Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
I cannot believe I am saying this, but I am nearing the halfway point of the EQUIP missionary training program in NYC. Wow, our time here has been flying by! There are so many things I have learned this year while engaging people on the street and developing relationships with my international neighbors. But there is one common, painful thread weaving itself through all of the interactions I have had this year: people without Jesus have an obvious absence of eternal hope and assurance.
This is especially evident as I talk with my Muslim neighbors. Islam cannot provide rock-solid assurance and hope of eternal life. Why not? Because in Islam these factors depend on the performance and actions of mankind, not on the work of God. If our “hope” and “assurance” are grounded in ourselves, then our “hope” is just wishful thinking, and our assurance is anything but sure. Christians and Muslims agree: we are not perfect. We change. We mess up. Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgement we will need our good deeds to outweigh our bad deeds if we want admission into paradise. Because of this belief, the pious Muslim lives with the daily, heavy burden of needing to “earn” eternal life. There is little margin for error. Assurance depends on his/her goodness. And even that goodness may not be enough in the end. Hope and assurance are concepts that sound too good to be true for Muslims.
Enter the Gospel! When I, as a follower of Jesus, convey to my Muslim friends that I am certain that I will enter paradise the day that I die, they are intrigued. When I tell them that I am certain that God will see me as fully righteous on the Day of Judgement, they are perplexed and astounded. How can I say these things with confidence? Because Jesus saves. He is the only sufficient solution to the problem of mankind: separation from God due to our uncleanness. Our assurance is grounded, not in us, but in the perfect life of Jesus on our behalf. This is real hope, not just wishful thinking!
I want to encourage you who are reading this, as one who has placed your faith in Jesus, to meditate on the incredible reality of hope and assurance God has given you. I want to encourage you to have compassion on the people of the world who do not have Jesus. They live without hope, because only Jesus can provide this. I also want to encourage you, as you set out to make disciples today, to see the Gospel in a new way: The only hope and source of assurance – truly Good News! Joyfully, urgently present this gift to those who are lost.