“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I still have some lingering Christmas decorations scattered around. I felt a sigh of relief when a friend told me she still has her Christmas tree up. I intentionally left the Joy candles on the shelf because they daily remind me of the focus of this New Year.
“The JOY of the Lord is my strength.”
That one plastic container in the garage catches my attention every single day. The sparkling bright red color demands attention every time that I pass it. This morning it dawned on me that it’s not just the color that catches my eye, but the declaration on the Christmas sign. Its lopsided presence shouts “HOPE”. It seems so out of place in the junky garage, yet it speaks to me.
In my study of Philippians this week, I learned that joy and hope are closely linked. Where there is no hope, there is no joy. Our hope can be misplaced, quickly leading to despair. Our understanding of hope is really not aligned with biblical hope. We use sentences like:
“I hope I don’t get sick.” “I hope they arrive safely.” “I hope the check comes in.” “I hope I get the job.” “I hope to get married this year.”
This hope is actually just wishful thinking for things we personally desire to happen. But it is not linked to any certainty. Biblical hope is different because it is always linked to the character and promises of God.
Hope is a confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness.
In Philippians 1:20, Paul said, “ I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
As Paul was facing a possible death sentence, He was filled with expectation, hope, courage and joy that God’s will would be accomplished. His hope was in God, not in his release from prison.
When our hope is misplaced and we find ourselves living more by the “what ifs” instead of the “God Is”, we need to preach ourselves a little hope sermon.
The psalmist teaches us how in Psalm 42:5:
“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. “
We have to pause and ask ourselves why we are downcast. Then we preach hope to ourselves. It works! It’s OK if people listen in and think you are a little crazy. They might catch the sermon also and lift up their hearts and praise Him.
If we don’t preach hope to ourselves, we will be gripped with a downcast spirit. We will find that our hope is stuck all lopsided in the clutter and mess of this crazy world. Lift up your head and rejoice, for God is a God of hope.
No need to fret over lingering Christmas decorations. We need the words of Christmas to linger longer in our hearts. Set HOPE on the top shelf of your heart and joy will fill your life. The world needs our lives to declare that God is the only hope for this world. Our hope is not in a leader, a political decision, a paycheck, or an answer to our problem. Our hope is in a true and steadfast God that never changes and never forsakes us.
If you find yourself feeling a bit hopeless today, may I encourage you to think upon the Lord? He sees you. He is for you. He is working things out that you cannot imagine. Preach hope to yourself. Stretch your neck toward heaven and declare, “God of Hope, all of my hope is in you. I will watch and I will wait for you.”