(July 17, 2018) Tim Edwards shares on some scriptures he found challenging…
So what guides us through tough times? How should we focus and navigate the journey?
A couple of weeks ago in my daily Bible reading a particular verse really caught my attention – ‘Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help’ (Ezekiel 29:16).
The Israelites were having their difficult times – aware that they could not match the power of the advancing Babylonians. But they did something which ultimately they would regret – they chose to put their hope in Egypt to save the day for them.
It was false hope, misplaced hope – a hope in politics and economics, not in their God. And God didn’t want his people trusting in, hoping in, and putting their confidence in anything, anyone other than him. Nor does he want us to do likewise!
So, how am I going to move forward with God in my life in my troubled times? How are you?
By understanding the power of hope and learning to put our hope in our God; even when we don’t understand everything, or when things don’t make too much sense, we should still put our hope in God!
Don’t get distracted with ‘things’
We can be so easily distracted away from God and toward ‘things’ such as finance and property, investments, business, jobs, opportunities, study, travel, even family, friends and relationships instead.
Now these ‘things’ are good, but they are not God. They can even be great, but they are not the greatest. They are a form of human greatness, but they are well short of the greatness God has planned for us. Yes, they all play a part in our lives, but no they are not the foundation on which our lives are built, where our hope should lie.
God wants us to learn and grow, be reshaped and remoulded if necessary, refreshed – and put our trust and our hope in him!
Hope is confidence and anticipation
The dictionary definition of hope is quite simple and straightforward: ‘To expect with confidence.’
In other words, hope is the anticipation of fulfilment. And how wonderful would it be if we could all live in hope, a full and true hope in God.
But… it would be fair to say that hope is one of those things that can be difficult to find but really easy to lose. So many times we hear people who are in tough situations talk of ‘losing hope.’ Hope is a source of great life and energy when it is around but it is very noticeable by its absence or deferment.
- Proverbs 13:12 says ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.’
- Hebrews 6:19 declares that hope is ‘an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’
- 1 Corinthians 13:13 remind us that ‘And now these three remain, faith, hope and love.’
We know love is the greatest – nothing makes sense without love. But God makes a point of putting love, faith and hope together. Why? Because we need all three working together in our lives. If even one of these is missing life doesn’t work quite so well.
Hope is strength built within
In a nutshell, we should live life full of love, by faith, and in hope. And if we are going to live in hope, we need to know how to build hope as we go!
Life may well be difficult sometimes, but as we persevere in faith knowing God’s love, it builds character which builds hope!
Romans 5: 3-5 tells us about the strength hope gives us: ‘And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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.’
And this is not an empty hope based on wishes and fairy dust, this is real and strong and based on Jesus’ caring about us.
This is the pattern for us to follow – putting our hope in Jesus! As we live by faith, in hope and full of love, God hands us the glue that holds it all together – Jesus.
So what are we going to do?
Despite life’s difficulties, tough times and things happening that we just don’t understand, how are we going to keep going and how are we going to build hope? How are we going to not be like the Israelites, looking to put our hope in ‘some kind of Egypt’ rather than in God?
Let me remind you what the writer of Hebrews 10:23-25 said about our faith and hope in Jesus – and then share a few simple and very practical ways in which we can build hope in God in our lives.
‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.’
Seven keys to build our hope
1. Hold on tight (v23)
‘Hold unswervingly to the hope…’ In other words – don’t let go!
There are things in life we do need to let go of – and there are things we need to hold on to. Let go of sin, sorrow, bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, frustration, worry and control… but hold on tight to God, his love, protection, promises, faith and the hope you have in him.
Life is life… we all encounter bad times, some we don’t understand! What we do know is that in the pressures of life we do not have to go through them in our own strength, praise God. No, we simply hold on to God with determination and he will look after the rest.
Don’t hold on to the ‘stuff of life’ – but hold onto life itself in the hope that Jesus gives.
2. Profess the truth (v23)
‘The hope we profess…’ Don’t stay quiet – speak it out!
One of the most fruitful and practical things you and I can do to build hope into our own lives and into the lives of others is to speak hope.
The hope we profess is a verb – a doing word! It requires action and energy to see results – it’s not a passive thing, you have to do something about it!
3. Remember his promises (v23)
‘He who promised is faithful…’ Continually remind ourselves of God’s many promises!
We need to! And not just ourselves but each other – and God himself of his promises to us. The Bible is full of promises of life and blessing and goodness and God is faithful to his promises.
Remembering God’s promises to his people will help you to build hope into your life – and then in turn into the lives of others.
Challenge: Open your Bible and read over some of the things he has promised and then spend time with him in prayer to hear some of the new things he has in store for you! Or go to a prayer meeting, or make an extra effort to focus during worship in a service – all of these moments put you in a position to recall and remember the wonderful promises of God in your life.
4. Encourage one another (v24)
‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on…’ Encouragement builds hope!
Reality: We all like to be – and need to be – encouraged. It helps us to grow and to keep going, ever moving forward. ‘Encouragement’ literally means to give courage to someone. So help someone out and fill them with the courage they need – spur them on to keep going despite how things may look or feel.
This is what 2 Corinthians 1:4NLT encourages us to do: ‘He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.’
5. Do good deeds (v24)
‘…toward love and good deeds.’ So, let’s do them… willingly!
Never stop doing good deeds – things that help others. Small or large, they will make a difference and done with the right heart they clearly demonstrate the heart and love of God.
Our salvation is not earned through doing good works, but, doing good in God’s name is nonetheless a vital component of Christian living – God is very interested in what you did with all the time and energy and ability and capacity he gave you to use while you were here on Earth.
6. Connect with others (v25)
‘Let us not give up the habit of meeting together…’ This is vital!
Yes, in context the writer to Hebrews is reminding Christians not to stop gathering as a church as some of them had started to do, but lets’ think about that.
It isn’t just talking about coming along on a Sunday to a church service. We gather as ‘church’ on many more occasions throughout the week than just on Sunday! Wherever God’s people are – that’s church because you are the church, the body of Christ.
So, don’t stop having meals together as a family or as a group of friends and don’t stop catching up for coffee and chats during the week – that’s church in the community and it builds hope in people.
7. Watch closely (v25)
‘See the day approaching.’ Stay on your toes!
This last bit is about staying accountable, watching, looking… aware that God is going to come back one day to collect us… all of his people, his church, his family. We need to be ready.
Staying on your toes reminds you that there is…
- A reason for life
- A purpose in all that we do
- And therefore you ‘see’ again the hope we have in Christ.
These are simple and practical guidelines from scripture – but as you embrace them you build a little more of that hope into your life, one step at a time.
In great times and in tough times it is our hope in God that gets us through! Let’s live every day in hope.