Reasons To Have Hope You’ll Change

The New Year always offers hope for a new start, hope for change. So on Dec. 31, many people make daring resolutions to do things like run 18 miles a day, floss before, during and after meals, and quit listening to Barry Manilow.  Years ago I abandoned making audacious New Years’ resolutions, because I have the willpower of a famished hyena face to face with a medium rare sirloin steak.

Yet I have hope to change.  Because I have an iron will and incredible self-discipline?  Nope.  My hope for change is Christ.  If you’re a believer, Jesus is your hope too.  Here are a few reasons why:

  • Because the Father loves you so much he gave his one and only Son to save you.  If the Father loves you that much, surely he’ll help you change.
  • Because the Son the Father gave you is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and the Prince of Peace who cares for you like an Everlasting Father (IS 9).  Jesus employs all his amazing attributes for you.
  • Because God will get glory by transforming you.
  • Because God has predestined you to be conformed to the image Christ (RO 8.29).
  • Because God has promised to complete the good work he began in you (PHP 1.6).
  • Because the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control in your life.
  • Because Jesus’ rule in your life will keep increasing and advancing (IS 9.7).
  • Because Jesus himself is interceding for you day and night (HE 7.25).

We should use all God’s means of grace to grow – reading and meditating on Scripture, prayer, fellowship, worship, communion.  But our hope for change is our mighty Savior, not ourselves.  So take courage – Jesus is at work in you!

photo by ali edwards

Crazy Counsel

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)

How would you respond to the following situations?

  • Your little girl has the flu, keeping both you and her up all night.
  • Your 401k is tanking and it appears that you won’t be able to retire until age 144.
  • A highway accident backs up traffic for two miles and you’re bringing up the rear.
  • You’re diagnosed with chronic arthritis.
  • You discover that your mother has terminal cancer.

Let me tell you how I would be tempted to respond. Complaining. Ranting. Raging against God. Demanding better. Throwing a colossal self-pity party. I don’t like trials. Not big ones or small ones.

But then I read James and find myself confronted with what appears to be the counsel of a madman. But it’s not. It’s the command and counsel of the living God. I’m to count all trials (that’s all in case you missed it) as all joy.

I’m to count every trial as joy. Not just the big, life-crisis, call-all-the-family trials. Even the little, I-can’t-believe-my-son-just-puked-again trials.

Why? Because trials test my faith. Tested faith is steadfast faith. Steadfast faith doesn’t waver in the face of trials. It doesn’t quiver at the prospect of three months without pay, or three weeks in the hospital, or three days of the chicken pox. Steadfast faith is confident in the extravagant goodness of God and his unwavering faithfulness.

Trials are a fire that harden and temper my faith. That’s why I’m to count them as all joy. God is using every difficulty – from diaper rashes to chronic illnesses – to draw me deeper into him.

As you go to work, or homeschool your kids, or lay sick in bed, let this truth encourage and comfort you. All trials, all joy.

Reasons To Keep Asking Jesus to Heal

It’s easy to get discouraged when you keep asking Jesus to heal you or someone you care about and no visible answers come.  But here are some reasons to keep praying:

  • Because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb13.8). When people brought their children or friends to Jesus for healing, he always cured them.  Jesus hasn’t changed.  When we pray for family members and friends, Jesus is right there, as much as if he were visible.
  • Because Jesus told us to keep asking, seeking and knocking (MT 7.7).  He wouldn’t have told us to do this had he not intended to answer our prayers.  God doesn’t give us futile exercises to do.
  • Because God instructs us to make our requests known to him with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving (PHP 4.6).  Again, he would not have told us to make requests if he didn’t intend to answer.
  • Because Jesus is full of sympathy, compassion, kindness, mercy, tenderness, power and graciousness.
  • Because healing people glorifies Jesus and results in thanksgiving to him.
  • Because Jesus loves to bless his children.
  • Because Jesus takes no delight in our suffering.
  • Because he has made many promises to help, rescue and deliver, e.g. “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright” (PS 112.4), and “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (PS 34.19)

I don’t have answers for why some aren’t healed, but God never lies, and I know that he is completely good, wise, and loving.  So keep asking Jesus to heal.  Keep seeking and knocking.

photo by ro_buk [I'm not there]

Beating The Post-Christmas Blues

Have you ever come down with a nasty case of the post-Christmas blues? You know the kind I’m talking about. It’s two o’clock on Christmas day, you’re sitting in your living room surrounded by approximately 2.4 miles of wrapping paper, and you start to get this sinking feeling. You slowly begin to realize that Christmas wasn’t all you thought it was going to be. You got some nice gifts, ate some suh-weet food, and got a slight tear in your eye when you watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”, although you never would acknowledge that you were actually crying. But in spite of all this it seems like a let-down.

Christmas is the season of hype. At 12:01 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, malls put up Christmas decorations, radio stations begin playing Christmas carols, and Old Navy begins selling jeans for 70% off. Everywhere you look somebody is telling you that they can satisfy you. Get an HD TV and you’ll be happy. Get your wife diamond earrings and she’ll love you forever (or until next Christmas). Get a new cellphone that makes phone calls, plays music, makes espresso, and acts as a personal trainer and you’ll finally find some satisfaction.

But when Christmas day comes and goes and all the gifts are unwrapped, it feels really hollow. Why? Because it is really hollow. Empty, shallow, a facade, whatever you want to call it. We get the Christmas blues when we place our hope and joy in these things.

So how do you give the Christmas blues a big kick in the pants? Follow the advice of the Psalmist. In Psalm 43:4 we read, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you…” Do you want to avoid feeling deflated after Christmas? Go to God your exceeding joy. Be very intentional about finding your deepest and sweetest joy in God himself. Don’t look for joy in family, friends, presents, Christmas dinner, or anything else. Find your joy in God.

How do you do this? Here’s one practical suggestion. At some point on Christmas, spend time with God, your exceeding joy. If you can, spend some personal time reading God’s word and praying. As you spend time with God, you’ll find yourself refreshed and filled with the joy that only God can give.

Don’t let the Christmas blues rule you on Christmas. Go to God, your exceeding joy, and find true satisfaction.

Originally published December 24, 2007