Monthly Archives: December 2019

Growing in God:  Growing in Hope part 1

Pastel drawing by Natalie, missionary to Sudanese

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last broadcast, we learned how important love is as the foundation of our lives – especially the agape love of God.  When we grow in love as his sons and daughters, we grow well.  We also learned of love languages and I challenged you to not only find out your own ways to best receive love, but also those of your spouse and friends.  In outreach, it goes further than that.  Can you imagine the inroads we would make in reaching out to those who hate us through their love language?   I also personalized the biblical love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.  When you stop and think about all the wonderful qualities of love – being patient, kind, not irritable, persistent and long-suffering, it appears even more real when we put our own names in love’s place.  How do we achieve those high goals?  We can’t.  Love’s goals are only possible with God’s love flowing from us.  That’s where the living water of the Holy Spirit comes in. He’s the one that gives us the compassion we need – for ourselves and others.

Near the end of 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul says that three things will last forever – faith, hope and love…”  Today I’ve been led to seek out hope. Hope to me is like a life preserver as you float on a sea of hard times.  Real hope is powerful, it’s not wishy-washy at all.  “Hope” is commonly used to mean ‘wish.’ In this context, its strength is the strength of the person’s desire.  But as shown in the Bible, hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised, and believing that he is faithful.  It ties in with trust.  Trust and hope are absolutely essential in progressing towards faith, which goes further in expectation.  Hope is future-based. Hope gives someone who is struggling in the midst of problems a positively-based goal that there will be an end to the problems and a better life ahead.  Pete Seeger wrote a folk ballad about this type of hope, and his song became a banner for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  Read the words and hear their cry for hope:

We shall overcome, We shall overcome, We shall overcome, some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe,   We shall overcome, some day

We’ll walk hand in hand, We’ll walk hand in hand, We’ll walk hand in hand,
some day

We shall live in peace, We shall live in peace, We shall live in peace, some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, We shall overcome, some day.

We are not afraid, We are not afraid,  We are not afraid,   today
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, We shall overcome, some day.

These simple words, coupled with Martin Luther King’s speech of having a dream that showed racial equality, gave hope that difficulties do not last forever.  We will win the day.  God is in charge. There is no timeline of when the object of hope will intervene.  But there is an inner assurance that it will happen. How?  Partly, change can happen with community action, individuals being agents for change, and most importantly, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  How else should one live when in despair? God loves us and does not want us to stay in that state.  Our God is a God of hope.  Biblical hope not only desires something good for the future, it EXPECTS it to happen.

Hope is mentioned in the Bible 190 times. Some of these scriptures show human hope, such as positive desires for the future. Others show hope as a future goal. And many show God as their hope, in the form of the resurrection of the dead; as well as making things right in healing, and restoration.    Hope is given in the context of not dashing hopes: hope for a better future, hope giving courage, hope as promise, and hope as deep trust, as we depend on God. That kind of hope is like an anchor in stormy seas.  Hebrews 6:19 shares that hope in God in Christ is “a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.  It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”  This refers to Hope as essential for intimacy with God.

John Piper says that he loves the way that the psalmists wrestle, fight, and struggle to maintain their hope in God.  Often the unknown timeline puts a question mark in the minds of those seeking a way out, of their struggle. We want to say, “When, Lord? When?  Psalm 119:81 shares this anguish, when the Psalmist says,  “I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word.”   But relax, there is nothing wrong with you feeling this way.  You haven’t failed, and God’s faithfulness is not at risk.  Our understanding of God’s time isn’t accurate. John Piper notes that this is a normal Christian experience.  We need to realize this is normal, or “else we may grow sluggish and negligent in our fight for hope.  And that is very dangerous.” Hope is like a reservoir of emotional strength.   May the Holy Spirit fill us with a deep reservoir of hope to sustain us as we look to him.   May we not run empty.  If we persevere in trusting the Lord, our hope will not disappoint us.

Biblical hope is not a mere desire for something good to happen. It is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. Biblical hope has moral certainty in it. When the Psalms say, “Hope in God!” it does not mean, “Cross your fingers.” It means, to use the words of William Carey, “to expect great things from God.”  William Carey was the father of modern missions, who endured much suffering as a pioneer in India.  Yet, when he turned to translating Indian languages, for both the Bible and Indian literature, his hope in reaching people was realized.  But Carey was right, biblical hope does include expectation in God – his character, his goodness, and his faithfulness to his promises.  After all, God has been called the Hope of Israel and the Hope of the Nations.  The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 12:21,  shares that Jesus’ “name will be the hope of all the world.” We are given a promise in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  That hope includes restoration, healing and more.

I’ve been given prophetic promises for my healing, and yet, I’ve had a difficult summer full of skin diseases and viruses. However, in the midst of it, I’ve been encouraged with hope.  Our friend Riana leads the Sunday School at our church in Worcester.  She called to encourage me with the new Bethel song, “I raise a Hallelujah,” which is a song about a concert of prayer in the midst of a small child’s illness.  This child was at death’s door, and the worship leader felt hope and a determination rise in his heart, where he said NO to that child’s death.  That prayer was answered, and through this song of hope, many have been encouraged.  It’s already a well-loved song in many places across the world, including Avian Park.  The Bethel song video went viral on social media.  It gave people hope.  It reminded them that our God is a God of hope.  It reminded me in the midst of a painful rash of boils and carbuncles, that God was still in control, and that He would navigate me out of the suffering.  The hope was like a lasso to encircle me and pull me out of despair. In the North American west, and the Argentinean pampas, there are cowboys who help raise cattle.  Some cattle are lassoed to safety if they get out of step.  That is what God’s hope did with me. Another way of understanding this hope, is to imagine a swimming pool lifeguard throwing out a life preserver ring to a drowning person.  That ring is connected to the lifeguard by a floating rope.  There is help when you grab on to that ring, so you don’t sink in the water.

Job 5:15-16 share this hope. “He rescues the poor from the cutting words of the strong, and rescues them from the clutches of the powerful.  And so at last, the poor have hope, and the snapping jaws of the wicked are shut.  Psalm 10:17 shares, Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. “

Hope is a constant theme in the Psalms.  It’s one of the goals of restorying your situation for the better.  David often reminded himself to not continue in grief and depression, but to look up to God, to trust him and have hope in his faithfulness.

Psalm 42:11 shares David’s heart.  “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! He also asked God for his guidance and direction in Psalm 25:5. “Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Also, listen to Psalm 33:20, “We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield.”  Hope points outside yourself towards the one who can help.

Currently, there is an obsession with superheroes – either the kind that arise from comics or those that arise from science fiction.  In these stories, Batman, Spiderman, the Flash, and Arrow all battle those who oppress the innocent.  In the case of my favourite science fiction show, Doctor Who, it is the same. The Doctor intervenes and saves earth and other planets from the monsters yet again.  One episode in season four of the new Who, has companion Martha speak to people all over the world about the Doctor. The people had been oppressed by evil Time Lord, the Master, who turned the earth into a slave state.  Martha was to instill hope in each person, so that they would think, and in a sense, pray for the Doctor’s intervention.

The Doctor was imprisoned in a cage for a year. But during that time, he patched himself into a world-wide satellite system that suppressed the thoughts, dreams and prayers of the entire population.  The Master had used this system to superimpose control over the people, as well as instilling fear from random killing.  Yet those satellites, under the Doctor’s control, could be reversed.  Instead, the people could think for themselves for one specific moment.  They all called out for the Doctor in their thoughts, and hoped for his intervention. Martha was captured on a false errand, and she was questioned by the Master in the Doctor’s company.  When she told him the real weapon she had to defeat the Master, he replied with contempt, “Is that your weapon, prayer?”  She said, “If everyone across right across the world, at one specific time thinks one word, one thought, one moment, but with fifteen satellites … and that word is, Doctor.”  Whovians know what happens next – the Doctor recovers, is released, and saves the day.  This episode is one of the strongest examples of the power of hope in that show.  If this hope is powerful, how much more would real hope be in a real and living God?  Psalm 65 verse 5 shares, “You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. Psalm 125:15 reminds us, “The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it.”  And so, Psalm 78:7 encourages us to pass on our hope to the next generation. “So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.”

Hope is still future-oriented, in difficult times.  So we must renew our hope, as we renew our minds. This requires active perseverance, despite moments of heartsickness, like Proverbs 13:12 which says,  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Psalm 143:4 shows panic in the moment by sharing, “I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear.”  These moments are real, and while we are stuck in them, they can seem long.  Psalm 119:81 shares that the waiting can make one weary, “I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word.”

Yet, we can take comfort that hope consoles; it gives strength and renewed joy. Psalm 94:19 shares, “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”  Psalm 146:5 reminds us that hope and joy are connected by sharing, “But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”   In short, the Psalms are full of hope.

The New Testament gives added depth to hope.  Now we have the element of hope in the resurrection; of God’s restoration after triumphing over evil.   Peter shared during Pentecost by quoting a prophetic promise of David.  David hoped in the Messiah.  Peter shared in Acts 2: 25-27, “King David said this about Jesus: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me.    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope.  For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.”

David had proclaimed his hope that he would be raised from the dead, as well as hoping for the coming Messiah.   That same hope of resurrection at the ‘end of time,’ was a theme with the Apostle Paul, especially since it was a concept that the Pharisees believed in.  In Acts 26:6, Paul shares,  “Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors.”  This same hope fulfilled was echoed when Paul says in 1 Thess. 4:13, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.”  Hope in the afterlife and restoration is the cornerstone of Christian hope.  This isn’t just about being saved from bad circumstances, but this is a complete reversal of evil in the world.

Meanwhile, we are to have hope while suffering.  No one is immune to difficulties, and suffering in different forms. Right now, persecution of Christians, and also of Jews has steadily increased.  There are more Christians who have died for their faith in the past 100 years than in all of history.  Jews are also targeted, as they have been for centuries.  It wasn’t just the Holocaust and the pogroms.

Ministries like ‘Open Doors’ and ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ share about the countries where it is dangerous to be a Christian.  I was in one of these countries; Pakistan.  I ministered with refugees from another country: the Somalis.  But there are so many more suffering people.  Has persecution stopped the growing Christian underground movement in China or Iran?  No, on the contrary, it’s only increased it.   Paul shares in Romans 5:3-5, that “ we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials; for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Hope also sustains, especially if you keep your mind and heart focused.   Don’t keep your eyes on your circumstances.  Paul shares a prayer in Romans 15:13.  He says, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”   He shares another prayer in Ephesians 1:18:  “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”

It’s good that hope brings comfort, joy and sustains us.  It also brings us purpose.   As Christians, we have a purpose in our identity as sons and daughters. We are not orphans.  Paul shares in Ephesians 2:12 that in previous days, “you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.”  When people around us see that we are not fearful or in despair due to what is happening in the world around us, they ask us why we are hopeful, and how we can cope.  We’re not just coping.

The closer you get to Jesus, the more you thrive; although the journey isn’t easy.  Peter shares in 1 Peter 3:13-15 about persecution.  “ Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14  But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.  Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

In the midst of sharing our hope in God’s promises, we are given the same endurance as the great heroes of our faith.   Hebrews 6:10-12 share that we are given perseverance.  A strong component of hope is to stay steadfast. This is not wishful thinking, but it is powerful.  This is the type of hope a missionary feels when they are loving and pouring into the people in their lives.  God strengthens those who stay the course, as well as those who receive hope in Jesus through them.  Here’s the passage: “  For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers,[a] as you still do. 11 Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.”

So let us join with the writer of Hebrews, when he says in chapter 10:23–24: 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

So hope has a component of strengthening us with the perseverance we need to carry on – in life, in work, in relationships, and in our faith.  Is hope a stepping stone to faith?  I believe it’s a part of it.   Earlier I mentioned that hope to me is like a life preserver as you float on a sea of hard times. It is future focused, with an assurance that we will be rescued. Faith is more like walking on the water of that same sea.  Both are a journey that grow us deeply.

The writer to the Hebrews shares in Hebrews 11 verse 1, that “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  So hope is the springboard to faith.  Wherever there is full assurance of hope, there is faith. Faith is the full assurance of hope.  We’ll journey together more about hope in our next broadcast.   Perhaps we’ll take a visit to our own Cape of Good Hope, here in the Western Cape.

Lord, thank you that you are indeed the God of hope, the God of Israel, and the hope of the nations.  We thank you for your preserving power that gives us strength despite difficulty, and your comfort in the midst of suffering.  Lord, fill us with your hope that will reorient us in you.  Deepen our anchor, so that we won’t be shipwrecked in the middle of the storm.  Like the Bethel song, We raise a hallelujah in the middle of the storm.  Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear our praises roar.  Up from the ashes, hope will arise.  Death is defeated; the King is alive.

May all who hear my voice now have hope rise within them.  Carry them Lord, through their difficulties.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this devotional, visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on our Copples Western Cape mission site and scroll down to #49.  Enjoy.

Blessings and may you have a joyful Christmas!
Laurie-Ann