The Lonely Ember

 Years ago I heard Dr. John MacArthur tell the story of The Lonely Ember.

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.As the one lone ember’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and “dead as a doornail.”Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.”This story reminds me that God longs for friendship with us. God wants to have a relationship with us. God created us for companionship but even God can’t have a friendship alone. When we don’t read the Bible daily we become one lone ember; we become cold and our relationship with God is diminished. If we want to grow the relationship, then reading the Bible every day is absolutely essential. Being a Christian is about being friends with Jesus. It is a real relationship just like the one you have with your best friend. Now in all relationships we talk and we listen to each other. And this is what reading the Bible and praying is all about. When we read the Bible, we are listening to what God has to say to us. In the Bible, God has made sure He has told us everything we need to know in order to be the best of friends with Him. So when we pray and read, we are really having a conversation with God and that is definitely something worth doing every day. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. If we want to live more in line with who God wants us to be, we need to be regularly in His word and as we do that, God can use us to change other’s lives too.

Hope for the Hopeless

Our world really misunderstands hope. Often people see it as a desire for something to happen. One of my favorite examples of this kind of hope is in Antiques Roadshow. You know the show, people bring in old stuff and “hope” that their old item actually has high value. What they are really looking for is the promise of new life, clearly the old isn’t amounting to much, it’s junk, or of little value. They want to give the item new life and value!

Can you imagine the excitement of taking something old and being given new value?! Are we any different? In our own search for hope that’s what we really want, new life and value. That is what hope does, it instills life, value, and purpose into a person.

On the other hand, hopelessness is when a person has no desire for what the future holds, he sees no possibilities. In the movie Showboat one character sings the famous song “Ole Man River” in which we find the lines: “I get weary and sick of tryin’. I’m tired of livin’ but scared of dyin’.” This is the epitome of hopelessness, I don’t wanna be here and I’ve got nothing coming down the road.

Most of us feel that way more than we care to admit. We have that same sad thought: I’m tired of livin’ but scared of dyin’. But so long as man has a future he has hope. Scripture says:

Proverbs 23:17b-18 ” …fear the Lord. For then you will have a future, and your hope will never fade.”

Proverbs 24:14 “Realize that wisdom is [sweet like honey] for you. If you find it, you will have a future, and your hope will never fade.”

Even in the secular world, when people stop having anything to look forward to they lose hope and the vigor of life. What happens when the things we look forward to are things of this world? Eventually they come and go. Then what happens to hope? The only future that leads to perpetual hope is that future when Christ returns and we spend all eternity in the presence of God. In a classic hymn we sing these words, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

But hope is not a mere pipe dream. Hope is a human response to God’s activity

Romans 4:18-20 “Against hope, with hope he believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what had been spoken: So will your descendants be. He considered his own body to be already dead since he was about 100 years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb, without weakening in the faith. He did not waiver in unbelief at God’s promise, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.”

This, then, is the essence of hope. It is not mere desire for something to happen, hope is unshakable confidence, and expectation that God is actively present in my life and in this world and in the world to come! Because hope is about confidence and expectation of God’s activity, hope is strengthened, not weakened, in the face of adversity and difficulty. The world sees Christian hope as foolishness and something fleeting. In reality our hope, our understanding that God has a future and a plan, is the bedrock and foundation of our Christian confidence!

So what?

Hope is always a great place to start something new because hope is something that looks to the future with optimism. We have hope that one day Jesus will come back again and make everything right. We have hope that the way it is, is not how it is supposed to be. We have hope that no matter what life throws at us, we know the end result, we know who wins.

The holiday season is rough for many because the world throws out its version of hope. Warm fires, families that love each other, and stuff, stuff, stuff. The wonderful image of Christmas we see in ads fails to live up to reality. But no matter what our circumstances, no matter if it’s the holiday season or any other season, we can hold on to a hope that lasts. The Savior came once into the world and he’s coming again someday. No matter what we face now, God controls our destiny and our future. It is unshakable. No one can take it away.

Where human hope dies away, Godly hope perseveres to the end!

In Christ,
Pastor Branden