The Difficulty of Faith (Part Two)

1 Kings 17:8-16

In our last article, we considered that faith is difficult because it requires us to put our hope in God instead of our wisdom or apparently favorable circumstances. We continue with two more ideas about the difficulty of faith.

Faith is difficult because it must confront the realities of life (17:7-10). Let us remember that Elijah exercised obedient faith in God as he made his way to the widow’s house in Zarephath in Sidon. Every step on his lonely journey tested the faith in God he had. Faith does not eliminate our thoughts about how God will act or the way that his provision will appear. Faith thinks through the situation and trusts God when the way seems unlikely or impossible to us. Otherwise, we walk by sight and human reasoning, instead of by faith. Here is what believing Elijah had to face.

He saw the desperate condition the widow was in. She lived in poverty; she was out gathering sticks. He could easily have wondered, “Lord, why didn’t you send me to a rich widow?” She had a home, but not much else. She lacked sufficient food. She had enough for one more meal. I don’t know what Elijah did, but I think I would have been checking my email about God’s directions or my GPS on my phone about this time. “Lord, am I in the right place? This seems like another drying brook?”

Elijah saw the despair of heart which controlled that widow. She was prepared to eat her last meal and then die. She was not living by faith but by fear. “Don’t be afraid” (7:13).

The widow was an unlikely person to help God’s prophet. But the hearts of all are in God’s hands. A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9 CSB). God decreed to provide for the needs of Elijah through the means of the widow’s generosity, and so it would be. But how would that happen? God uses means, which brings us to the next point.

Believing Elijah had to act in a way that was consistent with the faith in God that they would need to live by. For this reason, he had to test the woman. At first glance, Elijah seems selfish and uncaring. But he had to know if she would put God first. Was she unselfish? Could she trust God sufficiently to follow God’s words through him to her. Do not be mistaken; it was difficult for a man of God ask her to do such things in the bitter hardship he saw she was in. All this was to teach the woman. She had to know who was providing food for her, so that she could provide for God’s prophet. He told her God’s promise. “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says…” (17:14 NIV).

Faith is difficult even when God provides (17:15-16). Living by faith is difficult because it requires daily trust. All that they had to live on was the contents of the jar and the jug, refilled each day with just enough for one day. But God gave them food daily! “It may be that we shall never have much in hand, but this is no evil, for then our provision will never grow stale, but come to us fresh from our heavenly Father’s hand” (Spurgeon). That is an expression of joyful faith!

Again, living by faith is difficult because it requires contentment. Both Elijah and the widow and her son could only eat of what was made from the flour and the oil. There was nothing else. But we see that God was true to his word! He promised Elijah food, and food he had! But it was even less than he had received previously. Before he had meat and bread, now it was only bread. Remember Israel’s experience in the wilderness. They had manna every day for nearly forty years. The lesson of daily bread is to humble ourselves, in order that we trust God.

Here are two lessons as we conclude.

  • Do you think that the life of faith is easy? Do not be misled! But the Lord is sufficient to supply all that we need. He will provide what he knows we need.
  • Only those who come to God through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have any basis for confidence that God will supply their needs. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV). Trust in god for salvation, and then you can trust him for other matters. It’s the way of God’s kingdom.

Grace and peace, David

Drying Brooks and the Ways of God (Part Two)

1 Kings 17:2-7

“You are to drink from the wadi. I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there” (17:4 CSB).

Our text (17:2-7) is easily studied by a four part outline, which also shows us a valuable sequence in the life of faith. Here we find God’s command, God’s promise, our response, and a test. In the previous article, we looked at God’s command. Now, let’s examine the other three.

God gave Elijah a promise (17:4). What can we learn about our God who makes such promises? First, let’s focus on his sovereignty. The living God has power and authority to command the birds, and other creatures. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps (Ps 135:6 ESV; cf. Jonah 2:10). He also directed Elijah to the place he was to hide. Elijah was to go to the wadi (or brook) Kerith, and there he would be fed. Then, consider the manner in which Elijah was fed. The Lord used “The Raven Catering Company.” He fed Elijah by ravens, not by people or angels, although God used both means to feed Elijah later. All creatures, high and low, are at God’s command. In using ravens, God restrained their natural tendency to seek food for themselves and instead to feed a prophet. He put Elijah’s location into their “GPS”.

Wonder at the Lord’s wisdom. If people or dogs had brought the food to Elijah, perhaps his hiding place would have been discovered. But who cares where birds are flying? God taught Elijah humble dependence. Ravens, unclean birds under the law covenant, brought him his food little by little.

Second is our response. So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook (17:5-6 NIV). Elijah acted according to God’s word. He found God’s will for his life in God’s word of promise. And he did it. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22 NIV). God is not impressed by how much we know; he is concerned with how well we obey. If Elijah believed that God will provide for him at Kerith, then he would quickly go to Kerith. The same is true today for you and me. True faith produces obedience to God’s commands.

God was true to his word. He provided his prophet’s daily necessities: bread and meat. I agree that it’s nice to have filet mignon, but it’s not necessary. The Lord did not give it all at once, but little by little as Elijah needed it. Twice daily he was taught God’s faithfulness.

Third, the test came. But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land (17:7 NLT).      The brook dried up. Why? This was the answer to Elijah’s prayer! Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land (James 5:17 CSB). Be careful what you pray for; God might give it to you! If you pray, make me like Christ, consider what that means (cf. Hebrews 5:8). Or we might pray, give me patience! Then we could find ourselves in the hope sequence (Romans 5:3-5). Are we ready for the changes that God’s answers to our prayers might make in our lives? All this tested Elijah’s trust. Was his trust in God or in God’s gifts? Had the Lord suddenly lost control of the situation?

Do you have a drying brook today? Perhaps it is the drying brook of fading popularity, of failing health, of diminishing business, of decreasing friendships, or of a feuding family. Has your hope been in such a brook that is now drying up, or is it in the living God? Let each one of us exercise a vigorous faith in the living God! And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV).

Grace and peace, David

Elijah: A Man of Courage (Part One)

1 Kings 17:1

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (NIV).

The situation in Israel was desperate. In little more than a half century, the visible people of God had turned from the living to idols. Ahab had led the way into deeper spiritual darkness. This was a “reverse conversion”, in contrast to what had happened to the Thessalonians: For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… (1 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV). Baal worship was substituted for the worship of the Lord, and it looked like no one was living for the glory of God. Years of isolation strengthened that impression in Elijah’s soul.

How did God respond to this challenge to his authority? Did he destroy those people? He could have, as he put to death an entire generation of their forefathers. Did he turn away from them forever? No, because his relationship wasn’t based on the nations faithfulness to him but on his to his promise and oath. Did he send them into exile? That was a real possibility, but God first sent a prophet to testify to his reality. He sent Elijah to speak for him, and the Lord acted powerfully through him. In a new time of spiritual declension in the western world, we need this account of Elijah to arouse us to live for the Lord our God, and to rekindle our faith in his all-ability.

Elijah was convinced of God’s existence. The Lord was the foundation of his world and life view. He confessed that the Lord is alive and able to act in this world. “God” is not merely an idea for troubled and confused people. Nor is the living God and the story of his glory in Christ intended to be a manipulative metanarrative. (We do not deny that evil people abuse and misuse others with their perverted version of the Bible’s message. But that is not God’s intent.) God is the Almighty, the Creator and Controller of all things. The existence of our Sovereign God has been vigorously denied for generations in western thought. We, his people, need to vigorously assert his sovereignty.

  • Our God is in heaven and does whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3 CSB).
  • The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths (Psalm 135:6 NIV).

Elijah confessed that the Lord is the God of Israel. As an Israelite, he called his fellow Israelites to agree to this fact. They may have walked away from the Lord, but he was faithful to the covenant. We can be confident, because the Lord Christ is faithful to his people. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV). God was shortly to lead Elijah down a most unusual path teach him contentment and the greatness of his love for his people Israel.

Elijah lived a way of life separate from the viewpoints and practices of others. He was faithful to the Lord, though many others had fallen away. Elijah would come into repeated conflicts with idolatrous Ahab and his followers. This was no easier for Elijah than it is for us. As James wrote, Elijah was as human as we are… (James 5:17a NLT). We too often act on the false assumption that people in the Bible were persons of “super-faith” and suppose that it was rather easy for them to do their exploits. I have called Elijah “a man of courage”, but courage is something that you’re forced into when you lack other alternatives. He will act courageously, because of his obedient faith in the Lord. Elijah remained godly in his lifestyle, in spite of the growing wickedness of the nation. This would lead him on a spiritual adventure.

Grace and peace, David

The Case of the Unbelieving Believer

Luke 1:18-25

The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news” (Luke 1:19 CSB).

Unlike many people, I have never been into watching crime and detective shows. The exception would be Dragnet, which I always watched with my dad, including reruns. But I digress. We all know that detectives attempt to solve cases that involve murders or other crimes. Counselors also consult case stories with others to help them learn how to help others. In Zechariah, we have a case of a believer who failed to believe.

Let us understand clearly that Zechariah was a believer. How do we know this? The Holy Spirit had already guided Luke to write that Zechariah and his wife were upright in the sight of God (Luke 1:6 NIV). The only way anyone can be right with God is by grace through faith (Romans 3-4). His faith showed itself in his works, in his zeal to obey God. The Spirit wants us to know that Zechariah was a good man.

Zechariah had heard a message of good news for himself and his people through the angel. His prayer for a son would be answered. His heart ought to have been rejoicing! But… he began to doubt. He looked at his and his wife’s physical capabilities and knew that in the normal course of life, childbirth was impossible for them. This is where you and I often get trapped. How many times have I seen a church count noses and pocketbooks and assume that a challenge to move forward for the Lord was simply “impossible”. This corporate experience is simply the overflow of the hearts of the members of the church, who have for long years assumed that it was simply “impossible” for them to see their friends and neighbors become followers of Christ. And so, they choose easy ways “to serve the Lord”, like being greeters or working in the nursery or buying cookies for Vacation Bible School or serving on church boards and committees. Faith in God is simply “impossible”, because they live by sight, rather than by faith. I can’t listen to Zechariah explain his failure to believe God two thousand years later, but I’m rather certain where our failures lie.

Gabriel, God’s chosen messenger, did not shrug off Zechariah’s unbelief, like you and I regularly do. Contemporary Christians have a very short list of sins, and our unbelief and the unbelief of our family and friends isn’t on the list. In fact, if anyone raises the issue of our unbelief, we become huffy and “hurt” by the mere suggestion. All right, I’ll risk “offending” you. What matters of unbelief in God and his provision are you struggling with? Could you be a case of another unbelieving believer? Back to Gabriel, he had a “tough love” response to Zechariah’s unbelief. He removes his ability to speak until his son is born. Boom! And let him know that Gabriel’s message will certainly happen. Boom!

Since Zechariah could no longer speak, Luke returns to the waiting worshipers. They wondered about his delay in performing the ritual, and on his return to the temple courts, they realized that he could not speak. He had some kind of vision in the temple, but they didn’t know what had happened.

When Zechariah finished his temple service, he went home. Then he acted in faith and made love to his wife, and… she became pregnant, though he had previously thought it “impossible”. Here is the good news. The unbelieving believer can return to believing when he or she trusts God and his promises in the Good News. God works through the good news of the gospel to save (Romans 1:16-17) and to change (Titus 2:11-14) his people. You and I can by grace turn back to a believing condition. As for Elizabeth, she believed, since she traced back her pregnancy, not to natural circumstances, but to the power of God. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people” (1:25 NIV). Thank God that the gospel is always good news for his people. So then, let’s trust God to do what he sets before us!

Grace and peace, David

By Faith Joseph (Part Two)

Genesis 50:22-26

In our previous post, we saw how Joseph completed his earthly pilgrimage with joy. We conclude this series on his life with this: By faith Joseph spoke about the future. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones (Hebrews 11:22 NASV).

For their immediate future, he encouraged them to rely on the Lord. He comforted them with the same comfort that he had received from his father (48:21). This is a pattern for our lives. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV). They who believe God’s promises are desirous of persuading others to believe also. That which had sustained him for over ninety years, he now leaves as a heritage of faith to his family.

Joseph had been the means of God’s support and protection for the family. Now that the means was passing away, what would become of the family? He directed them to the actual source of their security: The God who had made covenant promises to his people (50:24). “God’s gracious visits will serve to make up the loss of our best friends. They die; but we may live, and live comfortably, if we have the favor and presence of God with us” (Henry).

For the more distant future, he encouraged them to hope in God. God’s people must journey through this world with their hope (confident expectation) on what God has promised. We don’t look for satisfaction in this present world but in the world to come. Joseph’s family, which would become God’s covenant nation at Sinai, was not to look for satisfaction in Egypt. God had a better place for them, a place where they could flourish as his people. But they would not reach that land for many years. Until then, by faith Joseph spoke two messages of hope.

First, Joseph told them that God would come to their aid. Their way would eventually turn out to be bitter slavery. The people themselves would even turn to idols (Joshua 24:14). But God’s grace is greater than his people’s sins and sorrows. Hear the word of the Lord, “But God will surely come to your aid.”

Second, Joseph prophesied that God will surely take them to the land of promise. Egypt was not to be their home, and as a testimony to them, Joseph ordered that they take his bones out with them in the Exodus. Famous men often want to build monuments to their own honor in this world. Joseph was of a different spirit. Let Egypt do as it wished for the present; he had his sights set on a better country.

God’s people in all ages must keep their eyes on God’s promised rest for them. Let us remember where our home is. We are only strangers and pilgrims here. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebrews 11:13 NIV). We are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).

Let’s focus on some lessons we can learn from Joseph’s life.

  • What made Joseph tick? He had surely seen God do great things for him and through him! But was his experience his consolation in the end? No, it was the word of God. His hope was in what God had “promised on oath” (50:24). Two unchangeable things sustained him at the end, God’s promise and oath (cf. Hebrews 6:18). We will do well to pay attention to the word of the prophets made more certain, for it is the word of God (2 Peter 1:19-21).
  • Let us not be weary of repetition. Joseph repeated that God would surely come to their aid. Weak minds continually lust after new, exotic, spicy spiritual and intellectual dishes. Strong minds are content to feed on meat and potatoes. Make God’s word your delight and rely on it; beware the opinions of people.
  • Joseph endured thirteen years of suffering, but he also enjoyed eighty years of honor. Let us not lose heart concerning any present suffering for Christ. He can abundantly reward us. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV).
  • A godly man may die in the Egypts of this world. That matters not. All the godly will share perfection together someday (Hebrews 11:40). O that it was today!

Grace and peace, David

A Promise Forsaken (Part Two)

DSCN32041 Kings 12:25-33

After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king, but he acted foolishly. He followed the advice of his young friends and rejected the counsel of older men who understood the mood of the people for change. Jeroboam led the revolt of the people against Rehoboam, and as God had determined, he became the king of the ten northern tribes of Israel. Rehoboam was left with two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, and he wanted to start a civil war to regain the other ten, but the Lord ordered him not to do that (12:1-24). This meant that Jeroboam could set up his kingdom in peace.

He had a good opportunity, and his first steps were necessary and wise. Though the Lord had restrained the aggressiveness of Rehoboam, Jeroboam had to act wisely to protect his people from a hostile neighbor. He fortified two cities and made one of them his capital. The Lord expects his people to act prudently in a troubled world. However, prudence can too easily cross the line to fear. This is the outward occasion for Jeroboam’s turn from the Lord God.

To understand Jeroboam’s fear, consider the covenantal context in which they lived. God had made Jeroboam king over the majority of the old covenant people of God. Having a king outside of the line of David did not terminate that covenant relationship. The men were still obligated to journey to Jerusalem three times of year for God’s appointed festivals. The worship of God took place in Jerusalem, where every sacrifice was to be made. The temple made by Solomon was extremely impressive, which would affect everyone who attended worship there. With that in mind, listen to what the Holy Spirit tells us in God’s Word.

Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam” (12:26-27 NIV)

His fears came from his own thoughts, and they were filled with fear rather than faith in the living God. The Lord had promised Jeroboam an enduring dynasty. In a short time, he feared the loss of both his kingdom and his own life. How ready we all are to trust our own fears rather than the promises of God! The Lord’s promises are used by the Spirit to build hope; unbelief fuels distress and despair.

His fears impelled him to seek advice, but he clearly did not seek the Lord’s counsel. Jeroboam invented a new religion! Notice how he accomplished that evil.

  • He made two golden calves (12:28a). Idolatry was direct disobedience against the Lord and his covenant law (Exodus 20:4-7). Idolatry is the “evil exchange” that people make when they turn their backs on the Lord (Romans 1:21-23).
  • He appealed to the people’s love of ease (12:28b). He posed as their benefactor, who was troubled that they had to take such a difficult trip to Jerusalem. He built shrines in many places to make worship “easier” (12:31a)
  • He referred to the Scriptures, though in a twisted way (12:28c). His words about the two golden calves he made are almost an exact quote from Exodus 32:8. Please understand that the quotation of a few Bible verses does not mean that the teacher is telling the truth. Jeroboam intended them to pursue evil. He put the golden calves at the two extreme ends of his kingdom: Dan in the north and Bethel in south (12:29-30).
  • He made people priests that were not from the tribe of Levi (12:31). God had restricted the priesthood to the tribe of Levi, and Israel had suffered greatly in the wilderness when they had rebelled against God’s will in this matter (cf. Numbers 16-17).
  • He instituted a new religious festival as an alternative to what the Lord had ordered (12:32-33). The purpose was to deflect the people from the longtime worship of the Lord. And it was easier: they didn’t have to go three times a year, but only once!
  • He set an evil example (12:33). Jeroboam practiced the evil imaginations of his heart. He showed people that they could do his new religion and “get away with doing it”.

In all this, we are not told of any objection made by his people. They readily bought into their new king’s new religion. By all this, Jeroboam strengthened their desire to forsake the Lord. And he abandoned the promise that God had made to him.

We need to ask ourselves, “Am I on a course of my own fears and the love of personal ease? Are we determined to follow the Lord Jesus? Read Mark 8:34 for his way.

Grace and peace, David

A Promise Forsaken (Part One)

DSCN35291 Kings 11:37-39

As I read our Bible reading for last week, I thought about the sad account of Jeroboam I of Israel. Like Solomon before him (1 Kings 3:10-15), the Lord gave him a conditional promise, after Solomon had turned to worship idols in the latter part of his reign. The Lord explained Solomon’s disobedience to Jeroboam and made this promise to him: “However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever’” (11:37-39 NIV).

Let’s notice a couple things about this promise. We need to think through this promise to grasp the tragic character of Jeroboam’s failure that we will look at next time.

  • Part of it proclaimed what God would certainly do. Jeroboam would rule over ten of the tribes of Israel. This portion of the covenant kingdom came to be known as Israel (it had the majority of the people) or Ephraim (a metonymy, using the name of the most prominent tribe for the whole), and many Bible teachers refer to it as “the northern kingdom”. This part is a simple statement of fact; God had chosen Jeroboam as the king or “shepherd” of his people. His authority to rule came from God’s sovereign act. I’ll let you ponder the significance of this in regard to presidential elections (cf. Romans 13:1-7).
  • Part of it involved the nature of Jeroboam’s desires. Read his story and you will see that he had a desire to lead, which can be a good desire if the person is truly godly, or evil and dangerous, if the person’s heart is not right with God. Understand clearly that the all-knowing Lord of the universe knew exactly the type of man Jeroboam was. The true story of God’s glory involves many such people.
  • The promise was conditional, as was the law covenant that Jeroboam lived under. It came with an “if”. This fact should not obscure in any way that this was a good and sincere promise. Had Jeroboam obeyed the Lord, he would have received the blessings. He would have had an enduring dynasty or house. God made a genuine offer to Jeroboam that he would have delivered on, if Jeroboam had obeyed. The goodness of God’s promises is not changed or tainted by the character of people to whom he offers them. For example, Jesus offers eternal life to all who will repent and believe. The fact that many reject or even despise the offer does not alter the truth that the Lord invites all to believe and live.
  • God motivated Jeroboam to obey in faith. David had received God’s covenant promise that he would have an enduring house or dynasty. God let Jeroboam know that he could also have a blessing like the one promised to the man after God’s own heart. God invited Jeroboam to think of what he had done for David. Jeroboam needed to trust God’s goodness.
  • The Lord explained this promise in relation to his promise to David. God did not hide any “fine print” from Jeroboam. In some way unexplained, Jeroboam could have an enduring house like David’s, though at some point greater glory would come to David’s house. How could this happen? Perhaps the descendants of Jeroboam might have been princes in David’s restored kingdom. God was not going to alter his eternal purpose in Christ (Ephesians 3:11). But the all-wise Lord could have worked out something highly significant. Jeroboam had only to trust the covenant Lord of Israel, and he and his family would have been richly blessed.

In the Bible, God has made an offer of eternal life to people. We can take the promise of eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and tell it to the people that God has placed in our lives. Who is around you to whom you can tell the good news? We have a good promise; let’s tell it to others!

Grace and peace, David

Hope Builder’s Diet

IMG_0719Hebrews 10:23

The God who makes promises is the ground of hope (confident expectation). The writer of Hebrews presents God as “he who promised”. The emphasis at this point is not on the content of what God has promised, but it is on the God who makes promises to his people. Remember this idea: We must exalt the One who promises and not the promises in themselves. We do not worship the Bible, but the God who has spoken in the Bible. His faithfulness to his word is the crucial matter. Many people say wedding vows, but it is the character of those who repeat the vows that gives any substance to them.

Knowledge of the living God is more important than the promises, and it is the basis of our interaction with God’s promises. This is not to disparage the promises but to put them in their proper place. We will not evaluate his promises correctly unless we have a proper estimate of God and his character as God. John 3:16 is a beautiful verse, but it means nothing to the one who knows little or nothing about the God who loves the world. For this reason, seek to gain a greater knowledge of God. It is gained through daily communication with him. Therefore, to strengthen us, let us consider God as the promising God. You can review how God interacted with his people by giving promises:

  • Noah (Genesis 6:11-22)
  • Jacob (Genesis 28:11-15)
  • Elijah (1 Kings 17:2-6)
  • Abraham (Romans 4:16-25)

All this important to grasp, because hope “feeds” on the promises of God. As your body is nourished by physical food, so your hope is sustained and strengthened by God’s promises. The way to an unswerving profession of hope (confident expectation) is to lay hold of God’s promises and to “make them your own”; that is, put them into your world and life view and act accordingly. The inner person of the heart especially needs to be refreshed with God’s promises in the good news of Christ. Think of their incomparable greatness and glory. When we enjoy their fulfillment, then we will be eternally happy.

How are you feeding your hope? If you have a feeling of hopelessness, perhaps you can trace the problem back to an improper diet. Try a “hope builders” spiritual diet (a good diet helps you build strength) for a few weeks. (Yes, it might interrupt your current “Bible reading plan”. I know it’s shocking to suggest such an interruption. But isn’t hope of great value to the true Christian way of life?) Here is a sample that I suggest for people who desperately need to strengthen their confident anticipation in the Lord.

As you pray for God to strengthen your hope, read and think about and then pray based on the following passages:

Read one section from one of the following each day:

  • The Life of Abraham (Genesis 12-22)
  • The Life of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-50)
  • The Life of David (1 Samuel 16-31; 2 Samuel 1-24)

Read one or two sections from one of the following each day:

  • The Gospel of Mark
  • Romans

Read one of the following each day: [Repeat as necessary]

Psalm 6; Psalm 13; Psalm 23; Psalm 27; Psalm 37; Psalms 42-43; Psalm 73; Psalm 107; 1 Corinthians 15; Hebrews 11; Revelation 1:12-18; Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 19; Revelation 21:1-22:6

Conclude by thanking God for his word that builds your hope by the power of the Spirit.

We need to arrive at the full confidence that we can depend upon God, the faithful God. We can trust him with our lives now and forever. The Christian life is a walk of active faith. We dare to trust the invisible God in the all too visible challenges that we face. The life of a follower of Jesus is not intended to be a pleasant stroll in the park while you sip on free lemonade. For this reason, we must have confidence in the faithful, promise-making and promise-keeping God.

Grace and peace, David