With the continued spread of Covid-19, concerns are being raised about the mental health of many who have lost their job, experience loneliness, or have a sense of helplessness – especially young adults. That is the generation that will experience the impact of the pandemic on their lives, not just now, but for years to come.
How can we help people, especially the young, find purpose and hope?
In Colossians 1:27 Paul the Apostle summarizes the essence of God’s gospel: Christ in you, the hope of glory. In the preceding two verses and the subsequent two verses he explains how people come to learn this. Speaking of his own ministry, he says that he was called by God to be a minister to serve God’s people and the wider world by making the word of God fully known.
Effective ministry. God’s plan to reveal himself to the world was not through miracles, but through words – spoken and written. Paul saw that it was his task to communicate God’s self-revelation fully and faithfully. This is important. It tells us that we don’t achieve a deeper insight into the Christian faith by having some mystical experience of Christ. The challenge of effective ministry is to equip people of all ages with an understanding of God’s Word so that they are drawn into a true and vital relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
An effective ministry on Sundays will help God’s people to read the Bible for themselves. Good preaching will enable God’s people to see from where and how preachers have drawn their teaching. As Paul says, the first task of ministry is to make the Word of God known.
Message of ministry. And so Paul speaks of the content of his ministry. For millennia God had kept the essentials of his plans wrapped in confidentiality. But now, Paul tells us, God has chosen to declare himself. His message is for God’s ancient people, the Jewish people, as well as, surprisingly, the non-Jewish world. Paul’s passion was to draw people to the heart of the gospel: Christ in you, the hope of glory.
There is an amazing simplicity to this. It is the kind of marketing line advertisers dream about creating. It can be summarised in just two phrases: Christ in you, and the hope of glory. On the one hand it is about a present experience, Christ in you; on the other hand, it speaks about a future reality: the hope of glory.
For many people Christianity is little more than a moral rule-book they must struggle to observe, or a creed they must mindlessly recite. Christianity for them is legalistic and dull. However, Paul wants us to understand that at the center of Christianity is a relationship. Christianity is about having Christ in our lives through his Spirit.
Many feel cut off from God— sometimes by feelings of failure or unworthiness, by feelings of ignorance or unbelief, or by their life situations. The great news is that if you are looking for God you don’t have to despair. Something has happened that has made it possible for us to experience supernatural reality in our lives – Christ in you.
And with a present experience of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, we also have the hope of glory. The presence of Christ in our lives now is only half the story. It is only a foretaste of something far greater that God has in store for the future. Christianity is not just a present experience but a future hope. Glory is waiting for us, Paul says. The good things that we have tasted of Christ living in us now are but a tiny glimpse of our future experience when we live openly in the presence God. The best is yet to be.
It is important to think this through. There are times when we feel disappointed with the way life treats us. In fact you may be disillusioned with Christianity because of life’s experiences: you had thought that becoming a Christian would solve all your problems. You may have thought that whatever was on your heart, you could put it to God, and await for him to act.
But becoming a Christian does not mean this. Our bodies are still subject to sickness, and jobs are still subject to redundancy. What the gospel message offers us in terms of life here and now is not transformed outward circumstances, but transformed inner spiritual resources – Christ in you.
Outwardly our bodies are wasting away, Paul writes elsewhere. Inwardly we are being renewed, day by day. Yes, the Bible speaks of a better world where there is no pain and frustration, or loneliness and grief. But we need to understand that this is a future world that we perceive by faith, not by sight.
However, the hope of glory is not some vague, wistful, ‘maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, kind of hope’. It is a sure, confident hope, guaranteed by Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead.
How then can we help the many around us – especially the young generation – who feel they have no hope? We need to care for them and pray for them. We need to look for practical ways our local church can support them. For school-aged children and teens, perhaps through an after-school mentoring program which also has Christian education component. We need to pray that we, together with our churches will be proactive in bringing God’s good news to a troubled generation, so that they too may know, Christ in you, the hope of glory.
A prayer. Lord Christ, eternal Word and Light of the Father’s glory: send your light and your truth so that we may both know and proclaim your word of life, to the glory of God the Father; for you now live and reign, God for all eternity. Amen.