Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cultivating Hope

Hope is an essential weapon of our warfare. It is a foundational platform from which all other weapons systems are launched. Hope gives rise to faith, and faith is what brings utter destruction to the plans and works of darkness. However, this hope doesn’t just magically appear, but must be cultivated and protected by the believer in Jesus. Like a plant, hope is actually produced by the power of God and grows in size and strength by the natural cycles provided in the Kingdom. However, like a plant, the seedling of hope must be protected in order to ensure that it has good soil to grow in, which is a proper heart condition; sufficient light, which is revelation of God’s character and eternal goodness; as well as sufficient water, which is the washing of water by the word – the declaration of the promises of God in the face of contrary circumstances (Eph 5:26). It is especially important to steward the promises of God while hope is a seedling in us. Once hope matures, the cycle continues naturally and hope begins to flower and produce fruit after its own kind as faith gives it substance and we have joy and peace in believing and the God of hope releases more and more provision that we may abound in hope (Heb 11:1 & Rom 15:13). Mature plants are firmly rooted and are able to withstand wind and storm and even times of minor drought. Seedlings, on the other hand, need tender, diligent care in order to survive. The seedling of hope is cultivated by having the mind of Christ, which necessitates taking thoughts captive and subjecting them to the obedience of Christ, meaning uprooting thought patterns that are contrary to the revealed will of God in our lives (2Cor 10:4, 5). Having the mind of Christ also necessitates replacing those thoughts that are inconsistent with Kingdom Reality with thoughts that are in harmony with the will of God. This is the water that will sustain hope and cause it to grow and produce the fruit of faith. Confident declaration of the promises of God is an incalculably powerful thing. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Heb 11:3); He called everything into existence by the creative power of His word. Since we are created in His image, and are being transformed into His likeness through the reconciliation of His death and resurrection, our words also have the power of life and death, the power to create and destroy, to bless and to curse (Rom 6:4, 5 & Prov 18:20, 21). It matters what we say, what we confess to be true, not just concerning the Gospel when witnessing to people in an evangelical capacity, but also what we say over all aspects of life. Regarding the fantastic promises that God makes over our lives, it is useful to look to Abraham as an example. Romans 4:18 tells us that, “contrary to hope,” Abraham “in hope believed,” regarding the promise of Isaac. He could only do this knowing that it is God, “who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). Sometimes, the promises of God seem totally impossible in the light of natural reasoning. Almost always, in my experience at least. We need to follow the example set out by God Himself and call those things which do not yet exist as though they did, with the full confidence that God backs His word with His power. Romans 4:20 says of Abraham that “he did not waver at the promises of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” So, what about when our circumstances seem to persist in opposition to the promises that we are holding fast to and declaring as Truth in the face of Fact? God has even made a way for the pressures we face to propel us into the cycle of hope and faith. Romans 5:3, 4 tells us to “glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Tribulation includes all pressure produced by waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises and the frustration of hope deferred. This generates perseverance, which is ‘cheerful patience’ or constancy through the shifting winds of circumstance. This then produces character, which is translated ‘trust that comes through a test’. This is not the end of a sequence of events that we are to endure without seeing fulfillment, but rather this character comes because we see the Kingdom manifest as a result of perseverance. We are meant to see “His Kingdom come; His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. I have already had the extreme privilege of seeing the Kingdom of God manifest in both physical miracles and encounters with the Holy Spirit. And yet, there are many as yet unfulfilled prophetic words hanging over my life. The Bible, as well, is full of promises of the whole Gospel that very few people have experienced. That being said, I know for sure that, if we persevere, we will see all of His promise fulfilled. Tribulation brings perseverance and perseverance sees the faithfulness of God to perform His oaths, which results in character that trusts Him. This then leads back to hope, the trigger for more release of the Kingdom. Romans 5:5 continues to say that “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.” This is intrinsically linked to Jude verse 20 where we are instructed to build ourselves up “on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping yourselves in the love of God.” Praying in the Holy Spirit, also referred to as praying in unknown tongues, also washes us by the water of the word as the Holy Spirit uses our yielded tongues to declare perfect declarations and pray perfect prayers. This keeps us in the love of God, and this love is the reason that hope doesn’t disappoint. Hope is an essential weapon of our warfare. It is the spark, the fuse that burns bright and hot. Love is the fuel that has been poured out in abundance, the accelerant, the explosive. This hope, when lit, starts a chain reaction that leads to an explosion of Kingdom power that is able to utterly destroy any weapon formed against us. Tribulation can only last so long. Persevere.

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