Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hope is what we crave.

The contemporary Christian band "For King and Country" has a new song playing on the airwaves called, "Hope is What We Crave."  It's a great song, with a simple melodic chorus packed in truth.  I think our ability to successfully cope through the ups and downs in life is dependent on this.

Hope.

Isn't this what we all crave?

A glimmer of light that a storm will pass, that a season of drought will end, that good will come out of our bad?  That there is more to this life than what our eyes can see?  That what we are doing matters.  And counts.  And is making a difference.  That our efforts aren't in vain.

Hope.

It's the charge that keeps us going.  Keeps us climbing. Propels us forward. To persevere.  Even when the odds are against us.  Or our track record, our past experiences, and our current realities beg to differ. We crave this kind of Hope.

In any given week we will have many arrows of discouragement aimed in our direction.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and through many means.  Words.  People.  Experience.  Mishap.  Disappointment.  Unmet expectation.  Failure.  Setback.

Some days, some seasons, it may feel as if we are spinning our wheels but not moving forward.  Despite the effort, the momentum never builds.  The change isn't evident.  We may find ourselves continuously working, putting forth effort, prayer after prayer, sweat & tears, yet do not see the desired results we are striving after.  We crave Hope.  We need evidence that what we are doing matters, and will make a difference.

About a year ago, a close friend sent me a link to an Andy Stanley podcast.  The sermon was about the Old Testament biblical character of Nehemiah.  Prior to this, I had independently completed a Bible study by Kelly Minter on Nehemiah.  The theme of the message I am sharing today does not originate from me, but what I learned from these teachers has stayed with me and has impacted me since.  It's often become my "go to" when faced with times of discouragement.  So, I will share with you today what I took from it, in hopes that it will encourage you too.

Nehemiah was a man called by God to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem after they had been destroyed.  It seemed like an impossible task, and he was opposed by many, even Jewish nobles and prophets of his time.  Despite verbal assaults, physical threats, discouragement, abuses of power, and economic distress, Nehemiah stayed focused and devoted to this work.  We are reminded to look to Nehemiah as an example and to not be so easily drawn from the work that God has put in our hearts to do.

When the arrows of discouragement and fear were coming in from all angles, Nehemiah did not lose his focus.  He continued to rebuild that wall.  In the midst of all the discouragement and distraction, he stated, "I am carrying on a great work and I cannot come down" (Nehemiah 6:3).  Nehemiah did not come off of his wall.  People and circumstance attempted to make him waver, lose focus, and give up, but he stayed committed to his work.  He chose obedience over fear and discouragement.

"I am carrying on a great work and I cannot come down" (Nehemiah 6:3).

This has become my "go to" verse.  We all have our own wall.  It may not be an actual city wall. It probably looks a lot different in our individual lives.  Some of our walls may be more in shambles than others.  But we all have one.  Our wall may be the rebuilding of our finances, our faith, our career, our health, our home, our marriage, our relationships with others, our church.  Or the great task of training up our children (which happens to be my own personal wall).

The good news is, the broken walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.  They didn't stay in shambles.  The work was completed.  And Nehemiah 6:16 states, "When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God."  The same is the case for us.  When we are faced with the difficult, or the impossible, and we triumph over it, others will look at our stories and realize that it was the work of God in and around us.  That God stands behind what we do, even the "impossible" and that which is strongly opposed.  He gets all the glory.  And the more "impossible" a situation, the greater His glory is revealed.

So, stay committed to the work you are doing, in the wall you are building.  Tell the enemy that you are doing a good work and that you will not come down.  When evidence around you is telling you it is all for loss, go to God's Word and find encouragement in what He says.

For He says He makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).  He says He can turn our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11).  He says He will deliver us from our troubles (Psalm 34:19).  He says, when we seek Him first He will take care of all other things (Matthew 6:33).  He says He will meet all of our needs (Philippians 4:19).  He says He can work all things out for our good (Romans 8:28).  He says that if any of us lacks knowledge, ask Him for it and He will give it to us generously without finding fault (James 1:5).  He says train up a child in the way they should go and when they grow old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6).  He says nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27).  He says do not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time you will reap a harvest (Galatians 6:9). He says we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).

Choose to walk by faith and not by sight.  Let His Word trump your feelings and your experience.  I promise there you will find the Hope that you crave.  And it will be just enough to keep you on your wall.


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