I was sitting in a sermon and my friend asked the kids what comes to mind when they think of our country, South Africa. As answers were being shouted out all I could hear were negative comments, such as – corruption, stealing, dangerous and many others. Eventually, someone shouted out the word ‘beautiful’! Finally something positive about South Africa!
What I’m trying to get at is, that when we think of our beautiful country, all we think of is the negative. Often we hear people say ‘I hope this changes’ and ‘I hope that doesn’t happen’. It doesn’t actually sound very hopeful. It brings me to the question then, what is hope and what does it mean to have it?
EVERYDAY KIND OF HOPE
You get this everyday kind of hope which we see all the time. We use this word a lot in our day to day conversations. For example, ‘I hope that the exam I studied for isn’t too hard.’ or ‘I hope that I will see my friends this weekend.’, or ‘I hope that my car doesn’t break down again today.’ All these have a common trend. They show doubt! When we doubt we don’t believe something will actually happen but we really want it to. But this isn’t the hope the bible talks about!
The hope we find in the bible isn’t like the everyday kind of hope mentioned above. No, this hope the bible speaks about is a 100% guarantee that it will happen and can be seen all over the bible.
One of my favourite stories of hope is in the book of Acts in chapter 27. This is such an awesome story about this guy, Paul. If you don’t know who this Paul is, here is a quick background check. Paul (originally named Saul) was a guy who used to go from town to town persecuting Christians. He then had an insane encounter with Jesus on his way to a city called Damascus. While he was riding there was a blinding light, so bright, it knocked him off his horse and left him blind. While this light was shining he heard Jesus speaking and ask him why he was persecuting Him (Jesus). Thereafter Paul was guided to Damascus by his own soldiers because he could not see. God then told a guy by the name of, Ananias, who lived in Damascus, that he was to go pray for Paul to be healed of his blindness. Ananias was scared because he knew about Paul and what he was doing, but he listened to God and went to pray for Paul, and Paul was healed. Paul became a Christian thereafter and started going around the world telling people who Jesus was and also ended up writing a large chunk of the New Testament. Okay, so that’s Paul in a nutshell. If you want to know more about him, the book of Acts will give you a great indication.
In Acts 27 we find Paul on his way to Rome as a prisoner. He was to stand trial in before Caesar because he was actually a Roman citizen. As they are sailing to Rome. Paul was placed in the custody of one of the soldiers along with other prisoners. Things are not looking good for him. I mean could it get any worse? You are in chains, on a ship, with no showers and there are probably cockroaches running around, maybe even flying ones.
At sea, the weather was becoming dangerous to travel on. Paul notices this and in Acts 27:10-11 we read: “Men” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on – shipwreck, loss of cargo, and the danger of our lives as well.” But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul.” You know, I would probably have listened to the captain and owner since they probably knew way more about ships and the sea than Paul did. It seems like a smart move, right?
Well, it gets worse, much worse. Next minute a huge gale force and storm hits them. But how’s this before we carry on with the story. I was sitting thinking while writing this and something occurred to me. Every time someone in the bible is on a ship there is a storm. Noah and the ark, Jonah and the fish, when the disciples and Jesus are on the ship He tells the storm to stop, and now when Paul is on a ship and there is a storm. If I were Paul and I heard I had to sail to Rome, I would have definitely told the soldiers “Nope it’s chilled, I’d rather walk. I’ll meet you guys there. I’ve seen what happens when people go on ships.”
Anyway, so the storm hits and now everything Paul had said was coming, had started coming. In order to try to keep the ship afloat, the crew started throwing off precious cargo and even throwing off the ships equipment. But the storm was just so bad and the ship kept on taking a beating. It says in Acts 27:20 “The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars until at last all hope was gone.” Imagine being Paul right now. I would be so angry at these guys for not listening. I’m chained up, there is a massive storm, I am probably going to die and there are still cockroaches running around because those things just never die. But he lets them know this and we read in Acts 27: 21-26 where he says: “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in His goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
Let me tell you how I would feel if I were someone on the ship hearing Paul say this.
Firstly, Paul is having one of those ‘I told you so moments’ and if I were on the crew I’d be like “we get it, Paul, you were right, gosh.” It’s almost like when we were younger when one of our parents told us not to touch the hot stove or iron… But what do we do? Touch the hot stove or iron and we have them telling us “I told you so.”
Secondly, if I were on the ship I would have been ecstatic to hear I wouldn’t lose my life and that I would actually survive because we are sailing with Paul, but then to hear the ship is WILL sink. What? That is isn’t good news! What about the guys who cannot swim? They must be thinking this man is crazy. How will I survive if I cannot swim?
Thirdly, and my personal favourite. Paul says God will fulfil His promise and that nobody aboard the ship will die. But then Paul hits them with but we will be shipwrecked on an island! Similar to the last one but now we have to play a game of survivor on this island where there is no prize money and I will probably have to eat my friend because there won’t be any food. But jokes aside. God promises that Paul will stand in front of Caesar, which means he will live, and promises that everyone will survive. And as we read on eventually we find that everyone does survive when they reach the island after the ship goes down.
To circle back to where I was getting to. The soldiers, crew, captain and owner all put their hope in the ship. They believed the ship will withstand the storm and they would make it through. Especially after getting rid of cargo, equipment, and eventually even the lifeboats. They had so much hope in the ship that it would not sink. But it did.
We often put our hope in the ship. I don’t know what the ship may look like for you but I remember when I was in school I wanted to play cricket professionally. I put my hope in my game and my skills. This meant my future would be made if I played professionally. I never ended up making it and I lost all hope. I put my hope in something that wasn’t guaranteed, as much as I backed myself to make it. The same way the crew put their hope in the ship.
Where should they of put their hope? The same place Paul did. In God. In God’s promise. The crew had hope IN the ship that it would carry them safely on their journey to their destination, but Paul’s hope was IN God to make it safely to the other side because God promised him he would face Caesar. This is the hope we should have, the one without a doubt, that when God promises something it will happen, and we can even find hope in that.
At the end of the day, what does that mean for us, the younger people of this country? How can we have hope in South Africa?
Firstly, let’s have hope FOR South Africa by having hope IN God that He can use us as a young generation to bring hope TO this country. When we put our hope IN God, naturally we will begin to change and God will use us to bring HOPE to this country.
How? When you hear someone pass a racist comment, or someone is stealing, or some guy is treating a girl will disrespect or vice versa. Take a stand. Find the right way to handle the situation and stop it so it doesn’t happen again. Why? Because if we don’t, these things will carry on happening which leads to more hatred, racism, corruption and rape in this country. These are the things that give us the negative outlook on this beautiful country.
So how do we actually put our hope in God? Start to trust Him that He can use someone like you and me even though we are young. Just because we are young it doesn’t mean we are useless and can’t help bring change. In the book of 1 Timothy chapter 4:12 it says “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
Take the stand. Imagine God using us as a whole generation help bring hope to South Africa, simply by us putting our hope in Him.