Hope?… Guilty as Charged
The gavel pounded the desk with the sharp beat of accusation.
“Sir, we have heard the charges brought against you… how do you plead?
A jaunt away from Judgement’s seat, the defendant slowly raises his head. This is not the movement of fear, trepidation, or shame. The accused’s gaze is confident, and from the corners of his mouth a smile begins to spread.
“Guilty as charged your honor,” the defendant says. “I am guilty of HOPE.”
Though a bit dramatic this is the position we find the Apostle Paul in as he faces a Roman judge in Acts 27:26. Paul had been accused of blasphemy by the Jews living in Jerusalem. His preaching and teaching of new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was something they could not tolerate. He was detained and put on trial, and when asked to defend himself again; Paul confidently told his story one more time. He spoke of how He had been a persecutor of Christians. He spoke of how God had convicted him, saved him, and called him to minister. He spoke of the persecution he endured as a servant for Christ.
After all of this explaining, Paul declares, in verses 26 and 27,
“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God
unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving
God, day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.”
Paul was accused of Hope.
Where is Hope?
Hope in today’s world is a commodity whose stock has dropped worse than any number the stock market can reveal. The news offers nothing. Society offers nothing. Politics offer nothing but false hope. However, in the midst of this fog stands the Church, offering with open palms the Gospel of Salvation. The Hope of Glory. It’s counter intuitive. It’s counter cultural. It doesn’t make sense! Why does this Hope persist?
Paul’s message of Hope didn’t make sense. He was persecuted for his calling. He was sent to be tried before Caesar Augustus, the emperor of Rome himself. He was sent as a prisoner to Italy by ship. In the course of the voyage, he changed vessels once. The voyage changed course five times, the sailors had to throw out the food and cargo because of the massive storm they found themselves in. If all these hindrances weren’t enough the ship is breached and broken to pieces, forcing the men aboard to find a way to shore, and not just any shore, the shore of a land that they did not know. Strangers shipwrecked on unfamiliar sands.
You might ask… how can one have Hope in the midst of such a trial? Where does one find the silver lining in the midst of so many storm clouds?
How to Hope?
No Escape Boats:
If Hope is a leap of faith, then how do we take the first hop? The men on the ship tried to escape by using the lifeboats that were on board. This attempt was cut short when Paul informed them that only those who stayed on board would survive. (Acts 27:30-32) In this life’s journey we will face storms. In the midst of these trials, we may be tempted to try and escape the call of God. Other solutions to our problems may seem appealing, when in reality they will take us out of His will and place us in greater danger. So, like the sailors in Acts, cast off the escape boats!
Commit to the Sea:
When the day broke, the men saw the land that would be their safe haven. However, they could not reach a place to port while anchored in their current position. They had to take up anchor and commit themselves to the sea. Letting the wind fill their sails, it guided them into new territory. (Acts 27:39-40) In order for us to achieve new territory and claim the promise of God we have Hoped for, we must leave our current position. We must commit to the path he has placed before us. We open ourselves to the wind of His Spirit and trust it to lead us into new territory.
What is Hope?
Humans misunderstanding of hope is a problem of perception. Paul writes in Romans 8:24, “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”
Sometimes we see Hope as an end we should already possess. We have built up this perception of Hope as the light breaking through the clouds. Crossing the finish line, the victory lap. We see Hope as something beautiful.
When Paul and the men on the ship finally found land, the next step wasn’t easy. Acts 27 tells us that some of them had to swim to shore. Others had to cling to pieces of wood splintered from the hull of the sinking ship. It was hardly the graceful picture of victory.
Hope isn’t always beautiful. Hope is believing something beautiful exists even when everything around you looks ugly. Hope is the faith we have in the Risen Christ. Remember the words of Paul in Romans 5:3-4
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:”
On the third day of trying to navigate the ship through the storm, the crew had lost their Hope. They were tired, ragged, and couldn’t see a way out. Acts chapter 27:20 describes their peril.
“And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.”
In the midst of the Chaos, Paul stood, and addressed the men. He showed them the Hope he was accused of.
“And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” Acts 27: 22-25
Why does the Church have Hope? Because in the world’s darkest day, in the midst of its worst storm, we have experienced the resurrection power of the risen Savior and we stand at the ready to offer that Hope to someone else who needs it. When they cannot find a way out, we can offer them the nail pierced hands of the Gospel. When they cannot see, we point them toward a Savior who is bigger than the universe itself and yet concerned enough to cause the smallest seed of Hope to grow in an individual heart.
So… guilty as charged. For the cause of Christ, I have Hope!