Monday, August 3, 2009

Words of Encouragement

Hope deferred, hope realized
I have been talking to several people that are facing difficulties because of job losses, money problems, family problems and the list goes on. The question that continued to come to my mind is, how do we keep our hope and where do we place our hope? This week I hope to encourage someone facing the difficulty of dealing with deferred hopes. I pray that you are encouraged and find a new ability to hold on until hope is realized.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. - Proverbs 13:12

As I read this scripture I thought about the struggle one goes through waiting for something to be realized. The longer we have to wait for something to happen, the harder it becomes and it begins to a battle in our hearts. This scripture says the heart is sick. It is sick with longing for what one hopes in. Is your hope in a better marriage that has been going wrong for so long? Your heart may have become sick with the waiting and begins to doubt if this hope will ever be realized. Maybe you are hoping in release from financial difficulty or job loss. With each bill due and no money in the account to pay it, the heart becomes sicker, the waiting is only made more difficult when something breaks down and you are unable to fix it. How then are we to handle the heart sickness, the longing for the desired change? The second part of the verses says that when that longing is fulfilled it is like a tree of life. So what do we do with the in between time? What do we do to keep our hearts from losing hope in that time of waiting? We will discuss more of that in the next verses. We can take some comfort in knowing that God understands the struggles we go through and that even though we are finding it difficult he is holding us in our time of waiting.

Prayer: Lord help us your people not to lose heart as we wait on your answer to our situations and our circumstances. Lord encourage our hearts through your word and by your Spirit, amen.

But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish. - Psalm 9:18

I find this scripture encouraging to know that my needs are not forgotten and that my hope will not die. The two are intertwined. To know your needs are not forgotten is the fire that keeps ones hope alive. The way we as the people of God keep the fire going on our hope is to know God does not forget our needs. And sometimes we have to give ourselves a history lesson. We have to remember how God has never forsaken us in our times of need. He may not have come at the very moment we thought he should, but can any of us really say God has not been on time with his fulfillment of your need? I know that even when I find myself in difficult times and hanging on to the hopes of my heart a struggle, I have to allow the faithfulness of God to re-light the fire to keep my hope from perishing.

Prayer: Lord we need your hope today to remind us of your faithfulness and to re-light the hopes of our hearts as we wait for our hopes deferred to become hopes realized. Thank you Lord for giving us encouragement in our hearts so that we do not allow our hearts to become sick and lose hope in you. Amen.

in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; - Psalm 25:2-4

We talked about how waiting on those things we hope for can cause us to become discouraged. We also talked about how we can keep the flame of hope alive as we continue to remind ourselves about the goodness of our God and  how he will not forsake us. Today we continue to look at the trustworthiness of our God.

The psalmist ask God to take care of him and do not allow his enemies to triumph over him. He also reminds himself that anyone that hopes in God is not shamed but instead shown the ways of God.

I know that at times it "seems" as if your enemies are triumphing over you. That's the devils tricks. He tries to convince us that what we "see" is the truth. If we see the lack of funds then the devil wants us to believe that means God is not working things out behind the scenes for our good. If we "see" difficulties in our marriages or relationships with our children, or co-workers, or friends then the devil wants us to believe that it will always be what we "see". As soon as we accept that as truth, we begin to think our hope is not only deferred but completely forgotten.

I believe what the psalmist wants us to understand is this, "I trust in you God." This small sentence carries a lot of weight. I trust in you God because you are not only the dream giver, but you are the fulfiller of all dreams. So help me in the waiting not to allow my enemy (the devil) to triumph over me. Help me to see his tricks and help me to hold on until you will bring my dreams to realization.

Prayer: Lord today we say, I trust in you God. Our trust is in you and we believe in our hearts that you are the giver of this hope we have and that you will protect us. Help us flee from the lies the enemy tells us that what we "see" is all there is. Our trust is in what you say and who you are.

Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. - psalm 31:23-24

We look at another part of our hope, that which we place in God. Yes, we hope for things and for situations to go a certain way and honestly that does not always happen as we desire. However, the hope we have in God is different. If we hope that God will keep us, that he will perserve us and protect us, then this hope is always fulfilled. God always takes care of his children. The problem we have is that his taking care of us does not mean we will not face difficulties. That is still a problem sometime for us to put together in our minds. How can God take care of us, but we still have hard times? I guess it has to do with our understanding of God's taking care of us. God cares more about taking care of our souls than he does of our personal. So, if he allows us to go through something because it will help keep our souls and spirit then he will allow it. If giving us something we are asking for would cause us to venture from him or turn to our own self-importance then he will not give it because he cares more about the eternal things than the temporary things.

So what are we to do? We should love the Lord. We should thank him for his protection, for his safety and for his care of us. So what am I learning from this lesson? I have a hope in my heart and every time I see things coming to the place where it looks like it will be realized, something steps in and cancels it out. My enemy tries to make me look at what I can "see" and wants to make me think this is it, things are not going any further. And at times I like most of God's children begin to listen to those lies. I begin to feel a little "heart sick" at waiting on my hopes to be realized. But when the fire seems to be going out I ask God to remind me of where he's brought me from and he re-lights my hopes. My hopes are not lost, they are simply being deferred. I may not understand completely why, but I do know that I trust God and in his time my hopes will be realized and when it happens, I see him using it like a tree of life to encourage others as they wait for their hopes to be realized.

A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. - Psalm 33:17-19

For this last installment in this lesson about hope I want to encourage us that God is the only one that can accomplish what we need. I know the temptation to try and fix our problems when things are taking too long. If it's money problems we decide we need to get another job or take on a second job. Or if its problems in our relationships we decide to get out of the relationship or change the dynamics of things. On the surface none of these ideas may seem wrong, but the question is are you now trusting in "physical power?" Like the psalmist said some have a vain hope in "a horse" for deliverance but that power is not strong enough to save us.

So the question is when our hopes seem slow coming, do we switch to trusting in our own type of "horse power"? We are reminded not to because that is a useless trust. Like I mentioned those things we may decide to do don't seem wrong, but are they the things God has instructed you to do or has he told you to wait on his timing? If he has said wait on his timing anything you do that is contrary to that is wrong. We have to simply wait on God's timing and know that he will deliver us from our situations. Will it be tomorrow? I don't know (sure wish it would be). I have had to wait like Abraham on some promises of God for 25 years before it was fulfilled. How was I able to? I trusted in God. When I wanted to give up and when my heart became sick with the longing of what I was hoping for, I had to allow God to light the flame of hope in HIM. See that is what will keep us all, not our looking at what we hope to happen around us, but our hope in an unchanging God.

Prayer: Lord, today help us continue to hold onto your promises of care for us. The things around us sometimes become discouraging and we do not see an answer coming. Yet, we can still hold on and know that our hopes are not lost but you will bring them to realization in your time. We will trust in you.