God is the source of hope for the New Year

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Lots of people are gathering food and party supplies to ring in the New Year with snacks and togetherness. Some folks (like my family) are planning a quiet evening of movie watching. And then? Well, the New Year will begin, and we’ll all get back into our routines. And, if previous years are any indication, the momentum we gathered at the beginning of the year will run out about a month into it.

And there are all sorts of explanations. It might be a lack of discipline. It might be general laziness. It might be too much stress or too little sleep or both. Many factors play a role in derailing resolutions. But in my experience, there’s nothing that can derail me worse than a loss of purpose or direction. If I don’t know where I’m going or if I don’t have a goal to reach, I wander. I hesitate. I second guess myself. I give up. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.

 

nature-flowers-plant-springToday’s verse is Romans 15:13.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

People have to have hope. You can’t live without it. Love lasts forever, yes, and your faith can fail. Mine does often. But if I ever lose hope, I’ll stop completely. I’ll lose faith if I lose hope. I’ll stop loving if I lose hope. My hope in the Lord gives me the strength to have faith, to love people who don’t love me in return.

When we get home and receive everything God has promised us, we won’t need our hope anymore. But while we live on earth, hope is a necessity. And fortunately for us, God has given us everything we need to cling to hope in Him. He’s demonstrated His goodness. He’s proven His Word. He’s shown us that He never makes mistakes and He always keeps His promises.

When you know God like that, you trust Him, and when you trust Him, He gives you joy and peace. At that point, your hope becomes something confident, something unbreakable, something unquenchable. And that’s how I want to face 2016, with unquenchable hope.

Don’t mistake hope with naivete, though. I think a lot of people do. Just because you hold on to hope doesn’t mean you’re living in denial. It doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the facts. It just means that you’re placing your trust in Someone who is big enough to make all the negative facts work together into a positive result.

2016 is going to bring a lot of challenges, but you know what? God is bigger than the challenges I’m facing, and I trust Him completely. So the hope I have in Him can be confident, because He is where hope comes from.

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Don’t let your insecurity dictate your direction

I struggle with insecurity. A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them that, but it’s true. I’m a recovering people pleaser, after all. Insecurity is part of the gig. It’s taken me a long time and a lot of emotional trauma, but I’ve finally come to understand that insecurity is something everyone struggles with. We’re all insecure about something. It’s just not the same from person to person, and we all react to our insecurity in different ways.

Some people lash out. Others tear people down. Some hide. Some run. Some fight. But at the root of it all is this cold pit of fear in your stomach that won’t go away no matter how many times you tell yourself that you know what you’re doing. Living with insecurity is miserable because it makes you miserable. It colors the way you see yourself and others, and it endangers your relationships.

So what beats insecurity? Confidence and peace. But those aren’t things you can pour out of a bottle or find stashed in a treasure chest. I don’t know about you, but a load of confidence and peace sounds like something I could use right now. So where do you get them?

WJDK7M84F9Today’s verse is Romans 15:13.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible calls God the source of hope. I think it’s important we remember that. Too often we put our hope in things that can’t really satisfy us or solutions that treat the symptoms of a problem instead of its cause.

If you’re struggling with insecurity today, the first thing to realize is that you can’t find security anywhere other than in Jesus Christ. If you look to other people or titles or wealth or status to give you the security you crave, you’re going to be disappointed. People will always let you down, and all the success in this world won’t amount to much when you die. You can’t take it with you. So instead of letting your wealth or your family name or your reputation define you, start looking at yourself the way Jesus does.

Another way to find confidence is to ask God for it. That’s something we can ask for. Confidence and peace aren’t mystical, ethereal constructs that can’t be understood. No. If you need confidence and peace, ask God to give it to you. But realize where it comes from. Confidence and peace come because you trust God.

That’s the tough part. You’ve got to trust God.

Trust that He’s in control. Trust that He hasn’t made a mistake. Trust that He’ll tell you when you need to turn. Trust that you’re where you are now because you’re following Him. Trust that He won’t leave you alone and that He won’t abandon you.

For me, my insecurity comes when I stop trusting God. When I take matters into my own hands and try to accomplish things in my own strength, that’s when I start getting nervous and unpleasant. That’s when I get snappy and grouchy, because I’m relying on myself, and Myself isn’t strong enough.

Maybe no one understands you. Maybe it’s just you and God on the road right now, and you’re starting to wonder if the compass God gave you is actually working. Let’s get something straight. God doesn’t change, and I’m not aware of any time in Scripture where God set someone off on a path and then changed His mind about where they were going or what they were doing. God sees things through. He finishes what He starts, and He’s not done with any of us yet.

So trust Him. He’s worthy of it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Shut out the negative voices. Granted, don’t be a jerk about it. And always be humble enough to hear correction, because you aren’t perfect. But don’t ever put someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or opinions higher than God’s.

Don’t let your insecurities dictate the direction you’re going. That’s God’s job. So learn to recognize His voice apart from the voices of insecurity and the lies of the enemy. Then, once you know what God wants, trust it. Trust Him. And shut out the insecurity using the peace and confidence you gain from knowing who God is and that nothing can ever separate you from His love.

Trust first. Ask questions later.

Do you know people who can remain hopeful even when the world is falling apart around them? And I’m not talking about the kind of hope characterized by plain old denial. Unfortunately, that’s usually the kind of hope I brandish, refusing to deal with a situation until I absolutely must, ignoring it until it becomes undeniable. After all, it’s a lot easier to live in denial than it is to actually face your troubles, confidently believing that everything will work out.

But is that real hope?

I guess to find out what real hope is we need to find out where it comes from. 

If you listen to the message coming out of the world and the opinons in television shows and movies, hope comes from some ethereal belief in the human spirit. Or from following your heart. Or from believing in the general goodness of Mankind. And everyone knows that’s a bunch of bologna. Well, maybe not everyone knows . . . . but if they’d really think about it, they would.

What good does the human spirit do, other than get us and others in trouble? What hope can you derive from your heart when it’s often what causes the problem to begin with? And is Mankind really good? Not in my limited experience. On occasion we do kind things, but does that kindness come from us or from somewhere else?

So what is the source of hope? That answer, I believe, is found in today’s verse.

Romans 15:13

 13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is the source of hope.

I know I say it all the time, but it’s true: God knows everything. He knows what happened in the past. He knows what will happen in the near future. He knows what will happen in the far future. And so who else better to help us through today that Someone who already knows what it will bring? Someone who already helped us survive yesterday?

This is a terrible example, but it’s the only one I can think of until my coffee kicks in. In March 2010, I went to visit my incredible, awesome friends Jim, Shelley, Jonah and Silas Dinsmore in Guatemala. Originally, I had hoped other people could go with me, but the way everything worked out I was going by myself. Oddly enough, however, I wasn’t concerned. Plenty of other people were concerned with me travelling internationally for the first time by myself, but I wasn’t. Why? Well, Jim had given me clear instructions on how to navigate the Guatemalan airport, even down to giving me Spanish phrases to use if I got in trouble. And I had his cell phone number.

I know there was plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong. Looking back on it now, there were LOTS of opportunities for something to go wrong. And I’m certainly not saying that Jim knew what would happen. But he knows Guatemala. He knows the people. He knows the culture. He knows the airport. He knows the airlines. And I trusted he knew what he was talking about, and on account of that trust I didn’t worry about my trip down or my trip back home. I had hope that everything would work out just fine because Jim had given me instructions and I had followed them.

What would have happened if I decided that Jim was just faking when he gave me directions on how to navigate the Guatemala City airport? What would have happened if I hadn’t taken him seriously and tried to talk to a child in Guatemala City (very bad things would probably have happened, just so you know)? What would have happened if I didn’t bring the medicine or the supplies Jim told me I needed?

Disaster. The trip would have been a bust. I would have spent all my time miserable or terrified or lost or struggling to make do, unprepared, unhappy and unfocused.

Does that sound like us in life?

God is the source of our hope because He knows what has come and gone, and He knows what is coming, and He has given us instructions not only on how to face it but how to overcome it. If we really believe that God knows everything, we need to take Him at His Word and do what He has told us to do. We need to follow His instructions (the Bible) and live the way we’re supposed to live.

If we really believe that He knows everything, we need to trust Him.

And when we trust Him completely, the automatic, instantaneous result is peace and joy, followed by hope. Real hope. Confident hope. Not the fake smiles and “I’m fine” sort of hope that gets people to leave you alone but turns your hair gray. Hope that lets you see no matter how difficult a situation might be God is in it.

That’s the kind of hope I need. That’s the kind of hope I can have if I trust God truly. It’s the kind of hope the world needs too, especially now in this time of economic crisis and natural disasters. We absolutely can’t understand everything, but God can. When I’m in a situation that’s too big for me, I usually default to people who know more than I do (in algebra, I always took my brother’s word for everything; I still do).

I could struggle through life on my own understanding, but why? My own understanding is limited and claiming that I comprehend why bad things happen to good people is nothing but pride on my part. Pride hurts me, it hurts people around me, and it does absolutely nothing to accomplish what God left me here to do.

Trusting God to resolve a problem is a lot harder than denying it exists — but trusting God works better. Because if you’re so busy trying to figure out why God has done the things He’s done or allowed the things to happen that have happened, you’ll very likely miss the point of why it happened in the first place.