I was blessed, honored, and humbled to be invited to speak at a women’s holiday dinner in eastern Washington in December 2011.  This room full of women contributed to my spiritual foundation, and will always be considered my first church home.  This post is the teaching God delivered through me that night…I was just a vessel…

mary was a young teenager,
her eyes alight with dreams of life with her future husband.
i imagine her pouring over the proverbs,
dedicated to being a godly wife.
her married life lay in front of her
and her dreams for what might be grew daily.

Elizabeth was, as scripture graciously describes it, “advanced in years”.
her marriage: decades old.
her womb: empty.
decades of heartache,
wondering,
questioning.
decades of others wondering if she had displeased God.
Yet in Luke, chapter 1:6-7
they were described as

“righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinance of the Lord blameless. But they had no child…” –Luke 1:6-7, NKJV

two women,
one with her entire family life in front of her,
one with decades of commitment to the Lord and her husband behind her.

little did either of them know
what lay ahead.

one child would become king—but only after a virgin birth, miracle-filled ministry during which He was essentially homeless, arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection.

He would save the people from their sins.  but first He would die a criminal’s death.

the other child would wander the desert before announcing the way of the Lord, the coming Messiah—
before upsetting a king,
being arrested,
wondering if the man he announced really was the Messiah,
then losing his head for speaking the truth.

where does the hope for a dreamed future
meet the reality of the life that follows?
how did these women sustain
when what they thought was their future changed,
when the dreams they had for their children
were altered.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.” –Romans 5:1-3, NKJV

God’s style of hope is not like the dreams and wishes we create.
hope borne of men would ask for different, dream of different, and wonder of God’s faithfulness when it all came about….differently than we had hoped.
but hope borne of God is different.

A man named Gamaliel spoke of the success of God to his angry colleagues regarding the apostles.  This well-respected man of God spoke of God-borne hope this way:

“When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.  Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.  And he said to them: ‘Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.  For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody.  A number of men, about four hundred, joined him.  He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.  After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him.  He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.  And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it–lest you even be found to fight against God.’  And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”  –Acts 5:33-41, NKJV

Did you catch that?

Hope borne of God cannot be stopped.

More than that,
The apostles were beaten—and their response was thankfulness that they might be counted worthy.

This is what it means to hope in Jesus.
Setting aside our own definition of success,
and following Him, wherever He may lead.

Following Him is what it means to chase hope.

You know the source of hope.
So you follow it wherever it may be.
despite circumstances,
despite expectations.

one of the most dangerous tools we have as believers is this kind of hope.
the enemy does everything he can to prevent us from embracing it.

One morning in church,
the congregation was doing a responsive reading of scripture.
I held tight to my NASB, though the congregation used New King James.
But when we got to Matthew 5:44, i stopped and furrowed my brow.

My NASB read: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
But the congregation’s version was longer.
I looked up at the screen and saw a whole lot more detail in their verse than in mine.

So I grabbed a pew Bible and this is what I found:

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” –Matthew 5:44, NKJV

This was the version I needed.
My life at that time held persecution, public defamation, and attempts to discredit me.

This verse gave me no room to respond in any way but in holiness:

–Love your enemies
–bless those who curse you
–do good to those who hate you
–pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.

This verse, in an odd way, gave me hope.
Not only did God know my heart,
rebelling against the curses laid on me,
the hate which was prevalent
and the spite spewing toward me on a daily basis.

God gave me no room, no excuses.
But more than that,
God showed me that He knew.
He KNEW,
every day,
every interaction,
and the stress at my doorstep.

He KNEW.
So I switched versions.
I needed, not only that level of direction,
but also that reassurance that God KNEW what I faced.

This,
is hope.
not what we wish for,
not what we dream for,
not what we see in greeting card commercials.

with His kind of hope, we believe:

“For with God, nothing will be impossible.” –Luke 1:37, NKJV

with His kind of hope, we believe:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” –Philippians 4:13

and with His kind of hope, we know, that though God ask us to lay our Isaac on the alter, we do it because God’s will is better than ours.

we do not despair because we have hope.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed–and always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” –2 Corinthians 4:7-10, NKJV

it is hope
that brings the wretched sinner to the cross—hope that the promise of forgiveness and cleansing is true and real

it is hope
that awakens us every day
to try again
because we trust that His mercies really are new every morning.

and it is hope
that brings the broken heart
to the throne of God
because we believe He truly wants us to cast ALL our cares upon Him because He cares for us.

it is hope
that pulls through
when all seems pointless
because we believe that He truly did know us in our mothers’ womb,
and He does have a plan for us—a plan to prosper and not to harm.

the fundamental hope from faith
comes from a foundation
built on scriptures.

it is not sunshine and moonbeams every day.
it comes with pressure,
heartache,
and even confusion.
but at the core,
it comes with the unshakable truth that God is God.
His way will prevail,
His truth will reign,
and when we trust in Him, peace amid the storm
can be ours in abundance.

chasing hope is not about pasting on a smile.
chasing hope is about
running after the only One
who has always known the end of the story.

this is the hope we have.

 

____________________________

Photo by Sören Rudolph

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