Behold His Face and Your Hope Will Grow

This post is the first in the series A January of Unwrapping Hope and is linked up to Holley Gerth’s Coffee for Your Heart:

And Faith and Friends Blog Hop:

Romans 15:4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15: 4 tells us that “endurance” produces hope, an endurance that we are told in Romans 5: 2-5 is birthed through “suffering”. But how can we step into the powerful hope of things unseen, when it requires us to “endure” in this broken, bleeding, aching world? When we find ourselves, together with all creation, groaning as a mother in childbirth? How do we “endure”, when what is most dear to us is torn from us? How do we “endure” when we behold those we love suffer, knowing nothing we say or do can remove it? How do we “endure”, when grief, rejection, ridicule and abuse naturally push us to recoil and hide? How do we “endure”, when our emotions weigh as lead upon us? How do we “endure” when the world around us carries on as if nothing has happened and yet we are groaning inwardly for redemption?

Romans 15: 4 gives us the answer. It helps us to appreciate that “endurance” goes hand in hand with the “encouragement of the Scriptures”, that the Word of God “was written for our instruction”, so that we might endure in encouragement. In and of ourselves, we cannot endure. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Romans 5: 2 – 5 puts it beautifully that suffering “works needful experience of ourselves.” This is because the more we suffer, the more we meet the ends of ourselves, as we discover just how much we need the arms of our Heavenly Father to hold and carry us.

However, the Word of God can only encourage us if we receive it in His Spirit of Love, if we accept the Word as Arms of Love stretched out toward us (my emphasis):

Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Romans 5: 2-5  expounds on this for us (my emphasis):

“It is the gracious work of the blessed Spirit to shed abroad the love of God in the hearts of all the saints. A right sense of God’s love to us, will make us not ashamed, either of our hope, or of our sufferings for him.”

Thus, if we do not have a “right sense of God’s love to us”, we can read and reflect upon Scripture and yet remain in our despairing, hopeless state because we need His love to “make us not ashamed, either of our hope, or of our sufferings for him.”

And yet, even growing up in faith, it is all too easy to adopt a false “sense of God’s love to us”. Why? Because often, sometimes without even realizing it, we have started looking to other “jars of clay” – our spouse, our parents, our friends, our colleagues, our classmates – rather than to God Himself for our definition of Perfect Love:

2 Corinthians 4: 7

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.

If we confuse God’s love with human love, we deplete it of its power. We allow it to become an idol of conditional, even punishing love, rather than the Gospel Love of powerful grace. And when suffering hits, the idol of God we have created becomes a punitive monster, who tells us that every obstacle we face, every pain inflicted upon us is our just deserves, that God has inflicted it upon us to punish us. And so, instead of turning toward the face of Jesus, we cower in fear, as if we have been covered in shame, rather than clothed in righteousness.

The smallest thing can force us inward and downward. For me recently, it was my struggle to give of myself in love, when my heart was grieving deeply. I cowered and hid from God because I thought He was disappointed in me, rather than turning toward Him, so that He might comfort me and enable me to love from His strength. But then I heard His voice calling me, felt His hands cup my face and lift my eyes heavenward. I looked upon His Majesty reflected in the mountains, the glistening lake and the bleeding sky of red:

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and it is then I felt His Love wash over me and His grace meet me. “It’s okay, Anna. I love you still. Be still and know that I am God.” And then a deep yearning took hold of my heart as tears fell down my cheeks and I surveyed His majestic creation as a glimpse of the Glory of heaven. I was overcome, powerfully so. I felt my soul bow before God, as hymns of praise left my lips. And as I returned to our holiday home, back to the humdrum of life, I was left with a painful yearning for more. Hope had taken hold of me, as I saw heaven before me and felt eternity engraved upon my heart. I had looked upon the face of my Saviour, responding to His invitation to fix my eyes on Him in my suffering, rather than on the weakness within me and the weight of human expectation upon my shoulders.

Hebrews 12: 2 – 3 (The Message, my emphasis)

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Romans 5: 2-5  tells us that:

Tribulation worketh patience, not in and of itself, but the powerful grace of God working in and with the tribulation. Patient sufferers have most of the Divine consolations, which abound as afflictions abound.

So, let’s not “lean on our own [broken human] understanding”, but fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith, who is more than able to complete His good works within and through us, as we respond palms open to His powerful loving grace, allowing the hope of things unseen to grow within us:

Ephesians 2 (The Message, my emphasis)

 1-6 It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

7-10 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

And so, as I leave you to the remainder of your day and your “humdrum” of life, I pray that “the God of hope [will] fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

I’d love to connect with you, as I continue sharing my journey into God’s Great Love this year, so that we may encourage each other in fixing our eyes upon the Lord. I have created a Joy of the Spirit Within Facebook page for this purpose. If you like the page, you will receive updates from it in your Newsfeed and when you head on over to the page you can join in the conversations we have about faith.

 

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Behold His Face and Your Hope Will Grow

  1. I love the lyrics of that old hymn you ended with. A favorite of mine. I was inspired this morning and loved that you wrote on this, in light of hope. I have struggled to read this year, and recently picked up a book I thought I’d share here. A Path Through Suffering – Elisabeth Elliot. Your thoughts here mirrored some of hers and feel God is speaking through you both, into my aching soul. Thank you for writing here Anna.

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    1. I haven’t read that book, but I think my Dad has. I’m so thankful God has shaped and infused my words to bless you. I started out wanting to write something completely different and was strongly halted, as Hebrews 12 : 2 and that hymn came to me while biking to church…and then the sermon was about leaning not on our own understanding, but God’s…we are pots of clay in the Potter’s Mighty Hands…He knows exactly what His precious children need to hear.

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  2. Bless your dear heart! I can sense that your soul has experienced great sorrow…my heart goes out to you. I trust the God of all comfort will hold you extra close. So thankful for your sweet visit to my blog. It was so nice to “meet” you. God bless you and lift your load.

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    1. Thank you, Cheryl. Grief comes and goes in waves…and being home this Christmas for my sister’s wedding brought on another wave. My Mum left for heaven after a five month battle with brain cancer in April 2014.

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