‘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.’
Abound, large numbers or generous amounts. A large amount of hope by the power of the Holy Spirit is basically what verse 13 is telling us. It is hard for us to have a small amount of hope let alone a large amount. So how do we get there? Smallest amount to largest. First, realize that God is watching over you. Isaiah 41:10, ‘fear not, for I am with you.’ God will never leave us. Sometimes it feels like it but He doesn’t ever leave. People leave but God does not. Psalms 32:8 tells us that He guides us with His eye.
Remember when your children were little and you took them to the park. They wanted to do everything on their own. Reluctantly, we let them climb to the top of the slide unattended or swing from the tallest part of the monkey bars. Even though they thought they were on their own, we sat and watched them, ready to run towards them in troubled times to pick up the pieces. We waited for them to scream out our names. We carefully guided their steps even though they may have been unaware of our actions. We would eliminate obstacles before they got there, filled a hole, killed a bee or wiped water from a slick step to prevent injury. Even though they were on their own, we carefully watched and never left them. We see them tackle things that we knew all along they could do, we seen them share a piece of candy with a stranger, we seen them include an ‘outcast’ in the game, we seen them encourage a shy, timid child to the top rung. In those moments, we realized that the lessons that we had been teaching them we finally sinking in. Not only did they have hope and faith in themselves but also in others.
God was working in their lives even though they were completely oblivious to that fact. Sometimes, no matter what they did, there was someone that they couldn’t get along with. Another child said hurtful things. Psalm 147, He heals the brokenhearted. He wants to heal us but we should ask for healing in faith. Emotional energy used on past hurts only damages our present and our future. We must release those who hurt and let go of the right to get even. If you get pushed off the swing, dust yourself off and swing higher to the sky than before the fall. God is watching with His careful eye and vengeance is His.
Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.
There are many tests and trial that we endure in this life. I believe that the types of test can be condensed to four distinct categories.
- Pressure test – reminds me of when my mom used to can tomatoes. Once the pressure was built up enough, the steam would overflow from the spout. We do that. Hold circumstances, events and disappointments inside until it bubbles over. Psalm 50:15 tells us to call on Him, when we do, He delivers us. Here’s the kicker, in that deliverance from the pressure, we are to glorify Him. We are commanded to give Him the glory for overcoming the trial.
- People test – everyone, and I mean everyone will disappoint you in some way, shape or form. The answer to our worries, depression and dissatisfaction is not found in another person but only in God. Isaiah 2:22 is very clear about such a thought. “stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” People cannot save you. We place hope and trust in people that will lead us to destruction. Isaiah 49:23 says that once we see people for who they are, then we will know that He is the Lord.
- Commitment test – Ecclesiastes 5:45 “when you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” What commitment have you made to God that you haven’t followed thru on your promise? It is a test of our character. A weak person does not follow up on a promise without an action.
- Priorities test – Placing a job, task or person above something else. We all do it, don’t we? Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek His kingdom first, once we do, all things will be added to us. Keep in mind that God doesn’t place chess. We should never seek out to do God’s work for God to give a blessing. Our actions should glorify Him always not just when we need something. Call upon God in all ways and in all situations first and foremost. Rest in Him only.
Exodus 33:17 ‘So the Lord said to Moses, I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.’
Isn’t that great to know that one day you will audibly hear God whisper your name? The creator of the universe knows your name. The creator of the heavens and the earth wants a relationship with you. The creator of the stars placed each one in the sky just for you to enjoy. If that doesn’t give you chills, you need a spiritual double-check!
In searching for the Bible references to the word grace, Paul probably used the word more than any other writer. It was possibly because of his prior experience with grace and the journey that his life took before encountering Jesus on the Damascus road.
Talking about God’s grace and defining God’s grace are two completely different things. You see, the definition of grace cannot be found in the dictionary nor can words be assembled in a sentence that can give the word justice. I’m afraid that God’s grace cannot be expounded upon. We can use words like good will, favor, lovingkindness….but even those words fail in comparison.
God’s grace was wrapped in swaddling clothes. God’s grace is in His healing touch. God’s grace is in the sunset. God’s grace is in our salvation. God’s grace is _____. We can fill the blank with anything. That is God’s grace. Paul made attempts in the book of Ephesians but he could only use adjectives and descriptive words like ‘the glory of His grace’ Ephesians 1:6 and ‘exceeding riches of His grace’ Ephesians 2:7. The bottom line is that we are not worthy of His grace. His grace is also free. We must only believe that we can put our faith in God for anything at anytime for anyone, period. We can do all the right things, live for Him, pray, minister, teach, do great works, write, sing, worship, but it still isn’t enough to deserve His grace. That is compassion, that is love….that is grace.
‘Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.’
Paul challenged the Galatian church to stand firm in their faith and not to return to the bondage of the law. Deliverance from the curse that law pronounces on the sinners who has been striving unsuccessfully to achieve his own righteousness. Making a commitment to God mean that He demands your attention. Just like any relationship worth pursing, we must give attention, nurture and cultivate those relationships. Our relationship with God is no exception. He demands immediate obedience. When you are told to do something, you must listen and obey. God doesn’t give us suggestions but instead give us commands. It is a privilege for us to do His work. He doesn’t call just anyone to a particular place for a particular task. It is like being a member of a ball team and just standing on the court not playing. We will not be productive and we will not be showing God’s love just standing there in the middle of the court. It is an honor to know that God placed you in a particular place for a particular reason. Enjoy that thought. You were made for a reason. He had plans for you when you were created by Him. When we pray to Him, He promises that He will listen. He wants that conversation with us. There is nothing we can say to Him that He won’t understand. As David told his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:9, ‘the Lord searches all hearts and understand all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you.’ Are we really seeking? Are we really committed? Do we really surrender all? If we are honest, you will probably admit that we surrender about a quarter of our lives. That means that we are only about a quarter full. Our cups do not run over. If our cups are dry, how can the love of God overflow onto others? Correct me I’m wrong but isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing here? Filled with Christ and the overflow from our worship fall onto others so that they see His love through us? You see, that is the definition of true freedom, being ‘full’ of God. Keeping the tank on F. Drinking in His spirit from the Living Water, Feeding on His Word. Finding rest in His Peace and becoming a light so that others can see a path directly to Him. Anything else we do in life is unimportant.
Let’s concentrate on the word steadfast. It is an interesting word. It is one of those words that the meaning could be misunderstood. Steadfast means unwavering, firmly fixed, constant, firmly loyal or totally dependent upon. Over 200 times the word steadfast is mentioned in the Bible.
Proverbs 4:26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. I’m reminded of the kid’s song that says, oh be careful little feet where you go. That is exactly what this verse tells us. Don’t go where you don’t belong and be firmly fixed in the ways of God.
Isaiah 54:10 ‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.’ His constant love shall never leave you. He moves mountains and removes hills. Climbing those mountains and hills are daunting. Allow Him to move them for you and you will never be alone.
Psalm 103:8 ‘The Lord is merciful and gracious and abounding in steadfast love. Constant – never changes, never stops. Unlike humans who leave us, forsake us and seek to destroy us; God never does. He is merciful and gracious to us always.
Grasp the full definition of steadfast. God is unwavering, He never changes. His is firmly fixed in His love for us. He is constant with His grace and mercy. He is firmly loyal and we can fully and totally depend on Him.
We desire things. Material possessions, money, houses, cars and the latest technology. This passage clearly tells us what we should desire, to seek, dwell, behold and inquire.
- Seeking God – going to church is where we learn, grow and fellowship. Attending worship is a vital part of our growth as a child of God. I believe that this scripture is instructing us to go deeper than weekly attendance. We are to read, study, memorize scripture, share Christ with others and be actively involved in our local church. We are to drink from the Living Well, fill our cups, cast every care and think about Him every moment of every day.
- Dwelling upon God – dwellings are places of rest. We rest, let down our guards and relax. Exactly what we are to do with God. No matter what happens, we are to rest in God’s promises, even when our lives do not make sense.
- Behold – behold the Lamb in all His wonderful glory. The Lamb whom was sacrificed for you so that you can have eternal life. How can you not share this Lamb with others?
- Inquire – Imagine with me for a moment. Streets of gold, lush hills, beautiful scenery, loved ones who have passed, reunions, bountiful feasts, no worries, no cares, no stress and no tears. Overwhelming, isn’t it? In this scenario, one detail is overlooked. One important detail is missing. Where is Jesus? I can tell you. He is looking for you. He is waiting at the gate, rolling out the red carpet, summoning the welcome committee and welcoming you with open arms. He inquires about us, He knows the exact moment of our arrival and He smiles when He sees His children. He welcomes us home. So, a God who does all those things for us, prepares our home and shows us around, He will never forsake us when we earnestly search for Him.
Seek Him, Dwell in Him, behold in Him and inquire about Him in all areas of your life. Our first thought when we wake and our last thought before sleep and every thought in between are moments that we need to be dwelling on Him instead of anything else. I agree, it’s hard, but it’s doable.
Psalm 27:4-5 ‘One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.’
One sweet day, I will dwell in His house all the days of my life, I will gaze upon Him and His beauty. I’m seeking for Him because I know He keeps my safe and hides me from harm.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Trials – The Unseen
If you have ever operated a car, you know that if you see a careless driver, you turn the other direction. You stop at stop signs and lights and you may even yield to oncoming cars. It is because we rely on our eyes and common sense to tell us to detour. When we trust God, we are not steering. He takes us to the unseen and the unbeaten paths so that we will trust Him. Not one of us is exempt from a trial. We are given trials according to His goodness and He gives us the strength to be steadfast. I know there have been many times I’ve wondered, ‘are you absolutely sure that I can handle this God? Cause I’m not sure’. I think I’ve dealt with the same trials that everyone else has, some less and some greater. But you know what? I have survived 100% of my trials and each time that I make it through another one, God is there saying, yes child, I knew you could handle it. The important thing is to not lose heart just like 2 Corinthians 4:16 tells us. Everyday our mortal bodies die a little but inward (our souls) are renewed each day.
These verses should give us hope. Every morning His mercies are new and each day we can be renewed if we allow God to penetrate our hearts and souls. Those trials work for us to give us eternal glory and faith in the unseen. God wants us to look past the trial and see Him. Look past the storm raging and cling to the anchor. Whisper His name into the storm, you will find peace there. Do not focus on the temporary but the eternal Godly things. I wish I could tell you that it is easy. I wish I could tell you that life is a cakewalk, but it isn’t. Not even close. Do not place your faith in man but only in Christ.
Put on Righteousness
Isaiah 59:17 tells us, “For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.” How is a helmet like salvation? How many stories do we hear that state, ‘if only he had on a helmet he would have not suffered a brain injury’? A helmet would have saved their life. Her parents said that she would have been killed without the helmet. Being without a helmet will cause you harm. Being without salvation will take you to hell. Salvation means to be delivered from something. If you are saved, you are delivered from hell. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 62:7 “In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.” So, by seeking God through trust, faith and hope, we receive knowledge of truth, peace and strength. We have a place to turn in times of trouble and a place to hide when we need rest. I know that I rest in the palm of His almighty hand and nothing can take that away from me. No matter how terrible things can get, we can still rest there because He will protect us from all unrighteousness and His kingdom will prevail.
Roman Soldier and his righteousness….
What does this Roman soldier’s sword teach us about using the Bible to fight our battles? In Roman infantry, the soldier would typically go into battle with more than one type of weapon. Swords, daggers, darts and spears were all used. They were heavily armed because once you attacked during the battle, that was it; there was not a do-over or a time out to pick up your weapon. It was basically a one-shot deal. But interestingly enough, Paul lists the sword as the only weapon here in Ephesians. That is because there is only one weapon we need in our arsenal. There is only one way to the truth. There is only one way to knowledge. There is only one way to the light of the world. Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” His word illuminates our lives so that we can see where we are going. He only gives us just enough light so we can see where we are going one step at a time but He always supplies that light. We got bogged down in darkness that we fail to flip the switch and acknowledge that He lights our path. We fail to look to Him in all circumstances, good or bad, and give thanks in every season. Did you know that God is unchanging? Whether we are on the mountain or in the valley, God is the same and He loves it when we meet with Him each day. He loves to talk to us and He does so through His word. Hebrews 4:12 “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
In this life, His Word is all we need. It is the most powerful form of defense that we have in this life. It is our source of life, strength, hope and power. Without it, we are nothing. Swords were also used for close combat not for fighting from a distance. This is because God wants us in the middle of the action fighting battles on His behalf. We cannot fight a good fight from the perimeter. That is the difference between a spectator and a participant. God wants us to participate and spread the Gospel. He desires for s to be the hands and feet of His word. He longs for us to be courageous and be the mouthpieces of truth. He gives us the strongest sword we can carry and the most powerful defense in the world and He will send the strongest army to back us up when we need help. Against His word there is no defense.
I Know the Plans
We all have plans. Plans that have been made and fell through. Some plans change midstream. Some plans never take off. Some plans end in disaster and some are fruitful. We constantly make plans, dream, rearrange our lives about everything and anything. Who will I marry, where will I go to school or where will I live? In making those plans, how often do we consult the One who really knows what is going on? Jeremiah 29:11-13 tells us everything that we need to know about our plans and plan making skills. ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find when you search for Me with all your heart.’ Let’s dwell for a moment on the face that He thinks about us. Not only does He think but He plans. He plans peace, future and hope. He doesn’t want us living in turmoil or living in defeat but we do that often. I would also like to point out that it states that when we pray that He will listen to us. When we earnestly seek His face, He listens to us and, when we are still, the opportunity to hear from Him presents itself. Proverbs 16:9 also tells us, ‘a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.’ Making plans without God’s direction is fruitless. He places desires in our hearts, if those plans are for us, He will fertilize the seed He planted and pave the way for a bountiful harvest. He knows our future and He will guide us if we completely surrender to Him and allow Him to be in charge. He wants to give us peace, a future and a hope but for us to receive all His blessings He has for us, we must search for Him with all our heart.
New Every Morning
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” To lament simply means to cry out. This book goes through many emotions in its short five chapters. Remorse about God’s judgement on Judah’s sin, hope in God’s compassion, disgrace and God’s faithfulness. Despite everything and how much we mess up, His compassion never fails. Mercy…we don’t deserve it yet He pours out His love, grace, goodness, forgiveness, truth, compassion and faithfulness. He never fails and grace never fails. Sometimes we don’t understand His ways, but He never leaves us. Every morning is a do-over with God. His forgiveness cannot be compared to anything. Faithfulness is the basis of our belief system. We believe that the cornerstone of life is Christ and no matter where we go, what we do, we can always fall to the cornerstone for strength, trust and hope. He will never fail us or forsake us.
There was a multitude of sins during this time in Jerusalem and these sins caused horrific judgement from God. Judah was taken captive to serve as slaves in Babylon. There was pagan worship, they had become vile and suffered great sorrow as a nation. They were remorseful. The comforter who should restore lives was far from them. God covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud of anger. He allowed them to suffer by withdrawing His hand of protection. He poured out His fury.
Lamentations 3:21 ‘This I recall to my mind; therefore, I have hope.’ Despite everything, there is hope. His compassions never fail, they never cease and they are as reliable as the rising and the setting of the sun. The word mercy is referenced over 250 times in the Bible. God’s gracious love, His love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, truth and faithfulness. Compassion is love with shoes on. God is our portion and He is good to those who wait patiently on Him. In our time of waiting, v.40-41, we must search and examine our ways, turn back to Him and lift our hearts and hands to Him. He redeems us and calls us His and it doesn’t matter how far we stray. He remains forever and will never forget you. It may take you years to stray but one second to return to Him. Yes, He is that kind of God.