This time last year, I remember recording a message standing in front of the large map of the world in the WPC prayer room. The office was busy, outside the German market was in full swing selling half metre long sausage, various alcoholic beverages and the same gifts that seemed to turn up every year.

We were looking forward to all the possibilities that 2020 was presenting. As a team we were being encouraged to Behold His Glory, be alert, be ready and be involved.  Plans were afoot for prayer events throughout the year at local, national and international level.  Like you, we had no idea what was ahead or what the year would bring for us as individuals, families, as WPC, the Church and the nation.

So here I am this year in my little office at home and once again, like you, with no idea what 2021 is going to bring. Having been in lockdown or isolation for much of the year at least, we can together look forward in the knowledge and truth that God who by His Spirit got us through 2020 will be with as we go into 2021 with its vaccines, Brexit, some kind of church gathering to worship hopefully and hopefully at least shake hands with or maybe even hug someone.

As you can see, I have used the word hopefully a number of times. In recent days in conversations and prayer calls involving people from around the nation and the nations, the word hope, hopeful, hopefully has cropped up on numerous occasions, words that we all use every day of our lives.

For Christians, followers of Jesus, there are two kinds of hope. One kind of hope is a feeling of expectation for a particular thing to happen based on our human desire, what we want, what we feel we need.  We hope 2021 will be better than 2020, we hope we may get a holiday this year, we hope the weather will be nice at the weekend, we hope Wales might win a couple of rugby matches! (Did I hear “some hope!”) We hope to hug our grandchildren and so on. All are great hopes, legitimate hopes, but unfortunately, they are uncertain hopes.

The second kind of hope the follower of Jesus has, the biblical hope, is the confident expectation of what God has promised and the strength of this hope is in His faithfulness. Over two thousand years ago again and again, the people who wrote the Psalms in the Bible; in the midst of times of uncertainty and challenge wrote about putting his hope in God, putting his hope in His unfailing love, putting his hope in God’s word. 

In recently reading again the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus I was struck by the fact that as they talked to Jesus they said, “We had hoped He was the one to redeem Israel.” 

It appeared they were walking away with hopes shattered from the place and promises where their hopes would have been fulfilled. They had heard the promises Jesus had made regarding His death and resurrection. They had heard the reports from some of the disciples about seeing Jesus but they were walking away, probably disillusioned, disappointed having lost hope that all they had dreamed of and hoped for had gone. I wonder what would have happened to them if Jesus had not met them. 

So, we go into 2021 with our everyday hopes for ourselves, our families, for the Church, our communities, the nation and the nations.  As a team at WPC, we have hopes for the growing and ongoing work and ministry as God continues to lead us by His Spirit.

We also go forward with the hope that has the confident expectation of what God has promised. We look back on God’s wonderful faithfulness which gives us the assurance to continue our journey with a hope based on the strength of His faithfulness and the promises He has made to us in His word.

In times on the journey when we find ourselves in a battle we will say with Moses, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  

In our moments of tiredness and frustration we shall say with Isaiah the prophet, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”

In times of stress we shall say with the Apostle Paul, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your minds in Christ Jesus.”

In our times of unholy fear, of hurry and rush and at times panic, we shall hear the words of Jesus again saying, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 

In the times of global instability and there will be many, we will declare with the psalmist, “The Lord reigns let the nations tremble; He sits enthroned between the cherubim. Let the earth shake. Great is the Lord in Zion, He is exalted above all the nations.”  

By God’s grace and mercy, you and I can go into this year with our hope in Him, our hope in His unfailing love and our hope in the promises in His word and the assurance that Jesus is walking with us.

Together we can and will say with the writer to the Hebrews, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” The message Bible says, “This hope is an unbreakable life line reaching past all appearances right to the presence of God where Jesus, running ahead of us, has taken up His permanent place and position as High Priest for us.”  What an amazing hope.

We go into 2021, walking by faith, holding tightly, without wavering to the hope we affirm, knowing that God our Father can be trusted to keep His promises.  Let’s walk together, we would love to accompany you. 

And so, as we go into the New Year, wherever you are around the world, we bless you with the words the Apostle Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

On behalf of the WPC team, Trustees and supporters we wish you a very blessed and hope filled 2021. 

 

Ian Cole is the founder of the World Prayer Centre in Birmingham.