Where is My Hope

Do you ever have those times in your life where it seems like the dam has broken in your life and it keeps flooding you with things and it never seems to stop?  Where you wonder if there will ever be an end to troubles that seem to constantly come our way?  Maybe you are feeling that now or sooner or later it will come your way because of the messed up world we live in.

Many times the troubles are not anything that we have caused, but just seem to find us.  We look at our life at we seem to be trying our best to do everything we are supposed to.  We work hard, we read our Bible faithfully, we attend church and serve faithfully where needed.  Why do these things keep coming our way even though we are as faithful as we can be?

Well, many times in life, God waits while a situation goes from bad to worse so that you and I say, “There is no way now for this ever to work out.”  But that is the point when the omnipotent God intervenes in our hopelessness and says, “Oh, really?  Watch this…!

Hope is one of the most powerful things that you will ever have access to. Hope allows you to stop focusing on your present troubles and believe for a better tomorrow. Hope allows you to continue believing that God has something better for you than the things that you’re dealing with in the moment. However, hope is often easily snatched away, overshadowed by the adversity, hardships, trials, and tribulations that are a natural part of daily life. In those moments, it’s up to you to find hope, even in hopeless situations.

Life is often a painful, confusing, tiresome experience. Even when things are going relatively well, we can still usually point to a few areas of our lives that just aren’t where we want them to be. It’s not uncommon to evaluate where you are at in relation to these hardships and start asking questions. Why do I have to deal with suffering? Why do I constantly battle against depression and anxiety? Why do I have to wake up every morning, put on a fake smile, and muddle through life while I’m trying to find hope?

In those moments, it’s your responsibility to find hope. Yes, God will put hope in front of you, but during seasons of intense hopelessness, it’s up to us to find hope. That’s not to say that God somehow dangles hope in front of us, putting it behind hardships, and expecting us to dig it out. Instead, it means that there are times that we have to go against our own human nature and find hope.

In Psalm 34:17-20 it reminds us that…

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

One of the most powerful things about hope is that it serves as a sort of binder. When everything in your life feels like it is falling apart, and going in a million different directions, hope wraps us up like a warm hug from a loved one, and helps hold us together.

However, hope can only do that if we look to the true Source of hope. What do you look for when you need something to hold you together? Many people look to their own personal success and the things that they’ve acquired. Sadly, those sources are temporary. Some people look to relationships with others to hold them together. While it’s important to have a trusted support system, people are prone to let us down. When that happens, we’re left in a state of disarray. Instead, we need to look to Christ as the true source of our hope.

Allow God to hold you together in moments of hopelessness. When you find yourself completely wrapped up in His provision and goodness, hope is a natural byproduct.



Trust the Process

Have you ever had trouble trusting God through a process?  You know, when you think things should go in a certain direction, or a certain way and they don’t.  When you have been praying for direction, but it seems that the direction you are getting does not make sense.  Well, there is a story in the Old Testament about Naaman who went through something similar in his own life. 

In 2 Kings chapter 5 tells of a story of Naaman who was a commander of the army of the king of Syria.  He was a known as a “mighty man of valor,” but he was a leper, who wanted to be healed.  But, through the words of an Israelite servant that was in the service of his wife, Naaman heard about the prophet Elisha and was told that Elisha would cleanse his leprosy.

So Naaman got a letter from his king as well as his blessing and he sets off for Israel to seek healing. The letter does not reveal that Naaman is looking for Elisha, it just states that he is seeking to be clean.  Naaman arrives in Israel and hands the king the letter. The king of Israel is greatly distressed, tearing his own clothes he says,

2 Kings 5:7

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

Fortunately for the king, Elisha catches word of what has happened. Elisha instructs the king to send Naaman to the prophets house. Now, Naaman expects to be healed by Elisha himself.
 
Imagine yourself in this situation. You’ve had a crippling disease for your entire life. You’ve finally arrived at the place where you know you can find healing! All you need is for the prophet to come speak it over you.  Your excitement builds as you anxiously await the prophets arrival.  There’s noise on the other side of Elisha’s door. Your moment to meet the man of God has come! Good health is about to be yours.  And what happens next? The prophet is a no-show! The person standing before you is the messenger of Elisha. He does not bring word that the prophet will be arriving soon. No, he brings instructions.
 

2  Kings 5:10

Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

 So Namaan became angry! The Jordan is a dirty river; the waters of his own home are much cleaner than it. If all Naaman wanted was to be clean, he could have just as easily stayed home and bathed. In a rage, Naaman starts to turn away, unwilling to heed the words of the messenger. Fortunately, Naaman’s servants spoke boldly to their master. They encouraged him to follow the messenger’s instructions, and so he did.

2 Kings 5:13-14

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

 Naaman had certain expectations of how this story was going to begin, continue, and end.  He probably thought that it would be pretty simple: head to Israel, see the prophet, get healed, return to Syria in time for dinner.  But God’s process was quite different. Instead of sending Naaman to the prophet, God sends him to the king, who sends him to Elisha, who sends the messenger in his place, who sends instructions.  And even then, the instructions were not what Naaman expected.

 But look at how the story still ends: with Naaman being healed. I would suppose that Naaman would have died a leper had he not been obedient to wash himself in the Jordan.  God’s purpose was brought about by God’s process. Oftentimes, God’s process looks much differently than we expect.  So, wherever you are at today in the process, trust God.  It may not look like the right direction to you, but God in His own way will get you to where He wants you to be.  Trust the process. 



It’s Not Where You are that Matters

In my reading last week I came upon an article about the value of a bottle of water.  The author compared how much a bottle of water was worth based on where it was located.  In a grocery store the bottle of water would cost about one dollar.  In a convenience store the same bottle of water could cost three dollars.  At a ballgame it could cost five dollars.  And at an airport it could cost seven dollars for the same exact bottle of water that was only a dollar at the grocery store.  The value of the water had nothing to do with the water itself but where it was located.

I got thinking about this and how it pertains to us and how God loves us no matter who we are, what we have done and where we are at…He still loves us and cares for us.  The value that God places on you has nothing to do with where you are at.  You could be far from God today caught up in things you know you should not be doing.  You could be doubting God because you have been praying for something and have not receive an answer from Him.  You could be someone who has never really given your life to God.  It does not matter to God because He still loves you and wants so much to care for you.  In Ephesians 2:4-9 it reminds us…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, …

Where are you at in your own life today?  Are you feeling lost or discouraged?  Please know that God wants to get you out of that place you are at right now and bring you to Him, but the choice is yours.  His grace, mercy and forgiveness are available to us wherever we are at.  All we have to do is to call on Him and have faith.

How would it feel to always be encouraged just when you need encouragement?  How would it feel to be given wisdom and strength to make the right decisions in your life?  How would it feel to have someone know exactly how you feel right now, and will walk with you and help you in any situation?  How would it feel to be loved when sometimes we don’t?  This is what Jesus can do because of his love for you.  Will you choose Jesus today, because He has already chosen you. 



God can make something beautiful out of any adversity that comes your way

I was thinking about how adversities in our life are more common than ever.  It seems like around every corner something comes up in our lives that seem to take us off the path we want to go.  It could be a phone call, a letter, an email, accident, something to do with a family member or an answer to a health test that was not good.  Whatever it is it disrupts your whole life.  How do you react to these adversities?  How do you respond?

I think for most of us we initially think the worst.  We become anxious and begin to place all of our focus on what it wrong.  Does this sound like you?  We begin asking questions like, “Who’s to blame?” are “How did this happen?”  And pretty soon we fall into the trap of how can I ever be happy again? And nothing good can come from this, which moves us to, what is the point in continuing.  These are some of our natural reactions when these adversities come our way.  Our first reaction is to focus on what went wrong.  Even the disciples of Jesus reacted the same way.  In John 9:1-3 it tells of a time this happened…

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

 As you can see, the disciples first reaction was to focus on what is wrong when they asked Jesus, “who sinned, this man or his parents.” The disciples were so eager to find out why this happened they forgot they were standing right in front of the man who was blind.  How awkward that must have been for the blind man to hear them talking about him.  Doesn’t this sound like something we might say?  But Jesus knowing the disciples were focused on the wrong thing said, “neither this man or his parents sinned.” And then followed it up with the key to understanding how God can make something beautiful of any adversity when he says, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

 If you read the rest of the story you know that Jesus heals the man, but this is not what the story is about.  It is about God being displayed in you through any circumstance.  You see, God sometimes doesn’t change your circumstance, but wants to be seen in it.  This is the key that unlocks the beauty that is found in this passage.  When you begin to focus on what is going wrong in your life and not what God is doing right we lose sight of this beauty at work.  What I’ve learned is that my idea of making something right, might not be God’s idea of making something right. 

Imagine for a moment in the middle of your adversity you begin to look and see what God is doing in your circumstance.  It may be just holding onto your faith, and trusting God through the situation and this is being seen by people around you that you may not have noticed.  Maybe it is a chance to share your struggles, but at the same time share how God is giving you strength, that things might not look so good, but you are trusting God through your ordeal. 
 
I also know that this is not easy, but I also know it is possible.  No matter how dark it seems, no matter how far God feels, no matter how hopeless it looks, you can make it through this. Because Jesus went through this before you and He gave his life so that His power and strength will rest upon you, and I believe if you start focusing on the right things you can see God on display in your circumstances.
 
What would happen if the people around you saw the hope of Jesus on display in the midst of your seemingly insurmountable circumstance?  What if God is giving you a story to tell and an audience to tell it to? This is where the beauty of Christ can rise up out of your circumstance and not only make an impact on the one’s around you, but give you a deep joy you may have never experienced, a hope that shines like the sun each day, and a purpose that keeps you going.  Will you begin to focus on Jesus, and begin to look at the beauty He is creating around you?  Trust God to make something beautiful out of your life. 

 

 

 

 



Contentment

Contentment.  What are some of your first thoughts when you hear that word, contentment?  Contentment means:  a state of happiness and satisfaction.  I think this is something that we all pursue all throughout our live is to be content, to be happy, and to live a life of being satisfied.  I believe it is ingrained in all of us to pursue contentment, but what is that really makes us content?

Many of us believe that growing wealth will make us content. While others believe it gaining more material things such as bigger tv’s, cars, boats, etc.  The world tells us that the one with the most toys wins.  But what happens when we pursue contentment in these ways?  It seems like a race that never ends because you cannot gather enough money or material ideas to keep you content.  Once you get a bigger tv, you want a bigger one.  Once you get more money, you want more?  Does that seem like a life of contentment? 

One thing that I have been thinking about recently is this idea of contentment and how it relates to the different circumstances in my life.  You know what I mean.  When something comes up that changes the plans that I’ve made how do I stay content?  When everyone else seems to be thriving and I am not, how do I stay content?  Because when content begins to disappear, discontent rises up in your life.

I think we can find contentment if we look for it in the right places.  Even in those circumstances that arise in your life that could take you off track you can continue to be content and satisfied.  We are all aware of the Apostle Paul and all he went through once he became a Christian.  If you know his story, once he became probably the most famous evangelist for Jesus all these different circumstances started to come upon him.  He was shipwrecked, thrown in jail, beaten and then was afflicted with some kind of physical thing that began to drive him a little crazy.  But through all these different circumstance he found the secret to being content.  In Philippians 4:10-13 it tells us

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Wouldn’t you like to learn that? Not, “I’m happy about my circumstances.” Not, “I wouldn’t change ‘em if I could.”  But to be content in this way means I’ve learned to be self-sufficient in the sense of being able to resist the force/pressure/temptation brought on by circumstances. Something inside will dictate my response to what’s going on outside.

Before we talk about the secret I want you to think about what hung in balance of Paul’s willingness to endure hardship a divinely appointed hardship:  the church.  His response to adversity gave him and his message credibility. It was from that vantage point that he impacted the world.

You have no idea what or who hangs in the balance of your response to your circumstances that occur in your life.  You know, when there is nothing you can do about the circumstance. 

Then Paul gives us the secret, the how, the most famous quoted passage in the Bible, I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  It is as if he was given the keys that unlocked contentment no matter what was going on around him.  He tells us has the power, the personal resources required, to endure and press on anyway, through prison, abandonment and fear.  But the power and strength was given to him by Christ who empowers us and who gives us the strength to endure.

This is not a picture of a cheerleader showing a banner of this verse to a crowd and cheering.  But it is a picture of Paul realizing that he could not endure these circumstances that arose in his life but through the strength Christ had available to him he could.  It was like he was saying, “I can’t, I’ve reached the ends of my reserves, but He can.”  Christ didn’t opt out of the tension, but went to the cross on my behalf. He can through me. I learned to rely on his strength in me.

Maybe this might be the secret that leads to contentment for you.  To begin to say, “I can’t, but Jesus can.”  “I can’t, but He can.”  The secret is Christ living in you, and empowering you.