Coffee for Your Soul: Five Reasons You Can Have Hope for the World
By Shane Bennett
Ahh, coffee. The miracle bean. The juice of joy. The warm nectar of paradise! Unlike some people, I don’t need coffee, I simply enjoy it. Boy, do I. Opening a new bag of beans, the quick and effective work of the grinder, the aroma bloom when the hot water splashes onto the fresh grounds, and that first sip from a favorite mug. If you don’t drink coffee, this may all sound excessive and weird. Can I just say, “It’s never too late to start!”
If you do start, buy your beans from someone like my friend Steve whose new roastery is changing the lives of farmers all over the coffee-growing world.
What coffee does for me, though, is just a shadow of the effect hope has on my soul. Hope invigorates, inspires, and energizes. And, boy, do I need hope. Don’t you? Great kingdom work awaits us. Without hope, how will we engage it? Plus, we go to church with many who, though maybe looking, can’t seem to find reason to believe God is still at work in the world. We need to let them know that reason for hope abounds.
Here goes. Drink deeply, friends.
1. God’s purposes are certain.
If we believe the Bible and if we understand it correctly, we have reason for great hope. Those are two big “ifs.” I usually believe the Bible, mostly. But this is not without struggle. And understand it correctly? My confidence is less here. Even so, just looking at the bookends, which seem clear and plain, I am buoyed with hope.
The story opens with God telling Abraham and Sarah that it’s their lucky day: “You get land, kids, blessing, a great name, and the unfathomable honor of working with me to accomplish my purposes—to press the blessing of connection with Almighty God into every family on the planet.” At the other end of the bookshelf, John sees this stunning snippet of the consummation of all things: “There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”
John sees a picture of the ultimate fulfillment of the purposes God shared with Abraham: the redeemed from every family offering thanks and glory to God their redeemer. God has done it. That’s reason for hope!
2. Many things are better than they used to be.
Maybe you’ve heard something like this recently, “It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the world is getting worse and worse. Evil is rising all around us and the Christian Church is losing ground. I can’t believe how bad things are getting.”
If you dare open your eyes and take your fingers out of your ears, it might seem like that’s an accurate picture of things. Basically, “The world’s going to hell in a hand basket.” If, however, we look a little deeper, we’ll find broad-scale amazingness! Let me highlight three things and point you to a more thorough discussion.
War and violence are both declining.
Of course bad things happen and may presently be happening to you, but according to J.D. King of the World Revival Network, “Archeologists and anthropologists have surmised that over 15% of society died violently in previous centuries. More recently this number has dropped down to 3%. In the 21st century, less than 1% have died a violent or war-related death.”
Abortion is still way too frequent, but the rate in the U.S. has declined almost every year since peaking in 1985.
Poverty is being beaten.
Max Roser says, “With the onset of industrialization world, poverty started its decline, and slowly but steadily a larger share of the world population was lifted out of poverty. And since 1980 world poverty declined from 50% to 21%—at the fastest rate in history.”
Looking forward, Jon Berkley asserts, “If developing countries maintain the impressive growth they have managed since 2000… [they] would cut extreme poverty from 16% of their populations now to 3% by 2030. That would reduce the absolute numbers by 1 billion. If growth is a little faster and income more equal, extreme poverty could fall to just 1.5%” (See J.D. King’s stunning article for thorough documentation on these statistics.)
Life expectancy grows.
Life expectancy in the U.S. has doubled over the past 200 years! Doubled! At the same time, infant mortality has gone down from 25% in the Industrialized West to now less than 4% globally!
Check out Dr. Brad Wright’s book, “Upside” for more “surprising good news about the state of our world.”
3. Jesus is bringing fresh hope to new peoples.
On the one hand, many groups (my super-cool tribe Frontiers and Missions Catalyst publisher Pioneers among them) are increasingly focusing on peoples among whom, as far as we can tell, nothing is happening for the gospel. On the other hand, God is also, through the current global refugee crisis, bringing people from unengaged areas right into access with the good news. It all looks very much like an illustration for Paul’s sermon in Athens! Many are reaching out and finding life!
4. The harvest force is growing.
Even as the gospel goes to new places, it is going in the hands and hearts of new ambassadors: Chinese believers taking the good news back to Jerusalem, Latin believers serving Muslims in North Africa, Nigerian friends bringing gifts from Africa to Europe—and the diminutive woman from China who came up to me after my sermon at a church near Pittsburgh, pointed her finger at me and said, “I’m a missionary to America from Hong Kong. God sent me here because you people are too materialistic!” Mea culpa; thank you, God.
Can I invite you to pray into this reason for hope? Jesus told us in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Join me and a growing number of believers in setting a repeating alarm on your phone for 10:02am. When it goes off, pause for a few seconds to obey Jesus and pray, “Father, send laborers into your bountiful harvest.”
5. God continues to use dopes like me.
Never ceases to amaze me. God took this beautiful creation and entrusted it to a couple who traded it away for a piece of fruit. Then he turns around and entrusts an apparently pretty big part of the rehab project to people like you and me. Sometimes I’m tempted to say, “You’d think he’d learn.”
But God is God. He has said he will bless all families and he has shown us the result of accomplishing that. In between, he whispers to you and me, “You are part of an epic story. I know you’re a mess, but I’ve got your back. If you want to, not only can you enjoy great hope, but you can join me in extending it to the rest of the planet.”
What a great God. What a great hope. What a wonderful time to be alive.
Facing a Task Unfinished [Official Lyric Video]
By Keith and Kristyn Getty
When you have five minutes and need a jolt of hope, grab some coffee and watch this amazing song.