We talked about leadership last week around our devotional table at work. Interesting comments as to what a leader looks like. I think that there are times when previously unnoticed people will be people of prompt decision, resource and confidence and will take command, regardless of their position. Weapon of choice could be hope in that situation. However, as much as hope is powerful, there is a choice to go with timidity and fear as well and they are just as infectious. In hope, one cheery voice will revive the drooping spirits of a multitude. It is amazing how hope infused by faith gives us a new set of lenses to see our world even though the circumstances have not changed – truly one of God’s amazing miracles.
Paul couldn’t keep his hope to himself. He had to pass it on to both the believers on board the ship and to those who had not yet believed.
How can we put ourselves in similar situations? I believe for Paul, it was because he stayed connected to God. Of all people, I do not think Paul needed to have an angel come to him with a message, but the circumstances were pretty bleak and God created the tangible connection as an anchor of hope for not only Paul to hold too but for the entire ship. Even if we are not anywhere on the leadership scale – our ongoing choice to press into God through prayer, the Word and fellowship will infuse us with divine favour and solutions for those in our lives.
I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.” – Acts 27:22-26
If there is hope for those who are on trial for insulting God – there is hope for you and I. We are only to believe.
Hope in such times can only come from the One who can give hope.
Here are three truths —
- Command – “call on me in the day of trouble”
- Promise – “I will deliver you”
- Purpose – “and you shall glorify me”
Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. – Psalm 50:15
• Hannah was a married woman who had no children and was unable to have children.
• She was married to a man by the name of Elkanah and she was one of two wives.
• The other wife seemed to be very fruitful and had several children.
• Hannah had none.
• In that time a large family was seen as a sign of a blessing and the lack thereof was seen as a curse.
• Hannah had to endure ongoing humiliation and shame.
• To make matters worse, the other wife constantly harassed and taunted her.
• She had desperate circumstances and there appeared to be no hope and no end in sight.
• She really had a raw deal.
• Her name, Hannah, meant ‘woman of grace’ or ‘gracious woman’.
• But it must have been very difficult to be what her name meant when she was surrounded by such desperate, on-going circumstances and issues.
• We know that she often cried and wept and that she would not eat because of all that was going on.
The story of Hannah receiving a kind word of blessing from Eli the priest as a prophecy was a like a gift of faith to fulfill her incredibly earnest desire for a child, dispel her sadness and fill her with a confident hope.
What hope can we receive from the trials we go through and how does our own understanding of who God is give us hope in times of great hopelessness?
“When we make self the end of
prayer, it is not worship but self-seeking.”
As followers of Christ, we need to choose prayer, not hopelessness.
“It is narratively significant that neither Peninnah or Elkanah will
suffice for hope any longer. But in a moment of decisive action
she turns from both her sociological hope the hope of Peninnah
and her psychological hope her hope with Elkanah to identify
with God alone. – Robert Alter
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. – 1 Samuel 1:17-18
God gives a reason for us having hope. The hope that we have allows us to be men and women of God in the midst of trying times where we feel we might not want to give honour, or subdue to the temptation of flattery or worse, be afraid of someone. Even as our hope may be strong, we must remember to still be men and women of virtue, not chargeable with any open vice or profaneness, and sound in our faith. These things to do not justify us before God, but they give us our reputation around people.
The hope of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life can be found in the Old Testament ( Job 19:26-27 ) ( Isaiah 26:19 ) ( Daniel 12:2 ). Funny how the Jews had brought a prisoner to a Roman judge accusing him of a belief they all had.
And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency, that I am accused by Jews! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? – Acts 26:6-8
Four hundred thousand men against twenty thousand men – those seem to be odds that are definitely giving favour to one side of this war. There were two battles and in each of the two battles, the larger force lost twenty-two and eighteen thousand men respectively, so forty thousand in total.
What I love about this story is they were given permission by God to go and fight and even though they were the larger force, they were defeated. I am not sure what the attitude was when they fought – my imagination would lead me to believe that they entered the first battle with some thought that this would be easy, a simple victory, just by the sheer size difference between the two opposing forces.
After the first loss, they came back weeping. They confirmed that they should go forward again, and the Lord said yes. After the second loss they seemed to get they were doing something wrong.
One has to give credit to this group for going back one more time making sure it still was the Lord’s will that they go forward – and it was. This time however, they came with weeping and fasting after their second loss setting up for the third battle after affirming that this was still what the Lord wanted them to do. Here the battle turned and they won. So when the third battle took place, they seemed to have a God-given strategy. Very different from the first two battles and they were inspired.
I am reminded of the time Jesus cast a demon out of a boy and the disciples asked why they could not – Jesus responded that this only can happen through prayer and fasting. There is something very powerful, very humbling when it comes to fasting. Fasting purges our souls and separates us from the worldly elements of our lives. It allows us to be infused with God.
If I am to have hope in raising my children, having a healthy marriage, and finding the favour and wisdom of God in my job, if I am to go before God with my spiritual battles and needs, weeping is not enough – I need to fast.
Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went back to Bethel and wept, sitting there before the Lord; they fasted that day until evening. Then they offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of well-being before the Lord. – Judges 20:26
Hope and confidence regardless of the present circumstances because of our respect for the future – God is my health and my salvation.
Biblical hope doesn’t deny the pain of the present. Nor is it wishful thinking. Rather, true hope is “in God,” in the one god who is fully and finally reliable.
In our blue moments, we wait for God who is working out our purposes.
God is the only one who is perfectly capable and faithful to do the right thing every time.
Psalm 43 identifies a lists of hope in its first four verses –
- God’s power to deliver – He is faithful and will continue to walk with us
- God’s presence and protection – His being our fortress of truth
- God’s direction – the Word gives us the answers that we need
- God as our joy – Joy in Him and His Word and we will experience hope even in hopeless situations
My hope is in God. Even though I don‘t feel like it. Even though I don‘t feel as if
He were here. He is. My hope is there
Maybe it is time to speak to our soul when we find ourselves down. Speaking God’s Word in particular fill us with hope and encouragement.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 43:5
The way to forget our miseries, is to remember the God of our mercies. David saw troubles coming from God’s wrath, and that discouraged him. But if one trouble follow hard after another, if all seem to combine for our ruin, let us remember they are all appointed and overruled by the Lord. David regards the Divine favour as the fountain of all the good he looked for. In the Saviour’s name let us hope and pray. One word from him will calm every storm, and turn midnight darkness into the light of noon, the bitterest complaints into joyful praises. Our believing expectation of mercy must quicken our prayers for it. At length, is faith came off conqueror, by encouraging him to trust in the name of the Lord, and to stay himself upon his God. He adds, And my God; this thought enabled him to triumph over all his griefs and fears. Let us never think that the God of our life, and the Rock of our salvation, has forgotten us, if we have made his mercy, truth, and power, our refuge. Thus the psalmist strove against his despondency: at last his faith and hope obtained the victory. Let us learn to check all unbelieving doubts and fears. Apply the promise first to ourselves, and then plead it to God. – Matthew Henry
I think we do not ask ourselves enough times why we are feeling depressed or anxious. When we rehearse the why we usually do not find sufficient reason for being so. But in case we find that our fears are as bad as they are and maybe as overwhelming as we seem to feel, then, as always, we have to put and then keep our hope in God. There are many promises we can remind ourselves of including God being faithful and loving – two good reasons for hope. Our faith will kick in, victory is anticipated as we put our fear into His hands and we wait for Him to rescue us.
“For yet I know I shall him praise
Who graciously to me,
The health is of my countenance,
Yea, mine own God is he.” – Presbyterian Church of England Hymnal
So our active praise and worship allows us to declare God as God – we will wait for Him! and we will hope in Him! This is not mindless and is not passive but rather a spiritual confidence that God will participate because He always has.
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. – Psalm 42:11
My mom wishes she could have an angel come and visit her. I think that is mostly because she knows it can happen – not just because of the experiences in the Bible, but both her mother and her sister had experiences with angels.
There are certain emotions that come with angel visitations I am sure – surprise, hope, expectation – all causing me to give special attention.
When the angel announced to Samson’s parents that he was coming and that they should make sure to have him follow all the nazirite traditions, they knew God was ready to do something special and that their son was being prepared to be used by God one day.
Another story of hope that God is with us even when it does not look like He is.
And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” – Judges 13:3-5
As followers of Christ, we can make the decision to follow the leading of the Spirit and His call or we can still go our own way. I am not sure if we decide to go our own way as to when we are no longer followers of Jesus.
Paul expressed many times how the Spirit of God was leading him through the instinct and motion of the Spirit and how his whole life was framed according to God’s will and pleasure. The outcomes of his journey did not depend on the journey itself but rather that he obeyed and was faithful – for we know some of the outcomes Paul faced, even death. It was if Paul was addicted to following Jesus – to the profit of the Church – even neglecting his own safety. At one point, he even deprived himself of his most faithful companion, Timothy, so that the Macedonian church would not have to wait for him.
We see a little bit of Paul at this very moment in his letter to the Romans. He writes —
Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”
This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints – Romans 15:20-25
Paul had an incredible desire to not want to build on the foundation of another – he wanted to work in bringing the gospel to a place that had never heard it before.
Now after these things had been accomplished, Paul resolved in the Spirit to go through Macedonia and Achaia, and then to go on to Jerusalem. He said, “After I have gone there, I must also see Rome.” – Acts 19:21