The statistics on local employment can make for grim reading; there are five times as many people looking for work as there are jobs available. It’s not the kind of headline that anyone would want written over their city, and I am keen that people challenge the idea that if you want a career you make like a duck and fly south, but there we go. That is the present state of play. The leader of the city council was quoted as saying: “People are stretched…but we have to create the perception of hope, confidence breeds success.”
“People are stretched…but we have to create the perception of hope, confidence breeds success.”
I admire the fact that the council seek to address issues, our council have done some really great things, but I can’t help but think this quote highlights the fact that churches right across the country need to step up and do what only we can: point people to lasting hope. Creating a perception is a different thing to creating the thing itself. Creating the perception of hope is a politician’s phrase, a desperate attempt to address a problem whose answer lies outside of the field of politics. The problem with creating the perception of hope is that when that hope then fails the person is not only in the same circumstance but with added frustrations and negativity.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
– Proverbs 13:12
I was sat in a connect group last night, due to massive growth we’d split down into smaller groups and then yet further into little pockets of discussion, when someone asked one of those questions. You know the ones? The ones where you feel you should have some amazing and deep theological answer. “How is life with Jesus different to life without Him?” Two of the six in our break out group were brand new Christians. How could I sum up the difference? I grew up in a Christian home, I thought, do I even know the difference? But while I always knew of Jesus, there was a turning point in life when I went through a transition and everything became so much more real – as though I had went from living in black and white to in HD.
“How is life with Jesus different to life without Him?”
The defining difference? Hope. Not the perception of hope, but actual, tangible, hope. Jesus never makes promises that things will be easy, in fact quite the opposite. He warns that life will get tough, but He also promises that He has overcome. There is a concreteness to life knowing that Jesus has you, you may go through storms but no matter how bleak the horizon gets you know that the same God who has brought you through in the past will do it again.
People do not need the perception of hope, as though a mere perception man creates could meet needs. The perception of hope is only worth anything if the hope is real. The fact that trying to create a perception of hope is seen as the answer to some of the very real problems facing society only serves to highlight the need for a true and real hope. That hope is only found in Jesus.
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
– Hebrews 6:19-20 (ESV)
It is our responsibility as followers of Christ, as those who have received within ourselves this great and powerful hope, to point others to it as well. We must demonstrate to a world who welcome the idea of just the merest perception of hope that we have something of far more worth. That hope is an anchor, it keeps us safe and secure. That hope keeps us regardless of jobs, relationships, troubles.
As the signs outside the buildings of Hillsong churches say, Jesus – Hope for Humanity. Are we good adverts for the hope that we have inside?