Yesterday we talked about thanking God as a way of reminding ourselves of our ‘bottom line’. It is important for us to find a truth from God’s word about His revealed nature and character, or something from our past walk with God, upon which we can stand and say, ‘but this I know God is for me’, when we are confused or disappointed by something that has or has not happened for us. Thanksgiving for that truth is a great way to stop our slide into doubt, or even cynicism, especially if there is something we had hoped that God would do for us in answer to prayer, which hasn’t come good for us as yet.
If thanksgiving for that ‘bottom line’ stops our fall into unbelief, then thanksgiving for other things that come to mind from our history with God – our Salvation, things that He has done for us, or times when we have been blessed – can also help to lift us back into a place of faith. Thanksgiving can be a doorway for us into fresh hope. And we know hope is very important for us. It is often a stepping stone into faith, because ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for.’ Hebrews 11:1
‘Hope deferred’, however, ‘makes the heart sick, but when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.’ Proverbs 13:12, and I have often spoken to those who actually don’t want to revive their hopes because of the fear of further disappointment, and that’s a tricky one to counter. But the answer probably lies in our understanding of the word ‘hope’.
Hoping in God is very different to ‘hoping’ that the bus will come. It is also very different to ‘hoping’ for a pay rise; then on the basis of that ‘hope’, I take out a loan only to find myself financially sunk when it doesn’t happen. Hope in the bible is not the same as the heroine’s ‘longing and hoping’, in a Jane Austen novel, for a proposal of marriage from someone in a different social class.
Hope in the bible is ‘sure and certain’ because it is based on the character of God, not the efficiency or otherwise of the bus company or the traffic conditions on a certain day. Even so hope, by definition can be a difficult thing to hold onto because, ‘We only hope for what we don’t yet see.’ Romans 8:25, therefore if we look for reassurance in our circumstances there may be nothing to see. Our hope has to depend on who God is and what He has said in His Word.
Surely Abraham, the Father of Faith, has to give us a lead here. God changes his name from Abram to Abraham when he is ninety. It’s a change in meaning from ‘exalted Father’ to ‘Father of multitudes’ and he has no offspring and no earthly hope of that ever coming to pass. But there is the promise that Sarah will have a child, and that this child will be the fulfilment of that hope. For ten years Abraham has to walk round with this new name, but no child in sight.
How did he do that? Paul tells us that ‘In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become the father of many nations.’ And how did he manage to do that? Well Abraham ‘grew strong in faith as he gave glory to God, being fully assured that what He promised He was able also to perform’. Romans 4:18-20. He had no circumstantial evidence to support his hope, in fact the complete opposite was true when he considered his own body and Sarah’s too, but Abraham ‘gave glory’- gave thanks – to God for His promise and, probably too, for everything he had experienced with God in his past. Abraham had history with God and I think he would have pulled hard on what he knew of God for this long ten years of waiting and hoping for a son.
There is something here about our faith being strengthened in the waiting time. So, if in that time of waiting, we can give thanks for what we have already seen in our past with God, then our hope will begin to turn into faith and with faith comes peace. ‘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.’ Romans 5:5.
So ‘Now may the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,’ Romans 15:13, as you use thanksgiving to open doors of hope in your life.