Hope as an Anchor


by Randy Roper, preaching minister

If you’ve ever been in the open waters of the ocean, you understand firsthand the rhythmic ebb and flow of the waves. I have been deep sea fishing two times—both when I was a child. The first time, smooth sailing. The second time, not so much.

On that second fishing trip, I remember us launching out from shore, and after several minutes, all I could see was blue liquid in every direction. No shoreline. Nothing that represented stability and permanence. I must admit, I got a little nervous.

As our relatively small boat continued to power out to the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I started feeling a bit queasy. Giant waves cradled us in their valley before launching us to their crest. Then back down again. Back up. Back down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Over and over. Would we ever get there, I wondered. Did someone convince our captain to just keep going past the Gulf all the way to the Caribbean?!

As we tumbled over every wave, I started getting more and more seasick. It felt like I was stuck in the endless loop of one of those loopty-loop roller coasters. I was woozy and wobbly, and I was very nauseated. My dad must’ve recognized the green tint of my face. “Just lean over the edge if you have to,” he said matter-of-factly.

I had to.

As I buckled over the railing, I was a little worried about the side of the boat. But then one of those giant swells rose up to meet the evidence of my seasickness and wash it away.

I remember spending much of the rest of our time at sea lying down in an outdoor shaded area on the upper deck of the boat while nibbling on, of all things, a giant concession stand pickle wrapped in wax paper. Someone said the pickle would help calm my stomach. Now, I think it was just meant as a distraction.

In some ways, 2020 feels like being stuck out on the open waters of a mighty sea. So many ups and downs. So much anxiety and uncertainty. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it all just makes me feel a bit dizzy and nauseated. I find myself longing for the stability and permanence of the familiar. I am ready to get out of the boat and stand on solid ground.

God always knows what His people need. During the first century, followers of Jesus faced intense pressure. They were getting thrown around by cultural waves, tossed back and forth by false teaching and victimized by violent persecution. They needed something reliable, something dependable, something firm and secure on which to stand.

God gave them hope.

The inspired writer of Hebrews reminded them—and us—that the hope we have in Christ is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). Hope tethers us to the promises of God. Hope sustains us through the ups and downs of life. Hope inspires us with the vision of a future reality that far exceeds our present reality.

Hope is our anchor amid the raging waters of the world.

Noted author, Henri Nouwen, once wrote, “Hope prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory.”

He is right. With our hope firmly anchored in the promises of God that were revealed and fulfilled in Jesus, we can venture into the open waters of the unknown with confidence and assurance. We can let go of our fear, release our anxiety, and cast off our bitterness and frustration. Our hope is not in the things of this world. Our hope is in something much bigger, much better—something firm and secure.

We are starting a new sermon series called “Hope as an Anchor.” If there is something we all need to hear during these uncertain times, it is a word of hope. I am praying that you will be able to join us either in-person or online for worship this Sunday.

Also, I’m sure you know someone who could benefit from a message of hope right now. Would you make the effort to invite them to worship with us Sunday? Ask them to join you or send them the link to our online service. I look forward to opening up God’s word with you Sunday to find a much-needed word of hope.

Now, for some reason, I’m craving pickles.

Get busy living!

by Randy Roper, preaching minister

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).

In some ways, I feel like I have been paralyzed by this pandemic. Because so much in our everyday lives has changed, it’s been a bit of a challenge to find my footing. When it all began, many of us shifted into high gear and tried to adapt and press on to keep pace. We thought we were running a sprint.

Turns out, it’s a marathon.

The new normal everyone seemed to anticipate coming soon has been delayed by the actual normal we find ourselves in right now. Middle ground. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting smaller and smaller because the tunnel is getting longer and longer.

Maybe the key to finding our footing is to just keep moving forward. When I consider the long road ahead, it is tempting to settle into idleness. To emotionally and spiritually “bunker down” and ride out the storm of this pandemic. Turn inward.

But if we allow this major interruption to immobilize us, we may be missing out on unique and God-given opportunities to serve others, battle injustice, make disciples and advance the work of God in our world. As my wife sometimes reminds me, we don’t want to look back on this unusual time with regret that we didn’t do more.

So, rather than settle into idleness, let’s choose to be active. Don’t let the prevailing climate of uncertainty silence the call of God on your life. Embrace the uncertainty as a unique opportunity to think outside the box, to find innovative and meaningful ways to be an ambassador of Christ.

Keep putting one foot in the front of the other. As Hebrews 10:24 urges, keep moving toward love and good deeds, and spur others on toward that same goal.

In a highly dramatic scene in the movie The Shawshank Redemption (TV version, of course), the main character, Andy, declares to his buddy and fellow inmate, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice—get busy living or get busy dying.”

It’s true, we get to choose.

Maybe it’s time for us to get busy living as God calls us to live, no matter what challenges and obstacles we find in our way. Remember, God overcame sin and death, and made us alive in Christ.

Embrace the life God has given you!

Guess it comes down to a simple choice. We can either get busy serving or we can get busy sitting. We can either get busy working or we can get busy whining. We can either get busy living or we can get busy dying.

Which will it be?