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Will everything be alright?

Editor's Note

About the author: Amanda Stricker grew up at ZPC and has been a member since 1998. She is a teacher for Indianapolis Public Schools and a current Elder here at ZPC.

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring traditional Advent themes of hope, joy, peace, and love. To sign up to receive text notification of these posts, text zpc advent to 39970. Advent booklets are also available at the ZPC Welcome Center. We welcome your comments and questions each day.

TODAY'S SCRIPTURE: PHILIPPIANS 1:18-26

Recently, I was snacking on a piece of chocolate, and the inside of the foil wrapper cheerfully informed me, “It will turn out alright in the end. If it is not alright, it’s not the end.”

At first, I just rolled my eyes at the trite message my chocolate was trying to teach me, but then I got righteously indignant. How dare this chocolate blithely ignore all the suffering and pain in the world? What if the person eating this piece of chocolate had lost their home or a loved one in a wildfire? What if they had a debilitating or deadly disease? What if they were filled with anxiety or depression over the uncountable awful things that constantly afflict humanity? What if, what if, what if?

But then God’s Holy Spirit tugged on the reigns of my internal rant and reminded me of the truth of the message: it WILL turn out alright in the end. For those of us who trust in Jesus, we know the end, and it is more than alright; it is glorious.  

In today’s reading, Paul is locked away in a Roman prison, awaiting a trial which could result in his torture and death. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul responds to these dire circumstances with profuse thankfulness, overflowing love, abounding joy, and unshakable confidence. Why? Paul knows that “everything that happened here has helped to spread the Good News,” and he consistently reminds his readers of Christ’s imminent return.

Paul is torn between a hope for death so that he may be in the presence of God and a hope for more time on earth so that he may continue to be fruitful in the service of God. In either case, the key word is hope, which is based on Paul’s confidence in the ultimate ending of the story: believers will be united with Christ in heaven, Christ will return, every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord, and peace and justice shall reign on earth. If we are not experiencing paradise yet, just wait, it’ll be here soon. In the meantime, while we are here in the messy middle of the story, we, like Paul, focus on bringing honor to Christ, on sharing the joy of our faith, and on hoping in the assured happy ending that approaches.

ACTIVITY:

Look up the song "What If" by Blanca and write a reflection or have a discussion about how the lyrics connect to Philippians and the message of hope. Then thank God for the time he has given you in this broken world and the ways in which he will use you to nudge the earth further away from its fallen state and closer to his perfect kingdom. Then enjoy a piece of chocolate, even if it doesn't have profound message in its wrapper. :)

PRAYER:

God,
Thank you for the fact that you have a purpose for me and created me specifically and deliberately for this exact moment in history. I am alive here and now to do your will and your work on earth. Thank you for the assurance of a happy ending, made possible through Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. Send your Holy Spirit to guard and keep my thoughts fixed on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable so that I may run this race with confidence. May every breath I take be in service and bring honor to you.

This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen

Posted by Amanda Stricker with

Christ's hope is an achor

Editor's Note

About the author: Brad Bierwagen grew up at ZPC and has been a member here since 1994. His wife Karyl joined the ZPC ranks in September. They have two daughters, age 9 and age 6. Brad and Karyl serve as ZPC Home Group leaders.

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring traditional Advent themes of hope, joy, peace, and love. To sign up to receive text notification of these posts, text zpc advent to 39970. Advent booklets are also available at the ZPC Welcome Center. We welcome your comments and questions each day.

TODAY'S SCRIPTURE: Philippians 1:12-18

Today’s scripture finds Paul in jail, and by any reasonable person’s assessment, he is in a tight spot. I’m not too proud to admit that in Paul’s circumstances I would be terrified for my life, worried about my mission, frustrated with my captors, frustrated with God, and probably generally 'hangry.’ Paul may have felt these things too, but he outwardly continues to seek the silver lining of the situation, repeatedly continuing to ‘rejoice.' From a cynical perspective, the passage almost reads as naive optimism from a person trying to justify their bad circumstances. 

In stories and movies hope most often surfaces when a hero is at the very brink of failure, and at the last minute a ray of light pierces through the dark to save the day. (This usually also signifies that whatever the struggle the hero is facing, it will soon be tidily wrapped up into a happy resolution). In our own lives we are usually most aware of hope when we have the contrast of hopelessness or suffering. It’s as if hope were a glow-in-the-dark toy, or headlights on a car, far less visible in times of light and most visible and impactful in the darkness.  

Jesus has a way of subverting our human expectations. He came to us not as a mighty king, but as a baby in a manger. He saved his people not with might and force, but instead with sacrifice. And hope in Christ, is more powerful and far less circumstantial than a 'light at the end of the tunnel.'

Christ’s hope has more in common with an anchor, or compass pointing to true north. It is a security and a confidence that comes from his love, a peace from which you can see the world differently. In Christ’s hope, the rules are changed, and victory has already been achieved.  Circumstances, whether dire or prosperous, cannot take away our salvation. Paul’s hope, I think, came from this place. Certainly his circumstances were difficult in this passage, and often were throughout the rest of his life. But God's hope is also what propelled him to share the the good news with so many people both when he was captured and when he didn’t find himself in jail. Regardless of circumstance, he was aware of God's hope and also had the the desire to share this hope with those around him.   

Activity: 

Take a moment to write down one or two things in your life that seem daunting, frustrating, or overwhelming. Also write down one or two things you are thankful for. Your circumstances may be very comfortable, or they may be more difficult than anyone around you realizes. Now take a moment to consider these circumstances in the context that you are saved by Jesus’ grace. That you have been bought by his love, victory has been achieved, and nothing can take that away.  Consider that you were made uniquely and beautifully by God.  Consider that you are given gifts that can be used for his kingdom. Do you feel hope? Hope is not naive, nor does it mean that negative circumstances will immediately go away. But my prayer is that, regardless of circumstance, you can and will feel his true hope today.  

Prayer:

God - you are truly Great. You are the maker of the heavens and earth, and yet you know every hair on my head, and every concern of my heart. Thank you for your grace, and your love. Lord I know you have a plan for me – and I trust you. Thank you for my blessings. Help me with my struggles. Help me feel your peace and hope today. Help me feel your hope regardless of circumstance, and to find ways share that hope with those around me.

Amen. 

Posted by Brad Bierwagen with

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