Two Questions That Determine Your Life

Two Questions That Determine Your Life

Your life is made up of a series of questions which have been answered by yourself and those around you. “Should I turn left or should I turn right?” “Do I work here or there?” “Can I see myself spending the rest of my life with this person?” “What is all of this really about?” Our journey of faith began with two questions, and at some point in our lives each one of us must answer two key and monumental questions.

            1) Who is Jesus?

            2) What will I do with Him?

Everyone seems to have an opinion about Jesus is some way shape or form.  This denomination says one thing, that religion says another, TV and Movie writers have their own thoughts as well.  What was Jesus like when He walked the earth and what is He like now?  Is He the living Son of God or is He dust in some cave?  These are questions we face in our own personal walk, and these are the questions posed by those we speak to about Jesus.

Many different people have tried to interpret Jesus in a way which justifies their own beliefs and actions.

Many different people have tried to interpret Him in a way which justifies their own beliefs and actions.  It is like walking through a minefield trying to find the identity and character of Jesus Christ.  Step in the wrong place and your faith could be crippled, avoid the traps and you find the truth. Some have painted Jesus as the plaid shirt wearing cool guy that’ll help you with your investments, others have painted Him as the vengeful hammer of God rooting out sin through judgment. We have images of Jesus as the desert hippie talking about “loving everybody man,” or the picture of the rabbi in a four piece suit and shiny shoes.

No matter what we have heard others say about Jesus we as individuals are still faced with these two ultimate questions. First we must as “Who is Jesus” that is to discover what is His character, nature, identity and the accuracy of the gospel account. Then after answering that question we must move on to asking “What will I do with Him” that is to say what is His purpose and destiny and what do I do with that knowledge.

How we answer these two questions will first determine if we even believe in Jesus, and secondly the answers will determine where we go with our faith.

How we answer these two questions will first determine if we even believe in Jesus, and secondly the answers will determine where we go with our faith. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God that died and rose for our sins our lives will reflect that truth.  If we believe that Jesus was only a man and there is no God, again our lives will reflect that belief.

Who Are You?

The Jesus we see in the gospels was no ordinary man, and I am not even talking about the miracles or claims to divinity yet. Jesus spoke with a power and authority which overwhelmed those who were self professed experts of God. Jesus the unknown carpenter from the backwoods of Israel stood toe to toe with the greatest theologians of His day and made them look like a bunch of house cats trying to figure out a laser pointer.

Jesus spoke words of authority but He also spoke of the scriptures as a living testimony to a living God. A God who was looking to restore that which was broken, the problem was that the people didn’t realize everything was broken. They couldn’t understand that the God they praised and spoke about, the God they praised for the miracles done during the life of Moses had come to them in bodily form and was speaking to them. Rather than recognizing the God they dedicated their lives to they were left bewildered and asked a question that would be repeated untold times throughout time.

John 8:23-30 “23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” 25 “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world. 27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.” (NIV, emphasis added)

You see there are two main sets of “glasses” that people see Jesus through.  Either as an unbeliever looking through the lenses of the world, or as a believer looking through the lenses of the Church. The majority of the Pharisees did not recognize Jesus because He did not match their expectations. They assumed that God would appear and move in a certain way and when God didn’t follow their script they were left outside of God’s true plan for the world. But this is only one example of how people outside of the New Covenant see Jesus.

Jesus in the Eyes of the World

The world in general and most religions see Jesus in really the same way, they recognize Him as an inspired speaker, who taught morality and love to the people. Let’s take a quick look now at how many people answer the first question of Who Is Jesus?

Average westerner – Jesus was a historical person, seen as a wise teacher who taught love and acceptance.  Was not divine, was crucified but not resurrected. His followers embellished His life to form a new religion outside of Judaism and crafted stories to deceive people into believing their failed prophet.

Gnosticism – Jesus came to provide the secret knowledge which was necessary for salvation.  Jesus was a natural man who became possessed and empowered by God at baptism. Oneness with God may be reached by practicing philanthropy to the point of personal poverty, sexual abstinence and diligently searching for wisdom by helping others. (See the Nicolaitans in Revelation 2:6, 15)

Islam– Jesus (Isa) was one of Allah’s greatest prophets. He was born of a virgin birth, but was not divine, not the son of God, and was not crucified.  His gospel was an original book written by God and is not the record written by the apostles we have in the New Testament. Jesus will eventually return to rid the world of evil in the last day.

Judaism – Jesus was not the Messiah because He neither fulfilled the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh nor embodied the personal qualifications of the Messiah.  Jesus is Believed to be a “stumbling block” who makes “the majority of the world to err and serve a god other than the Lord”.

Buddhism – Jesus was “an enlightened man”, and “not far from Buddhahood”.  There is no creator God.  Atonement and grace are rejected because no deity can interfere with Karma.

Scientology – Jesus is classified as below the level of Operating Thetan, and a “shade above” the condition of “Clear”.   Scientology’s upper-level materials tout the concept of “Jesus as God” as being an implant and a fiction that ought to be removed by ‘auditing'”.

Sikhism – Sikhs also believe in one God, like Christians. However there is no heaven/hell in the Sikh religion.  Jesus had a natural birth and had physical human form, therefore, Sikhism instructs that Jesus cannot be God since God does not take birth and nor does He die. Sikhs however do not discount that Jesus is a prophet and like Sikh Gurus may be one with God.  Jesus wants us to worship God, not himself. Jesus is one of the most respected and valued spiritual beings in the history of mankind. He gave up his life in order to stand up for the truth and remain strong in his belief and teachings of God.

Hinduism – Jesus was one of the incarnations (avatars) of God. Most Hindus believe that God, specifically Vishnu, took on human or animal forms at various times in order to perform certain feats that would preserve true Hindu teaching (the dharma). In this context, then, it has been argued that Jesus, along with Rama, Krishna, and others, was just another one of the divine self-embodiments.

Mormons – Jesus was a man in the flesh along with God (who is technically Adam), both died and ascended.  There is no original sin, no Holy Spirit, and Lucifer was Jesus’ brother.  Place in heaven is dependent on works and they believe they can be proxy-baptized on behalf of the dead.  Then one day at the end of the age Jesus will rule the ten tribes of Israel upon His throne in Missouri.

The answer to the question that most of these beliefs have in common is that Jesus is not God, but a natural man who was either inspired, or was used as and instrument by the true god of that faith (2 Corinthians 4:4). That is what separates Christians from all of these other beliefs, they are the ones who answer the first questions by saying Jesus is the living Son of God.

What also unifies all of these beliefs is that they can exist without their founders being alive. Unlike Christianity because the fact that Jesus is alive is the cornerstone of our faith.  If Jesus wasn’t resurrected from the dead then we are wasting our time (1 Corinthians 15:17).  But since He was raised up our belief is rooted in that act.  Other beliefs rely on what someone said long ago, but our faith relies on who Christ is right now.

Jesus in the Eyes of the Christians

When it comes to the second question of What Will We Do With Jesus our inspiration comes from the lives of those who originally followed Him. Nathaniel when he was called declared Jesus to be the Son of God (John 1:46-50), he answered the second question by proclaiming Jesus as the King of Israel. Later Peter in Caesarea Philippi was asked the question by Jesus as to who Peter thought He was. Peter in Matthew 16:13-16 responded by saying Jesus was the “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Even the apostle Paul faced this question headfirst when He was on the road to Damascus, in Acts 22:6-10 Saul/Paul asks who the person before Him was and the answer was “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” From that point on Paul dedicated his life to brining Jews and Gentiles face to face with these two questions just at he had been.

Once we go beyond the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of kings things begin to get a bit contentious among Christians. we all believe in the same Lord but over time different groups have emphasized certain aspects of Christ’s character overothers.  Different groups have focused on various parts of Jesus’s life and nature to fit their own doctrines, beliefs and contemporary politics.  Some groups have been founded in opposition to other groups, some in acts of rebellion and some in searches for the heart of God.  Despite how they formed or how many denominations or affiliations there are, most believers generally place Jesus in one of the following three generalized arch-types.

1) A Stern, cold strict judge

2) A Caring loving emotional rebel

3) A Holy powerful divine example

The irony is that none of these 3 arch-types is correct, Jesus exhibited all three simultaneously. He was Stern to the Pharisees, Cold to the unbelieving, Strict in devotion to God, a Judge of the world and the enemy. Caring to the lost, Loving to the infirm, Emotional to the broken, a Rebel to the religious.  Holy before the Father, Powerful against the devil, Divine in His heritage and an Example to all who would follow after Him.

God is big yet close, complex yet simple, holy yet approachable and the same is true of Jesus and the Holy Spirit which lives inside of us. God is bigger and smarter than us, when we stop and realize that is when we can finally humble ourselves and understand who Jesus was, is and forever will be.

Far too often churches or believers relate to only one aspect of Jesus and build their entire belief system and traditions around that one aspect often ignoring or rejecting the others.

Far too often churches or believers relate to only one aspect of Jesus and build their entire belief system and traditions around that one aspect often ignoring or rejecting the others. This is how many denominations and groups of Christians were founded, a person had a great revelation of a single aspect of Jesus and sought to make that one part the cornerstone of every believer. Not that the one revelation such as holiness, prayer, miracles, abundance are bad in themselves. Rather they can be good when taken in with the entire scope of what God is doing on the earth and withe Jesus’s nature..

We do the same thing with Jesus and while that one certain highlighted aspect may be good it can only carry you so far. This is where people and groups run into trouble, they take one aspect of Christ and expect it to answer all their questions.  When it doesn’t answer a question, they make up an answer “in the spirit” of their view of Jesus. All the while the answer is still found in Jesus, but in an aspect they have forgotten or ignored.  This is how most of the false doctrines in the church has been born, in the rejection of the complete and complex identity of Jesus the ManLionLamb God.

How do you answer these questions?

In John 21:12 we often miss out on an important statement recorded by John, after the disciples returned to Galilee they went fishing. One day Jesus came to them on the shore and called out for them to cast their net on the opposite side, the same thing He had told peter three years earlier. Except this time no one asked the mysterious person on the beach “who are you,” they already knew who it was. They answered the two great questions in their heart and they knew it was Jesus, that is why Peter jumped into the water and raced towards the shore.

Now that leaves you with the two great questions which you must answer.

1) Who is Jesus (what is His person and identity)

2) What shall I do with Him (what is His purpose and destiny)

Perhaps it would be easier to answer some smaller questions first

-Is Jesus divine or just a regular guy who died long ago?

-If Jesus was just a guy who died long ago does his teachings have any bearing on your life?

-If Jesus is divine what are you going to do about that, will you continue living your life as you see fit or will you recognize Him as who He is and accept His offering of forgiveness and salvation (Romans 10:9-10)?

Now then “what should we do with Jesus? The answer to that question is really: whatever you want to do. Do you want a relationship with God? Or do want to run your own life? Do you want to reject Christ, or do you want to hide somewhere in the middle?” (taken from Understanding Who You Are, page 49) The way you answer these questions will leave you with a choice which will impact your life for not just your life but all of eternity. Either Jesus was an admired lunatic or He is who He claimed to be, there is no middle ground and now you are faced with these questions.

I encourage you to look deeply and answer these questions for yourself, your life depends on it and your future hangs in the balance.

Revelation 1:5-6 “and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”

1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.



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Faith That Transforms A Mustard Seed Into A Mustard Tree

Faith That Transforms Mustard Seed Into Mustard Trees
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If you’ve been in or around church for any length of time you’ve probably heard someone quote the parable of the mustard seed in one context or another. Often it is used when speaking about faith, or prayer, or even the preaching of the gospel. It’s one of those parables and sayings of Jesus that we just seem to take for granted and believe that we already know all there is to know about having faith as a mustard seed. Just because you have a jar of mustard in your fridge doesn’t mean that you understand everything that Jesus was saying in Mark 4:30-32 (see also Matt 13:31-32, Luke 13:18-19), because there is so much more here than you could have ever imagined.

Throughout the gospels we have at least three instances where Jesus uses the humble mustard seed to make a point to the disciples. Since repetition is such a significant means by which God speaks to us through the scriptures (Gen 41:32) we need to pay extra attention to what Jesus is saying about these little seeds. But first let’s look at most recognizable place Jesus talks about mustard seeds:

Mark 4:30-32 “30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” (NKJV)

What Is A Mustard Tree Anyway?

Through this parable Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples different pictures to describe to them what His Kingdom looks like and how it operates. In this case Jesus choose the smallest of the seeds in the region to show how something so unassuming can grow to be large and important. We look at this story and think that a mustard tree must grow to something large like a cedar, an oak, or even a pine. The thing is most of us have never actually seen a mustard tree, so we tend to imagine other trees we are familiar with when we read this story.

Jesus choose the smallest of the seeds to show how something so unassuming can grow to be large and important.

The reality is though is that it was less of a tree and more of a shrub. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (USA CANADA) speaks of how for the most part this tree was probably only four feet high, although some are able to reach over 12 feet in height. This is far from the picture that most of us think of when we read this story of a mighty tree filled with birds and fruit.

What is also interesting is that mustard trees are annual plants, so every year they die off and have to grow up all over again, it is not a plant which endlessly endures like the might cedar. This need to constantly regrow is probably why Jesus compared the mustard seed to our faith in Matthew 17:20, where he speaks about mustard seed sized faith being able to move mountains. The disciples had just failed to heal a demon oppressed child so they run to Jesus for help, and after healing the child He once again spoke to them about mustard seeds.

This idea of an annual tree and our faith are one in the same, both require constant regrowth, and both are unable to just sit back and relax while waiting for the next season. The mustard tree must grow and drop fresh seeds which will grow the next year. If it doesn’t grow there are no seeds for the next season and eventually there are no more trees in the area. Our faith must be constantly built up through prayer, scripture, relationship with God and going outside our homes and doing either the great commission or the discipling of believers. Faith must be constantly refreshed or one day we will find the garden of our hearts has become barren because we neglected our faith and relationship with God by relying on the cold hard stones of our natural ways.

We must resist the temptation to become complacent in our relationship with God, our prayer lives, our studying of the scriptures and the work we do to spread the gospel and build up the Kingdom. It is a hard thing to say but victories in life don’t produce faith, it is faith which produces victories in our life. When we realize that our faith is like this mustard seed and not a great cedar we can then begin realizing that what you did three years ago won’t benefit you today in what ever situation you may be in. You can’t draw water from a well once and expect that bucket to sustain you for months on end.

Victories in life don’t produce faith, it is faith which produces victories in our life

The Mustard Seed Is Only Doing Its Job

In Luke 17:5-10 Jesus puts an extra spin on his discourse on mustard seeds and trees, here the disciples are asking for their faith to be increased after hearing about their requirement to be forgiving. The disciples were asking for the ability to forgive according to Jesus’s standards and instead get a statement about faith as a mustard seed being able to throw mulberry trees miles away into the sea.

Then Jesus goes on and speaks about how servants are not praised or rewarded for what is expected of them to do. This is quite the contrast, in the same breath Jesus speaks about demonstrating supernatural power and being held responsible to do what the disciples as servants are expected to do; be forgiving in this context.

The mustard seed has one job and one job only, to grow into a shrub so other seeds can be developed and dropped into the ground around it. We as believers also have a singular job, to serve Jesus and see ourselves developed from seeds to trees which can reproduce and see the land around us transform from barren rock to a lush garden. It is our duty to live this way and to serve Jesus in whatever capacity He has called us in.

We can have all of the spiritual power there is but if we are not faithful in living out our lives as Jesus commanded us to then we are still in darkness, and often are doing more harm to the Kingdom than good. When we stand before Jesus we won’t gloat over the number of visions we have seen, or healings we have performed, or the number of books we have written.

No our statement will be “we have done what was our duty to do.” That is how faith works, we serve Jesus and we go out and do what needs to be done so our master is glorified and others can see Him in His true light. Be it through preaching, compassion, miracles, prophecy, service, conversation, leadership, forgiveness, love or any other means.

To accomplish this we must be like mustard trees which must be continually refreshed and regrown so that our seeds never stop being produced. Our faith may begin small as a mustard seed but as Jesus has said it can have immense impact on this world.

But Wait There’s More!

This is where most people stop when they speak about the parable of the mustard seed, we focus just on what it means for us and how we can develop our faith. You see everything we have seen so far is only half of the story. The entire picture about mustard seeds and trees is not just about our faith or what we can do, but it paints a picture of who Jesus is. In all of the instances of the mustard seed Jesus was painting two very different but interconnected pictures. He was teaching us how our faith works but at the same time He was revealing not just the Kingdom but how He was the long-awaited King of the World.

Jesus was not revealing just the Kingdom but how He was the long-awaited King of the World.

We dedicate our lives to being like the servants in Matthew 17:20 not just because of the nice things Jesus has done for us but because He is our King. This isn’t just a theological idea it is reality, by confessing Jesus as your savior and Messiah you have declared Him to be King of Heaven and Earth. In the parable of the mustard seed Jesus was speaking to the disciples who He really was, but today we are oblivious to what Jesus was saying.

A Mustard Flavored Kingdom

Throughout the age of the Old Testament and into the time of Jesus it was a common metaphor to speak of a kingdom as a tree. We see this in scriptures such as Ezekiel 17:22-24, 31:6 Daniel 4:10-12 which use a picture of a tree to describe a nation or a kingdom. The Commentary on the New Testament Use of The Old Testament (USA CANADA) talks about how “Mark 4:30-32 is an ironic fulfillment of Ezekiel 17:23 the lowly annual shrub rather than a might cedar, lamb not a lion maybe. The people expected a mighty cedar, but God came as a lowly shrub which would be exalted over all else.”

The lost message of the Kingdom of God hidden here in the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus the great shrub has come to rule the world. Not a mighty cedar or acacia, or mulberry the humble mustard shrub despite its size and appearance had sprouted and would rule over all. Jesus didn’t come as a superpowered reincarnation of King David, He came as the suffering servant and laid hold of a greater kingdom then anyone of that time ever imagined.

The people and religious leaders were looking for a cedar but got a shrub, so they rejected Him. They were looking for a warrior but got a shepherd, so they persecuted Him. They were looking for an angel of death but got the forgiving Son of God, so they killed Him.

They forgot about Isaiah 11:1 and Jeremiah 23:5-6 where God spoke about a humble branch which was coming to rule and exercise judgment on the people. Jesus executed judgment on sin, He rules over His covenant people and one day He will judge those who rejected His Kingship.

We can’t have the benefits of mustard seed faith until we bow down before the mustard tree of Christ.

We can’t have the benefits of mustard seed faith until we bow down before the mustard tree of Christ. None of what we claim to believe matters at all if Jesus isn’t the King of not just the universe but our individual lives. Our faith doesn’t matter, the miracles we see doesn’t matter the lives we see changed doesn’t matter if Jesus isn’t our King and if we don’t act as grateful adopted servants.

Finding a Nest in His Branches

The last part of the parable has Jesus speaking about the birds of the air making nests in the branches of the fully-grown mustard tree. We take this statement for granted and don’t realize that to the disciples this was ridiculous. You see because the mustard tree regrows every year it can’t be developed enough to be ready for the time when birds make their nests. If one tried the branches would be too small or tender to support just a bird on it let alone a nest.

Here Jesus is again speaking in irony, just as the lowly shrub is King of the forest, so to is this tree which couldn’t before support dwelling places for the birds now be able to provide shelter and covering for them (Daniel 4:12).

We see then that Jesus has come to bring us a covering for our lives and that it is a foundational part of our faith. That covering of grace and atonement is our constant reminder that we can trust Him and remain committed to Him despite the problems of the world. Ezekiel used this same picture of birds finding rest in a tree to describe Egypt in Ezekiel 31:6, so how much grander and wonderous should that covering and shelter be for us who follow Christ our King.

Through faith we are able to go from mustard seeds to mustard trees and see great and mighty things happen in our lives. But we are only able to see such a transformation because Jesus the first seed which fell into the ground then died and came back as a King who has brought us under His covering of atonement. Now as redeemed, adopted servants we go out into the world and deposit new seeds into the ground so the whole world can be covered by the offspring of the great mustard tree.

Question: What can you do today to recognize Jesus as the King of your life?

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Faith That Transforms A Mustard Seed Into A Mustard Tree Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Trusting the God of Hope When You Have None Left

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WITH ALL OF THE DIFFICULTIES, struggles, pains, losses, frustrations and general unjust craziness there is in this life it doesn’t take much to lose ones hope. We try our best to continue trusting the God of hope but so much in this world and in our individual lives tells us to give up the fight and settle into the lands of defeat. There is no fairy tale ending, so get a cozy chair and get yourself a nice view of the pit of despair.

We see bad things happen, or watch family members struggle with health issues, we struggle with finances, prayers don’t get answered so we are tempted to just give up trying to be optimistic or to cling to any sort of faith that God can change what is going on in our lives. Along with all of that we take the fallout from one unanswered prayer and use it to justify not having faith for God to do something next time. Or we allow one loss to cancel out dozens of previous victories, everything that God did years ago no longer matters because we feel that He wasn’t with us today.

These are difficult issues and hard questions to deal with and they can’t just be answered by telling someone that they just have to believer harder or that they should just read their Bible more. I’m not against faith or prayer or anything like that, I’ve personally witnessed the blind see, the deaf hear,  and the crippled walking out of wheel chairs. However, I have also watched people die from cancer, others struggle with issues from accidents, I’ve lost two friends to depression and suicide and I’ve had my own problems as well.

I have seen the greatness of God’s power in action and I’ve experienced the absence of it.

Hope in action vs. hope in the rear-view mirror

I have seen the greatness of God’s power in action and I’ve seen and experienced the absence of it, even with myself. For the past four years I have struggled with an ear issue that has left me with unending ringing in my ears, has cost me one third of my hearing ability and has made me unable to even worship along with the rest of the church I attend. Flashback ten years ago now and I was once in a market in Mexico City on a mission trip and we were praying for people. One day a woman came to get prayer for her ear. Me and another prayed for what we thought was an ear
infection and she was miraculously healed. What we found out after we prayed was that she didn’t have in infection but had actually ruptured her ear drum the day before and was totally deaf in the one side. After she said she could hear she pulled out the cotton ball from her no longer deaf ear that was stained with blood.

It’s not just a matter of going down to the Jesus store and picking up some joy with a side of milk.

This is where things get difficult when you know that God can and is able to move in power and He doesn’t. It’s not easy to keep hope alive, especially as the years go by, especially when those years bring more and more pain, frustration and loss. God is the God of hope according to Paul in Romans 15:13 and not only that but He is also supposed to be our source of joy and peace. The problem is though it’s not just a matter of going down to the Jesus store and picking up some joy with a side of milk. These are real matters of faith, not just superficial ones where we just try to whitewash what is going on inside of us.

What is real faith?

You see real faith is not yelling at the top of your lungs that you have faith; real faith involves being honest with what is in front of us. Faith is never absent from realty, it recognizes what is really going on and looks towards God to change that reality to something else. Pretending that there are no problems is not faith it is delusion. Does that mean we can’t pray for a change? Of course not. What I am saying is that our faith and hope are not dependant on our circumstances they are dependant on the nature and character of God.

It takes infinitely more faith to declare that God is good and loving when your world is upside down than it does when you’re sitting in an air-conditioned church and everything is rainbows and sunshine. Real faith is when you are able to honestly praise God even when you don’t get your prayers answered, not just when you do.

“It takes infinitely more faith to declare that God is good and loving when your world is upside down than it does when you’re sitting in an air-conditioned church and everything is rainbows and sunshine.”

Just look at what Jeremiah said after the darkest day in Judah’s history at that time in Lamentations 3:25-26 “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (NKJV). Jeremiah didn’t write this after the people repented and had a great party, no he wrote this after the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah. How could he speak of hope after so much death and destruction? He could do it because He understood who God is.

That is where we find out great weakness, far too often we take the supposed and actual failures, shortcomings, and losses of our lives and place the blame squarely on God and we lash out against him like overly emotional teenagers in response. Everything bad was God’s fault and everything good is the result of my own hard work – is the lie we tell ourselves. You see God is good but we are temporary travelers in a world that is not good.

We live in a fallen and broken world and there are times when we don’t get our way, a prayer doesn’t get answered, a person dies, a job is lost or a life loses its purpose. Then rather than praise God for who He is and what else he has done for us we abandon hope because we believe it is better not to hope than it is to hope and be disappointed. We respond that way because it is all part of the plan, not God’s plan but Satan’s.

Why Satan comes to steal our hope

In Satan’s eyes a mute, broken and depressed Christian is the best one there is because he knows they will never do anything to weaken his kingdom. It is a campaign of disarmament where he and his forces go out and convince Christians that it is better to have never hoped than to have hoped and lost. It is a strategy where he convinces us that the weapons of our belief and warfare are too heavy to carry and actually do more harm than good. So we should throw them away and settle for a life under spiritual house arrest.

It is a campaign of disarmament where Satan and his forces convince Christians that it’s better to have never hoped than to have hoped and lost.

In Rick Renner’s devotional Sparkling Gems From The Greek (USA Canada) he talks about John 10:10-11 and unpacks the meaning of what Jesus meant warning us that Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy. Renner speaks of how the word kill does not mean to murder but has the understanding of a religious sacrifice such as when a lamb was killed on the altar. If Satan can’t destroy our hopes, dreams, purpose, life or anything else he’ll convince us to do it ourselves out of devotion or another reason. The same applies to our hope if he can’t crush it from within he’ll convince us to lay it down either for moral, cultural, religious, or emotional reasons. Or it could be as simple as feeling as if God is calling us to lay something down when in reality God is trying to awaken that thing you are about to kill.

What do we have to look forward to?

Proverbs 13:12 tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” this is both a spiritual and a medical truth as the loss of hope has a tangible impact on our spirit, mind and body. However the verse continues and says that a “longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

In our opening verse Romans 15:13 the hope Paul was looking towards was the culmination of both Jews and Gentiles coming into the Kingdom of God together through the New Covenant (Titus 2:13). This is what drove him from nation to nation and from prison to prison preaching the gospel despite the problems he encountered because he saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

We also need that long ranging hope to carry us to the end of our lives, but we also need hope for today. We need both hope for today and for the future because we live in two worlds one of earth and one of Heaven. So our hope must reflect that we can’t have a hope that is based only in the future, but we must also have a hope that sees its results today, although to a smaller degree.

It is just like opening a present on Christmas eve and getting the rest in the morning.  Or taking a long-awaited road trip but also taking time to make stops along the way. You don’t wait until you arrive to enjoy yourself even though your ultimate enjoyment is at the end of the trip (serendipity). At other times you may discover that you only enjoyed the final destination because of what happened along the way, so it is with our hope in God.

Are there times when God will answer our prayers, yes, and are there times when He won’t (at least as far as we can perceive) of course. What is important though is not how God answers but how we respond to God afterwards. If we can turn to God with the same love and hope no matter the outcome then we have passed the test of faith and our hope is not in God’s ability to please us but it is based on our love for Him.

If we can turn to God with the same love and hope no matter the outcome then we have passed the test of faith.

Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (NKJV)

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Creative Commons LicenseTrusting the God of Hope when You Have None Left by Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.