Straining Forward in Hope

This is the 5th post for the series A January of Unwrapping Hope.

Psalm 3: 2 – 6 (ESV)

many are saying of my soul,
    there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around.

Since writing my last post, I’ve come across all sorts of Scriptures reminding me of God’s call to a strong belief in His power to save and the absolute need to surrender our wills to His. It started in reading Song of Songs and for the first time really noticing the call to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” (Song of Songs, ESV).

It made me recall how we are told that it is only through Jesus, our Perfect Sacrifice, we are given access to the Father and how Jesus in carrying out the will of His Father, is justifying us to make us worthy to stand before the Father (1 John 6: 35-40). And I recalled the powerful Presence of God upon my mother in her final days and reading of a similar Presence upon Peter Lawrence shortly before he passed away from brain cancer, as recorded in his book The Spirit Who Speaks. And returned to the Old Testament recordings of God’s Powerful Presence having to be shielded in a burning bush or a cloud, to protect the Israelites.

It made me realize that I often trivialize the Awesome Holiness of God. That in failing to be still before the LORD, I fail to acknowledge and know Him as the Awesome God. I go about my life, not waiting upon His Love to “stir up or awaken” me, not waiting upon His “gentle and quiet whisper” (1 Kings 19: 12, The Message) to lead me forward on my path. But I step in to “stir up” what is not mine to “arouse”, I busy myself with good works that are not mine to do:

Luke 9: 23 – 27 (The Message)

Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

I do so, choosing to rest in fear and insecurities, rather than “giv [ing] myself fully to the work of the Lord because [I] know that [my] labor in the Lord is not in vain.”, rather than letting His love “stir up or awaken me” to what I am actually called to do and not to what I think is needed to make my God-given task less scary to do:

1 Corinthians 15: 54 – 58 (NIV)

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Am I really straining forward as I’m called to do?

Philippians 3: 13 – 14 (ESV)

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Forgetting what lies behind for me, is forgetting the fear that crippled me before I turned back to God, forgetting the inclination for self-preservation and self-protection. If I strain forward in faith and trust, it requires me to step forward with my hands empty, believing that the Lord has equipped me for the good works HE has prepared for me and that though I cannot see the path before me, He will lead me, as I strain forward to hear His Voice and that He will make my path straight.


Believing that like the meme my dear friend sent me, I am called to place the stones thrown at me before God as an altar to His faithfulness, that like another dear friend reminded me, we are called to be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abendnego, to step into whatever lies before us, with or without the assurance that we will come out unscathed, that it is not false gods of fear, human approval and pride we are to serve and cling to, but God.

Like Peter, when we heed the call of Jesus, fixing our eyes on Him alone and trusting with open hands, empty as they are, we WILL be empowered and shielded by God’s Holy Presence, as we take those steps out upon the water. It is when we clench our fingers tight in fear, taking control of what is not ours to control, and look down and around instead of up, that we sink. I want to be a woman of God who unclenches, opens her hands, bends her knees to God alone and looks up. I want to repeatedly strain forward, after the “gentle and quiet whisper” that leads me, step by step, as I still my soul before Him, rejoicing for what I know and trust my God to do, for the Hope He has placed within me that will never, ever disappoint me.

1 Peter 1: 3 – 6 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritancethat can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice,though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Like Incense, Hillsong

May my prayer like incense rise before You
The lifting of my hands a sacrifice
Oh Lord Jesus turn Your eyes upon me
For I know there is mercy in Your sight

Your statutes are my heritage forever
My heart is set on keeping Your decrees
Please still my anxious urge toward rebellion
Let love keep my will upon its knees

Oh God You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God You are my God
And I will ever praise You

To all creation I can see a limit
But Your commands are boundless and have none
So Your Word is my joy and meditation
From the rising to the setting of the sun

All Your ways are loving and are faithful
Your road is narrow but Your burden light
Because You gladly lean to lead the humble
I shall gladly kneel to leave my pride

I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days




2 thoughts on “Straining Forward in Hope

  1. Wow Anna this is so timely and beautiful. It touches my heart on so many levels. Thank you. God is good. I love how he puts the same message in our path in totally opposite and unconnected places. He is amazing.

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