Friday, September 2, 2011

“Walking through Disappointment and Uncertainty with Hope”

Have you ever encountered a situation where there doesn’t seem to be a good way through it?  Have you ever felt disoriented about a direction that life seems to be going that it causes you to feel like you are losing your solid footing?  Have you ever been disappointed about a relationship or a job or a dream that seemed to be leading one way but suddenly turned around and went the opposite direction?

I hope that you can answer yes to at least one of these questions, although I suspect that most of us can say yes to all three of them.  Many of us want to run from situations that cause these questions, but I am finding that if we can embrace the challenge, we are given the opportunity to know God’s heart for us.  We experience his faithfulness in the midst of confusion and the reality of miraculous breakthroughs that leave us in awe and wonder.
The Bible over and over tells us to walk in hope.  The love chapter 1st Corinthians 13 ends with this statement:  “Three things remain:  faith, hope and love.”  Romans 12:12 calls us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”   Romans 15:13 prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So, what is hope and how it is different than faith?

The definition of faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.

The definition of hope is to cherish a desire of anticipation and to desire with expectation of obtainment.  Hope is a continuing desire and expectation that God is trustworthy and he will bring forth the breakthrough of his purposes.

In a nutshell, faith leads us to belief in God and hope leads us to trust in God and his character!

We start with faith, a foundation of belief.  When times of uncertainty and disappointment come forth, this is the time to hold onto hope:  continuing to desire the breakthrough with an expectation that it will come in God’s perfect timing.

I have found two Scriptures to be helpful in the reality of walking out a life of hopefulness, despite the uncertainty of the circumstances surrounding me.  The first is from the Old Testament:  a Psalm written by David when he had been captured by the Philistines.  If anybody needed hope, David did in that moment.

This is what he wrote:  (Psalm 56)
2:  Oh Most High, when I am afraid, 3: I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I am not afraid; what can mere people do to me?
8: You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in a bottle.  Are they not in your record?
9: Then my enemies will retreat in the day that I call.  This I know that God is for me. 
10: In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise.
11: In God I trust; I am not afraid, what can mere people do to me?
12: My vows to you I must perform, Oh God, I will render thank offerings to you.
13: For you have delivered my soul from death, and my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

The second passage is from the New Testament:  a letter written by the Apostle Paul, who knew much about hope.  He lived daily in hope, knowing that God had the ability and desire to fulfill his promises to Paul.
Romans 5:1-5:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

These two Scriptures give us direction on how to maintain hope in the midst of uncertainty, suffering, and disappointment, as well as warfare:

1.     Call on God—put your attention on God and not the challenge before us
2.    Out of the discipline of your will, thank him for the challenge (this causes the enemy to run from us.  Psalm 56:9)
3.    Remember what he has done in the past and speak it out loud
4.    Praise God for his trustworthy character and his continual love for you (Romans 5:5 is a continual ongoing pouring of his love that never stops, even for a second)
5.    Speak out his promises from his Word
6.    Call out prophetic words and promises spoken over us
7.    Persevere in hope, keeping your focus on Jesus and his ability and desire to bring the breakthrough

If you look at these two Scriptures we realize that God is responsible for his part and we are responsible for our part.  God’s part is to bring forth the breakthrough, in David’s case, to break out from the Philistines, and in Paul’s case it is to save him as he is let down a wall through a basket to escape his enemies.  Our part is to take a posture of faith and hope, and to develop a mindset that is focused on God’s character and power to bring us through the fire.  We also have the invitation to experience God’s love through every trial we encounter.

So, take a moment and think about a challenge that you are walking through right now.  What are your thoughts surrounding it? Do you find yourself creating different scenarios of how it could play out, or are you focusing on God’s ability to bring the hopeful answer?  Your answer to this question will tell you much about where your trust lies:  is it in God or an earthly solution?

The thing is that we serve a God who is in the business of bringing heavenly solutions to earthly dilemmas.  The best way that we build our faith and hope muscles is to actually walk out challenges that are inevitable in life.

Here is a prayer that Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus.  Today it is my prayer for you:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
20-21God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

When we choose to live a life of intentional faith and hope, we are given the prize:  the experience of the fullness of the Father’s love for his beloved children.  Can life be any better than that?

Three things remain:  faith, hope and love. But, the greatest of these is love! 

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