Planning for the future activates hope
May 18, 2023 by Rob Hagan
A friend recently with me this thought about hope, “Biblical Hope is not optimism or wishful thinking. Biblical hope is hope in the midst of darkness.”
One of my favorite texts to illustrate “hope in the midst of darkness is the Matthew’s “Storm at Sea,” which can be found in Matthew 8.
Jesus Calms the Storm
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
This account is in all synoptic gospels, which is how the gospel writers emphasize a story. They want us to know that Jesus is bringing hope in the midst of darkness. (The Greek word for storm is seismos, from which we get our word for seismic.) In other words, the sea was shaking under their feet. Even the seasoned fishermen Peter, James, and John were scared. They tried everything and finally they called to the one person who could bring calm. Jesus chastens them for having little faith. Jesus speaks the word, and the sea obeys and becomes placid and like glass. Jesus activates hope in the midst of turbulent times.
As a PC(USA) pastor for 40 years in the local church and now having a ministry with the Presbyterian Foundation, I often have the honor of meeting people who plan to leave a gift in their estate plan to the church. They do this because they want to bring hope to future generations, or even to calm future storms. Their generosity shines hope today in the midst of challenging times for the church.
I am presently working with 10 donors who want to set up an endowment so their pledge continues after their lifetimes. To do this, they either start a Permanent Endowment Fund with the Foundation during their lifetime, and add to it from their estate, or they create a way to use the proceeds from their estate to start a Permanent Endowment Fund. This fund is invested in perpetuity. Their church, which is the beneficiary, will be receiving the money this donor gave during their lifetime, long after they are gone. Donors tell me that they want the church to know that they are still working in the church. They want to be remembered, and they want the peace of knowing the work they were called to do here on Earth continues.
Often, the endowments that donors create are a game changer for churches. When the church is in a seismic challenge, these donors are wanting to calm the sea of turmoil, which is often what happens when a church is anxious about money. These generous people want to point to Jesus, who calms the storm of fear and anxiety of monetary challenges for the church in years to come. That is activating hope!
During Covid when the world closed, I decided that this was an opportunity to accomplish an item on my bucket list, which is to run a half-marathon. I have run for exercise often but never thought of running a race. A friend encouraged me to jump in, so I registered for the Portland Half Marathon. I started training. It took about 12 weeks to get my body and mind ready. The training included running every day and cross training.
On the day of the race, I joined thousands of people to run 13.1 miles through the streets of Portland. Along the route there were hundreds of people cheering the runners, ringing cow bells, shouting encouragement and holding signs. I remember reading the signs, “May the Course be with you!” or “You are doing great—only 10 more miles to go!” This was wonderful encouragement. But between miles 6 and 7 I was wondering to myself, “Rob, what are you doing? Why are you running for 13.1 miles?”
When I was slowing down when I noticed a little girl alone on the street corner. She was probably about 11 years old. In the midst of my storm, my challenge, she activated hope inside me. Her sign read, “Remember you are better than ketchup!” A child her age typically wants to put ketchup on everything – so this was a high compliment. I picked up my pace again, and finished. She activated hope for me.
We can all activate hope for future generations. Think about endowing your pledge, so the money you give each year to your church continues on after your death. Many people fund it with the required minimum distribution from their IRA. Over the years, these faithful donors keep putting funds from their IRA into the fund with the Foundation.
Their motivation? To activate hope and to wave the sign from heaven as the church is running its race, “Remember, you are better than ketchup!”
Rev. Dr. Rob Hagan is the Ministry Relations Officer serving the Northwest for the Presbyterian Foundation. His territory includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Alaska. He works with pastors and church leaders to cultivate generosity and promote stewardship within their congregations. He also meets with donors to assist them in making gifts to support their church and other ministries. Rob served as a pastor in several churches before joining the Foundation. You can reach Rob at email@example.com.