Sunday, April 27, 2014

"On Fire": Don't 'Give Away' Your HOPE

"But Naomi said, 'Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!'"---Ruth 1:11-13(NIV)

Last Friday...

I had a conversation with a woman who is probably my oldest (longest) friend. I say that because we've known each other ever since I was 5 and she was 7 and we're still pretty close.

Anyway, as we were catching up with one another's lives, one of the things that I shared with her was what I was planning to do for the Big 40 in June. A personality test that I took some years ago revealed that I am an "extroverted introvert" and so I get why the thought of a party is so (SO) not my thing.

So, I'm doing mini-celebrations with different people throughout the month.

And I'm going to register myself to refill my hope chest.

The second thing is what caught my sistah-friend's attention:

Her: "What do you mean you're going to 'fill it back up'?"

Me: "Well, I have a hope chest but over time, I gave a lot of the stuff away."

Her: "What a minute? You gave your hope away?"

Me: (After pausing for a moment) "OK. That's hilarious when you put it like that. But yes."

Her: "Yeah, we definitely need to pray about that."

And ever since we hung up, honestly, I have been. Now in my mind, in my hope chest, I had a lot of nice (and new) lingerie that, since it was appearing that I wasn't going to be using it any time soon, someone else could/should. Yet, it really is interesting what someone "from the outside looking in" can see about you---that you may not (Proverbs 17:27 & 24:6).

Initially, when I purchased every item that I had in my hope chest, *it was for me*. Does it matter that some of those things were several years old? It shouldn't have, right? Especially since I am continually mentioning Romans 5:5 in these postings: "Hope does not disappoint": To disappoint means "to fail to fulfill the expectations or wishes of". To disappoint also means "to defeat the fulfillment of (hopes, plans, etc.); thwart".

Most of us know the biblical definition of faith: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1-NKJV) And as we can see from the definitions, it's not just enough to "have hope". We have to be *confident* in what we are hoping for. In other words, *faith does not work without confidence*.

Here's a very clear example of that:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."---James 1:5-7(NKJV)

I don't know about you but for me, that's one of the main things that I "miss" about faith sometimes. That it's not just enough to believe in what I don't see (or see yet or see in the spirit realm-I Corinthians 2:14). I have to be confident. I have to be sure. I have to not doubt. When that happens, *that is when I'm truly walking in faith*. That is when I really am being hopeful:

Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best

And here's what's awesome about hope. By its very (dictionary) definition, when we are confident (having strong belief or full assurance; sure) in what we are hoping for, we can be certain (CERTAIN) that either what we want we will get *or* (OR) how things turn out will be better than what we wanted in the first place. I mean, you see how the definition says that things will turn out *for the best*, right? Not good. Not better. The absolute best: "of the highest quality, excellence, or standing" and "most advantageous, suitable, or desirable". This is why we are told to have faith in God (Mark 11:22). It's because by having confidence in him, we can be sure that he can do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21)!

So what does all of this have to do with the lead verses for this message?

If you've never read The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules, it's a book that truly is worth investing in. One of the things that the author (Carolyn Custis James) shares is just how *hopeless* Naomi was. To the point that, like me, she was basically setting herself up to "give away her hope": her daughter-in-law Ruth.

Even though Naomi had lost her husband and her sons (which many theologians believe sent her into a state of depression), God provided "a ram in the thicket": Ruth. Ruth, whose name actually means "friend". When Ruth said the following, it was planting a seed of hope within Naomi:

"And she said, 'Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.' But Ruth said:

'Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.

Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.'

When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her."---Ruth 1:15-18(NKJV)

If you follow through the story of Ruth, you know that Ruth's declaration was a hopeful resolve but there was a lot of time, work and waiting that was required in order for "things to turn out for the best". Yet because of the gift of hope that Ruth provided, it set a fire within Naomi that actually led Ruth to her beloved and Naomi to a restored state of promise and security:

"Then Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, said to her, 'My daughter, I must find a suitable home for you, one that will be good for you. Now Boaz, whose young women you worked with, is our close relative. Tonight he will be working at the threshing floor. Wash yourself, put on perfume, change your clothes, and go down to the threshing floor. But don’t let him know you’re there until he has finished his dinner. Watch him so you will know where he lies down to sleep. When he lies down, go and lift the cover off his feet and lie down. He will tell you what you should do.'

Then Ruth answered, 'I will do everything you say.'"---Ruth 3:1-5(NCV)

What I so dig about all of this is that it proves that hope has a domino-effect. The more confidence in God that you have that you can have what you want or something even more advantageous, the more you attract that kind of energy into your space. The more people, places, things and ideas start working in your favor to make manifest your hope. 

That's why the Liar (John 8:44) and thief (John 10:10) wants us to lose hope. He knows all too well that "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12-NKJV) He knows that if we don't remain hopeful, it can make our hearts hard and nothing good comes from that (Proverbs 28:14).

So, what are you hoping for?

Whatever it may be, remember that hope is not just about "getting what you want" but trusting, *confidently*, that even if you don't, things will still turn out for the best.

That's an amazing promise that faith offers.

By all means...fight hard and intentionally...

To not give away your hope!



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