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About twenty years ago I did some things and went through some that changed my life. I made poor decisions and suffered consequences for them. At one point I was beating myself up over it. I began to get worked up and defeated over one thing in particular. Because of the things I had gone through, the denomination I was a part of at the time had a rule that people in my circumstance could never be in any ministry role. It was devastating. My whole life I had dreamed of one day being in ministry, and now that dream was dead. A friend came over and asked why I was upset. When I told him, he responded, “What makes you think that you, or this denomination, can rescind God’s calling? You don’t have that kind of power!” It was the slap in the face I needed, and I began to hope and believe again that one day that would happen.
In Romans 4, Paul is writing about Abraham, God’s promise to him and how it relates to our faith. Verse 14 says, “If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless” (NLT). He explains none of us are capable of keeping God’s Law without messing up and God’s promises are received through faith. Then verse 17-18 says, ”This (Abraham receiving the promise) happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping.” That’s powerful. Even when there was no reason to hope, he kept hoping. That’s truly was faith is.
If you feel like a dream or calling is dead, it’s time to hope and believe again. Your past actions, or your current circumstances, do not have the power to change God’s promises or His calling. We serve a God who brings dead dreams, dead hopes, dead callings, dead you name it back to life. There is nothing that is impossible for Him. We have to push past the lies and what our eyes tell us in order to believe what God promised. We must awaken faith and hope in our heart again and trust that God, who brings dead things to life and creates new things out of nothing, will respond and move on our behalf. It’s not easy, but that’s what faith is. Abraham did it and was rewarded for his faith. I believe God will reward us too when we stand with that kind of faith and begin moving in the direction He called us to.
My father in law loves watching Animal Planet and other shows about nature. There’s something fascinating to him about the shows where they narrate a lion stalking it’s prey. The animals travel in heards as they search for water, but are unknowingly being followed. When the lion shows itself, fear breaks out. Most animals stay together as they run in fear, but several scatter and peel off from the heard. One thing I’ve noticed about these shows is that the lion never goes after those that stay with the heard. He always goes after those who let fear cause them to be alone. I find myself rooting for the underdog in those situations hoping they find their way back to the heard. Unfortunately the lion almost always wins because fear causes the prey to make the wrong decisions.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us that the devil roams the earth like a lion seeking people to devour. He uses the same tactics real lions use: stalking, fear, intimidation and loneliness. I see this pandemic as a way of trying to separate people from the heard and to instill fear in people causing them to make poor choices. Fear does not come from God. Hope does. He has plans for us that give us hope and a future, but we can’t be ruled by fear. Even though this looks never ending, we must continually put our hope in the Lord and stay closely connected to the Body of Believers. The enemy wants to sift us the way he wanted to separate Peter. God is faithful and He’s working everything out for our good, so we must continue to hope and trust in Him.
Here are some Bible verses on placing our hope in the Lord.
1. Be strong, be courageous, all you that hope in the Lord.
Psalm 31:24 GNT
2. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.
Lamentations 3:21-22 NLT
3. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
Romans 12:12 GNT
4. So then, my soul, why would you be depressed? Why would you sink into despair? Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior. For no matter what, I will still sing with praise, for living before his face is my saving grace!
Psalms 42:5 TPT
5. So it is impossible for God to lie for we know that his promise and his vow will never change! And now we have run into his heart to hide ourselves in his faithfulness. This is where we find his strength and comfort, for he empowers us to seize what has already been established ahead of time—an unshakeable hope! We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat which sits in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold, and where Jesus, our forerunner, has gone in before us. He is now and forever our royal Priest like Melchizedek.
Hebrews 6:18-20 TPT
One of most accurate memes I’ve seen during this quarantine is, “Check on your extroverted friends. We’re not ok!” With everyone working and staying at home, people are looking for ways to connect. One way is to do a Facebook live video. In face so many are doing it now that Facebook has had to shift its resources and focus to improving that feature because of the use it’s getting. I also saw a Hallmark commercial where they are giving three free cards to everyone who requests them on their website. They’re wanting people to stay connected and to send encouraging words to someone else during this time. There is a unique opportunity right now to speak life into other people like never before.
If you watch the news, it’s hard to find hope of this ending anytime soon. The no school and stay home orders keep getting extended. Unemployment is rising every day as businesses struggle to adapt and fear keeps consumers home and from buying. Hope is what people are hungry for. In fact, I read an article yesterday from Pew research that said over 50% of people have now prayed for Coronavirus to end. People who haven’t talked to God in years or who have doubted His existence are now reaching out. The need for good news and hope is great. Have you prayed to ask God how He can use you to meet that need?
Don’t panic. Most of what God asks us to do are small steps of faith. It could be a Facebook live video, commenting on a post, sending an email (or card) or posting a prayer. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Nothing is more appealing than speaking beautiful, life-giving words. For they release sweetness to our souls and inner healing to our spirits” (TPT). You have the ability to bring healing right now. You have the ability to speak beautiful, life giving words. All it takes is for you to seek God on how He wants to use you during this time. You can do it because the same Spirit that dwelled in Christ, dwells in you. You are empowered to make a difference right now and to release sweetness to souls. You can make a difference today through the words you use.
One of the things I remember being taught at an early age is that Jesus was tempted in all areas of His life just like we are. It’s always been a comfort to know that because He can relate to us as we go through our daily lives and are tempted to say or do things that wouldn’t bring God glory. The temptations He faced in the wilderness weren’t the only temptations He faced, though they are the only ones recorded. Just like us, I’m sure He was under a constant barrage of temptations trying to trip Him up so that His ministry could be discredited. When He didn’t fall prey to those temptations, He showed that we don’t have to give into our flesh and that He could empathize with us in those moments of weakness.
It wasn’t just temptations He faced as a person. He understood what it was like to be betrayed by a close friend. He felt the sorrow of a close friend passing away. He felt the sting of being rejected by people who should have respected Him. In His greatest time of need, His closest friends didn’t stand up for Him and one publicly denied even knowing Him. It was more than temptations He faced in order to be able to empathize with us. He felt pain and sorrow like we do. He understands what it feels like to be hurt by those you love and to feel great sorrow. In fact, He even knows what it feels like to feel abandoned by God. He went through all those emotions so that He could empathize with us in our pain.
Isaiah 53:3-4 says, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!” (NLT) It wasn’t just His pain He felt. On the cross, He took on our pain, our sorrow and our grief. Take the deepest hurt and pain you’ve felt in your life and multiply that by billions. He carried that pain. He did that for us. For you. He understands the pain you feel because He felt it before you at the cross. He took stripes for your emotional healing as well, and endured the harshest punishment known to man out of love for you. Don’t believe the lie that you are the only one who feels the way you do. He carried your pain and sorrow first and endured so that you can too.
In one of the darkest times of my life, I felt like everything was crumbling around me. I couldn’t sleep or eat for days. I laid in bed at night and would repeat Nehemiah 8:10. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Over and over I would say it. Then I started singing it through the tears. It became my mantra. Because of that, even though my world was crumbling around me, I found a place deep within that gave me hope that I would make it through it. Some days I couldn’t see past a minute in front of me, but i knew if God would help me survive that minute, then I could survive the next. God would remind me of Scriptures to hold on to or He would have someone give me one out of the blue. Life was hard, but God provided a way through it and gave me strength to endure.
Psalm 84:5-6 says, “How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord…Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring” (TPT ). This promise is to those who find their strength in the Lord first of all. Every one of us goes through the dark valley of tears. What I love is that God says, “Pick up your shovel during that time and start digging. Beneath all that pain is a pool where you can find strength and refreshment.” We’ve got to dig deeper than the way things appear on the surface. We’ve got to dig deep into God’s Word. We’ve got to dig deep into His promises, and put our roots there. If they’re on the surface, we’ll be blown over like a tree in a hurricane. Our roots cannot remain at surface level in the dark valley of tears.
You can either be defeated in that valley or you can find the brook of God’s blessing. God is pouring out blessings all the time, but we don’t see them because we get too focused on the things going on around us. Lamentations 3:21-25 says, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope. The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him” (GNT). You can have hope in the dark valley of tears when you focus on God’s unfailing love to get you through it and His mercy to remind you that this is a season and there are mountain tops still ahead. Trust and hope in the Lord and draw your strength from Him.
Several years ago the Lord spoke a simple word to me while I was praying. He said, “Prepare.” I replied, “Prepare for what?” Again, all I heard was, “Prepare.” I said, “Lord, if I’m going to prepare, I need to know what to prepare for.” For the third time, He said, “Prepare.” I had breakfast coming up with a pastor friend. I couldn’t wait to discuss what I heard. After our pleasantries, he said, “You know what I heard God say to me the other night? Prepare.” I told him I had heard the same thing. We began to discuss what it meant, but agreed we needed to each spend more time in prayer, in reading the Bible and in holding each other accountable to it.
Preparing is a necessary process in almost everything in life that’s worth anything. The greater the task, the greater the preparation. Think about taking a test. The more significant the test, the greater amount of time you spent preparing for it. Most of the time you had an idea of what could be on the test, but you weren’t sure what the questions were going to be. You needed to prepare for them to ask you anything. Life with God is a lot like that. We need to be prepared to be used in whatever situation He chooses to use us in. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. The on,y way to constantly be ready is to prepare ahead of time what you will say.
Proverbs 24:27 says, “Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house” (NLT). Too often we try to get the cart before the horse. We want the payoff without going through the process, but God’s plan is that you and I prepare for the greater things He has for us by being faithful in the small things. If you’re looking ahead to where God has promised to take you, take time each day to do the little things that will prepare you for that place. This proverb us to plan and prepare how we will be sustained once we get there rather than to focus on how we will stay there. God’s process always involves sowing first and then reaping later. If He’s being slow in keeping His promises, ask Him to tell you what He wants you to do today to prepare for your future.