For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25
You know some of us, really struggle with hope. It is easy to do in these economic times. One of the causes for this struggle with hope is the frustration that comes about when we don’t get the thing for which we hope. So, I guess hope for most folks has its limitations.
Why is that? I would offer that our hope has its limitations because of our narcissistic nature. We will hope in something as long as we know that we are going to get it which begs the question, “Is that really hope at all?”
For example, when your children ask for something and you say that it is way too expensive, somewhere deep down inside, they still think they are going to get it. Why? Because most folks pretty much get their children whatever it is that they want.
Whenever we want something, we might say we are hoping to get it, but deep down inside we know we can charge it or we expect someone to get it for us. And if we don’t get what we want? We become disillusioned and disappointed and depressed. You might make them wait, but aside from asking for a plane or something outrageous, most kids get what they want.
In all honesty, we don’t know what hope is because we either aren’t patient enough to wait and we just go get what we want for ourselves or we just get angry and write off anybody or anything that doesn’t serve us immediately. We are in essence spoiled brats.
But Paul says here, hope is the essence of salvation. It is only hope if it is unseen which means it is beyond our grasp or beyond our ability to get it for ourselves. If we only hope for things that we know we can get for ourselves or for things that we know people will get for us, it is not hope. It is impossible for us to take part in the grand redemption story that Jesus is undertaking or to properly serve our role as God’s children though unless we have a true, honest, earnest, hope and patient waiting for God.
Unfortunately, what gets in our way of having hope is our low view of God. We think He is constantly ready to destroy His children when He is actually about redeeming them. We see every difficulty in the day to day as God’s curse and forget that God desires to redeem and not destroy His children.
Spurgeon put it this way, “My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are ready to sin. He is more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus.”
Since we are so impatient and don’t want to live in hope but instead want everything we want right now, we as a consequence live without hope or without great faith in God. You can’t very well point people to the hope they should have unless you have hope. You can’t tell people that God can save a marriage unless you are willing to wait and trust that He is going to save yours. You can’t tell people about hope unless it is the thing by which you yourself live. That is why the witness of the church is often so weak…it lacks hope.
The question is, “What are you hoping for? Who or what are you trusting to bring about the thing for which you hope? Do you have stories of patience in waiting and hoping? What have you learned from those times?”
I invite your feedback and look forward to being encouraged by your response.
Recently, we designed and distributed a prayer journal at Sovereign King to enable people to grow their prayer life in both depth and frequency. We hope to launch a variation of the journal online eventually, but for now, we are just hoping people are enjoying more honest and personal prayer times in their relationship with Jesus.
The effort came about as we surveyed the landscape around us. Often, when times are most difficult, people want to pray, but they just don’t know how too. I recently found another resource that I thought was helpful. I’m a big fan of the folks at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, and they publish the fantastic “The Journal of Biblical Counseling” (a journal I used to subscribe to and need to again). In their Fall ’04 issue (vol 22, number 4), they included an article entitled, “In the Eye of the Storm: Dealing with Crisis.” It gives the following practical approach to helping folks (or yourself) when faced with crisis. They list the 3 choices that people have to make.
1. Will you see and rely on the Lord?
Or will you try to cope alone? Is your response to crisis God-centered or problem-centered? Do you see crises as a wonderful blessing that kicks away all those props that you have been leaning on in place of the Lord?
2. Will you use a heart-centered approach or a problem-centered approach?
Will you answer real questions like, “What is God doing in my life?” “How is He teaching me to trust Him?” “What sins do I need to confess?” “How can I learn to trust Christ in this area?” “What does faith and repentance look like in this area?”
- Will you let the body of Christ help?
Or will you try to handle the crisis alone? Will you approach the crisis in an isolated, individualistic way or allow the body of Christ to be the body of Christ to you?
These thoughts, of course, do not answer all the questions that people have during difficult times, but for some of us who are going through (or helping people go through) crisis, this is a good pattern to follow in seeking healthy process, petition, and praise of God.
I don’t remember where I found this quote, but it bears reprinting:
“Isolation is the garden of the devil. If you can be convinced to be inauthentic with people and be shamed into thinking that you are the only one that fails as frequently as you do, then you are on the sidelines and will be kept there until something changes. Your heart will begin to shrivel and your faith will be deeply challenged. That is why the margins (the extremes of legalism and licentiousness) are so prevalent in the church. Somewhere along the line, we bought into the world’s understanding of how we’re supposed to do life. We started keeping up appearances instead of being transformed, and in that place we were robbed of the communal faith that Jesus died to give us.”
Rick McKinley out of Portland Oregon
I offer this quote in anticipation of the upcoming Sovereign King Women’s ministry announcement. If the SK Women succeed, it will be so because they have called each other out of isolation into community before Jesus Christ. So many people are desperately lonely even in the midst of family, church, and co-workers. Yet, Christ has redeemed us and forgiven not just as individuals but redeemed us into community.
A broken and sinful community we are (sorry to sound like Yoda), but the Church is God’s own filled with His sons and daughters, full of the Spirit, and led by the Spirit. This empowering Spirit not only guides us in all truth, not only causes our hearts to cry “Abba” but this Spirit also binds us together.
We will keep up appearances instead of growing in transformation if we live sad, solitary lives. If we by the power of the Holy Spirit pursue a communal faith, we more fully express and enjoy the life and joy to which God has called us.
What to do with emotions? They seem to be annoyingly unpredictable and often unstable and not at all in touch with reality. A lot of my counseling of emotions has come down to pointing folks to who they are in Christ. For example, a person who is feeling unloved, I would point them to the love the Father has for the Son being the love that He has for us (John 17). I still think that is a correct thing to do.
However, that cannot be the sum total. For example, when Jesus wept over the death of Lazurus, it could be easy to comfort him and say, “Jesus I know you are sad but know He is in heaven or know that God loves you and comforts you.” Didn’t Jesus know this already? Of course He did. Didn’t Jesus even know what He was about to do in raising Lazurus? Of course. So that would indicate that Jesus’ emotions were justified despite knowing certain realities.
How about Jesus’ grieving over Jerusalem because they were lost? Didn’t Jesus know who would be saved who wouldn’t? Of course. Why did He weep? Because He felt pain over their sin and unrepentance despite having complete control over their destiny. Jesus’ emotions were okay even in knowing certain things.
Now we don’t see Jesus struggling with whether God love Him but we do see Him struggling with God’s will (But not my will but your’s be done). Jesus struggled with the cross even though He knew it must be done and the good it would bring.
What does this mean for us? For me and for others, I think it means we can’t just tell someone an objective truth and immediately expect their emotions to go away. Its easy to counsel in such a way as to come across as “If you knew this truth you would have this peace.” That’s dangerously gnostic. So why do we do it? Because emotions are messy and the answers to dealing with them are a lot less clear if we don’t yell truths at people.
We all need to be honest with our emotions before God to begin with. Its not like He is suprised to find out that you are angry with Him for example. And from the sermon on the mount we know that anger leads to hatred which leads to murder in one’s heart. We need to be honest with God because if we are angry with Him b/c He hasn’t given us what we want (child, husband, wife, financial security) we very well may be hating and murdering Him in our heart. That must be dealt with before we move on and grow in greater love, faith, and obedience.
If you want to further explore emotions and the Gospel, check out this link from CCEF and see if it is helpful
(This post in its original form first appeared on xanga.com/gordzilla7 on 09/06/05