This post was originally published on HolyLemonade.blogspot.com, 4/8/2015
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.”
What do you hope for?
Please, don’t just pass over this question with a quick glance. I really want you to stop and think about it. I am not talking about your dreams or your goals here. Although hopes and dreams go hand in hand, they are two entirely different things. Your dreams are what or where you feel called to do or go, what you want to accomplish in life. Dreams are extremely important, but the message on my heart today is hope. If you’re not sure what the difference is, here are a few definitions, courtesy of dictionary.com:
1) To look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence;
2) The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best;
3) To believe, desire or trust
Do you look forward to anything with desire? Do you have confidence that the godly goals you have set will happen? Do you believe that the events in your life will turn out for the best?
If you’re anything like me, and your honest with yourself, I’ll bet you hesitated at at least one of those questions, if not flat out saying no. Truthfully, up until the last few days, the only thing I’ve had the courage to hope for is survival. And do you know what the Lord has blessed me with? Survival. I have not been able to figure out why in the world as a woman who loves the Lord with all my heart, who lives my life to honor and glorify him, I’ve been stuck in this valley of hardship, poverty, isolation, and anxiety, overwhelmed with financial and emotional burdens, depending on the Lord for my survival, only to watch him provide for me with the barest of necessities in every aspect of my life. I can’t figure out why I am scraping by in life by the skin of my teeth when I know my faith in God is strong. Well, the answer here is very simple…I never dared to hope for more. I never looked forward to more with any kind of confidence in the Lord’s abilities. I never really believed that I could grow in my walk with God in any other situation than the one I’m in. I didn’t dare.
Now, before we go any further, I do want to say that God has more than blessed me through excruciatingly long (yes I’m whining) season of hardship. Not only has he provided for my every need, he has matured me in a way that only total reliance on him can accomplish. The experiences I’ve had, most of which were brought on by my own disobedience, have given me a wealth of heart knowledge concerning love, mercy, grace, and my own self-worth. I wouldn’t trade this valley dwelling season of my life for the world. But I’m ready for the next chapter. I’m ready to live out the dream he’s called me to. So what is holding me back? Why am I still standing at the mouth of the valley?
God has impressed on my heart that part the answer for me and for so many of you still stuck in your own valleys, is a lack of hope. As with many other areas of my life, when it comes to hope, I am guilty of believing the whispered lies of the enemy. Part of me has assumed that hoping for a life of abundance and joy is somehow self-seeking. Another part of me believes that I deserve this life of defeat because I am not worthy of anything more. Part of me has truthfully been just plain terrified that God will disappoint me. That I can only believe his promises as long as the whole situation makes sense to me. But see ladies, this is where it is so incredibly important to know the truth in God’s Word! Let’s take a little gander at what the Bible says about hope in relation to these wrongly believed lies.
I admitted to you that hope for anything more than survival felt self-seeking to me. But God’s Word tells us that hope is actually an act of faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 ESV. By believing in the Lord to guide us into the hopes and desires of our hearts, we are showing him that we trust his guidance in the things we are most passionate about, the things that we hold dearest in our hearts. Even after this biblical truth, I guess I still feel like my hopes look like a child’s Christmas list to Santa. But it shouldn’t, if my hope, my belief, my desire and my trust, is first and foremost placed in the saving grace of my Father and Creator. When our hope is in Christ first, our hopes, our ability to look forward with desire and confidence, can be realized through him. Psalm 146:5 says, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Yes, placing our hope in worldly things like money or worldly success would be self-seeking and ultimately devastating (1Cor. 15:19). But by placing our hope in Christ and his eternal Kingdom, we are assured that it is God’s desire to give us good things in this life as well as the next. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” In the next chapter (7:11) he goes on to make this statement; “If then you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” These are just two verses! I mean, the Bible is overflowing with promises from God and statements that attest to his desire to give us the good things we hope for, if only we would ask! So, I don’t know about you, but I think we can definitely debunk the first lie! Let’s see what the Word has to say about the second…
The second lie has to do with self-worth, which is something I have personally struggled with my whole life. But again, God’s truth absolutely demolishes the lies that Satan will throw at us to keep us from living the joy filled life our Father so desperately wants us to have. I told you that I never hoped for more out of life because I believed I deserved to live this life and nothing more. Jeremiah 29:11 (please memorize this verse if you haven’t already!) says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.” While the consequences of our actions may have found us living in a season of difficulty, and while he is using it for good as only he can, it is never his intention for his children to live out their lives crushed under the weight of the world. He did that for us when he died on the cross. Romans 25: 2-5 says, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope (the belief, desire or trust in) 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 (looking forward with desire and confidence), 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.” (ESV, parenthesis mine) Regardless of whether we are going through a difficult season because of our disobedience or because God is allowing it to mature us, we can rejoice in suffering because we know that ultimately it will lead to hope, the same hope that allows us to look to the future with desire and confidence. God allows suffering to give us hope, not to take it from us, and certainly not to keep us in a state of guilt and shame (Romans 8:1).
I also shared with you the extremely false fear that having hope for my future would leave me disappointed in God and feeling like a failure. I have had a few events in my life that have shaken my faith to the core, and that is a very scary place to be. I think somewhere in my mind, I believe that by only trusting God for the possible, I can avoid that place of doubt where I feel lost and alone and like everything I know is a lie. But he is not a God limited by earthly possibilities and human dreams. The Bible says “For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37. Are you starting to feel hopeful yet?!! I am! Now, when I say hoping for my future I do not necessarily mean in a worldly sense. Hoping God will give us more of anything that glorifies ourselves may very well end in disappointment. No, by having hope for my future I mean through Christ, looking forward to a future full of God’s joy, full of excitement, allowing God to work through me to infect an abundance of people with his love, and living confidently and joyfully in his promises. Until this point, my hope has been the equivalent of a tiny blow-up life raft in the middle of a stormy ocean. Full of sharks. I have been living a defeated, hopeless life, devoted to my Lord, but unwilling to believe in him for more than what seems possible to me.
Well, a hopeless life is just not how God wants his children to live. His word tells us, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:18. That’s a promise! Jeremiah 17:7, But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” That’s a promise! Proverbs 10:28 says, “The hope of the righteous brings joy…” These are promises girls, and God cannot break a promise!
There is so much more in God’s Word, I could write verse after verse for hours. That’s how much he wanted us to know the hope we have in him. It’s not just psychological mumbo jumbo you can find in a self help book. This isn’t a scheme that convinces you your subconscious beliefs help you make better life choices. We’re talking about real promises here, made by Creator of the universe. Think about that for a second. Promises made by the one who both uniquely knit you together in the womb and who died carrying your shame and punishment for you. Promises made by Love himself. So again I ask you, what do you hope for? Or maybe the better question for you is who do you place your hope in? Tell your heavenly Father, and believe his promises. I guarantee spiritual growth and doors of opportunity opening. We’re gonna go on this journey together ladies, because I’m laying my hopes at his feet today as well. Are you ready to start living a hope filled life?