A Teaching Series on Hope - Part Two
The second thing that's been stirring in my heart these days about hope is that it involves expectation. Hope without expectation can be just a nice feeling. I'm realizing yet again that I need to allow the Holy Spirit to let hopeful expectation grow and rise in my heart for all He wants to do on this unexpected journey we're on.
Hope in scripture usually means a strong and confident expectation. It's often linked with trust. It's active, not passive. "We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you." Psalm 33:20-22
Waiting with hope for me is very active. I'm not just sitting still. I'm praying. I'm seeking God. I'm asking Him for revelation on what He's doing in this season. I'm trusting Him to act. I'm worshipping Him for His goodness and faithfulness. I'm "going for it" in my heart.
Hope is used many times in speaking of the results in the lives of those who had hope. Hope is not an escape, a wish or desire - it's meant to be strong and move us forward in expectation. "But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." Micah 7:7
We "watch." We "wait." And the longer we wait, the more our hope must be filled with deep trust toward Him. Expectant hope may not be immediately rewarded. We always have to trust God's timetable, knowing He'll do what's best.
"Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side." Psalm 3:2-6. David waited, and had expectant hope.
Faith is a foundation for hope. It's an active ingredient. Faith believes that God can do something. Hope is the active expectancy that He will. They go hand-in-hand.
When I think of hope involving expectation, I have two very clear images that come into my mind.......very different ones:
1. I see a little girl standing on tiptoe......trying to see, expecting something. Hope is always on tiptoes!
2. I also see a volcano. It's rumbling deep in the earth. Something is shaping, rising inside it. Something is forming, planning, expecting to break through......until suddenly it bursts out of the mountain and flows everywhere.
Hope expects! It doesn't disappoint when it's rooted in God, as I wrote of yesterday. It keeps us going in difficult times. It makes a hard day bearable because of the promise of a brighter tomorrow.
Our expectant hope can be weakened in the world we live in. People tell us: "I hope so" in a very weak way - or "don't get your hopes up." I want to get my hopes up! I want to believe and trust God.......and expect Him to move.
I love Psalm 71:14. It tells us how to respond to these kinds of responses from people. "I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more."
There are many examples of true, expectant hope in the Bible. Three of my favorites are:
- The three men who were thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to bow to the king's image......they were hoping to be delivered, but said if they weren't, they'd still serve God.
- Daniel in the lion's den.......expectantly hoping for safety, and staying true to God. He had no fear of the lions.
- The children of Israel as they were waiting to be delivered from Egypt. They faced an impossible situation, the odds were against them.......and I'm sure someone said "don't get your hopes up!" But they had high expectations. God moved in spectacular ways on their behalf.
As a leader, I know it's very important for me to have a heart of expectant hope. If hope leaves my heart as a leader, it won't be long before those under my leadership will follow the same path of hopelessness. I'm responsible to God for my heart, and for how it impacts those in my spiritual care.
I know that we can lose hope. I've lost it at times! It can be easy to do when we face huge things we're asking God to do, and they don't happen right away. But hopelessness isn't a terminal disease. God can put hopeful expectation into my heart afresh if I humbly go to Him.
I don't know exactly what God has planned for Floyd's future. As I've said before - it may be healing or it may be heaven. But not knowing what He has planned doesn't mean I can't ask, or that I can't have expectant hope for God to move and answer prayer. I have felt Him encouraging me to let hope rise afresh in my heart.....with lots of expectation.......because I trust Him.
Confident, expectant hope is wonderful. But it will go nowhere without prayer. It's like a beautiful new car without an engine. Prayer is the powerful engine that is needed for that new car! This is the third thing stirring in my heart about hope - how closely it's linked with prayer.
Hope is so closely interwoven with prayer that it's hard to separate the two. Hope spurs prayer on......and prayer helps keep hope alive. It's in the place of prayer that our sometimes weary hope can be rekindled. If the flame of hope in my heart gets weak, then I know I need to spend time on my knees with Him. I need to let Him stoke the dying embers of hope back into life!!
If hope is dying in my heart, I also find it good to look at why hope is being drained:
- It can be my own thoughts - focusing on the problem, the difficulty, the impossibility rather than focusing on who God is.
- It can be negative, discouraging comments from others.
- It can be focusing on the "what ifs" of the situation prematurely. I find it so important to stay in the present and deal with what God is saying and doing right now. He'll help me deal with the future when it's time.
If my hope is being drained, I need to try and stop the leak! We can't allow hope to die. Prayer is the key to keep it alive.
I've heard people speak of prayer as if it's a drudgery - something that requires a great effort on our part and will leave us tired and weary. I've often found that it's in the place of prayer that I get re-energized. I come to prayer weary, and finish by feeling refreshed by His Spirit.
It's also in the place of prayer that we can ask God to remove unbelief from our hearts. Unbelief will kill hope! Unbelief drains us and keeps us from moving into all that God has for us. Unbelief can be turned around by proclaiming who God is, and focusing on worshipping Him. We need to ask God to remove any unbelief from our hearts before it destroys our hope.
Hope intercedes and reminds us of God's mercy. In the place of prayer, it's hope that helps us believe for the impossible. It's hope that says "we don't deserve this, but because of God's mercy we ask and believe.”
"But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you." Psalm 39:7
"Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for." Job 6:8
I don't understand all that God is doing on our unexpected journey, but one thing I'm sure of - He has used it to call us to prayer! God is using our prayers in ways that only He can. Our hope combined with our prayers is powerful. God is doing something through it.
Hope linked with prayer is a wonderful "tool" the Lord has put in our spiritual armor. I'm grateful for it on this journey.