Sunday, April 10, 2022

Outlooks and Uplooks

Expectation ... fear ... hope. What do they have in common?

Each is a way of anticipating the future. Each inevitably excites a response. This is true even if we refuse to think about what will happen tomorrow or later; we cannot avoid reacting. Even burying one’s head in the sand is a reaction which says “I choose to not think about what the future might hold.”

Expectations Conditional on Circumstances

Expecting is anticipating the future with a measure of reserve; a Christian way to think about what we wish, intend or agree to do, whether in a few days or many. If speaking with a stranger or with reference to a business contract he has drawn up for his company, a Christian may say, “We expect or plan to be there and do that.” If reaching an agreement on his own behalf he may say “God willing, I will ...”

We can only go as far as expecting to do things in the light of what is usual or customary. It is wiser to not make promises and appointments with absolute certainty. It may not be possible to keep them. A delay at the airport, a slip on icy pavement, or a drop in the economy may make all the difference.

Fear Awakened by Certainty

It is appointed for man to die once.” The Bible states it as fact, and millions of graves testify to it. And, though we are currently being told by some that there is no standard by which right and wrong can be measured and thus humans held accountable for their actions, our consciences know the opposite to be the truth. The Bible states it plainly: “After that comes judgment.” That is a certainty bound to generate some form of fear in the heart of every reader. Phobos (Eng = phobia, an obsession affecting all a person thinks and does) is a Greek word expressing anything ranging from awe, respect or reverence through to abject terror; the context invariably makes plain what kind of fear is meant.

A priest who corresponded with me during the war applied 1 Corinthians 3:8-17 to a judgment of our sins which, he said, must take place before we are fit to enter heaven. (Apparently baptism, confirmation, the Mass and the last rites do not remove them all.) The judgment seat of Christ was thus seen by him as a final purgatory not found in the word of God. Through that kind of fear many live all their lifetime in bondage.

The Inevitability of Judgment

The great white thronos (or “throne”) of Revelation 20:12, which I believe the priest confused with the passage in Corinthians, does not apply to those exempted in the words of Jesus such as John 5:24, for to hear or read his word and to believe on Jesus as the Son of God sent by the Father to save mankind is to already possess eternal life; believers “shall not come into judgment”.

However, a bema or judgment seat is ahead for the servants of the Lord, its purpose being to reward the faithful. The ministry, methods and motives of each will be revealed in that day. It will mean some loss if servants incorporated into their service elements cheaply obtained that brought honor from men but were really wood, hay and stubble, quickly consumed by the fire. But the opposite elements are mentioned first, suggesting to me that our gracious Lord has in view the preserving and polishing of what he values, symbolized by gold, silver and precious stones which the flame might disclose and purify but not destroy. The apostle Paul encourages and warns readers of the gain or loss of reward awaiting those building on the foundation he had laid.

Hope That Brings Joy and Peace

Paul’s desire for anyone who read through his letter to the Romans was that the God of hope would “fill them with all joy and peace in believing” and that they would “abound in hope” by the power of the Holy Spirit. This removed any thought that because they were undergoing tribulation it might not be God’s will for them to experience the benefits of their “blessed hope” or that some present circumstance might diminish the peace and joy of which he wrote. (See my comments on Expectations and contrast the assurances of Romans 5:1-5; 8:18-23.)

God is the author of hope, and those who believe gain both present and future benefits. We have a hope of which we will never be ashamed or disappointed. It is an anchor of the soul now and to be fully realized at our Lord’s return, for not only are we to expect that event, he is himself our hope.

I urge all readers to research their concordance or gizmo under “hope” as I have begun to do in the paragraph above. The uplook it will engender might make a big difference in your outlook.

— Colin Anderson, “What Is Your Outlook?”, August 2016

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