"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem." - Theodore RubinDon't you love that last part? Really, having problems is not problem.. Jesus put it this way:
"The greatest test of courage on the earth is to bear defeat without losing heart." - R. G. Ingersoll
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)I love that Jesus tells us to expect problems and encourages us to take courage when they come.. courage.. just what I need today!
Lately I have been meditating on what it means to have hope. The scripture that I have been thinking about is:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)Many times in my life I have thought that my hopes have brought me disappointment. In retrospect it wasn't hope but expectations.
I remember a time about 10 years ago when my heart was in a very dark place. My son was having troubles and I spoke to my pastor Jeff about it hoping he could help. Little happened that summer and I started resenting my pastor.. I expected him to follow-up with me.. I expected him to do something. Late that summer the Holy Spirit began to deal with me and asked me this question:
Why do you expect Jeff to act when you have not communicated that expectation to him?I began to realize that an expectation that is not communicated is unrealistic and foolish. I think that we do this with God. We read a scripture, we personalize it and then we expect God to act on our expectation. We are sick.. we read about healing in the scriptures.. and we expect that he will heal us. We are disappointed when He doesn't heal us.
Hope is different. For one thing.. as the scripture says.. hope does not disappoint.. a test of whether we are hoping or expecting is what the result is. One key idea about hope is that it is based on God's promises. Here are a few scriptures out of the eighth chapter of Romans that inspire hope in me:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (v1)These verses speak to me about the hope of knowing Jesus. They tell me that God accepts me.. He includes me in His family.. He uses everything in my life for my good.. and nothing can separate me from Him or his love! These are the types of things that we can place our hope in.. these are the things that inspire hope in me.. they give me confidence. They don't create a false expectation in me.. they allow me to rest where I am.. they help me to be still and know that He is in control.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (v16-17)
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (v28)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (v38-39)
In contrast to hope expectations cause us to never rest.. they torment us with questions about why things are the way that they are. Expectations generally focus on what we do not have.. what could be if God would answer our prayers according to our expectations.
It is difficult to embrace hope because it involves yielding control of our lives and our expectations to the Lord. When we hold on to our expectations we embrace the illusion of control. Laying down our expectations is the heart of having hope. As long as we cling to expectations we will keep hope at arms length.
My invitation to you today is to lay down your expectations of God and embrace the hope that He so liberally offers.