“Challenges are ways God can draw us in and teach us…ways to introduce in our lives hope…Once I have faith in my life, than I am given the hope of how He will take care of me in the future.” Pastor James Sunnock
This past December our pastor began a series about Advent. I had never celebrated Advent before and honestly didn’t know what it was. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when our pastor said he was going to teach about Advent, I equated it with Lent or something similar that is celebrated before Easter. In a way it kind of is…it’s a chance to focus for a full month on the real reason we celebrate Christmas which includes Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. There are five candles total, three purple and one pink and then one big white one in the middle that is reserved for Christmas Day. Each of the purple/pink candles represents a word that families are encouraged to meditate on for one week each. The first week a purple candle which symbolizes “hope” is lit. Then the second week, another purple candle “peace” is lit, and combines with “hope.” The third week the pink candle “joy” is added to the previous candles, and finally the fourth week the last purple candle, “love” is lit as well. Each week the candles burn brighter as their flames join together and then on Christmas Day, when the big white candle in the middle, representing Jesus as a baby is also lit, the light being given off from all five candles is very bright.
The sermon that most intrigued me was the first one…about hope! Through the message I was able to understand what God’s hope is versus the imitation that the world offers. Hope starts with reading God’s Word and personalizing it for myself. Have you ever read the Bible and asked God for clarity for a problem in your life and then hours, days, sometimes even a week later a Bible verse will “pop” into your head and you wonder where it came from? Yet, it’s a verse that speaks to exactly what you’re struggling with and offers a glimpse of hope?
Almost two years ago, we started attending what is now our church home and the pastors have really taught me how to press in and listen for God’s voice. To not be ashamed to ask Him questions…and then to patiently wait for the answers. When I do that, the answer I get is one where I know that I know that I know it’s something God wants me to do or a promise that God has given me.
Once I’ve gotten that promise or call to obey in a certain area, then it’s time for me to step out in faith. Usually that requires consistent and sometimes hard work on my part. And, usually, what I’ve been asked to do doesn’t focus on me or my needs but on helping to ease someone else’s burden…ministering to God’s children or furthering His kingdom or a combination of the two. God blesses obedience…in His time. All the people of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 were blessed for their obedience even if they didn’t see the final result of that obedience in their lifetime. Abraham was granted a son, Moses’ mother didn’t have to watch her son die, and Noah and his family were saved in the flood instead of dying with the rest of the people.
Faith that I heard God correctly and then action by obeying what He has called me to do bring hope. Genuine hope brings peace…and joy. When I know that I know that I know I’m walking in the path God wants me to walk in, then I know I’m resting in hope, not wishful thinking.
I’m grateful God chose to bless me with my word for 2015 back in October 2014. I’m also grateful He allowed me to struggle with whether or not hope was something I wanted or not. Because wishful thinking? No thanks, I’ll pass. But genuine, Biblical hope – absolutely! I don’t mind waiting for God’s timing to fulfill the promises He whispered on my heart that He wants to fulfill in my life…because while I’m waiting for them to occur, I’m filled with peace and joy. Peace in the waiting and joy in knowing that I’m part of a bigger picture…that my obedience to my Father is being used for a greater mission than just receiving blessings in my own life. My choice might just help change someone else’s future for all eternity.
© Cheri Swalwell 2014