As we turn our hearts to a new year, I’ve got a few confessions to make. I’m not a goal setter. I never make New Year’s resolutions. And even if I have a dream vacation on the calendar, I never think about it because it’s torture to dream about relaxing in paradise while living with daily stressors.
For the same reason, I’m not a shopper—unless I have money to spend. Perhaps it stems back to my upbringing as the spoiled-rotten baby of the family, but if I see something on the rack that calls out to me, I must have it—or my day is ruined.
Because of this flaw in my character, I didn’t step foot into a mall for the first several years of our marriage. Fact is, I seldom go shopping even today. And Costco? Whoooo-eee! It’s deadly unless I have a list and stay in the food aisles.
My husband is just the opposite. He enjoys looking at things and even deciding on items he’ll purchase…someday. Then he dreams about those eventual purchases, saves for them, makes space for them in the garage, and finally makes the buy.
When it comes to shopping, my husband hopes and I am hopeless.
Our Hopeless Culture
In biblical terms, hope isn’t just wishful thinking. Hope is looking forward with certainty to a promised end. Hope involves preparing for the coming event, keeping it at the forefront of our daily lives, and letting excitement build with the anticipation. Hope focuses on the future while living in the present.
Our culture, on the other hand, tends to focus on NOW. How we feel now. What we want now. Where we live now. Very few human beings look ahead to the certainty of an eternal judgment:
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Revelation 20:12
Our debit and credit cards have lulled us into a get-it-now mentality that has robbed us of something far more valuable than money. Our hope has been weakened from lack of use.
Praise God, weak hope is not a terminal condition! Several ancient brothers and sisters suffered the same malady, and through a rigorous God-directed regimen became the biblical champions of hope we read about today.
Abram and Sarai were called to leave their home and family to go to a new land, and God promised to make them into a great nation—at seventy-five and sixty-five years old. After twenty-five years had passed, and they were still wandering and childless, God speaks the promise again to Abram (now re-named, Abraham):
“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’” Genesis 17:17
Can you blame Abraham for his flagging hope? His present circumstance made the future promise seem utterly impossible. And let’s face it—he’d given God twenty-five years to fulfill the promise. He’d been incredible patient, right?
Abraham and Sarah bore a son, Isaac. Isaac’s wife Rebekah had two sons, and Jacob received the blessing of God’s Promise. Jacob had twelve sons, and his favorite was Joseph. God’s hand was on Joseph from the beginning, speaking to him through dreams, and he foolishly shared a dream with his brothers that depicted them bowing down to him in worship. Angry, his brothers sold him to traders, and Joseph became a slave in Egypt and was thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. While there he interpreted a dream for Pharaoh’s cupbearer (who had also been thrown in jail unfairly), and asks for a favor in return:
“…when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison…The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” Genesis 40:14,23
Scripture doesn’t tell us how many more years Joseph waited in prison. Did his hope dim? Or did he remember the dream that God had given him about his brothers bowing down to him? When Joseph is finally released from prison, he is elevated to the second highest position in Egypt and saves many people from starving during a drought. His brothers come from Canaan to barter for grain—and they bow down before Joseph, fulfilling the long-ago dream.
Miriam is eighty-six years old, and all she’s ever known is the harsh life of Israel’s slavery. The ancient stories have been kept alive by the tribe of Naphtali, and the songs they sing of Abraham’s promise say that the Israelites would be in captivity for four hundred years.
Moses arrives with a message from El Shaddai—a new name, Yahweh, and the promise of Israel’s long-awaited deliverance.
“The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’” Exodus 3:7-8
But when the plagues begin—and both Egyptians and Israelites suffer equally without any further clarification from Yahweh—can they look forward? Or are they too focused on now to hope?
What About Us?
God’s Word promises us so many amazing things—the greatest of which is heaven. I must confess I spend very little time thinking about heaven. It’s sort of like my shopping philosophy…if I can’t have it now, so I don’t want to think about it…because I don’t want to be disappointed. But here’s what God has to say about hope and disappointment:
“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:2-5 (emphasis added)
Hope never need disappoint us because all that comes between now and then helps us experience God’s love in greater measure. So experience hope in this life, dear ones. When we see Jesus face-to-face…we won’t need it.
- Hope isn’t wishful thinking; it’s looking forward with certainty to a promised end. #hoping4heaven
- Hope focuses on the future while living in the present. #hoping4heaven
- Experience hope in this life, for when we see Jesus face-to-face, we won’t need it. #hoping4heaven
- What promise do you want to focus on today?
Congrats to Kathy Titus!
Kathy won our New Year’s newsletter contest, and I’ll be sending her an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of my March release, Miriam: A Treasures of the Nile Novel. Thanks to all who entered! Keep watching my Facebook Author Page for your chance to win another ARC!