Friday, July 29, 2011

Hope – An Anchor for the Soul

photo by Selaphotography
 We were shocked when we heard the news. A friend of ours - a man Kelly has known for years - was arrested for burglary, armed robbery, and credit card fraud. We knew he was struggling with depression and financial difficulties, but never guessed it would result in this. How does a kind, intelligent, talented, church-going guy end up committing crimes like this? The only answer we could come up with was that somewhere along the way he lost hope and took things into his own hands.

Hope can be elusive in the world we live in. There is so much heartache and suffering everywhere you look. Financial stress, lost love, physical suffering – so many things can lead us to despair. Not everyone commits a major crime, but many suffer a life of quiet desperation. And you can’t always tell from outward appearances.

Years ago, Kelly had an employee who was energetic, friendly, dependable, and upbeat. One afternoon that man went next door to their jobsite and stabbed and bludgeoned a woman to death. Then he set the place on fire. No one saw it coming.

How can we fight against this despair that sucks people dry and encourage them to look to the God of hope? How can we encourage ourselves to keep hoping when it looks like there’s no way out of our current situation?

I was amazed to find the word “hope” is used 180 times in the Bible (NIV). I’ve been reading every one and it has been one of the most encouraging word studies I’ve ever done. Hope is much more than wishful thinking, like reciting “Star light, star bright” on the first twinkle in the night sky. Hope is a tangible expression of a deep abiding faith in a faithful God. God’s love, provision, and eternal purposes are verified throughout history, in scripture, and in my own personal experience. But how do we glean this hope and apply it to our own hearts?

Where Hope Is
Interestingly enough, the two books of the Bible that talk the most about hope are Job and Psalms, by the two guys who suffered the most. Job was a believer who lost all his crops, herds, and children in one day. When that didn’t take him down, Satan asked God if he could attack his body as well, to see if he would lose his faith. Satan was sure if things got tough enough Job would curse God. Job ranted and raved; he questioned God, and begged to die, but stopped short of despair. He talked a lot about hope though, and his hope was still in God!

Most of the one hundred and fifty Psalms were written by David. He was anointed king while still a sheepherding teenager, and ended up running for his life from the angry and jealous King Saul. Later, David’s children caused him much heartache. His friends, and even his wife turned their backs on him. And yet, he not only chose to hope in God, but encouraged others to do the same.

Fifty-three of the references to hope are found in the New Testament, in letters written by guys like Peter and Paul. They were beaten, chased, mocked, imprisoned, and stoned for their hope in Jesus. But they didn’t let their hardships in this life drown their excitement about telling others the Good News about heaven, since they were absolutely sure it was true. Maybe that’s the key, being absolutely sure of what we believe.

Some of my favorite verses (it's so hard to keep the list short!) are:

Job 19:25-27: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Psalm 62:5: Find rest in God; my hope comes from him.

Psalm 119:11: You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

Psalm 130:5: I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.

Proverbs 23:18: There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Ecclesiastes 9:4: Anyone who is among the living has hope.

Isaiah 40:31: But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

Isaiah 49:23: “I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

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.”

Romans 5:5: And hope does not put us to shame.

Romans 15:4: Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 13:7: Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

2 Corinthians 3:12: Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

Colossians 1:23: Continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

1 Thessalonians 2:19: For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?

1 Timothy 4:10: That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God.

Titus 2:13: We wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:18: We who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.

Hebrews 6:19: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Hebrews 10:23: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Where Hope Is Not
The Bible says that if we hope in people they will let us down. We see this verified in our world every day and I’ve experienced it in my own life. Nothing dependant on man is solid. Sadly, not even the ones we trust the most can always be counted on to stay true. We are fragile beings, swayed by our own needs, desires, and insecurities. Wealth, power, and human reasoning can look reliable and convincing too, but disappear in a puff of smoke. Our hope will disappoint us if we trust in them.

Proverbs 11:7: Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

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.

Infusing Others With Hope
Sharing our hope with others is somewhat nebulous. You can’t feed someone a hope sandwich, implant a hope chip in their brain, or even legalize hope by mandate of law. Hope is contagious though. Once we catch it ourselves, we can infect others.

Believers since the beginning have left an example for us to follow. Those who radiated God’s joy kept the message alive. They passed out hope like bread in everything they said and did. Some people accepted this hope and were nourished by it. Others declined, preferring a diet of instant junk food. The same thing happens today since God’s hope is more about eternity and less about comfort for the here and now. Not everyone is willing to hope in what they can’t see.

If we want to be hope carriers, and I do, the Word urges us to:

Love it – love God’s ways, His Word, and most of all, Him. Our biggest hope is to not only walk with Him here every day, but to be with Him in person in heaven, forever.

Live it – Our lives should look hopeful. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” How often do people ask?

Share it –This doesn’t mean we have to be trained ministers or street preachers. But we should know why we love Jesus and why we have hope when things are rough.

My hope is that this has encouraged you not to despair, no matter how hard things get, and to share that hope with others. We all need hope! May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).


Monday, July 18, 2011

New Book: Our Stories, God's Glory

Our Stories, God's Glory: Personal Stories of God's Touch is now available from Seed Faith Books! This is a wonderful compilation of stories from numerous authors about the many ways God has provided, comforted, awakened, answered their cry and so much more. (Yes, I have a story in there!)

The section headings are:
* Promises Fulfilled
* God's Love and Care
* Heaven's 911 Intervention
* Angels on Assignment
* Rough Waters and Dark Valleys
* Little Hugs from God
* God's Provision
* Sending Out Ripples
* Precious Good-byes
* Journey of Faith

Kelly and I have already been refreshed and encouraged by the stories we're reading of God's amazing love as we pour over this book.

This book is perfect for people who are hurting in these times of difficulty or who are just beginning to seek the Lord. Seed Faith founders, David and Helen Haidle, work hard to provide quality materials that can be given away in shelters, prisons, on the mission field, or anywhere people are sharing the Good News. You can order copies for $14.99 for yourself or others who need an encouraging word at: