We all have a presence. By that I mean an air about us or a bearing. Other people sense it. We may not even be aware of it, but it’s there. To a large extent our presence is a product of our experiences. Or put another way, our presence is a product of the way we choose to remember our past, or our perception of our past.
There are a lot of things in my past I wish I had not done. From unwise decisions to flat out sin, my life is filled with “stuff” I wish I could change. Unfortunately I can’t. I can however choose how I remember those things, and that choice will affect my presence in the here and now.
Many of us are allowing circumstances and events in our life control us. We may prefer to look at it as something beyond our control, but regardless of how we choose to address it, it’s a choice.
Whenever I think of past failures and their effect on me today, I think of the Apostle Paul. Before Paul met Jesus he was relentless in his persecution of Christians. He hunted them down, arrested them, and had them thrown into prison. There is even evidence that suggests he participated in their execution. Then he met Jesus and his life was completely turned around. Paul became the most zealous missionary for Christ the world has ever known. In Philippians 3:13, 14 he tells us how he chose to remember his past.
“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
I have to ask myself, how did Paul do this? How could he choose to put his past behind him. It was simple, really. Paul had an intimate relationship with Jesus which gave him hope that the prize was already his.
So this week I want to talk about hope. We all have choices to make and in the darkest times; in the midst of all of our helplessness, we need to understand that there is hope.
Let’s begin with the dictionary’s definition of hope. Hope is the feeling that something good will happen; the feeling that what is wanted can be had or events will turn out for the best.
I hope I get a raise. I hope our bonuses come in. I hope I’m not late for work. I hope my wife remembers to record that movie I wanted to watch… and the list goes on.
But what if those things don’t happen? If hope is based on our feelings, which these examples are, then how do we feel when what we hoped for doesn’t come about?
We may become fearful, frustrated, disillusioned, defeated, angry… We might as well just say hope is wishful thinking.
But there is another kind of hope. There is the hope we have in Christ. To a believer, hope is based on God’s unchanging Word. It is an optimistic assurance that something will be fulfilled. In other words, we could say hope is the assurance that God will do what He said He would do whether we feel like it or not.
But just knowing that this hope is available doesn’t make it so. We need to activate our hope and according to Hebrews 11:1 we do that by faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hope is tied to faith. More accurately, hope is activated by faith. So then how do we get faith? Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Remember, hope has nothing to do with feelings. In the same way, faith is not found in feelings. In fact feelings are perhaps the greatest hindrance to faith, but when we allow the Word of God to penetrate our doubts and unbelief, faith rises within us and with it hope.
What does God’s Word say? “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20). That’s hope.
Joshua 21:45 tells us that, “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
Paul then tells us in Romans 15:4 that, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Are you beginning to grasp that you actually can have hope? It doesn’t change your past, but it does give you something to hold onto in the present.
Still, it’s up to you to choose how you remember your past. Will you choose to let your past keep you bound to the things you cannot change or will you choose to let it go and press on as Paul did in the hope that God has a better future?
Let me share a couple of examples from Scripture that I think will help. Moses was a Hebrew, raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, an Egyptian. He wanted for nothing and was one of the most powerful men in all of Egypt. And then one day God called him to deliver his Hebrew people. Moses boldly stepped into his calling and in the process killed an Egyptian who was abusing one of his Hebrew brothers. Moses was quickly discovered and escaped into the desert where he remained in hiding for the next forty years. When Moses finally returned He came as the true deliverer God had called him to be and you know the rest. Moses led the people out of Egypt by way of the Red Sea and Pharaoh and all of his armies were destroyed.
But what if Moses had chosen to remember his past failure. Would he have fulfilled the call of God on his life? We will never know because Moses chose to let go of the past rather than to allow the things he could not change control him.
And what of Jeremiah? God chose Jeremiah when he was just a boy to be His prophetic voice to the children of Israel. His message was a call to repentance. For forty years he pleaded with his countrymen and warned of impending judgment as God had instructed him, but rather than repent and heed his warnings, the people despised and hated Jeremiah. He was considered a trader to his own country and was treated as an outcast and yet Jeremiah placed his hope in God.
Listen to the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:19-26 (NLT)
The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”
The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.
And what was God’s response to Jeremiah’s obedience?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Jeremiah stood on the Word of God. His hope was not in what he felt, but rather in the optimistic assurance that God would do what He said He would do.
Where is your hope? What is it that you have chosen to remember that is creating a presence that God never intended for you to carry? I would challenge you to begin today to draw from the well of God’s Word and allow faith to rise within you so that hope may come. Then choose to let go of that which is keeping you from experiencing the freedom that Jesus has already provided. You can change your perception and the presence you have created if you will simply choose to rest in the Hope that is yours in Christ.
Let us help you. Email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fruitbearers Outreach Ministry