How can we possibly have hope in a world filled with despair, war, disease, and poverty?
As always, we find the answer in the Bible!
Paul wrote to his young disciple, Timothy, and told him how to find hope in a disappointing world.
“It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Tim 4:9–10, emphasis added).
We can have hope when we grab hold of the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
OUR HOPE IS ROOTED IN THE CHARACTER AND PROMISES OF GOD
Psalm 42 is one of my favorite psalms. In this song to the Lord, the psalmist is in painful despair, and this psalm captures his conversations with God as he journeys from darkness to light—from grief to praise. Finally, at the conclusion, the psalmist summarizes and sings,
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Ps 42:11).
Somehow, the psalmist escaped his despair and despondence and found hope in the Lord.
The psalmist wrote, “Hope in God.” In Hebrew, this phrase is הוֹחִילִי לֵאלֹהִים (hochili lelohim); the root word is yachal ( יחַָל ), which can be translated as “hope” or “to wait with expectation.”1 The word “countenance” literally means “face.” I believe hope transforms us from the inside out and is most visible in the face of someone who smiles when hopeful. You can see hope in the cheekbones of the hopeful!
The journey to hope is difficult for most of us and especially challenging in times of hardship. But finding hope is critical for the soul’s survival. Moreover, it is at the core of our witness to those who do not yet believe. So, where should we look for hope?
We find the most soul-satisfying sense of hope when we strip away all the standard props of dependence upon people, material things, and circumstances, and we recognize that the only hope we have is in God Himself.
OUR HOPE IS IN THE LIVING GOD
Our hope in God rests upon His character, His promises, and, to some degree, His people. But it is always in Him, through Him, and about Him.
We have a forever-hope because our God is eternal. He is the living God. Therefore, we can live today in light of the glorious future He promised us, guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. When we have this hope and allow it to fill our souls, then we need not despair as we—through the Messiah—are eternal heirs of His grace and will live with the living God for all eternity.
Paul wrote so poignantly and powerfully, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
A BIT OF HISTORY
Before I share with you some of our hopes and dreams for the next twelve months, let me take a quick moment to look back. Zhava and I are celebrating our twenty-fifth year of leading Chosen People Ministries, and it might be a blessing to you to read how we came to where we are today. I often joke that Chosen People Ministries is now in its 128th year—but I am not the founder! The Lord has led Zhava and me to this place for this season of twenty-five years. Knowing this makes the future all the brighter and more hopeful for us.
Zhava and I began this phase of our relationship with Chosen People Ministries on May 1, 1997. However, our Chosen People Ministries story goes back quite a few years to when Zhava became a believer as a young teenager. At that time, Chosen People Ministries was called the American Board of Missions to the Jews (ABMJ), and she came to faith at Fairfax High School in a very Jewish area of Los Angeles.
She came to the Lord through the witness of some Gentile Christian young people at her high school. While this was happening, I came to faith as a nineteen-year-old Jewish hippie in San Francisco. I met the Northern California representative of Chosen People Ministries, who encouraged me to go to Bible college back in New Jersey, which I did because I wanted to witness to my parents, who were living there at the time.
Zhava and I met after I graduated from Bible college. At the time, I had begun my graduate studies at the Talbot School of Theology and had been working with Jews for Jesus, which used to be the San Francisco branch of the ABMJ but had broken away. Zhava and I met at an ABMJ young adult outreach held at Pat Boone’s pool house. The rest is history!
When I left Jews for Jesus, I knew I wanted to stay in New York City and continue in Jewish ministry, but I did not know if I would serve with another organization or start something myself. It took about a month after I left Jews for Jesus for Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries to contact me and ask if I wanted to serve with that mission. We thought and prayed about it for a little while and decided to do it. So I worked with Ariel Ministries from January 1996 until April 1997, when the Lord gave me the joy and privilege of becoming president of Chosen People Ministries. After a few months, our Chosen People Ministries director of communications left, and Zhava took that position. She has been full-time with Chosen People Ministries ever since. She currently teaches Jewish studies and Hebrew at the Feinberg program and directs our department of information technology.
NOW FOR A SPOOKY BUT TRUE STORY!
A couple of months before Chosen People Ministries approached me, I was praying and asking God for His leading for our future. Somehow, I got the impression while praying that God was going to call me to lead Chosen People Ministries. So, I told Zhava that I believed God might have been leading us to be part of Chosen People Ministries—to become the president even! She, of course, asked me if anybody from Chosen People Ministries had talked to me about it, and I said no. She then said, “Wow . . . you think highly of yourself!” It was my fault for marrying an outspoken Jewish girl!
But I was pretty confident it was God’s voice, so I was not overly shocked when a Chosen People Ministries board member called and asked me to have dinner with her a couple of weeks later. At dinner, she asked me if I was interested in the position of president of Chosen People Ministries. Of course, in light of what God had spoken to my heart, how could I say no?
So, there we were, in Brooklyn, where Chosen People Ministries had started in 1894. Our little office on Ocean Parkway—the gateway to Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn—became our new Chosen People Ministries New York headquarters.
After some time in Brooklyn, we bought a building in Manhattan with some of our leftover reserve money that was quickly running out. Then, after we sold our headquarters building in Charlotte, North Carolina, we bought a facility in Florida. The Lord has blessed our ministry and expansion ever since!
THE CHOSEN PEOPLE MINISTRIES OF THE FUTURE
So, where are we going as a ministry in the days and years ahead?
I believe the future will probably be much like the past; Chosen People Ministries should not change too much! We will remain faithful to Scripture and Leopold Cohn’s vision to reach Jewish people for Jesus and help others do the same. Our priorities, as expressed in our mission statement, will continue:
Chosen People Ministries exists to pray for, evangelize, disciple, and serve Jewish people everywhere and to help fellow believers do the same.
We will continue what we are doing but also innovate as the Lord leads. We have the capable staff to lead us forward! Let me articulate some of our goals and direction for this fiscal year (July through June).
- We will wrap the gospel message in appropriate, creative, and compelling ways for our distinct audiences—religious, culturally-committed-but-secular Jewish people, and the vast streams of faith marking the church in our generation.
- Our ministry to the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) will grow and become more significant in the days ahead.
- We will focus on the land of Israel and continue to make people and resources available for God to use in the Holy Land. This ministry also includes an intensive effort to reach Israelis wherever they live or travel and to build a global hosting network for traveling Israelis in the days ahead.
- We are praying about buying a facility for our work in Tel Aviv.
- We are committed to discipleship and training and will seek to find opportunities to invest in the lives of individuals and communities.
- We hope to encourage Jewish believers in their walk and witness and to be faithful to their historical and covenantal identity as Jews.
May our hope be fueled by faith, ever ready to embrace the destiny God has prepared for each one of us and for our ministry.
1 William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: Based upon the Lexical Work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, 12. corr. impr. 1991, reprinted (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 133.