I stood at the end of a road that used to lead to one of the most popular resort areas on Mindanao, Philippines. This road was well traveled because it led to the mountain resorts that Filipinos and international tourists would flock to in search of relaxation, leisure and escape from the heat, in the mountains near New Bataan. But, this day, the road was not traveled by tourists and people on holiday. Instead, it was a dead end, as the roadway literally disappeared into a sea of boulders (some the size of an automobile), tree trunks, mud and debris. There was an earie quiet as people stood, or slowly milled around among the scattered items that had been left in the aftermath of the raging avalanche of water that had devastated this region just a month earlier.
On December 4, 2012, Typhoon Bopha, nicknamed "Pablo" made its way across the southern Philippines island of Mindanao and left a path of destruction that wiped out coastal villages, flattened banana plantations and destroyed the homes of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos. After the storm had passed, and days of search and rescue, and weeks of recovery efforts were made, this category 5 storm had killed over 1,000 people and displaced more than 400,000. Standing there in disbelief at the destruction I was viewing, trying to imagine this massive river of water, a mile wide, that had swept boulders, trees, structures and people from the mountains into the valley, two filipino men walked up to talk with our team (I was with a Christian humanitarian aid team from the U.S.) and share their stories. With them was an older man, who was blind, being led by his grandson, a young man in his twenties. As they told the story, they described the impact of the storm, the chaos of its violent force as 160 mph winds ripped through their house and uprooted trees. They talked about loved ones who were swept away and never found. The elderly gentleman, who spoke no English, shared with us through a translator, how he had been swept from his home and family and carried by the flood waters for miles before being rescued, along with his grandson. They were the only two surviving members of his family. As we stood in awestruck silence, listening to their stories, we were astonished at their survival. Because we were obviously not Filipinos, they knew we were there as a part of recovery and support efforts and they thanked us for our work. In a bit of a spontaneous response, we stopped to pray aloud for the victims and their families in the aftermath of this catastrophic experience. When we uttered the final "amen," one of the young men picked up a small smooth stone and handed it to me. "Take this with you to remind you of the people of New Bataan," he said. I smiled and assured him I would do so, and to continue to pray for their healing and recovery. We shook hands as he smiled and thanked me once again.
They're called "the smiling Asians," I'm told...Filipinos. Typhoon season is an annual experience in southeast Asia, and especially among the Philippine islands. Every year they brace themselves for the storm systems that make their way through this region of the world. It is a part of life in this country that ranges from remote primitive villages to sprawling, modern cities. If there is one word I would use to describe the Filipino people, it would be resilient. My job as part of the humanitarian team was to do crisis counseling with the people who came through our mobile clinic. After receiving medical care, they would meet with me and (usually through a translator) I would explore their support network, provide mental and emotional processing for grounding and spiritual counseling of hope and the gospel. I always offered to pray with them, and I don't recall anyone refusing. But, one thing struck me through all the hundreds and hundreds of people I met over those days of ministry...it was the HOPE that they held in spite of immense odds against them. The experience taught me what hope looks like and, because many of them found their hope in Jehovah Jireh (The God who Provides), that lasting hope comes from the One who has us in His hands. It was a beautiful intersection of purpose...I was living out my purpose in serving the needs of the Filipino people, and they were living out their purpose in demonstrating the powerful hope of the Savior in the midst of trials! What a lesson in God's sovereignty!
Though this storm was the most powerful to hit the Southeast Asian islands to date, they had no idea that, just a few months later, on November 3-11, 2013, super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) would strike further north in the islands of the Philippines bringing destruction. Haiyan resulted in over 7,300 casualties and over 28,000 injured. Yet, the faith and hope of the Filipino people remained strong. Take a moment to watch the video below and note the hope that is expressed by those who were in the midst of suffering! I'll wrap this up on the others side.
Without hope, all is lost. It is hope that has kept people strong and resilient through the most difficult of circumstances. Prisoners of war survived their captivity because of hope of rescue. Cancer survivors have persevered because they had hope of healing and recovery. The greatest obstacles we face in life can be overcome because of hope. This is no surprise to those who have experienced the redemption of Christ. The good news of Jesus Christ...Messiah...is a story and message of hope.
So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
You see...God has made a promise and, as the scriptures tell us, He cannot lie. In Him...that is in Jesus Christ, we find refuge, hope and access to the Father, therefore, His eternal life. That is the hope that anchors our souls. Perhaps a quick acrostic will help to drive it home for us.
We have hope, no matter our circumstances, because...
Honesty Opens the Door to Hope
In the video clip above, and in my experience in talking with the Filipinos I met in 2013, I realized, if anything, they were brutally honest with themselves and with God. They didn't sugar coat their situation, or try to explain it away, or live in denial. They faced their situation head on and were honest enough to say, "This is how it is." But, those who followed God (or at least acknowledged Him) were also honest enough to look to Him rather than blame Him. That's a huge lesson for us...when tough times come, honesty with ourselves and God is the first step to seeing our situation through eyes of hope.
Openness to God's Plan
God is always working out His plan in our world. He desires that all people come to Him and receive the salvation Jesus purchased (2 Peter 3:9). God is also working out His plan in and through you as His follower. Our hope is predicated upon the reality that we are in His hands and we are a part of HIs plan. Knowing that He is in control and is working all things for our good, provides hope in the bleakest of times.
Perseverance Through the Tough Times
Perseverance is both learned and enabled. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that we do our children a disservice by "rescuing" them from every tough moment that comes their way. When the going gets tough, parents sometimes step in and remove the struggle or remove the child from the struggle. That is the worst possible thing to do in those moments. Our children need to learn to persevere through hard things and to learn to wait, push through, figure it out, and ultimately, trust God in those circumstances. Paul recognized this value when he wrote the message Jesus gave him about persevering, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Hope enables us to persevere, and perseverance sustains our hope.
Entrance is Made Possible by Jesus Christ
The writer of Hebrews 6 (above) informs us that when Christ died for us, He tore the curtain that separated the Holy Place, from the Holy of Holies, in the temple. That area (Holy of Holies) was the most sacred place in the temple. It contained the Ark of the Covenant, atop of which was the Mercy Seat. This was the place where God exhibited his presence and where, twice a year, the High Priest would go in to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice to atone for (seek forgiveness) the sins of the people. This most holy place was so sacred that the priest would wear a bell on his garment so that those outside would know that he is still alive, and would have a rope tied around his ankle so that, if he went in without having been cleansed from his sin through repentance, he would die and they would have to pull him out with the rope. Suffice it to say, going into the presence of the Most High God was a serious matter.
However, when Jesus paid the final sacrifice, doing away with the animal sacrifices that had only pointed forward to His ultimate provision, that curtain that separated all people from the presence of God, was torn down. He made it possible for all of us, through His redemptive work, to have access directly to the Father. We no long have to have another man go to God for us. This Hope we have in Jesus has delivered us directly into the presence of our heavenly Father and we can communicate with Him directly. So, in life...through all of our ups and downs...no matter the situation...we can go to God with our needs and our hurts and our failures...we have hope because we have access to the One who gives abundant life through Jesus Christ. That is a hope that endures...the anchor for our souls!
If you haven't done so, hop over to our podcast and listen to the latest episode as Christian Hip-Hop artist, Kyren Monteiro, shares his story of "Hope for the Broken."
How has hope sustained you in the dark times? Where did God show up in life to bring hope for you? How have you had the opportunity to fulfill your purpose and share the Hope of Jesus with someone? Share your stories in our comments and let's get the conversation going!
3/2/2021 01:22:55 pm
In October of 2017, my whole world came crashing down and my marriage was in crisis. It was all because of the choices I had made, and the inner struggles I had fought for decades. While it was a dark time, it was a powerful time of seeing God work in me and in our marriage. That was all because of the hope that we have in Jesus and how that allowed His Spirit to bring restoration and healing and transformation. That transformation continues and the hope that we have is stronger today than ever before. I have not lost sight of the purpose I have as well...I am still waiting to see how all of that pain and work of the God we trust will become more a part of the purpose my wife and I are living.
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With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!