Fanning the Flames of Faith

Today I saw a homeless man pushing a shopping cart full of junk. The cart contained everything he owned. His scraggly beard was as dirty as his matted, stringy hair. It was obvious he had not bathed in quite a while. The rags he wore hung loosely from his gaunt frame. What I remembered the most, however, was his eyes. They were deep, dark, empty eyes that had lost all hope. Adversity had overcome his ability to believe in his dreams.

Sometimes hope seems to hide in adversity’s shadow. Adversity wants to convince us that it can destroy us. It taunts us and tells us there’s no reason to try. It wants us to give up and accept our conditions.

A young couple enters marriage with grand hopes and dreams, anticipating the glorious future they will build together. They soon discover that adversity walks alongside their hope. He loses his job, she miscarries their first child, and they move in with their parents, in a house shrouded in conflict. The question, “Why” hangs in the air.

In the beginning, there is always hope. Christopher Columbus left Spain because he had hope. The Pilgrims experienced untold suffering just for the hope of freedom to worship their God. They spent two months on the Mayflower enduring taunting by the crew, sickness, storms, and death before finally landing at Plymouth Rock. They continued, however, and today we are a free nation.

The early American settlers traveled in wagon trains, thousands of miles across unfamiliar and dangerous terrain, just for the hope of a better life. Women buried their husbands along the wagon trail, yet they persevered and continued on their long journey west, their hope was their only comfort. Adversity was the constant companion of those heroes who struggled for a better way of life. Yet, hope was always close by, eager to nurture and strengthen their battered faith.

I once heard a pastor preach a message titled There is No Such Thing as Hope. His theory was that we must have faith. “Faith is to be sought after with everything in us. Hope is useless and unnecessary. It is faith that moves mountains,” he shouted, “not hope.” While it is true, faith is the drive that ultimately fuels our endeavors, hope is the spark that ignites faith’s flames. How can we remain assured that we will get our desires without the seed of hope from which to build?

Before every great work of art, before forming a nation, before building cathedrals, before bringing a new life into the world, there is hope. Hope is the root of every great enterprise. It cannot be, if there is no hope. Adversity challenges every endeavor, every dream, and plan. We invest our finances, our time, and our strength, commitment, and honor and adversity laughs aloud, calling us foolish. The lump of sorrow in our throat nearly chokes the life out of us as we lift up our head and ask, “Why?”

We wipe our tears and look across the horizon; we can see a cloud moving toward us. What can it be? How can we endure anything else? As the cloud grows larger, we can see the blue suit with the towering red “H” on its chest. The red cape of promise flaps as it moves closer. Hope has arrived. Adversity has to step aside while hope wraps its arms around us and soothes us with words of promise. Hope fuels our faith and we can go on once again.

Our dreams, desires, and promises are there for the taking. Adversity is there also, ready to destroy. Hope stands by, knowing that we will need it several times before we have achieved our dreams. For those who will allow it, hope fans the flames of our faith with the promise of a better tomorrow.

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