For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
A very familiar statement – that God intends good for you and me. Perhaps you don’t doubt this; perhaps you do. Maybe you wonder if the apparent lack of “a future and a hope” is your own fault. Maybe you don’t believe you “search for God with all your heart.” Maybe you believe this is why your circumstances seem so bad. Maybe. Maybe not.
Perhaps you are one who sees God’s hand in everything that happens to you. You look around and see that your life is good; that you do indeed have “a future and a hope.” Maybe. Maybe not.
The author of Hebrews pulls out the heroes of the past to illustrate God’s hand in everything. The author writes:
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Then shows how men and women of faith move through seemingly impossible situations with hope. The hope is a country not of this world, but of the next. The present is not the prize, but the future.
The author of your hope – if you are a Christian – is God. He fills you with joy and peace “in your believing.” He desires for you to “hope in abundance.” You must recognize your hope comes “through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Perhaps you try to generate this joy and peace and hope through sheer will-power. Stop trying so hard. Jesus says, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He says, “I have come that you may have life, and that abundantly.” He promises, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again. If it were not so, I would have told you.”
Therefore, Paul prays:
May God, the author of our hope, fill you with all joy and peace in your believing; so that you may have hope in abundance, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I wish I could say that people come up to me and ask me the reason for my “faith and hope.” I can’t. I can tell you people often comment on how happy I am – they do this because at work in the hospital as I walk between seeing patients, I sing or hum. People, as they pass, comment, “My you’re happy this morning.” And my response, most often, is: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was singing out loud” or “I am happy, thanks.” Sometimes, if I’m not bubbling with true joy, I respond, “Might as well be happy.” I say this because for me happiness is a choice. I do choose to be happy. Life is too hard and too short not to make the very best of it. I admit I’d get a real kick if someone would actually stop and ask me why I am happy, why I have faith and hope as if that someone could see that in my demeanor. I know exactly what I’d say.
But hallow ye the Lord Christ in your hearts, and evermore be ye ready to [do] satisfaction to each man asking you reason of that faith and hope that is in you, but with mildness and dread,
Living in fear is horrible. Living in dread of someone, of his or her power over you, is awful. Fear and dread of another person cripples you and ultimately leads to a fall. And perhaps it isn’t even the other person’s fault. Maybe it’s just you’re focused on the wrong being – your focus is on a person rather than on the Lord.
On the other hand, hope lifts your spirit. Faith in the goodness and power of God, who loves you, strengthens you and leads to a rise.
“He that dreadeth a man, shall fall soon; he that hopeth in the Lord, shall be raised [up]. (He who feareth someone, shall soon fall; but he who hopeth in the Lord, shall be raised up.)”
Fear is impossible to overcome without faith. Ask God to overcome your doubts. He will.
“Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.”
Paul doesn’t say “rejoice in affliction.” He doesn’t expect himself or others to revel in misery. Rather he calls us to “rejoice in hope,” in the hope of our salvation primarily but even in our walk with God. He says to us, ‘yes, you have pain here’ but you must be patient as you tread through it, and “be persistent in prayer.”
Prayer is one expression of hope. As we pray, we anticipate a positive answer — and even if the answer is negative, we long for God’s listening ear and the quieting of His voice: “Be still, and know that I Am God.”
If we turn to the left, He whispers. If we turn to the right, He may shout. At least we know He is always with us, “even to the ends of the earth.”
Through His Holy Spirit, God “gives endurance and encouragement.” (Romans 15:5) “The God of hope fills [us] with all joy and peace as [we] trust in Him.” (Romans 15:13) “[We] overflow with hope.” (Romans 15:13) “To the [people] who do not work but trust God who justifies the wicked, [our] faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5) “Therefore, [we] glory in Christ Jesus in [our] service to God. [We] do not venture to speak of anything except what Christ accomplishes through [us] in leading [others] to obey God by what [we] say and do — through the power of the Spirit.” (Romans 15:17-19)
Notice we begin with God and end with Him as well — His Holy Spirit encourages us and enables us to endure; giving us hope, joy and peace. We find our glory in Jesus Christ and our power through His Holy Spirit. “Since we are now justified by His blood, how much more are we saved from God’s wrath through Him!” (Romans 5:9)
So, continue to trust God. Through trust in Him, we overflow with hope.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, take courage, and wait for the Lord.”
I can’t think of more comforting and yet challenging words than these. We are reminded that God acts; He is not idle. But the call to wait for the Lord, to be strong and take courage also implies that something difficult, even painful has entered our lives. We are staggering; we are fainting from woe. We can barely eat; we do not know the comfort of sleep. We each cry out, “I am wearied with groaning; all night long my pillow is wet with tears, I soak my bed with weeping. Grief dims my eyes; they are worn out with all my woes.” (Psalm 6: 6-7)
The comfort is that “though [our] fathers and [our] mothers forsake [us], the Lord takes [us] into His care.” (Psalm 27:10) In the Lord, “[we] find refuge.” (Psalm 7: 1) Yet, often we are left feeling abandoned, crying out: “When my prayer comes back unanswered, I walk with head bowed in grief as if for a brother; as one in sorrow for his mother I lay prostrate in mourning… O Lord, how long wilt Thou look on at those who hate me for no reason?” (Psalm 35: 13-14, 17)
We must remain “joyful in hope, patient in affliction” writes Paul. (Romans 12:12, NIV) This joyful hope as we wrestle with pain and a feeling of unanswered prayer is the essence of our faith, our belief in the essential goodness of our God. Without this faith, we are unable to “be strong” or to “take courage.” Without this faith in God’s perfection, we do not “wait for the Lord.”
Know that God is good, that He loves us beyond measure, beyond comprehension. Like the psalmist, we each must say: “But for my part I trust in Thy true love. My heart rejoices, for Thou hast set me free. I sing to the Lord, who grants all my desire.” (Psalm 13:5-6)