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By Ron Burks
Contributing Writer 

Is All Hope LOST?


Last updated 5/13/2020 at 5:59pm

I want to thank Steve Steiner and for this segment called "Be Encouraged." Each week, this segment will offer a word of encouragement from pastors who lead churches in Bartow. My name is Ron Burks and I am the lead pastor of United Community Church.

2020 began like most other years. People commuted to their jobs daily like they did every day. During rush hour, people expected stop and go traffic as people were either going to or from work at the same time. School buses ran at their scheduled routes to pick up children while teachers prepared their daily lessons. Doctors and nurses performed routine office visits and surgeries at busy hospitals. Restaurants prepped their food to get ready for the customers they expected to come. Airlines continued their regularly scheduled flights to get passengers from one place to another and to keep world commerce flowing. Families cared for elderly family members, enjoyed weekend trips to the beach, went to the movies, ate at the local restaurants, and enjoyed family time together. Words like hectic and busy described life for the most part. Life continued at its normal pace without a thought it could change in an instant.

Then a virus that started in a place most people never heard of spread around the world like a Syfy movie and life as we know it came to a screeching halt. Countries began issuing stay at home orders, airlines shut down, and businesses closed to keep the virus from spreading.

Social gatherings, churches and civic meetings could no longer meet. People had to work from home while others either got their hours cut or lost their jobs. Schools sent their students home and parents became teachers, principals, and so called "tech experts" for online education.

Many families are now struggling to pay their bills, feed their families, teach children at home, and trying to figure out how they will survive the uncertainty of the future.

Have you struggled at times to find hope in these difficult times?

In the New Testament, a man named Peter wrote a letter to a group of people who left everything to follow a man named Jesus Christ. He offered them the hope of a better life and a future in a place called heaven.

Many of them were sick, poor, and discarded by society. Jesus preached a message of love and forgiveness offering them a sense of purpose and hope. At the time the letter was written, these same people were now persecuted and killed for their faith, forced to leave their homes for fear of their lives, and scattered in foreign lands. What could Peter possibly tell them that offered real hope in an otherwise hopeless situation?

1 Peter 1:3-9, "3Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

We learn three lessons that offer hope in any trial or circumstance we face in life. First, God loved us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sin so that our relationship with Him could be restored. Sin separates us from God and keeps us from enjoying a personal relationship with Him. You can have that relationship with Him by confessing your sin, believing that Christ died to forgive your sin, and asking Christ into your heart. From that moment, you can experience joy and peace as you spend time with Him and serve Him faithfully.

A second lesson we learn is that suffering tests the genuineness of our faith. James said, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). This virus has brought churches and ministries together to show the love of Christ by offering people the basic essentials like food and shelter that was once taken for granted.

Some churches are offering financial aid to those who have been hit hard by the Coronavirus. Many churches are using technology and the internet to offer worship services in homes around the world. People are encouraged with words of hope, prayer, and a sense of community despite social distancing.

A third lesson focuses on a place far removed from earth. It is a place called heaven. Peter reminds those who have experienced "new birth" of a living hope that one day all of those who follow Christ will inherit heaven. He describes heaven as a place that can never perish, spoil or fade. It is a place "kept by God's power" meaning it will last forever. Tthe pain and heartache you may experience now will one day disappear and you will enjoy a heavenly home with God for all eternity.

May you be encouraged with these words and be assured that all hope is not lost.


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