Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast I’m delighted to have with us pastor John Crotts. He is the pastor of Faith Bible Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia. He has been there for 26 years and he’s married to his wife Lynn of 31 years. He has three daughters and a son. And we probably should not forget the granddaughter as well, which is a passion of John’s heart for sure. He serves a church that is an ACBC training center. Listen, I’m so grateful for the work of pastors who continue to foster good healthy biblical soul care within their church and use this as a ministry to minister to their own people, but then also to those in their community, and it’s evident by the way they do work there.
Today I want to talk about a new book that John has released with P&R. It’s one of the 31-day devotionals and the title is Hope: Living Confidently in God. So, John, I’m really excited to talk about this topic. I think we talk about this in much the same way, sometimes, the church does the gospel. It’s like, okay, we got the gospel. I think we’re going to move on to something else. We can never do that, right? The gospel is always necessary in everything we do. Sometimes we have a tendency to talk about hope in the same way in the counseling room. Yes, we’re going to give you hope in the first session, and then we’re sort of going to move on to more advanced stuff. It doesn’t get more advanced than hope. We need to anchor ourselves in the hope of Christ. So, I’m excited that you’ve written this book and re-centered our heart and mind even on this idea of hope. I want to just ask you, even as a pastor, what is the importance of hope when we think about it particularly in counseling?
John Crotts: Well, hope is really only important if you’ve got problems. If everything is going great all the time, you actually “don’t need hope,” you know, but obviously everyone has problems. So we need to have confidence that God is for us and that He’s got better things for us as we move forward into the future. This of course is especially relevant for those in our counseling ministry as they’re struggling. They’re feeling bogged down. They need to know that God has a better future in front of them.
Dale Johnson: Amen. It is easy for us to try to fill in the gaps early on in counseling with hope and then we have a tendency to maybe drift from it. But hope has been really an anchor of biblical counseling for a long time. Jay Adams even talked a lot about hope in his writings. He wrote over a hundred books. Talk just for a little bit about his perspective on hope.
John Crotts: Yeah, I think he really—even as he was trying to help us to use biblical terms to define people’s problems—he said that’s really a key element in hope because, if you’re dealing with sin, then we actually have a great Savior who deals with sin for us, not only in forgiving us but in progressive sanctification and helping us grow and change. He said in one place in Competent to Counsel that the medical model destroys hope because it provides no promise of cure and just a long life of suffering, in some cases. We see that some of these things are sinful and the Lord has great help for us, so we can have wonderful hope that not only will we have a future in Heaven with Christ forever, but He can change us even now. He deals with sin so we can have hope.
Dale Johnson: For anybody who’s in counseling, that provides so much stability in their life, in a life that may be filled with chaos in the moment. I want you to talk, especially to all those who listen, many many who counsel—what do you see are the benefits specifically for people who are walking through problems?
John Crotts: Well, if they’re dealing with their problem—and maybe their eyes are just kind of fixated on the problem—if we can get their eyes on the Lord and the positive blessings that He has in their future, that provides motivation. Certainly motivating our counselees is vital and hope is a key element in that, not only getting them to do the right things but keeping them doing the right things until the Lord kind of breaks through some of the issues that they’re facing. So, in addition to that motivation, I’d say hope is what maintains us moving the right direction. You might say that hope is like fuel in our car. If you run out of fuel, the car might keep going for a little while, but it’s going to start coasting until it comes to a stop. But hope keeps us moving in the right direction. I mean, often, people who have had a lot of problems for a long time, they want a quick fix and we know that yes, the Bible has answers to life’s problems and God has given us all we need for life and godliness in the Scriptures, but sometimes that’s going to take a while. Well, we need to keep before them the assurance that God has good in their future.
Dale Johnson: That’s so good because when we think about circumstances—and oftentimes our counselees are so focused on circumstances that they sort of think that their scenario, unless it changes, then they don’t have any type of hope. You think of the instability of circumstances. Man, those things shift and change like shadows in the process of a day. I mean, it just happens so quickly and to place your hope on that is such an unstable place. But as you’re talking about fixing your eyes upon the Lord, that is a stable place. If the Lord never changes, and the Bible promises that He doesn’t, then that is a place to fix our eyes for true legitimate hope. Now, as we talk about this term, it’s always important for us to give clarity in definition, right? The world uses this term, this idea of hope, and the Bible uses this term, but we can see very, very readily in our culture that we’re often talking about two very different things. So, describe for us a little bit about the difference between the popular usage of this word, hope, and the way the Bible uses this term.
John Crotts: Yes, well, the world, when they’re thinking of positive future, it’s often just a wishful thing. You know, we wish it would go well for you, but there’s no certainty or assurance. But when we think about biblical hope, we have it, like you said, fixed on that foundation of God’s character and God’s promises and that is rock solid. So there’s a confidence, a certainty, about it that isn’t there. There’s one reference, as it speaks about the return of our Lord Jesus, it says, “the blessed hope.” Another line Jay Adams had was, he said, it’s not like “the blessed hope so.” He was bringing in that contrast with worldly ways of thinking. Oh no, Jesus is coming back. He said He will. The angels said just as He went up, He’s coming back down in the same way. And we can have that certainty of the future. You know, faith looks back and we believe what the Bible reveals to us about Christ and what He did on the cross and then the resurrection, and we believe it. We trust it. Hope is the same thing aimed to the future. It’s, here’s what God says is going to be. Here’s what He assures us of. And just like we have confidence as we walk by faith, we have confidence as we look to the future as well.
Dale Johnson: Let’s talk about some of those specifics, John. I think that’s a good contrast and we need to constantly keep this distinction in our mind because the way the Bible describes hope is so different. Let’s talk about some specifics in some of the different ways and places that the Scripture really inspires this idea of hope—a certainty, a fixed idea that we know something is coming that we can bank on.
John Crotts: Absolutely. So, different places in Scripture have different ways of inspiring hope. I think of stories. You know, we maybe just go, well that’s just for Sunday school, but the Bible says that these are examples for us. When you see Hezekiah and Jerusalem surrounded by Sennacherib and the Assyrian army—I mean, there’s no way that they’re going to survive, but they lift their request to Heaven and they pray to God and God sends His angel and wipes out a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians in one night. Well, you read that kind of thing and you go, wait a minute. That’s my God. That’s the same for me. Or maybe you read—again, you kind of go back to Sunday school with the story of Zacchaeus. If you get into the details a little, that guy had a pathetic situation. He had money and that’s all. He was a tax collector. He had no friends. All of his friends were the dregs of society and it’s not like he was kicked out of our society. He was kicked out of God’s society. I mean, at that time, Israel was the center of where God was working there. So when Jesus comes and says, no salvation has come to your house—how many people have sat in front of us and it’s just like, no, it’s too far. I’m too far gone. It’s too late for me. There’s no hope at all. But these stories are helpful. The promises of God are immensely helpful. How wonderful is it when Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Or when 1 Peter 5:8 says that we can cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for us. These are sweet sweet promises that we can take to the bank and of course affirmations of God’s character when we read about His loving kindness and faithfulness that reaches to the skies. God never lets you down because He is always true to His Word.
Dale Johnson: That’s so helpful. I pray that our counselors will not think that we move on to something that’s more advanced than this idea of giving hope. People need this as a daily fuel to walk. We forget—I often talk about what Piper describes as future hope. I call it eschatological hope, that which we’re longing for and looking to. We often forget that that’s a primary motivation in the Scripture, that God doesn’t always promise to fix all of our circumstances in the here and now. He blesses us with the ability to walk through difficulty as we long for something that’s to come and that’s a sure hope. That’s a part of what you’re describing here. Now, I want to talk specifically about the devotional that you’ve written, this book on hope. How do you think this series can be maybe best used and especially used by people in your church or even our counselors in learning to give hope.
John Crotts: Well, I think that this series is outstanding and I am a big fan of the series as a whole. Some of these other titles just are tremendous on specific problems, but for the person who’s in despair, often they don’t want to read a big book. I mean, we could drop a John Owen book on their lap and say well, hope this helps you. But this is broken down into 31 bite-sized devotions and they’re based on Scripture. So in this case, it’s going to be inspiring hope from all kinds of places in Scripture. Some are about the stories, reminders about things. Some are about promises. Some are even pointing us to the Psalms and the character of God. Then after each one, there’s something to think about, maybe a key question just to jog your heart a little bit to apply it and something to do. What could I do? How could I write this Scripture out and meditate on it throughout the day? And because it’s broken down into such bite-sized portions over 31 days, I think it can be a real help to people and I’ve already heard some wonderful stories of people getting that motivation and maintaining grace. It’s kind of like just the constant drip that you need as opposed to, you know, getting all the medicine in one pill and okay, now you’re done with that. This is more like an ongoing, day-by-day, pick you up out of your despair and aim you to the Lord again and again and again. And then you can just start over.
Dale Johnson: I love that. Conversations like this always just help me to understand, not just the book itself. I mean you can read the book and find out about that, but hearing from the author to understand, even in more depth, the intention, the goal, the heart behind this particular project—and John, I love the idea. I think it’s wonderful that you’re pitching 31 days to root your heart and mind back into the hope that God gives us through narrative stories, through the promises that we certainly have that are anchored in the character of our unchanging God. John, I know this is going to be such a help to so many and I want to encourage all of you to make sure that you drop by and get a copy of John’s book, Hope: Living Confidently in God.