St. George
Serbian Orthodox Church
Carmichaels, PA

Hope In The Lord
by Fr. Rodney Torbic

Psalm 78:7 - That they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.

When believers experience difficulties in life, it is important to remember the guiding hand of God. It is important to remember the works of God through the centuries.
When believers experience frustration and when progress seems minimal, when even ground appears to be lost and the reversal of progress seems the rule, it is important to keep the focus on God and ways pleasing to God.
There is always reason to hope in God. Hope in God is expressed in the Psalms. Hope in God is founded in the Resurrection of Christ. Hope in God is realized in the lives of the saints.
Faithfulness to God is necessary. Faithfulness to God is the source of joy in life. Faithfulness to God brings unity with God. Faithfulness to God brings peace. Faithfulness to God brings confidence. Faithfulness to God is reassuring.
The life in Christ is the life of the Cross. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." (Mt. 16:24)
Believers need to constantly focus on the Cross of Christ. Believers need to remember the suffering and deaths experienced by the Holy Apostles. The Holy Apostles were zealous for Christ. They faced great suffering and tragic deaths. 1
Joy is experienced in the Lord. This joy comes from a maintenance of hope . This joy comes from a sense of perseverance spurred by the vision of hope. Believers familiar with St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans will find important words about tribulation and hope.
The Holy Apostle Paul told the Romans: "...we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
Contemporary life is a challenge to believers. Contemporary life requires believers to make choices at every segment of time. The choices bring us closer to or further from God. The choices either unite us with Christ or separate us from Christ.
Wise believers take time to read the Psalms. Wise believers take time to contemplate the Psalms. Wise believers immerse themselves in the Psalms.

Psalm 146:5-Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

Hope lifts the energy level of a person. Hope gives impetus to the work of a person. Hope give the person reason to continue with daily existence in the times of tribulation and distress.
Hope enables a person to endure suffering, knowing that something greater awaits the person. In Hebrews, the believer reads the words: "Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." (Heb. 12:14)
Joy in the Lord is an experience defying full description. Joy in the Lord is felt in the heart. Joy in the Lord is experienced in the mind. Joy in the Lord results in a change in bodily feeling.
Joy in the Lord, hope in the Lord rests in the pre-eminency of the Lord. St. John wrote words of hope to etch in the hearts and minds of believers as they are etched in Holy Scripture.
St. John wrote centuries ago: (He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (I Jn. 4:4) Believers draw strength from the Lord within. Believers draw strength from the Lord when facing the most difficult of times.
Parents facing the illness of a child draw strength from the Lord. Adults facing serious illness draw strength from the Lord. Men and women on the battlefield draw strength from the Lord.
Women and children living in ghettos where crime and violence are daily occurrences draw strength from the Lord. Residents of mental hospitals, jails and prisons draws strength from the Lord.
Believers in Kosovo and Metohija draw strength from the Lord. Where the vision of hope prevails, Satan does not triumph. Despair is the tool of Satan. Despair prevails in the mind of individuals having no hope.
In The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John Climacus said: "Despondency is a paralysis of the soul, an enervation of the mind, neglect of asceticism, hatred of the vow made." 2
When the believer puts on Christ at Holy Baptism, the believer subscribes to the joy of the Resurrection. The believer subscribes to the joy of the Resurrected Christ.
When the believer puts on Christ at Holy Baptism, the believer is armed with the joy of the Lord. The believer is armed with faith in the Resurrected Christ. The believer is sufficiently armed to deal with all the terrors to be faced in life.

Proverbs 10:28 - The hope of the righteous will be gladness, but the expectation of thewicked will perish.

How many individuals consciously adopt the view of being righteous? How many individuals consciously choose to live in ways pleasing to God? How many individuals of each generation seriously pursue life in ways pleasing to God?
At what point in life does the individual consciously adopt the view of living in ways pleasing to God? At Holy Baptism, the conscious commitment is made to the Christian life.
Normally for Orthodox believers, Baptism occurs at infancy. The Godparent makes the commitment in behalf of the newly baptized. The Godparent(s) with the parents, have the responsibility of seeing the child is raised in a Godly manner.
As the baptized infant grows and matures, he or she will reach a point of mental awareness that enables responsible decisions about God. At this point of mental awareness, the individual becomes fully and personally responsible for choices made.
When the believer consciously adopts the lifestyle pleasing to God, the believer sets the course that will result in the gladness of the proverb. When the believer adopts a lifestyle less than pleasing to God, the believer is a peril.
Decisions made in life can be changed. Lifestyle decisions can be altered for better or for worse. It is fundamental in Christianity to believe that in Christ a person can change and become new.
The lives of St. Paul, St. Moses the Ethiopian and St. Mary of Egypt reflect a newness in Christ. St. Paul told the Corinthians: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
Individuals with loved ones having gone astray to lives consumed by drugs, alcohol, criminal activity or other forms of sinfulness, can always pray fervently with hope.
Words of encouragement, words of hope are found in the Epistle of St. James. St. James wrote: "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16)
Parents can at times feel at wits end. Parents at times can feel like there is no where to turn. Parents can feel as if all they have done for good in raising their children has been for nothing.
Hope rests in Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." When parents experience momentary, difficulties and have done their best with the son or daughter, it is best to leave the rest to God.

Proverbs 11:7 - When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of the unjust will perish.

Some individuals choose to be wicked. Some individuals choose deliberately to live contrary to God. Our jails and prisons have residents who are consciously evil.
The international community from time to time sees the rise of individuals desiring to perpetrate evil against others. At times, individuals will be possessed by evil thoughts and live out these thoughts.
Not everyone seeks to live in ways pleasing to God. Not everyone adopts views of God that are favorable. Not everyone is kind and forgiving, loving and peace seeking.
Not everyone seeks to do good to his or her neighbor. Not every husband or wife is considerate of his or her spouse. Not every mother and father is caring and nurturing towards their children.
Sometimes adults are particularly evil toward children. From time to time stories will appear about individuals working in healthcare facilities or correctional facilities who have been evil towards individuals in their care.
Ideally, everyone would be God loving and would live in ways pleasing to God. It is not the case and never has been. Believers expect the Lord Jesus Christ to return and judge the living and the dead.
What is Christ going to find upon His return? How many people seriously prepare for the day of judgment? How many people use each day for the precious day it is, a time for preparing for final judgment?
What percentage of each generation will experience eternal life? What percentage of each generation seriously lives a Christian life? What percentage of each family seriously lives a Christian life?
Are certain ethnic groups more religious than others? Why is it that some individuals raised in "religious" homes turn from the Church while others become faithful Church members even though they were raised in circumstances that might be characterized as anti-Church?
Reasoned thought is necessary when considering the path to the Kingdom of God. Reasoned thought is necessary when committing the self to the way of God. Reasoned thought is necessary to deal with the obstacles on the path to the Kingdom of God.
The Holy Apostle Paul cautions that Satan turns himself into an angel of light. Therefore, one cannot consider only outward appearances when determining individuals good or evil.
The Lord Jesus Christ said: "You will know them by their fruits." (Mt. 7"16)

Proverbs 19:18 - Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.

Before patterns of misbehavior become ingrained, parents must do their best to correct the behavior of their children. Before patterns of misbehavior take permanent hold in the heart and mind of a child, mothers and fathers need to work with due diligence and faith to bring about change.
Belief in change through Christ is necessary. One need only witness the change in the life of the Holy Apostle Paul to know change is possible. St. Paul, now considered a leading apostle, wrote to the Galatians centuries ago.
St. Paul said to the Galatians: "You have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it." (Gal. 1:13)
St. Paul changed after he met Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-16). Fathers and mothers should look with hope upon their children while there is time. Fathers and mothers should love their children with the love of God, seeking to raise them in ways pleasing God, believing that with God all things are possible. (Mt. 19:26)
Children are precious to God. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Mt. 18:6)
Being a parent is difficult in contemporary times. Children are affected by the society in which they are raised. It is important for parents to set limits, to instruct the children in the ways of the Lord and to set good examples.
It is important not to seek the destruction of the children. It is important not to destroy children through parental actions. It is important to be careful in considering who will watch the children and in whose presence children will be in.
Society is diverse. Children are exposed to individuals in school and in the community who hold views and practices which may be totally contrary to Christianity.
Moreover, children may be exposed to individuals who will prey upon them and seek to harm them in different ways. It is not that parents need be paranoid. It is not that parents need to live in fear.
It is that parents must be strong in faith in God. It is that children must be raised strong in faith in God. It is that precautions be taken and vigilance practiced in the raising of children.
Parents should not be given over to the destruction of their children when inappropriate and unacceptable behavior occurs. Discipline, love and continued good upbringing can change a child for the better.

Jeremiah 17:7 - Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and in whose hope is the Lord. Centuries and centuries have passed since the time of Jeremiah the prophet.

Centuries and centuries have passed but words of wisdom are preserved. Centuries and centuries have passed and individuals still find merit in lessons that are always timely.
The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Mt. 6:21) The person trusting in the Lord will have his heart and mind set on the Lord. The person trusting in the Lord will be guided by the Lord and will look to the Lord for guidance.
Believers in the Lord sense the presence of the Lord. Believers in the Lord experience the presence of the Lord. St.Nicholai Velimirovic while sitting in his prison cell once told an unbelieving officer: "When I was a boy I believed, but now I do not believe any more because I know there is a God. My belief has become knowledge through experience. Now I know there is a God." 3
We learn about God best when we trust in Him, when we pray to Him, when we worship and glorify Him. We learn about God best through our experience with God.
When we consider the actions of our bodies, the work of our minds, the very life we have, we can only think about God. When we think about the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, about the lives of the Holy Apostles and the martyrs and saints down through the centuries, we can only think about God.
When we think about the power of the message of the Gospel, when we think about the experience of the Holy Mysteries, we can only think about God.
The Holy Apostle Paul stood in Athens centuries ago and said: And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their reappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27)
We don't have to look far for the Lord. We don't have to travel far to experience the Lord. St. Apostle Paul said: "In Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28)
Blessings are experienced by those turning to the Lord in faith Blessings are experienced in life and are readily recognized by those trusting in the Lord and looking for the work of the Lord in their lives.
Centuries pass. Wise are those placing their hope in the Lord.

Jeremiah 31:17 - There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border.

Words of hope are important. Words of hope resting in the Lord provide confidence for the believer. Words hope dispel doubts and inspire.
Words of hope from the Lord carry value that cannot be measured in earthly terms. Men and women do things for the Lord for which they never could get paid and for which they would not accept payment.
Men and women of faith often do extraordinary things out of love for the Lord and because of hope in the Lord. Believers fast and pray with regularity because of hope in the Lord.
Beautiful icons are written out of hope and love in the Lord. Believers behave themselves putting forth their best effort out of hope and love in the Lord.
Believers face death with confidence in the Lord. Believers face death with hope of the resurrection as expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
Hope for their children brings joy to parents. Hope for the future gives purpose to the present. Hope for the future confirms the worth of investments made in the past.
When children are able to live in ways pleasing to their parents, the parents have a sense of accomplishment. When children are able to live in ways pleasing to their parents, parents have a sense of self-worth.
God-parents taking their responsibilities seriously contribute to the growth and future of the God-children. God-parents are by definition in a religious relationship with the God-children.
At Holy Baptism, the newly baptized enters into the Church. As time passes, sometimes the baptized person goes astray and leaves the Church. Through the faithful prayers of parents, God-parents, friends and relatives as well as the prodigal's own sense of estrangement, he or she may return.
The Lord Jesus Christ said: "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Lk. 15:7)
The Cross certainly is central to Christianity. The joy of the Resurrection rises to the fore. The joy of the Resurrection summons all having strayed from the way of Christ.
Partaking of the Precious Body and Blood of Christ is a return to the life within the borders of the Church. Repentance and forgiveness of sins through Holy Confession is a return to life within the borders of the Church.
Parents concerned for their children will pray the children experience all the fullness of life present in God's Holy Church.

Lamentations 3:25-26 - The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the souls who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Developing patience is an extraordinary virtue. Having the patience to endure and to wait for the Lord is something to pray for. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." (Mt. 10:22)
Having trust in the Lord and in the words of the Lord is beneficial. Having confidence in the Lord is beneficial for the soul. Knowing that God will not leave us nor forsake us is reassuring.
Believers can find comfort in the words of Deuteronomy "For the Lord you God is merciful God. He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them." (Deut. 4:31)
Believers need to learn to look to the Lord for direction. Believers need to learn to listen to the Lord God for instruction. Believers need to experience the Lord God in the Holy Mysteries.
Believers need to seek God. Believers need to be active in faith. Believers need to draw near to God in prayer, in fasting in attending the Divine services of the Church.
Even if the believer is still, the believer can turn inward in prayer, seeking the kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."
Prayer is an active state. Prayer requires use of the mind. Prayer requires consideration of the heart. Prayer requires concentration, attention to the action and content.
Prayer requires the believer to think seriously about God. Prayer requires the believer to enter into a conscious state with God. Prayer requires the setting aside of, the blocking out of other stimuli detracting from attention to God.
Waiting patiently in hope for God involves a belief that God will act and make a difference. Waiting patiently in hope for God involves the belief the difference made by God is worth the wait, is worth the endurance.
Waiting for God under adverse conditions can be trying for the believer. It is always good to remember the darkness of the Greatest Holy Friday was followed by the Resurrection.
The Psalmist declared the reassuring words: "Among the gods there is none like You O Lord: nor are they any works like your works." (Ps. 86:8) Further the Psalmist states: For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God." (Ps. 86:10)
When difficulties arise, when trauma occurs wait and hope upon the Lord.

Joel 3:16 - The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake; but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.

The Lord is the hope of His people and His people have a responsibility to the Lord. Believers are required to live in ways pleasing to God. Believers have a responsibility to be faithful to God.
Believers cannot forsake the Lord and then turn to the Lord as a "Fireman" when emergencies occur. Believers cannot live with abandon, totally disregarding practices of the Church which have been proven to be of benefit to the soul.
Believers must take responsibility for their own actions when turning to God in hope. Believers must do they best they can to be faithful to God.
The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is professed in The Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed. Believers cannot live anti-Christian or lukewarm Christian lives and then hope to be in good stead at the Day of Judgment.
Believers cannot neglect the poor, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned and expect to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (25:31-46) Believers cannot be slack in living their lives as were the five foolish virgins who had no oil and expect to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 25:1-13)
Jesus Christ rose from the grave and gave hope to believers of each succeeding century. Jesus Christ rising from the grave after being crucified was not expected. Jesus Christ rising from the grave has totally altered the way the world is viewed.
The Resurrection defines the way believers think about the future. The Resurrection is at the foundation of the Orthodox Christian worldview. Believers celebrate the Resurrection in the present.
Believers expect the return of Christ at a time unknown. The return of Christ is considered a certainty. The Gospel of St. Matthew states: "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another..." (Mt. 25:31)
Each time believers recite the Lord's Prayer, believers pray for the Second Coming of the Lord. Each time believers recite the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed, believer reaffirm belief in Christ's Second Coming.
Believers living in ways pleasing to God while trembling about sins committed, truly can look to the Lord in hope. Believers having had loved ones departed this life can look to the words of the Holy Apostle Paul read at the Funeral Service: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first." (I Thess. 4:16)

I Peter 3:15 - But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who ask you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

Non-believers will look to believers to learn more about Christ. Non-believers will look to believers to see if the believers are serious in following Christ.
Being lukewarm in faith is not an attribute. Believers looking for guidance about their faith do well to read Revelation 3:16: "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth."
The evidence of God through the centuries is convincing evidence. The evidence of changed lives due to belief in God is convincing. The experience of personally being changed by God is convincing.
There is nothing more wonderful than experiencing God in the Divine services. There is nothing more wonderful than experiencing the forgiveness of God in Holy Confession and Communion.
There is nothing more peaceful and joyful than being united with Christ. In the stillness of God's holy churches and monasteries, believers come to know God and to know the peace of God.
Believers for centuries have drawn near in faith and love to partake of the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. Believers for centuries have listened to the Holy Gospel and have been changed by it.
Martyrs for Christ have given their lives in defense of the Faith. The lives of saints have glorified God in different ways.
Non-believers and believers in weak moments may question the hope in fervent believers. The hope resting in God is an inextinguishable hope. The hope resting in God emanates from the Creator and Redeemer.
Years ago a professor in a Late Vocations/Diaconate Program spoke of the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16) having "received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba Father." (Rom. 8:15)
If we immerse ourselves in the writings of the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of the Church, and the Divine services of the Church, reasons for the hope ascribed to will be evident.
1St. Nikolai Velimirovic. The Prologue of Ohrid. Vol. One Translated by Fr. T. Timothy Tepsic. Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America, Alhambra, California, 2002, pp. 668-669

2St. John Climacus. The Ladder of Divine Ascent Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Masssachusettes, 2001, p. 95

3"Belief in the Unbelievable" 1976 Calendar of the Serbian Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood, p. 68.

St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels, Pa.
August 18/31, 2006.
Draft Document for Adult Class.

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