Scriptures: Romans 5: 1-5
God’s hope does not disappoint!
Hope is so much more than wishing on a star. It’s more than the typical statements: “I hope it doesn’t rain or I hope I get a job.” These statements are the type of hope that is characterized by doubt, uncertainty and lack of control. Hope is so much more than passive wishing.
Christian Hope is bold, daring and provides fuel for courageous living. It’s a confident hope: “In the City of David a Savior was born, which is Christ the Lord.” It’s a secure hope: “His name shall be called Immanuel, being interpreted God with us.” Jesus is our anchor that holds in the mist of the storms. It’s a lasting hope: John 14: 1-3. Today we have past hope, present hope & future hope.
Genuine Hope: Hope is the object in which we direct our focus and energies. Hope is the knowledge that we are being changed for the better as we trust in God's promises. It is the conviction that no matter the circumstances, God's plan for our lives is for good and not for disaster, "to give us a future and a hope."
Why is Hope so important? Without hope our future is not secure. We become excessively anxious and paralyzed by fear. Our focus becomes ourselves and our problems and we have hard time loving others.
This Christmas season Jesus wants to you the Gift of Hope.
Scriptures: Philippians 1:1-8
From these scriptures, we can observe 3 things about Paul the writer of Philippians. He had joy in his life, a positive outlook and he was an optimistic person. But we also know from his writing that his circumstances were not ideal. He was in jail, in chains and on trial for his life. He was physically weak. He was under attack from fellow Christians who distrust him.
Paul had every reason to be angry and miserable! Yet instead he had joy, thanksgiving, gratitude, confidence and deep affection for other Christians. Paul teaches us that we cannot always control what happens to us, but we do have control of how we respond.
Take a moment and ask yourself the question: Which is harder: to be in prison or out? The correct answer is: it depends. There are people in prison who have freedom in life through Jesus Christ. There are people who are physically free yet have chains of bitterness, anger, lust, despair, greed, lack of forgiveness, addictions, etc. Thanksgiving and joy are not dependent on our circumstances, but on a living relationship with Jesus Christ. If you build your life on circumstances, you are going to be grumpy.
God’s prescription for joy:
J – Jesus 1st
O – Others 2nd
Y – Yourself 3rd
When Jesus is 1st in your life, you can have joy that goes beyond your circumstances.
Scriptures: Psalm 46:1-3
Today we are learning about the Cities of Refuge, which were established by God before they were needed. They were available to all and accessible to all; located at high elevations so that they could be seen from great distances. Whoever needed to flee to one of the cities was free to do so: the gates of these cities were always open.
The Names of the cities had great importance:
Fellowship with other believers and Jesus.
All the cities of refuge stand for Jesus Christ and anyone can run to Him for refuge.
1 Kings 19: 1-12
Elijah was feeling discouraged and a spiritual dryness had come over him.
He says: “Lord I have had enough, take away my life.” An angel touches him while he is sleeping and tells him twice to arise and eat. Elijah takes a journey and finds a cave to lodge in. The Lord comes to him and asks: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah tells God: “I’m the only left who believes in you.”
The truth is we all experience times like this. We feel hurt, betrayed or some event triggers resentment, anger. We feel isolated, confused, lonely and depression sets in. We ask God why? And proclaim: Lord I have had enough! We become tired, human energy is gone and we can even lose motivation to live. We wonder why is there so much unfairness and injustice in this world? We reason - A loving God should prevent bad things.
What can we do when feel like we are losing our faith?
Be kind to ourselves. Expect some uncertainty, doubt – Your uncertainty gives impetus to inquiries. Genuine doubt leads to exploration. God is big enough to handle you doubts.
The Angel came to Elijah not to correct him, but nourish him.
Faith needs nourishment. Feed your beliefs, not your worries. "Arise – the Prodigal Son said; “I will arise and go to my father.” Truth is found at the end of a long road back to your father’s house. The Lord asked: “Elijah what are you doing here?”
Find something to be Grateful for.
How many have been in a car accident? If you are reading this then you survived! You have something to be thankful for! Those who answered no to that question also have something to be thankful for: look what God has kept you from! Think back to a time when your faith brought through a dark period.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 - "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Get involved in Church.
God can answer your doubts at Church. Your faith gets fed at church: "Faith cometh by hearing, hearing the Word of God."
In God’s house your attitude gets adjusted.
Faith has so many benefits:
Faith gives meaning to life, a very sense of purpose. Faith carries you through the struggles of Life. Faith defines our life goals.
Faith activates the Blessing of God in our lives.