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For the Week of March 2, 2009
by Rubel Shelly
Nope. You won’t find it in your dictionary. It’s less a word than an acronym. On the order of NATO or IRA or FAQ, the letters pronounced as a word are actually the initial letters of more familiar words. You pronounce this one to rhyme with pig-lock or big-block. Now you’ve got it: ig'-bok. And it means . . . Okay. We’ll get to the meaning directly.
It’s not my word. David Arms and Lloyd Shadrach came up with it as shorthand for something in short supply these days. With so much bad news coming from so many quarters, they were thinking in terms of something that could counteract pessimism, something as an alternative to despair. What they came up with was igbok. And igbok means . . . But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Do you know much about the biblical idea of hope? Unlike our modern-day use of the term, hope isn’t “wishing with little prospect of fulfillment” or “desire in the face of unlikelihood; wishful thinking.” In the Bible, hope is a secure and confident expectation. It is trusting God to keep his word.
There are many things in life that God has not promised. Contrary to the false opinion of some, he has never promised smooth sailing for believers. He has never promised immunity to illness, freedom from stress, or exemption from financial reversals. Remember Job? Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”? All the martyrs?
Faith doesn’t guarantee an easy life. Sometimes, in fact, it is one’s faith that brings persecution. Why just think of it: If being a Christian meant bad things could never happen to you, it would be the cheapest insurance you could get!
So what does the Christian faith offer? It guarantees that no physical harm can diminish your spiritual value or security. It promises a secured future in the face of today’s harsh realities. It tells every pilgrim on her way to the Promised Land that none of the obstacles along the way can deny her an ultimate reward.
In the meanwhile, how do we see ourselves and our situations? If we have plenty, we will be grateful and share it; if we have nothing, we will not envy what others have and know how good it will be to be home at last. If I recover from heart disease or cancer, I am grateful to God; if I succumb to illness, I am with God sooner. If my business thrives, I bless kingdom work with the profit; if it goes broke, I never tied either my identity or God’s love to a balance sheet.
In effect, the promise of God to his people is that – come what may – he will be with them. He will not let the things they value most be lost to them. He will rescue them from evil – even if that rescue can come only, as it did with his Beloved Son, through his power to raise the dead!
In the meanwhile, know that it’s gonna be o.k. Or, for shorthand, igbok. (And to see how Lloyd and David have developed the igbok theme, go to igbok.com.)