The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Faith that Gives Living Hope

The faith and hope God gives are sure and stabilizing. God’s hope is alive. The hope that comes through faith in Christ is real, dependable and living. The faith of God gives living hope that stands the test of time and circumstances.

Have you ever experienced a seemingly hopeless situation? If not, you probably will at some point in your life. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . . “ (Romans 4:18a NIV) is the way the apostle Paul paints the picture facing Abraham when Isaac was born. When he rested on the sandy shores of this world, it was hopeless. But Abraham found an “anchor of the soul,” when he came to rest in faith on the solid rock of God and His Word.

Life is filled with situations that press beyond the limits of worldly explanation. Worldly optimists, (those whose faith and hope rests on the achievement of mankind) would tell us Science has all the answers, all the solutions to our problems. But that just isn’t so. I know, because I have experienced a situation that stretched beyond the outer limits of this world’s resources. For me this was a point of purity. There came a point when I had nothing and no one to put my faith and hope in but God alone. My faith and hope, of necessity, rested purely on God.

Sometimes you can be floating along on still waters and all of a sudden, a life-threatening squall thrashes in on you. That’s how it was for my wife and I. My wife was three months pregnant with our third child. A few days earlier a sonogram had allowed us to peek at a perfectly healthy baby reclined in the comfort of a womb. I had just returned with the answer to my wife’s provolone and salami craving. We were set to spend a nice calm Friday evening together. Then, the storm clouds burst in upon us with a deluge. “I’m bleeding! Oh my God, I’m bleeding!” my wife said as she stood and revealed blood soaked pants. Just that suddenly our child’s life was in jeopardy. I had never experienced such a shocking sunken feeling before.

We immediately called our doctor. He was unavailable. As we waited for the doctor to be located, I placed my hands on my wife’s womb and prayed for the life of our baby. All I could think was, “Why Lord? You gave us this gift after many patient prayers. Why would You now want to take the child away?”

Things were happening so fast. I was getting ready to take my wife to the hospital and thinking, “this may be a long night, I’ll need God’s Word for comfort.” As I sought out my Bible a still small voice brought to my mind a verse the Lord had been working into my life recently. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him . . . . “ (Romans 4:18 NIV).

The fear and concern in my wife’s face matched my own concerns. No words of mine would have met our need. I reached beyond myself and shared God’s Word with her, “’Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . .’ No matter what honey, hope in God, trust Him. This is too big for either of us. Hope in Him.”

That night we learned the hopelessness of hoping in the world. After waiting for what felt like an eternity in the emergency room, my wife was brought to another room and given a pelvic exam. “Aborted fetus” was the emergency room doctor’s diagnosis. I thought of the irony of the millions of babies aborted willingly by their parents and the feared loss of our baby that we wanted so much. Our plight served to make willful abortion seem all the more evil and despicable.

We continued to wait for contact from our doctor. Our waiting was filled with intermittent tears and embraces. What we had seen appeared hopeless. What we heard from a doctor was hopeless. But what I still heard in a still small voice was, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . .”

Our doctor finally called and had my wife admitted into the hospital. The next day she would have another sonogram to see for sure what was or wasn’t alive inside of her. Once situated, the doctor arrived to speak with my wife and me. He had delivered our other two children. All he could say was, “There’s nothing I can do. We’ll just have to let nature take its course.”

That night was the worst of my life. I can only liken it to the feeling I had when my father died. Through the clouds we prayed. I thank God for the support of faithful friends. I called every person I knew and asked them to pray. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . .” I told them. “Pray for my wife and child,” I implored. All any of us could do was pray and hope in God. The stress exhausted me. Finally, I surrendered that child to God. That’s what Abraham had done with Isaac and I would follow his example (Genesis 22).

The next day I returned to the hospital to find that my wife had already been brought for her sonogram. I hurried down the empty early morning hospital corridors. It was like a dream, like some surreal vision.

The room where my wife had been taken was dark and filled with curtained cubicles. I called her name and thought, “This is it Lord.” I held my breadth as my wife identified her whereabouts. “Over here” she said. I stepped forward and pulled aside the curtain. “AND THE BABY IS FINE!” were her glorious words! I lost it. I wept openly the tears of relief and joy. I’ll never forget the thump, thump, thump of that little heartbeat resounding loud and clear in a friendly mechanical way. And I’ll never forget how the baby was casually reclined, hands behind head and legs crossed, as though saying, “What’s the big deal dad? Jesus is in control.” It was almost laughable.

My joy was not only from finding my baby safe and sound. More substantially, my joy was rooted in the realized faith and hope that had found God and His Word to be sustaining and true. God was there for us and He was true to His Word. I believe if my child hadn’t survived this placental tear, God would have given the grace for that as well. And the reason I believe that is because a little over a year after our son Stephen was born, my wife was pregnant with our fourth child. But in her eleventh week of the pregnancy a similar problem arose to that which we had experienced with Stephen. Only this time, there was a miscarriage. That baby was precious to us because given our ages, she or he would have been our last child. We named that baby Hope. We don’t know why her life was so short. Perhaps it was to show us that in the face of death, as well as life, God’s hope lives on. That’s a great legacy for any child.

In both situations, God had allowed me to come to a point of purity. This world had nothing to offer me to ease the pain or meet my need. I could do nothing in my flesh, my own strength. God alone sustained me (Psalm 55:22).

This experience left a lasting impression on me. What I learned prepared me, (and I hope others as well) for “hopeless” situations in the future. Romans 4:19-21 outlines in a practical way some guidelines for coping with “hopeless” situations. The following are some helps to hoping in God and living out His living hope by faith in Him.

First, Abraham didn’t deny or run away from the facts of his seemingly hopeless situation but he rose above them by faith (4:19). Abraham “faced the fact” that he and his wife were too old to have children as far as the accepted medical view of his day and that his personal circumstances were seemingly hopeless. His faith and hope in God were pure enough to confront the reality of his situation even when the facts were against him.

Second, “he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith . . . .” (4:20). He did not strengthen himself but “was strengthened” by Another. God strengthened him as He regarded “the promise of God.” A still small voice steadied Abraham with the promise of God. When life kicks up into a whirlwind, listen for the voice of God and be strengthened by His Word (I Kings 19:1-18). For me it was Romans 4:18. For you it may be another portion of God’s Word. God sustains us and makes His presence known with His Word (Psalm 119:28).

Third, Abraham “gave glory to God” (4:20). I can’t tell you how many hearts God has touched from sharing this experience with those around me. Recounting our experience in a way that glorifies God ministers hope to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Don’t let your “hopeless” situations go to waste!

Finally, “being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised” (4:21). Abraham’s certainty was based on God’s faithful and righteous relationship with him. Abraham applied what he had been learning about God to this point in his life. God had spoken to Abraham before (Genesis 12:1-4; 13:14-18; 15:17; 18:21) and now God was delivering on His promise. Life with God is a learning process. Points of purity, (i.e. Times when we are brought to purely hope in God alone) prepare us to progress onward and upward toward the finished product of Christ likeness God has planned for us. Perhaps someday we will learn what it was like for Jesus to hope in the heavenly Father while in the Garden of Gethsemane where He was on the brink of fulfilling God’s will and destiny for His life (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Having gone through this situation, God has fully convinced me that His presence is real, hope in Him is sure, and He and His Word are reliable. My past experience with God’s faithfulness enabled me to be “fully persuaded” he could deliver me BEFORE He actually did. A “point of purity” is a place where we learn to put our Faith and hope in God alone. In those points of purity, God teaches us to look to Him first, not last. It is a place of surrender, exhaustion, and illumination. In those points of purity we learn the realness and reliability of God. May your faith and hope be alive and rest on Him alone.

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