Week 18: God of Hope

Week 18 – God of Hope

Monday: Genesis 18

Tuesday: Matthew 18

Wednesday: Nehemiah 8

Thursday: Acts 18

Friday: Genesis 18, Matthew 18, Nehemiah 8, Acts 18

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 18: 

            It’s reassuring to know that God repeats His promises to Abraham. I need to be reminded of His promises again and again, even the ones I have memorized and know by heart. And even after God makes His promise clear a second time – you will have a son – Sarah laughs, struggling to believe it’s really true. But, dear one, nothing is too hard for our God.

            Are you struggling to believe that He could use your current situation for your good and His glory? Are you struggling to believe His plans for you are perfect? Are you struggling to believe that He will be with you in the midst of trials? Are you struggling to hold onto the promise of eternity with Him? These are His promises to us!

            And look, even though God has to repeat His promises to Abraham, even when Abraham’s own wife is struggling to believe, God chooses to reveal more of Himself, more of His plans to Abraham. He invited Abraham into the plan. Certainly I do not believe that this is because God needs any help figuring out what He will do next. It’s because He wants to do something in Abraham’s life through what He reveals to Him in conversation. God wants to commune with us, to speak with us, to share His plans with us. Are we listening?

Which promises of God are hard to hold onto right now? It is ok if you need to be reminded.

Let’s make this our anthem this week: nothing is too hard for our God.

Tuesday, Matthew 18: 

            There is no denying it in this passage – just about everything in Jesus’s Kingdom is completely upside down. Or rather, it is right-side up, but appears upside down to a world that seems to have it all backward. The least are the greatest, the children are the teachers. The one is as valuable as the 99. Conflict is solved in private, not loudly on social media, and forgiveness is offered freely, again and again, even to the most undeserving. And as much as it seems that it might be near impossible to live in this right-side up, upside-down way of Jesus, the parable of the unmerciful servant reminds me: I can only live this way because He did it first. I can only show mercy because He first poured out such lavish mercy on me.

            I can only love, because He loved me first. I can (even when I think I can’t!) forgive, show mercy, lean into the hard, because this is what He did for me.

Which of the things listed in our passage today are hardest for you to live out? Childlike humility? Forgiveness? Quiet reconciliation? Mercy?

Truly, we can only embody these things in the power of the Holy Spirit. Spend some time today inviting Him to show you the way to live for Him.

Wednesday, Nehemiah 8: 

            How do we look ahead with hope in such uncertain times? Because the joy of the Lord is our strength. The Israelites in Nehemiah read from the book of the Law so that they can remember all He has done, and remembering what He has done is what allows us to look ahead to all He has not yet done, to all that He will do.

            And just as God revealed His plans to Abraham, He makes His Word clear and causes His people to understand. What a privilege to understand the Word of the Lord and to rest in His promises! 

            These exiled people remember all God has done for them and they celebrate, and “their joy was very great.” We remember all that God has done and we celebrate, filled with great joy. 

Spend some time today in thanksgiving, celebrating all He has done for you!

How does reflecting on and remembering what He has done, what He has brought you through, give you confidence to face what is ahead?

Thursday, Acts 18:

            God gives Paul the courage to stay. Though he is abused and opposed, God speaks to Him, these words we have seen and heard so much, “Do not be afraid… For I am with you.” And so, Paul stayed in the hard place, stayed faithful to his call to preach the Gospel, and in his staying, in his perseverance, God was glorified as many came to Him. Sometimes, the brave thing God is asking of us is to go. But sometimes, the bravest thing, the hardest thing, the most heroic and faithful thing, is to stay.

            My husband and I speak often of the ministry of Priscilla and Aquila. They don’t get a lot of fanfare in Scripture, and they probably wanted it that way. But their ministry is so powerful. I imagine them looking with love at their brother Apollos, inviting him into their home not to criticize his lack of understanding but to impart a greater understanding to him. Apollos is able to go on to Achaia and other places after that and explain the Scriptures, proving that Jesus is the Messiah. Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus, but because of their faithfulness, their message went to the world.

            My husband and I have both been blessed to have Priscillas and Aquilas in our own lives, faithful friends and mentors who have drawn us in with love to explain, encourage, and even correct. We deeply desire this to be our ministry to the little town God has placed us in, to draw in young and passionate disciples and explain to them more fully the love of the Father. We feel that like Paul in Corinth, like Priscilla and Aquila, we are called to stay, but by the encouragement of others, we can still share the Gospel with the world.

Is there a place in your ministry or life where you feel stuck or opposed? Could it be that God is asking you to press into Him and stay the course?

How can you be a Priscilla/Aquila encourager in this season?

Spend some time today asking God to give you the strength and courage to stay faithful to what He has put in front of you in this season. Hear His words in verse 9-10 spoken over you today!

Do you have a Priscilla or Aquila in your own life, someone who has lovingly and gently encouraged you in the faith? If yes, take a moment to thank God for them today, or even reach out and thank them! If not, can you think of someone you could ask to come alongside you and encourage your faith?

Friday Reflections:

            I wonder about Sarah’s laugh. It doesn’t seem like it’s the giggle of someone overjoyed at what the Lord is going to do, but rather the somewhat sad, skeptical chuckle of someone who wants to believe but just can’t quite be certain – will God really do that for me?

            And haven’t we all been there, looking at the promises of God, wanting so desperately to believe they will be true for us, but silently skeptical they might be? How is it so easy for me to look at other people’s lives and believe all God’s promises are true for them, and then look at my own mess, my own hard, and wonder if God really cares, if He will really show up, if His promises will really be true this time. Why does it feel so simple and straightforward to pray and believe for a miracle on behalf of someone else, but a little silly to ask boldly for a miracle in my own life? How can I so confidently believe His promises for my loved ones, but still sometimes hesitate to believe them for myself?

            Because hope is our most vulnerable thing. Hope says to God, “I trust You for all that is good.” Hope says to God, “I believe You are who You say You are, even when I cannot see it.” Hope says to God, “I believe this is best even when it doesn’t feel best.” Even when it doesn’t feel best to wait in barrenness until you are 90 years old. Even when it doesn’t feel best that the healing of your loved one isn’t coming quickly, or… isn’t coming at all. Even when it doesn’t feel best to wait, and wait, and wait for that relationship to be restored, to keep reaching out and keep trying only to be rejected again. In our human hearts, when we choose to hope, the enemy whispers that we might be setting ourselves up for disappointment.

            But God’s Word does not, cannot, disappoint.

            “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And our hope does not put us to shame.” (Romans 5:3-5)

            Hope that believes in God’s promises even if, even when… this hope is hard, and brave, and defiant. Hope that believes this isn’t all there is, that Jesus will come back and restore all things, that this world, increasingly a mess, will fall away and be transformed into a place of no tears and no hurt and no trial; this hope is beautiful, and this hope can be difficult.

            But this hope is where He calls us.

            And I keep going back to these words in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

            And that word hard? It’s actually the same Hebrew word used for wonderful in Isaiah 9:6. You know the one, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given… and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

            Jesus is wonderful, and if it wasn’t too hard for God to give Him to us, then nothing, nothing could be too hard for Him! And even our hard will be made wonderful, because even our suffering produces an eternal hope that will never put us to shame.

Can we bravely, defiantly, throw off the temptation of Sarah to let cynicism diminish our hope, to let “realistic expectations” temper our expectation that God will always give good and God will always get glory? Even now, even if, even when.

Can we be people who never chuckle under our breath because we wonder if God will do it but people who laugh loudly, boldly, because no matter what we know God will do it? God will fulfill His promises, not just to others but to us? Can we be the people who chase away skepticism, doubt, and distrust with a laugh that says, “The JOY of the LORD is my strength and I will hope in Him no matter what, because He will fulfill His promises to me?

            Yes, friends. Hope is hard and hope is daringly brave. Hope is wonderful. And hope is what He continues to give us as we continue to turn toward Him.

This one is hard for me, but I want to press into it anyway – where in your life have you let cynicism creep in? Are there people or situations that you have given up on, stopped praying for, because you have decided that it is just too hard for God or He just isn’t going to do it? (tears of conviction streaming down my face as I write, guys)?

Oh friend, nothing is too hard for Him. Nothing is too big for Him. Nothing will not be used for His eternal glory.Let’s ask Him boldly today to rekindle our hope, a hope that will never put us to shame. Let’s be people who laugh loud and brave, because the joy of the Lord is our strength.

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