Zechariah 9:12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
Hope makes all the difference in a person’s life. With hope, all sorts of things can be endured. Without hope, even lesser difficulties can be unbearable. That’s why medical personnel must be very careful how they talk around patients and their families. They should be truthful, but speak truth in such a way as not to destroy hope. As a pastor I’ve done a lot of hospital visitation over the past 40 years, and I have gotten angry many times at how some medical personnel have trampled on the very hope that would cause a patient to hang in there. It has been demonstrated time and time again that patient attitude is key in recovery from a very wide range of problems, because that attitude has a massive effect on the immune system, among other things. That said, it is worth noting that the NIV says here, “prisoners of hope,” while the Japanese says, “prisoners who have hope.” The NIV is more striking, but I find the Japanese rings truer, because hope does not bind, it liberates. That is never truer than when it is hope in Christ, because such hope transcends the entire physical world. In Psalm 42-43 (originally one Psalm in Hebrew) the Psalmist tells his soul to “put your hope in God.” That’s always good advice! When we hold firm to such hope, our lives will be shining witnesses of God’s grace and people will want to know how we do it, allowing us to share the Gospel with them. (1 Peter 3:15)
In my hospital visitation I try to practice what I’ve just written, without giving false hope. I’m pretty familiar with the current state of medicine, but I know that God is not limited to or by that. I am often able to explain to a patient what course of treatment they can expect, but I always point out that God is able to transcend that. It has been my experience that even without miracles of healing, people recover much faster when their attention, and their hope, is fixed on God. In evangelism, my job is to let people know the hope that is available to them in Christ. Sometimes to do that I have to help them understand just how hopeless they are without Him, but I never tell someone they are headed for hell without making it very clear there is a much better way. As a pastor, I need to help the believers understand that they are to be carriers, providers of hope. You could go so far as to say that nothing is more attractive than hope, and we need to let the world know just how attractive Jesus is.
Father, thank You for this clear reminder. This would certainly preach! Help me be faithful as a messenger of hope, both to believers and unbelievers, so that everyone may be drawn closer and closer to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!