Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Woman's Hope: What Lies Beyond Our Expectations

My new friend, Pinterest, promises me a quick solution to life's greatest questions---how to entertain kids on a car ride, how to spend tons of time on your hair but make it look messy, how to use coconut oil for literally everything, how to blog, how to not waste time on the internet, and how to DIY every mason jar and garage sale dresser you can find.  

As I look to conclude my lessons from the Sarah of Genesis, I must admit, I was tempted to title it "How to Believe God," or "How to Obey God."  

I know it would probably increase my number of page views, but I just don't think I could be that misleading. It’s not really that simple, obeying God can be tough!

And I think Sarah would agree, (check out the first two days of my lessons from Sarah here). We can believe Him one day, but fail the next.  We move forward in his love one week and rebel against his plan the next.  Sarah was praised for her faith, but looking at her story we see that her faith was, at times, a bit weak. Let's look one more time at her story.

Whether her praises were earned at the beginning of her journey, or at the end, I’m not sure.  (Remember, I’m a nursing school grad, not seminary) But either way, I believe within her story we can discover a huge help for connecting God’s promises and our obedience.

Because if you are anything like me, you have heard God’s promises---like that He has a plan for my life—but it doesn’t always make me have a positive, adventurous attitude when the days are tough. While I believe God loves me, I don’t always behave like my Maker treasures me.

So what is it?  What connects God's promises and our obedience?

What was it for Sarah?

How do you get from Point A to Point B?

I believe it was Hope.  

Confident Expectation.

Hope-the gift that comforts your heart while pulling your tush to the edge of your seat. 

Hope is what carried Sarah.  (Ever felt like you needed to be carried?)

...I will carry you,
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.
Isaiah 46:4

Hope helps carry us away from the comfort of the known, and lures us out into newness. (How does something new sound to you?!)

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Isaiah 43:19

Hope is what connected God’s promises and Sarah’s obedience.  He said “I promise you a child, and I promise to give you huge purpose.”  And she obeyed by believing God, cutting her ties with the familiar, and heading out on an adventure.

Hope believes that there is something better just around the corner.  So when God's promises seem slow in coming, we keep our gaze straight ahead, confidently expecting their fulfillment.

"Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith."
Hebrews 12:2

Hope knows that if we saddle up, we will discover the adventure we were truly made for.  So when the adventure leads us through the desert, we keep moving forward, thankful for the time of preparation, hopeful for the fruits of patience and maturity.

For you are my hope, O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. Psalm 71:5

Hope knows that what God offers is far better than what we have settled for.  Which even includes our expectations for ourselves and our families.

So, what are we hoping for?  

Well, I think our prayers reveal our hopes.  Often our laundry list of requests to God include financial provisions, health, homes, jobs, babies. 

What was Sarah's hope? I think she probably prayed for many of the same things that women today pray for.

In her life, the obvious hope was for a child, the noticeable miracle was the birth of a son.  But could it be that the greater miracle was the growth of her faith?  Enough growth that she sat in the company of the greatest faith heroes in all of history?

I know that I pray for many palpable requests.  Especially in this season—we are in between jobs, ministries, and even homes. I find myself hoping—and therefore praying--for security, a place to call home, the right jobs, a church that we can serve in. I confess that I hope for all these things to come soon.

But could it be that a greater hope is at stake? 

Could I, could you, hope for the growth of our faith?! 

Could it be, that more than hopes for children, husbands, or homes, that we could hope for changed hearts?

More than growing careers or savings accounts, when I see that the promise-giver has grown my faith, I find obedience is doable.

More than changing a arduous situation, when I see that my faithful God has softened my heart, or helped me yield my will, then…then I have courage for His adventure!

Instead of filling my heart’s capacity with longings for things seen, could I first crave the things unseen—a tested love, a stronger belief, a greater purity?

We must start hoping for more, friends.

We must hope for what we do not yet see. 

We must, we must be willing to leave control, and comfort, and the religion that we know, and hope for more of this God that gives promises and hope. 

We must squint ahead toward Canaan, like Sarah, and hope for more than what we know.

Because when we discover just how much our hearts are meant to hope for, we too will be able to consider him faithful who has promised.

Romans 5:5 “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

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