Hope isn’t natural. It’s a decision
This month we’ve focused on our hope in God. We long for hope here and know we have a hope in heaven. Abiding in hope can be difficult, though. Like faith and love, our hope can be tested and exhausted by everyday life.
Here are some hope killers we need to avoid:
Romans 5:5 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. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
Shame is opposed to hope. Shame is natural. Hope isn’t. God’s salvation through Jesus saves us from the penalty of sin, but also the shame sin fosters. If you are dealing with shame I’d simply ask,
“Is this shame over something you’ve already repented of and asked God’s forgiveness for?”
If so, take comfort, God has forgiven you and you aren’t what you’ve done. If it’s shame over sin you’re currently committing, God is convicting your heart to bring you to repentance. That’s more conviction than shame. Conviction is good as long as it leads us to repentance. Shame and guilt don’t lead to repentance. They only lead us away from hope, forgiveness and peace.
Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
When we focus on material possessions, it’s easy to get discouraged. The wild truth is even those with much tend to want even more. If our hearts are set on wealth, power, and the like our hearts will never be satisfied. Materialism can rob us of the hope God longs for us to abide in.
Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
We all have regrets. There are days and conversations we wish we could change. Living a life focused on the failures of the past can rob us of our hope in the future. Throughout the NT we are encouraged to focus on hope and let go of the past. Paul had much to regret: persecution, unbelief, wasted years, etc. Yet he focused on all that lay ahead.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I’m a worry wart. I’ve always been a big dreamer as well as a big worrier. I have huge aspirations for the future coupled with massive fears of what could go wrong. The recipients of Jeremiah 29:11 were facing dangerous and difficult days, yet God encouraged them not to lose hope. Philippians 4:6,7 puts it simply: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When we abide in constant worry it’s difficult to have hope. Worry can strangle hope with a million little questions and fears. There is a time to plan. Then there’s a time to pray and trust God with our plans.
Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Here’s the best news: our hope isn’t dependent upon our skill, our goodness or merits. Our hope is based on God and his mercy, justice, grace and holiness.
Here’s the worst news: we tend to place our hope in everything but God.
Paul put it this way in 1 Timothy 6:17: Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
The psalmist wrote in Psalm 147:11: the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
It’s easy to be hopeful when my career, relationships, health, and heart are satisfied. When things aren’t going so well, hope is more difficult. Hope must be a decision I make daily. I will hope in God and his promises, not my feelings or accomplishments (they change so easily). So let me ask you bluntly:
What are you placing your hope in today?