove His grace from this filthy hopeless prison. I see Pastor Saeed’s presence in this prison as God’s grace to the Iranian prisoners and guards. For his testimony of the gospel of Christ is present in their midst. Sadly many do not realize this, but on the other hand many do. And God’s heart for them is clear by His willingness to keep Pastor Saeed there.
Like Pastor Saeed, are we looking for the hope in the midst of this evil culture? Are we grateful for the opportunity to suffer for the Lord?
Many Christians today are seeking the rapture. This would certainly bring us release from our evil culture. While we should anticipate and be ready for the return of our Lord, we should also be working, serving and seeking the lost, sharing Christ with them, so they can know and have new life in Christ. For when the Christians are removed, the evil in this world will increase beyond measure. The Holy Spirit in us is holding it back. When the Spirit is removed, the latter times will be more malevolent than we can imagine.
Hope is a decision, not a feeling. It’s a decision to see Christ as faithful, and we remain faithful. It’s a choice to be blameless, because Christ made us blameless by his blood. It’s a choice to embrace our spotless identity, because God’s purity lives inside us. We choose to be grateful that God has placed His grace in this graceless world by allowing us to be used by His light.
Let us keep in mind that “God looks down from heaven, He observes everyone. He gazes on all the inhabitants of the earth from His dwelling place. He alone shapes their hearts; He considers all their works. A King is not saved by a large army; a warrior will not be delivered by great strength. The horse is a false hope for safety; it provides no escape by its great power. Now the eyes of the Lord is on those who fear Him – those who depend on His faithful love to deliver them from death and to keep them alive in famine….May Your faithful love rest on us, Yahweh, for we put our hope in You.” (Psalm 33:13-22).