Exploring the power of hope in meeting today’s challenges in the hope and strength God has for us today…
Following an excellent summer the last couple of weeks have been more of a challenge and so I want to return here to the notion of hope and specifically the power of hope.
Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. That is quite the statement but notice the difference hope makes – there is quite a difference between ‘heart sickness’ and ‘a tree of life’. Hope is powerful and to think about this I want us to examine 3 passages which give us 3 snapshots into the power of hope;
#1 – HIS COMPASSIONS NEVER FAIL – TURNING FROM OUR STRUGGLES TO THE LORD
21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:21-26
In Lamentations (Jeremiah’s lament), Jeremiah personifies the nation of Judah after its destruction by the Babylonian army. This was a nation who chased after idols and sinned greatly against God. They rightly felt cut off from God. The impression in the early part of the chapter is that Jeremiah felt this alienation personally. In v19-20 he says “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. He has reached the bottom of the pit, he is at his lowest point but come v21 there is a complete change of attitude and perspective, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.” Jeremiah turns from the situation at hand to the LORD. He was not cut off from God and even in their exile neither was the nation of Judah. There was of course discipline but God still loved them. How can we learn in the words of Jerry Bridges “to see our circumstances through God’s love instead of, as we are prone to do, seeing God’s love through our circumstances?”
There were so many times over the last academic year when I felt hopeless about our situation, times when I despaired but then there has been a significant moment (usually in the Sauna!) in the LORD’S presence when He has helped me to regain perspective. That is the key and I’ve seen that it will often take time in the LORD’s presence to see things from another angle. The things we go through can sometimes leave us feeling rejected, abandoned and let down by God but there is always another perspective. The things of the present, which God promises to use for good in the lives of those who love Him, will not ultimately “make sense until we see them in reverse” (Yancey). The challenge for us (without hindsight) is to trust God and walk forward with Him in faith. It won’t be easy, it won’t be painless but ultimately it will be worth it. The LORD loves me and He loves you without limit. Whether you feel it or not His compassions never fail and are new every morning. So let’s resolve to live in hope, to seek Him and wait quietly for His salvation. Hope changes everything. Hope gives us perspective!
#2 – HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT – ENOUGH STRENGTH FOR TODAY
7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
In 12:1-6 Paul refers to visions given to him by God and he says he was given a ‘thorn in the flesh’ to stop him becoming proud. We don’t really know what this was, possibly an eye disease or defective speech but in a way it doesn’t really change what we can learn from this. God doesn’t remove the thorn as Paul had asked Him to do on 3 occasions, instead He provided hope and comfort to Paul in his struggle. God helped him to change perspective and realise that even amidst this suffering (whatever it was) His grace was sufficient for Him. God helped him to see that His power was made perfect in weakness – to see that in actual fact that when he was weak he was actually strong. What has been your experience of the sufficiency of God’s grace in the challenges and trials that you have faced? There is a close relationship between our ‘temporal hope’ and grace. We need to rest in the sufficiency of God’s grace to give us hope for today. Listen to a few other Christian writers on this…
- “Our worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.” Jerry Bridges
- “The key is this: Meet today’s problems with today’s strength. Don’t start tackling tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow. You do not have tomorrow’s strength yet. You simply have enough for today.” Max Lucado
- “What gives me the most hope every day is God’s grace; knowing that his grace is going to give me the strength for whatever I face, knowing that nothing is a surprise to God.” Rick Warren
As I reflect on where we at right now I am reminded of these verses and the huge encouragement that whatever we face day by day, God’s grace is sufficient for us. I think Lucado and Warren are right that God will give us the strength to face the problems and challenges of each day.
#3 – SOARING ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES – RENEWING OUR HOPE AND STRENGTH
The final passage is from Isaiah 40 which itself marks a distinct change of style/content in the book of Isaiah. It is the start of the servant songs which prophesied much about the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Isaiah 40 contains a number of contrasting questions which help us distinguish between idols and the creator God;
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. Isaiah wants us to lift our eyes to the LORD and to what He is like. He is no mere idol He is the creator and sustainer of the Universe. There is none to whom we can compare Him and it is this same God who Isaiah writes 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31
God gives strength to the weary and God enables us to renew our strength. God allows us (metaphorically speaking) to soar on wings like eagles, to run and not grow weary and walk and not be faint. The only condition is that we be those who ‘hope in the LORD’. In the summer of 2007 after returning to Scotland for the weekend for my brothers wedding, I remember hiking up to Bolstadnosi, the big mountain behind the hostel in Skjolden, Norway. It is one of my favourite hikes and definitely the definitive Skjolden hike! After the wedding, where I had been best man, we were feeling pretty exhausted. In our absence our team had camped at Rebni farm (which is quite the story in itself) and were planning on hiking from there to the top of the mountain that day. I joined then and did the full hike with them but on the way down I was feeling exhausted and ready to give up! I found myself repeating these verses in my mind and thankfully did make it back (though I was almost crawling by the end). Focusing on God helped me renew my strength.
There is much power in hope to transform, to renew our strength and to enable us to flourish. Anxiety, worry, grief, despair and hopelessness (to name but a few) are all very tiring places to be but the place of hope is hugely energising and inspiring. How about spending some time with Jesus today renewing your hope in Him? He is worth it and the power of hope working in and through our lives can be so transformative and energising (or at least has been for me). I don’t know where you at in your own lives but I encourage you today to think on these 3 passages and the snapshots they give us into the power of hope. His compassions never fail, His grace is sufficient and He can enable you to soar on wings like eagles if you renew your hope in Him…