Holding On To Hope

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.” Joshua 6:20 (NKJV)

Hope is the desire of something good, with the expectation that it is obtainable.  I believe that most Christians, including myself, frequently relegate hope to the realm of mere wishing. We fail to understand that true hope is built on the foundation of God’s nature and ability, not on what we think or on an emotion. Our God, who many have turned into a celestial “Santa Clause” or a “Daddy” whose lap we can crawl up into, is the same God who spoke this universe into being with His Word.  Our God is Holy, Righteous, and a Consuming Fire. Our God is beyond comprehension, and yet our finite minds try to find some way to turn this infinite God into what can be understood, thereby stripping Him of His power and authority.

The generation of Israelites that God brought out of slavery in Egypt, lost out on the rich blessings of the promised land because they focused on the giants in the land, instead of the power of God in their midst. That generation of Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty long years because they were unwilling to place all of their faith and hope in God. They all had to die before God would allow Joshua to start taking possession of the promised land by marching around the walls of Jericho.  God required something of the Israelites before those walls ever fell: their faith and obedience. Obviously, the mere act of marching around a city seven times, sounding some trumpets, and shouting, would not normally bring down a city’s defensive walls.  It was the Hand of God, in partnership with their faith and obedience, that brought those walls down with a crash.

Had the Israelites not done exactly what God had asked them to do, in the order that He had asked them to do it, we would likely be reading a very different story. I am sure that when Joshua related God’s “game plan” to the Israelites, there must have been a few doubts and questions. But according to the Scriptural account, they obeyed the Word of the Lord and accomplished what God wanted done: taking the city of Jericho.

What if they hadn’t done exactly as He commanded? What if they had completed the right elements, but not in the right order or at the right time? Would they have achieved the same results? I think not.

Occasionally, God asks us to do something that makes no logical sense.  And because we do not understand how important this is in our lives, we do not move forward to obey. God always has a reason for what He asks us to do and how He asks us to do something, even if it makes absolutely no sense to us at the time that He asks it.

We have good friends, who a number of years ago were going through a very difficult financial season. They had been renting the house they were living in, but felt God was telling them it was time for them to build a house of their own–with a very specific purpose for God’s kingdom. There was only one problem, they had no money to move forward, as James’ law practice (not his real name) was not doing well at that time.  His wife, Penny (not her real name, either), felt that God was impressing on her that they needed to move forward in faith and sign the contract for the house. She believed God was saying to her heart that, if they would commit to that house, He would then provide everything that was needed.

This is totally backwards from how the church thinks or teaches. We won’t usually move forward until we have what it takes to get the job done. Of course, if we can see how something can be accomplished, this doesn’t require much faith in the God Who asked it of us in the first place.

After some days of intense prayer and discussion, they decided to move forward with their committment to that house and obey God to the best of their ability and understanding. Even if it cost them everything else they had, they were willing to take that risk, rather than being disobedient or faithless.

Several days after the contract was signed, James received a call from a prominent corporation requesting his services as their legal counsel, a position that he holds to this day. During the course of a very intense first year in this position, James earned enough to, not only pay off all of their outstanding financial obligations, but also to completely pay the home’s mortgage in full.

I also stepped out in faith where my husband was concerned. I sensed strongly in my heart that this was the man who God wanted me to marry, but initially, I was not sure how this could work. Among the doubts that I wrestled with were: I wasn’t “in love” with him (a requirement, I thought); he was slightly younger than I was (an insignificant ten and a half months); he lived in Boston and I lived in Chicago (not exactly conducive to the engagement that he was suggesting); he was still working his way through college (while I had already graduated); and I did not have any support from friends or family (they were not terribly enthused about my choice).  Logically, I could not see how this made much sense. I wrestled with doubts about having heard God correctly. I was terrified of making a decision of this magnitude without the support of anyone else.  What if everyone else was right and I was wrong? And yet, I knew deep in my heart that if I didn’t marry him, I would be making the biggest mistake of my life.

So what would have happened, for both our friends and for me, had we not done what God had told us to do? What blessings would we have missed had we been too afraid to act? How would our lives have been different? What would we have lost had we not been willing to step out in faith and hold on to the hope that He was watching over the results of our decisions?

Most of us live our lives as if we believe we get to choose how we live them. We may give “lip service” to the fact that we want to obey God in every area; that we would follow Him where ever He led.  However, when God asks us to do something that is a bit out of the ordinary, we usually will reason out what we believe God is telling us to do, trying to make some sense out of it all before we act.

I wonder how many of the important life decisions we struggle to make are actually dependant on the fact that we haven’t moved forward in faith and obedience to what He has already spoken to us about. We are waiting for things to “make sense.” We are waiting for God to show us how He is going to put all of the pieces together. We are actually waiting for all of this to be easier.

God requires faith and obedience from us before He will move; our faith and obedience please Him. When we exhibit faith in Him, we can have hope that what we are believing for is obtainable; that He will provide a way where there seems to be no way. This hope will sustain us as we wait for the complete fulfillment of His words to us. And, as in the game of Dominoes, moving forward in faith and obedience will be like that tipping of the first tile. It will result in so many other areas of our lives falling into place.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

I foresaw the LORD always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.” Acts 2:25-26

Related Link:  http://www.worldchallenge.org/en/node/13112

Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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