O Death, Where Is Thy Sting

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

‘Hope’ versus ‘faith’

 

Here’s something a little different, but I have a feeling there are people who might need it, since the world has made many of us adjust to its events in dramatic ways in just the last week. The 2020 presidential election, which is winding down finally with President Donald Trump’s concession, lasted over two years; protestors took it upon themselves to enter the United States Capitol, and the day ended with four lives lost; and Big Tech has taken major steps over the line in tamping down competition from free speech platforms like Parler and others. That’s bound to have an effect, not just on where we see ourselves on political topics, but how we deal with the bigger questions in life.

So, let’s see if we can recalibrate here. I was watching a new, online church service Saturday morning, and the subject of the sermon was why it’s important for Christians to realize the difference between ‘faith’ and ‘hope’ — especially during times of national crisis, which I think you could argue this certainly qualifies.

And one of the Bible passages the pastor used to talk about that difference was this one.

1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (KJV) reads:

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

It was something I’d never really thought about before, so it intrigued me. The two words – faith and hope – seem to be quite similar, right? But the pastor pointed out that they aren’t.

He explained that to have faith in something is past tense, and it can refer to your belief in many people and situations. One real-life example he gave was that he and his wife had promised their son that the family was going on a vacation. The child had faith in the possibility they would go, based on their relationship and past actions. Meanwhile, hope (at least in the biblical sense the pastor revealed) is more properly about God and not just thinking He’s going to provide something or fulfill a promise; it’s about knowing He will. Of course, the only reason He came to Earth as an innocent baby, to grow into a man, was to cheat death for us all. As the verse says, “Death is swallowed up in victory,” the victory we share through Jesus Christ. That’s something to be hopeful about, isn’t it?

One of the other things the pastor mentioned, which couldn’t be more timely, was the complicity of the legacy media in Americans losing faith right now. They’ve crushed people’s spirits over the mixed messages about the Wuhan coronavirus, shaken trust with their deeply-biased political stories, and more. I’d never watched a sermon from this church before (I wish I could remember the name; it was a non denominational church out of Raleigh, NC), so I don’t know if this is typical, but it kind of took me by surprise — in a good way.

Anyway, the larger point is this: in a time of shifting sands and chaos, it’s a comfort to remember God is a sure thing.

Have hope!

Update: I remembered the church’s name! It’s Antioch Community Church. But, oddly, the service I saw isn’t on their YouTube channel. Here’s the Easter service for you to enjoy instead:

Related: My colleague Susie Moore also waxed on a religious theme today. I invite you to read her piece here.