A Teaching Series on Hope - Part Three
One of my favorite things in reflecting about hope is that joy is an important part of hope! "May the God of hope fill you with all joy..." Romans 15:13. There is joy in our hope because of who it's based on. Our hope is not only an expectancy - it's a joyful expectancy! Joy is a wonderful characteristic of hope.
Some people talk about their hope in the Lord like they're going to a funeral. "My hope is in the Lord" or "I'm hoping for an answer from Him" - I've heard people say, but their face looks like they've just had the worst news in the world. Their response would not inspire hope in my heart!
It's also not going to the other extreme and being flippant - with glib answers about people's problems. "Just leave it to God" people may say without compassion or helpful understanding.
And it's not having a false, "super" spirituality with all kinds of spiritual cliches. I've been the recipient of quite a few responses on this journey. The glum, glib, super spiritual ones that offer no true hope, and certainly none of His joy - are not helpful!
Hope is sincere. It is real. It faces life's difficulties with true, Godly hope - a hope that is also filled with His joy. "Be joyful in hope." Romans 12:12
Hope, with joy, is grounded in knowing God and His character. It's knowing that God is in control. He's always faithful. He doesn't go on strike. He doesn't get tired. He doesn't quit. It's knowing we can always rejoice in who He is - through each and every situation.
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. For He who has promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23
We have to keep our focus on Him as we stir up hope in our hearts. If we get our eyes on circumstances, on the situation, on the problem - we'll easily lose sight of who He is. Very quickly, worry and anxiety will rob us of our joyful hope. If we give in to anxiety, we'll be more concerned with what's wrong around us rather than focusing on what's right in Him - that God is at work in the problems.
When I'm stirring up hope in my heart - the hope that is rooted in Him, that is expectant, that is in an attitude of prayer - I can see Him smiling at me. He is pleased, and His pleasure brings joy to my heart too.
Through all these long months - with all the ups and downs - with the feeling of walking on a tightrope - with tears and uncertainties......deep underneath it all has been hope in Him and hope from Him. It's knowing that He is in control, that He has plans and purposes for all we're walking through. And, yes, it's been a joyful hope. "The joy of the Lord" has been my strength. His hope, filled with His joy has been my firm foundation along this unexpected journey.
I'm so grateful that joy is part of hope! He knows how much we need that when we're going through a hard time.
This hope is not one dimensional. It has so many layers. One of them is that hope includes patience. Patience is a very important characteristic of hope. This is one that we don't get too excited about! There are often delays to the things we're hoping and praying for.
"Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12
"Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he already sees. But if we have hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Romans 8:24,25
Delays come. Setbacks happen. Prayers are unanswered. We get impatient, discouraged, and we can give up. We can lose heart as it talks about in 2 Corinthians 4.
Patience is the best remedy for lots of our troubles. There's always room for hope coupled with patience in the midst of things that don't go according to plan. There's always hope in the midst of disappointment and even despair. No situation is too despairing, although we may need lots of patience.
I remember being a bit "concerned" when we ran out of money for the house we were leading with about 40 young people in Afghanistan. I told Floyd at dinner that we had no money, and no food for breakfast. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. We'd had some guests for dinner. As I was clearing the table that night, I found some money they had left under their plates. We could buy food for breakfast!
Things like this have happened so many times in our lives. One of the big lessons I've had to learn is that hope combined with patience means I need to wait to see God's provision without worrying. SO much easier said than done - but such an important lesson to learn.
Hebrews 6:15 tells us that "after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised."
Romans 4:18 says of Abraham "in hope he believed against hope" though his body was old. Abraham was patient. He waited for God's timing.
I have to tell you that my sense of timing is often very different from God's! I wouldn't have waited over 20 years for my dad to give his heart to Jesus. I wouldn't have waited for years to see the first prostitute come to the Lord in our ministry in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. I wouldn't have waited over 6 years for our daughter to be healed. But God's ways are not my ways!! He has plans and purposes that I can't see.
Patient hope is accepting a difficult situation without giving God a deadline to remove it! God's timing is perfect. He knows what He's doing. We can trust Him.
I've reminded myself of all these things as we've prayed for Floyd. I know I would do things differently. :) But I also know that I can trust His wisdom and timing. Whether God is going to heal Floyd or take him to heaven, I am doing my best to hope with patience. I trust Him and look forward to His answers.