How did your emphasis on "Hope in God" begin?
That's a good question, and I'm not sure that I know the answer because the roots go back beyond my consciousness. I'm sure they do, in two senses: 1) I was born of God unto a living hope, and that happened before I hoped in God, and it is what made me hope in God; and 2) as a little child my dad was hoping in God and modeling hope in God for me before I even knew what was happening. So the roots go back into my dad and they go back into God's grace in my heart.
Here's a really concrete practical place where they go. When I was in Germany studying, my first ten days there I didn't know any German. I was living with my wife in an apartment with another man, sharing a kitchen and sharing a bathroom. It was a temporary ten-day situation and I felt absolutely adrift. I wondered, "What am I doing studying here? I don't know the language, I don't have an apartment, and I've got a wife I can't take care of." And what I did to survive was to immerse myself in the psalms everyday. And the psalm that rose high was Psalm 42:
Why are you downcast O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.
That phrase from Psalm 42 stayed with me from 1971-1974 in Germany. It took me from '74 to '80 through my teaching years. And it brought me in my sense of insecurity as a brand new pastor taking this church downtown. "I don't know how to do this ministry, Lord! I feel so nervous and so insecure." Again and again I would say, "Hope in God! Why are you downcast O my soul?"
That's why I said, "Put that big sign up on the wall," (Hope in God) because I'm leaning on God for my daily bread at home, for making my marriage work, for doing this ministry I don't know how to do, and for facing all the challenges of this culture and all the expectations people have that I don't know how to meet. "God, you're my only hope."
So that time in Germany of leaning heavily for those days of fear on Psalm 42 was really big.