Learning to Hope

Romans 4:18-21
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 

25 years is a long time to wait, especially when you are already old and God promises you and your wife you will have a baby. Paul said after this period of time, Abraham hoped against hope and trusted God that He will deliver on His promise.

If you have been through great loss and sadness, it is hard to hope for good again, but we can learn to hope again just like Abraham and Sarah did. It takes time. But we are reminded that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not stay there (Psalm 23). Take time to look at the Psalms to see the goodness of God and His wonderful works for you (Psalm 103). Remind yourself of passages in the Bible that give hope (Romans 15:4), like the story of Abraham and Sarah. Cry out to God in your pain, and He will in time heal your broken heart (Psalm 147:3). Surround yourself with encouraging people who will lift you up in your pain. I had a friend, Benjamin, who gave me an assignment to take a mason jar and fill it with accomplishments, positive things, and what God has done for me. It was an encouraging and hope-building exercise to see all the great things God has done. The jar is full. Your jar is full too. You can hope again.

Proverbs 13:12 – Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. 

Some thoughts about hope

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8:22-25
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. God’s grace has granted us access by faith into the grace of God in which we base our lives now. That salvation and that relationship with Jesus leads to rejoicing in hope of the final glory that will be brought upon us as God’s children in heaven.

We rejoice in sufferings because they produce hope. Just as Paul said, suffering produces endurance. We learn to stay with God and depend upon Him through suffering. The endurance we develop transforms our character as we grow in Christ through trials. And as our character grows, our hope grows with it.

Hope does not put us to shame, because we have God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We will not be disappointed, ever, when it comes to our hope in Christ. The Holy Spirit has been given into the heart of each Christian as the “guarantee” of our salvation. All of the other things we hope for in life can and most likely will disappoint, but never God’s Holy Spirit and never our hope in Him.

Our hope is the groaning inwardly for the redemption of our bodies and the completion of our adoption as sons into heaven with God. Can we even begin to imagine what it will be like to have God say to you and me, “Enter in…well done!”?

In this hope we are saved. Salvation in Christ and the hope of heaven why we became Christians. Hope for glory in heaven with God is what sustains us after we are saved.

Our hope is in what we do not see (our eternal redemption), but we patiently wait for it. This hope should calm our spirits and settle us into a patient waiting for being glorified with Christ. So no matter what may come or what we may endure, the hope we have in Christ is to be our focus so that we can endure the trials of today with a quiet confidence.

Eagles’ Wings

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31; NKJV)

I encourage you to take some time and read all of Isaiah 40 if you get time today, but I wanted to bring the last 4 verses of the chapter to your attention as you start the week.  I need to be continually reminded to see my current life on earth from a Heavenly perspective.  This allows me to see God’s majesty and in seeing that I can have confidence that God knows my situations, will provide for me to deal with any short-term difficulties and will deliver me in the end.

I pray you have a wonder week and that you feel God’s influence and care in your life.

Softly and Tenderly

I appreciate the singing we have as part of God’s design in worshiping Him.  I appreciate the acapella nature of the singing because it allows us to use the one instrument God gave us to make music for Him…our voice and we all can do it and when it is done together with those who are of like faith, it is magical.  I especially love when one of the kids is excited about the song and you can hear their voice over them all.  I am thankful for the songs in our worship.

As of late, I have been making note of songs we sing in a particular week that either really moved me or is something that I want to revisit with my family during the week.  I thought I would share one of those with you today and for anybody who knows this song…I am sure the tune is playing in your heart and mind…another awesome result of God’s design…scripture hidden in our hearts and playing in our mind through song.

I hope these words are encouragement to you today.  Jesus is always near.  Jesus loves us and wants us to Come unto Him and be safe within His fold.

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30; NKJV)

Softly and Tenderly Lyrics (Will L. Thompson)

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me.  See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, watching for you and for me.

Refrain:  Come home, come home, you who are weary, come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, pleading for you and for me?  Why should we linger and heed not His mercies, mercies for you and for me?

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, passing from you and from me; shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, coming for you and for me.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised, promised for you and for me!  Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me.

Psalm 107:8-14

8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. 10 Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and irons—11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and despised the counsel of the Most High, 12 Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help.  13 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces.  (Psalm 107:8-14)

There can be times when we are faced with adversity or our hearts could be filled with darkness because we have taken our eye off God and are following our own will instead of His.  This can take many different forms but it involves being “bound up” in our affliction. This brings to mind 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

Like us, the sentence of their transgression or the consequence of their rebellion (sin) was more than they could bear and so they called out to God.  Again, if we call out to God, He will hear us.  We can be confident in that because we read here that He heard them, and their souls were filled with the blessing He gave them.  Their lives turned around.  They found a life full of joy rather than despair…freedom rather than bondage…because they called out to Him and His mercy provided what had been missing or what was needed most.

Let these verses call to mind the redemptive power and His willingness to deliver you from what ever is holding you captive and away from the peace He promises.

8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.

Psalm 107:1-7

1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place. (Psalm 107:1-7)

This past Lord’s Day, we studied meditation in bible class and Psalm 107 was discussed.  One comment made stuck with me.  Our class leader said something to the effect “Read Psalm 107 and you will find yourself in this chapter.  If you are feeling like (fill in the blank), go and you will find it here and see how God works of deliverance and redemption will bring you hope.”

The chapter starts with “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good” and a version of this phrase is repeated four more times.  (vs. 8, 15, 21, 31).  The verses that come after this phrase describe situations when we should be filled with thanksgiving.

In the first section of the Psalm, we find Israel wandering in the desert.  Previously, they were on their way to the new home God promised them but they got off track.  They disobeyed God.  They didn’t trust Him.  They thought they knew better than He did.  As a result, they found themselves wandering, lost, hungry, thirsty, tired and desperately needing to be saved.  What do they do?  They cried out to the LORD in their trouble.

Sure, the sin of God’s people (then and now) often was (and is) the reason they (we) are scattered.  But these verses show us if we find ourselves lost because of our sin, we must call out to the One who can save us.  (James 5:13).  Further, when we call out to God, He hears us, He is merciful and He will lead us out of trouble and back safely home with Him.  If we humble ourselves and go to Him, God is faithful to lead us to safety and that is worth our praise and thanksgiving.

God has demonstrated His ability to deal with a lost and wandering soul.  Trust in Him.  Call out to Him.  “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.  For His mercy endures forever.”

Father of Lights

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:16-18)

Perspective and process is what we discussed in verses 12-15.  God’s perspective is heavenly and we can have confidence in what He is doing and has promised to do.  Jesus says in John 15 to “Abide in Me” and to faithfully serve Him despite the highs and lows of our life and the result is eternal life…the crown of life.  That is the process.

In that, the devil will try to mix all that up, sow lies, cause confusion.  But we read here to not be deceived.  To remember that all good gifts and things that come into our lives are from Heaven.  If something is not good, we know it is not from God and we can work to avoid it, flee from it or otherwise escape and resist.

Specifically, God is the God of light and there is no darkness in Him.  Again, a standard we can measure the things in our life by.  God is the God of light and there is no variation or shadow.  God is solid in that He does not move and that He is not empty but is and represents His supreme and awesome power and nature which is fully focused on our restoration and salvation.  He works to build up.  The devil works to tear down.  We can know that God has and is working to restore us…bringing us into the light as He is light.  Our objective is to stay there and remain faithful and we will prevail.

Let me close with a passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy and encourage all of us to move to the light and stay in the light no matter how hard the devil works to yank us back.

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:11-16)

Two Perspectives and Two Processes

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:12-15; NKJV)

This passage provides perspective from which we can confidently serve our God and also from which we can investigate what is going on in our life and determine what the problem is.

Jesus promised a crown of life, that is eternal life, for those that love Him.  Jesus told us if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  If we are faithful and obedient to Jesus Christ then we will be blessed as we overcome our temptations, will endure in this life, and be found approved by Him as we return to Him in spirit (crown of life). That is the process of God.

In that, we can be confident that God is not and does not tempt.  It says clearly in the verse that “evil” is what tempts and there is no evil in God.  There is no darkness but only light.  There is no bad, only good.  Our God is Holy.

So if God isn’t tempting us, where is it coming from?  Evil.  What is evil?  That which is contrary to God.  Who is contrary to God?  The devil is evil and he is contrary to anything God stands for and he is the one that appeals to us in our flesh and tempts us to act in a way that is contrary.  The devil is selfish.  We are at risk of being selfish.  Satin will appeal to that perspective while Jesus is saying deny yourself and follow Him.

If we give way to the temptation of the devil through responding to the desires of our flesh or our self-centered perspective, then we are in danger.  This desire, if allowed to take hold, will give opportunity for sin and if the sin is born and not taken care of will result in spiritual death.  That is the process of the devil.

So we have two perspectives and two processes.  God’s is heavenly and holy and results in eternal life.  The devil’s is fleshly and results in sin and death.

This provides us opportunity to reflect on our lives and consider what choices we are making, what sorrows we have, what fruit we are bearing and determine which perspective and process we are adhering to.

God loves us and wants us to be safe and secure as any Father does but He wants our heart and that requires our faithful and consistent choosing of Him.  He does not tempt us.  He only loves us.  And He does and will equip us to endure temptation by the devil and to secure an eternal and living crown.

 

Prayer Attitude

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trialsknowing that the testing of your faith produces patienceBut let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothingIf any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to himBut let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8; NKJV)

In the margin of my bible for this section, I have the words “Prayer Attitude” meaning I should take a heavenly perspective and commit myself to talking to God about my problems and seek His way as I work through them.

If I have this perspective, I will find joy in my various trials.  It does not alleviate the pain or the suffering but rather produces joy as I come through them closer and stronger in Jesus.  As an athlete or a military trainee, there were  a lot of times I dreaded going to exercise/training and didn’t feel that great during it.  What I felt when I was done was worth it…accomplishment, strength, endurance, preparedness.  It is the same in the exercise of our life.  There is joy in being victorious with God. Endure through prayer.

Patience takes time.  Have you ever said “I am going to start being more patient and I am going to start right now!”  That isn’t how it works.  As with the exercise, it takes time, repetition and learning.  Be patient in prayer.

Applying God’s word to our lives through our trials and testing results in wisdom.  Wisdom is the application of knowledge and what we need is God’s knowledge in our lives.  We just have to ask in confidence and He will give us understanding and wisdom liberally because that is what He wants for us…that we ask, that He gives it, that we grow and draw nearer to Him.  Seek wisdom in prayer.

All of this is founded on our faith in Him.  Pray that God increase your faith.

In all of this, we pray that our faith will grow and we will hold fast to our Anchor…Jesus Christ…who is in heaven and will keep us despite the turbulence of our life.  There is confidence in prayer and we can speak with a humble boldness and He will provide grace for the moment.  Those moments strung together result in a life lived for Jesus that produces a patient joy as we look expectantly for His return and our homecoming.

Heavenly Inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5; NKJV)

Peter provides a beautiful picture in this passage.  We see God’s mercy and that in Jesus we have been born again, resurrected to a new life free from the bondage of sin.  In that, we have a living hope and an inheritance in Heaven that will not fade away, lessen or in any other way diminish.  We know this because it is God Himself who keeps this inheritance for us and He does so with power.  Our part is faith and in that salvation and an eager expectation of Jesus’ return.

This encouraging picture of salvation, hope, and eternal life help us to frame our present life and the challenges we face.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trialsthat the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christwhom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.  (1 Peter 1:6-9; NKJV)

The trials of life are like fire and as with gold, fire refines and removes the impurities.  Fire and pressure take a raw piece of gold and provides the process necessary to transform it into a precious and beautiful object.  Our faith is more precious than gold but the same type of process is applied to our faith and our soul…fire and pressure in a life lived for Jesus brings forth His glory and hope for others to see and receive the same inheritance through faith and obedience to the gospel.

Allow the love and promise of your Heavenly Father and Elder Brother lift your eyes upward when the world only seems to drag you down.