What Gets In The Way Of Your Hope | Advent
Monday— 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. Romans 15:13
Jimmy pressed his face against the front door glass trying to see down the street. His toy army men lay scattered across the floor and his malt melted on the counter because it was TIME. Mail time. Mr. Ye would bring him a card from Dad. Before Dad was deployed, he’d promised that he would send something every day. And he did. Dad never lied. Mr. Ye would bring it today just like he did every day. “Honey, your malt is melting,” Mom called from the kitchen. Peeking around the doorframe, she smiled. “Ah, I see. It’s mailman time, isn’t it, honey.” Jimmy nodded, but didn’t turn around. Hope held him there.
Hope is the joyful and confident expectation of something promised. It’s not a fantasy, such as a five-foot, three-hundred-pounder morphing into a ballerina or an NBA draft pick. Hope has reasons for its joyful expectation. Jimmy’s hope was based on the confidence that his dad would keep his word. Our hope is based on the same thing. Our Father keeps His word. Jesus WILL come again. God’s promises WILL be fulfilled. He is the “God of hope” because He holds the future. No matter how tough life becomes, we can abound in hope as we wait on Him. Fear and doubt try to pull us away, but hope holds us there.
Challenge: Do you have joyful and confident expectation that God will do what He promised?
Prayer: Father, my hope lags at times when I see how crazy the world is getting. My own situation threatens to destroy me, but my hope is not based on my circumstances. My hope is in you and your promises. Jesus is coming soon! In His name, amen.
Tuesday— There was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon… eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come… Luke 2:25
Age had blurred his vision, curved his back, and loosened his joints. But hope burned as brightly as ever. He’d walked with God from his earliest days and knew he’d be allowed to see the Messiah before he died. But birthdays came and went. Friends died off. His strength ebbed away. He still held on to hope, but the expectation had changed. No longer did he imagine riding with the conquering Messiah to liberate Israel. He wouldn’t serve in royal courts or defend Messiah’s kingdom. All Simeon asked now was that he could see the Promised One before he died. Touch Him. Worship Him. And God fulfilled that hope.
Often our hope begins one way but God fulfills it in a completely different way. In our twenties, we may hope for a home and lots of children. But at 40 and still single, God fulfills it with a career in foster care. Our childhood hope may be to end world hunger. God fulfills it by inspiring us to create a non-profit that feeds millions. Hope chained to human dreams often goes unfulfilled. But hope anchored to the goodness of God is never disappointed. If Simeon had insisted that God fulfill his hope in the way he’d pictured at 25, he’d have given up by the time God sent the answer. But because Simeon continued trusting God, his answer came God’s way, in God’s time, in the form of a newborn baby. With infant in his arms, his hope was fulfilled.
Challenge: True hope is not based on our dreams, but on God’s dreams for us. Only then can we live with joyful confidence.
Prayer: Father, my hopes have been dashed a dozen times but maybe that was because they weren’t your hopes for me. Help me become like Simeon, who trusted what you’d promised and waited faithfully until you fulfilled it. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— There was also a prophet, Anna… She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. Luke 2:36-38
What makes you feel hopeless? Was that last repair bill just too much? Did the relationship you thought would last forever end in betrayal? Are world events terrifying you? Hopelessness can attack anyone at any time when we feel beaten and forgotten. Life becomes too much and that’s when our Enemy attacks with claws out. Anna may have felt that way when her husband died and left her a young widow. Dreams for a future with him flew away and hope in God was all she had left. Through sixty+ years of widowhood, how did her hope stay strong? “She…worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (v 37).
Hope has been in short supply since we entered the 21st century and it dwindles with every newscast. Hopelessness is defining children as young as 5 and the world has nothing to offer but more poison. Anna’s secret to maintaining hope still works. When we stay in intimate contact with the One who holds all things in His hands, we continue to hope even when the world is drowning in hopelessness. Through worship, we’re reminded that this life is temporary. Prayer puts problems in perspective. Will this issue matter in 100 years? Fifty years? Probably not. Troubles end, but hope in God lasts for eternity.
Challenge: If hopelessness threatens to drown you, follow Anna’s solution: “worship night and day, praying and fasting.”
Prayer: Father, my connection with you dwindles when I feel hopeless. But that’s when I need to press in the most. In spite of my situation, I choose to worship night and day, follow your word, and continue to hope in you. Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? Romans 8:24
Every month or so comes another “I Died and Went to Heaven” book, movie, or interview. Christians gobble this stuff up like it was thousand-dollar caviar. It’s sensational, a little spooky, and sounds spiritual. But the popularity of it reveals a disturbing truth in modern Christendom: We’re not content with hope. We want something we can see, feel, and trust in, just like the Israelites who demanded a golden calf (Exodus 32). We crave experiences. Worship has to make us tingle. Scripture has to be about us or it doesn’t hold our attention. Hope isn’t enough. We need to see it to believe it—but here’s the problem with that.
Hope is all God has given us and He makes no apologies for it. He gave us His word, laced with reasons to hope, and expects us to measure every other claim by it. In 5000 years of Bible history, only a handful of designated prophets were allowed to glimpse heaven and their descriptions sound NOTHING like what the best-sellers describe. Yet, we toss the Bible aside in favor of the latest “I Snuggled with Jesus” account from strangers who may or may not be trustworthy. Paul goes on to say, “But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.” Hope requires a waiting period, or it’s not hope. Satan offers detours and substitutes that appeal to our flesh. He calls them “new revelations” and we don’t even blink when they’re placed alongside scripture. But if we base our future on the hope God already gave us, we’ll receive His best in His time.
Challenge: Are you substituting a human’s sensational account for the Bible’s authentic descriptions of your future hope?
Prayer: Father, have I added to your word things that were not inspired by you? I can get carried away by sensational accounts, but if they contradict what you’ve already revealed, I need to discard them. May my hope be in you alone. Amen.
Friday— Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Rejoice in hope? These words were penned by a man who needed a Get Out of Jail Free card. He’d been beaten, stoned, and left for dead on numerous occasions and if anyone could claim ministry burnout, it was Paul. Yet, he wrote to a church he’d never been to and encouraged them to rejoice in hope. What hope? His future looked grim. He would eventually get to Rome, but he’d go in chains and later lose his head. Was that his hope? Not much cause for rejoicing in a future like that.
Paul rejoiced in hope because his hope did not depend on any action of man. Our hopes, however, are usually pinned to someone else’s choices: I hope I get a raise…I hope she makes it in time for the party…. We hope you’re gonna pay for that. We give other people the power to dash our hopes. But Paul never gave anyone that power. His hope was firmly planted in the person of Jesus Christ and he’d keep going like the Energizer Bunny until Jesus said to stop. We can rejoice in hope when that’s our commitment too. When all our hope is placed on God and His promises, no one else has the power to dash it. They may hurt us, betray us, cheat us, or even kill us. But they can’t steal our hope because they didn’t give it to us. Jesus described it this way: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5).
Challenge: Upon what is your hope based? You can tell by asking yourself who has the power to take it away.
Prayer: Lord, where is my hope placed? I say it’s you, but I also allow circumstances to steal it. To whom am I giving the power to steal my hope? Please forgive me. I take it back and place it all on your promises. In Jesus’ name, amen.