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Why We Hope

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

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  • James Sommerville

    I just received my first issue of your quarterly and read it through. I especially appreciated the sermon by Blumhardt, "Why We Hope." I had just finished preparing a Bible study on 1 John 2.18 and the following verses. I had been wondering what to do with that first verse, "Children, it is the last hour..." Obviously, St. John was mistaken if he thought that Jesus would return so soon. But Blumhardt's sermon gave me a way to think about these predictions of the soon return of Jesus as containing an important truth for us, even though, not perhaps what the recipients of St. John's letter expected. Now I'm going to think about the truth suggested in your subtitle, "The future we long for is already here." Thank you. I think I am going to enjoy your magazine.

  • Erna Albertz, Plough.com

    Thank you for reading. How have you experienced the truth of these words in your life? Please share your thoughts.

The Lord Jesus gives us a task on earth: “Watch! – Watch for my coming!” (Matt. 24:42). This is a most important assignment. If we fulfill this task – to watch for Christ’s coming – we will find it becoming reality now. When we keep watch, our whole being is directed toward this future. We see it before our eyes, we feel it in our whole life. We cannot be swallowed up by the present, for we are linked to the future; we experience this future already. Our life is renewed again and again and something new develops, something that points the way for us to go: each time it is a glimpse into Jesus Christ’s future.

Christ’s future is not just one single point in an indefinite period that we are to wait for. If this were true, we would probably all go to sleep while we waited; but his future is already here. This future with Jesus Christ must become the personal experience of everyone, today, tomorrow, and every day. We must be awake to experience how God works through Jesus Christ.

The future we long for is already here.

The Savior is coming! He is not quietly sitting somewhere in eternity, waiting for a certain moment when he will suddenly  appear. He is on the way. We must always look for him to come among us; we should expect him every day. The coming of the Savior runs like a thread through Christian history, through God’s presence in the world. If this thread is to continue we must not give in to sleepiness. The Lord Jesus is coming! There will be times of storm and thunder, of sorrow and suffering; yet in all such storms, all sorrows, and even when we think we cannot go on, there will be new revelations that will enable us to continue working and watching. Then the time will come when our waiting and watching will bear fruit: the Lord Jesus’ time will be fulfilled.

Watch, and be joyful. Even though fear overcomes you, watch; the Savior will enter into your life. I have often experienced this. I have been led and I have had to say, “There is a way out of this fear.” Even when I felt we could not go on, God showed us a direction – and now we have an inkling of Jesus Christ’s future among us. We depend on this coming of the Savior. That we are allowed to expect such great happenings animates our daily life and thinking and will finally lead to victory.

Live constantly in Jesus Christ’s future. The Savior himself says, “Of this day and hour no one knows” (Matt. 24:36). This future of Jesus Christ alleviates the confusion, suffering, temptation, and hostility in the world. Now we have hope. Right now there are large circles of people who hope for a new, free, and good life. They do not think that things will just go on and on, and that humanity will not reach any goal. Now new doors are being opened for the good to flourish, and many people want to take part in serving and helping the need of their neighbors. In great hope, dedication, and faithfulness, even worldly people take part in this task, and in this way are part of Christ’s future. Any hope for improvement, any belief that better days will come for humankind, any striving toward better times, is a proof and a result of this hope that we Christians firmly express by the words, “The Savior is coming!”

We must be alert and watchful. Jesus Christ’s future has to become your personal experience. Whenever you experience protection and remarkable help, whenever you are led on new ways and see others being led on new ways, you should think, “This is a piece of Jesus Christ’s future.” A new wind is blowing in his future. All kinds of signs and proofs of God’s help are visible. However poor we may be, however weak we may feel, we will continue to hope and watch. A time will come when we will be allowed to participate in Jesus Christ’s future.…

 

The Savior is coming! He is on the way to you, to me, to us all, in all circumstances of our lives. Even when things are as they were in Noah’s time, even if the whole world is apparently concerned with nothing but earthly things, with eating and drinking, with marrying and giving in marriage, we should not give up. We must be a living testimony at all times. Our Christianity must be alive. Our Christian faith must be a light of hope, a light in the midst of people’s indifference. It must be a light even in the midst of all the activity of the world. We look forward to greater things than new machines and inventions. We hope for a change to the good in our hearts and in our lives. We hope for the overcoming of the powers of evil, of all sin that still prevails. We expect victory over all the misery that binds so many people, over all the evil and hostile powers that torment humanity. This is our expectation.

We expect victory over all the misery that binds so many people.

Because of this expectation we will not become weary. We will not become forlorn, nor will we become irritable or quarrelsome. We will not be dissatisfied with our conditions and with the events that surround us. In all things we will see the Savior coming. This will surpass by far any apparent triumphs that people experience through their own works.…

The future of Jesus Christ must become a reality in world history, in the history of Christianity, and in every Christian’s life. Your life must be a piece of Jesus Christ’s future – your life and also your death. Our dying should not lead into death but into life. Even in our last moments Jesus Christ’s future must touch us. The dying must say, “The Savior is coming!” The sinners, upon their awakening and repenting, must say, “The Savior is coming!” In all our afflictions we should say, “The Savior is coming!” We must be convinced that all our troubles and afflictions have something to teach us.

In this way we should be watching. I know of no other way to do it. We have to experience his coming. There is justification in thinking that the Savior is quite near. It is right to say with the apostles, “He is at hand, he will come soon!” He will not only come at some moment that lies in a distant future. Our whole life is filled with the coming of the Lord Jesus. Daily we rejoice at his coming. Daily he opens up new ways for us, so we can carry on joyfully. Daily he opens new doors for us; he helps us and protects us, often without our knowledge. Again and again we are allowed to recognize his help when suddenly, like a miracle, we see that we have been protected. This is the Lord Jesus.

Watch and pray, the Lord Jesus is coming! This watching is a part of our life, of our service to God. The Savior seriously urges us to watch, watch, watch! He wants to lay a foundation for it in our hearts, in our whole lives. It is as though he were always waiting and asking: How can I come closer to this person, to that person? How can I meet this one who is waiting for me? How can I go to meet many at a time, so that again and again new victories are given? What can I do to make the call heard throughout Christendom, throughout the whole world, “Jesus lives, Jesus is victor!”?

When we watch we are not thinking of our own lives only. We are watching for the whole world. We are thinking of the world, which is still in darkness. We lift our hearts and heads, saying, “Father in heaven, the world is yours. You have given us minds and hearts with which to wait and strive forward. You have made men and women of us, you who are the God of all gods, the Savior of all humankind.”

In the small circle of a family, of a household, we keep watch. Each one, keep watch! Do not fall into darkness and indifference, but watch! Your own hour will come – be prepared for it. The hour will come for your inner growth, for the renewal of your life, and for your death. Watch! Never lose heart. The Savior often comes in the most difficult hour, in the unhappiest times. Watch, for the Savior is on the way!

 

Watch for the world too. Do not give the world up as though it were lost for all eternity. It is true that Jesus Christ’s future brings separation. The fact is that one person can come to faith and to the joy in God while another remains outside for the time being; this should not trouble us. The future of Jesus Christ is and will be a great and powerful help in all situations for all people. All eyes will be opened. We will not be able to say anymore, “This one will be accepted and that one not.” People will weep and wail when they see how wrong they were. Their tears are part of Jesus Christ’s future, of the Savior’s coming, and many will receive help. Thanks and praise be to God!

We cannot say that the Savior has not come, that we have experienced nothing of his future. We live in his future. Just think how much we have been given – how many times we have received help and protection, often very suddenly and unexpectedly. All of a sudden it was here, this future of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let it live among us now! Don’t just look to the distant future, as though something impossible would come eventually. Let it come to life now, in our daily life. Let it come to life in your personal experiences. Let it come to life on your sickbed. For the Savior also comes to the sick, to the poor, to those who have to struggle for their daily bread. The Savior is coming! This certainty is our joy; it is the source of our Christian life. Let it fill our days, today, tomorrow, and every day of our life. This joyful certainty will carry us through all our needs. The fact that we are allowed to say, “The Savior is coming!” is like a surging tide of God’s spirit. This tide will never end; it will continue to carry us forward, and bless us in all our thoughts and endeavors, in our whole life.

Therefore watch! Watch, all of you! Let each one be a fighter for Jesus Christ, a servant of the Savior. Surrender your lives and hearts. Be prepared! Jesus Christ will come to you, into your house, into your hearts, into your lives. Never forget this: the Savior is coming!


Source: Sermon on Matthew 24:36–42 on November 13, 1913, in Christoph Blumhardt and His Message, ed. Robert Lejeune, trans. Plough (1963).

painting of a crowing rooster by Wayne Forte Wayne Forte, Alarme © 2017 Wayne Forte | Eyekons View Larger
Contributed By Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

A German pastor and religious socialist, Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt influenced theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eberhard Arnold, Emil Brunner, Oscar Cullman, and Karl Barth with his unconventional ideas about religion, faith, and the kingdom of God.

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