Anticipating His Promises With Hope

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, December 9, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

We are now into the Christmas season, which is by far my favorite time of the year. While we know that Jesus came to this earth some 2,000 years ago, we can still anticipate his coming as if it is the first time. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by all the problems that are happening in this world both globally and within our individual lives. However, I just recently asked my congregation at church to go ahead and name a problem in their lives that the coming of the promised Messiah cannot fix. The purpose was not to trivialize the problems that we have, but to put the focus on the SOLUTION, the “problem fixer." As you anticipate the coming birth of the Messiah, what difference will he make in your life? Will you let another year go by letting your problems define you? Will you focus again on the less important concerns and expectations of the holiday season? Or will you grab a hold of the hope found only in Jesus? If you are finding it difficult to trust in him, maybe you are just tired of waiting for him to show up.

When we don’t get what we anticipate or expect when we think we should, we are pretty quick to give up on it. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus as Lord, you must understand that patient endurance is one of the things that characterizes true faith. It forces us to depend on the Lord rather than just go to him when we think our lives are falling apart. It forces us to be thankful for what he gives us. And it forces us to engage in a relationship with him so that he carries us through the tough trials we face as we wait. Essentially, it brings us closer to him and makes us more like him.

In Romans 15:1-13, the Apostle Paul is wrapping up his thoughts regarding faith that is weak versus faith that is strong and how we are to handle those whose actions or beliefs make them difficult to accept in our eyes. But ultimately, what he shares is true about faith at any level. Take some time to read those verses and see the obvious theme of endurance in Christ. Rather than trying to prove ourselves right or get revenge against those who offend us, we must find encouragement in knowing what Christ did when he did not seek to please (aka “vindicate”) himself when he was persecuted (verse 3). Paul also points to the stories of endurance from the Old Testament that are written to be an example to us and encourage us to have hope no matter what is happening in our lives (verse 4). We must remember that God is working in the midst of our lives and even when it feels like he is not paying attention or not fulfilling his promises, there is a reason for the delay.

For the Roman Christians, Paul shows that Christ endured becoming a servant to the Jews so that their promises would be fulfilled and even the Gentiles could come to know and praise him (verses 7-12). Jesus could have dealt with his persecutors very harshly. He could’ve literally destroyed them. Yet, he endured the sins of the world against him to bring about God’s greater plan. He knew that the Father could rescue him, but that to do so would go against the plan for redemption of all who would believe in him. Thus, he surrendered to the Father’s will (Matthew 26:39). Philippians 2:5-11 tells us that Jesus “made himself nothing” and “humbled himself," and then was later “exalted to the highest place” by God. As followers of Jesus, we must remember that God’s promises to us may not be fulfilled when we expect. If we pray for deliverance in accordance with God’s will, he may delay it, but he will not deny it.

The story of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, which is often read during this season, emphasizes the hope that we have and the value of enduring through our struggles while anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promises. You can find the story of Zechariah, who was a Jewish priest, and his wife Elizabeth in Luke 1, but I will try to summarize it for you. He and his wife were childless because she was barren, and they had likely given up hope of having a child. Being a priest who was “righteous in the sight of God” (Luke 1:6) and someone who was obviously well-versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, he was aware of the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. But the people of Israel were under Roman rule, and King Herod was not a good man to say the least. So, they waited. And they waited some more. And they kept waiting.

One day, through the process of casting lots, Zechariah was granted what was likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He was chosen to be the priest who would burn incense in the temple of the Lord for that day. As he prayed, an angel of the Lord stood beside the altar and informed him that his wife would indeed give birth to a son, who would be named “John," and he would be a forerunner that goes before the Lord and prepares a way for him. We know that John the Baptist was born and fulfilled his calling as a prophet preparing a way for Jesus, but Zechariah had obvious doubts due to his wife’s barrenness and their old age. His doubting of God’s faithfulness causes him to be unable to speak throughout his wife’s pregnancy, but when he finally gets a chance to share the good news as he holds his newborn son in his hands, he doesn’t miss the opportunity. Look at Zechariah’s song in Luke 1:67-79, but pay particular attention to verse 68. Zechariah praises the Lord because his long-awaited promise of the Messiah is coming true. The miracle birth of his own son whom he holds is proof that God will hear our prayers and that he is concerned with us enough to come and visit us himself. In visiting us, he redeems us. You can see that Zechariah is so convinced at this point that the Messiah will indeed come soon that he speaks of it as if the promise has already been fulfilled.

Zechariah was desperate for a child in his own life, but more than that was desperate to see God’s promise of the Messiah to redeem his people come to fulfillment. He had legitimate reason to think that neither was ever going to happen and to think that maybe God no longer cared. God had delayed for so long. But according to his will and his time, God addressed Zechariah’s two most pressing concerns at one time. He did not deny Zechariah or the people of Israel.

So, again I ask you, what difference will Jesus make in your life this year? What are you anticipating from God? Be encouraged from Paul’s words, Christ’s example, and Zechariah’s story that we can patiently endure the tough times. We have hope that God will not deny even if he does delay. This Christmas season, for whatever deliverance you need, anticipate it with hope and trust Jesus to be everything you need and your answer to every problem you face.

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