Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 15, 2016

"Now faith is being sure we will get what we hope for. It is being sure of what we cannot see." Hebrews 11:1

If it seems to you there is a strong connection between hope and faith it means you are paying attention! The writer of Hebrews says as much from the very first verse of Chapter 11.

Getting your mind around this truth will give you helpful insights not only into faith but into hope as well!

The verse above begins the great "hall of faith" chapter of Hebrews 11. It offers a profoundly significant insight and then supports it with examples from the lives of our Biblical heroes.

What this verse tells us is this, "When God wants to inspire faith He plants hope in the human heart."

Let me illustrate this truth from the Christmas story. Look what happened when Gabriel appeared to Zechariah as he was on duty at the temple:

"Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Luke 1:11-20

What just happened here?

Zechariah was going to need a big dose of faith to believe what Gabriel was telling him and then to see it through to completion. So, to inspire that required faith God spoke hope into Zechariah's heart.

What had Zechariah and Elizabeth longed for in their married life? A son!

What had Zechariah and Elizabeth given up hope of having in their later years? A son!

Now Gabriel sought to restore that hope by delivering God's promise of not just a son, but one of the greatest sons to ever be born! Their son would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah!

Wow! Their hopes were renewed beyond anything they had ever hoped for! All they would have to do is believe it! 

When God wants to strengthen your faith He renews your hope!

If you need another example look no farther than Gabriel's next appearance, which happened to be to Elizabeth's cousin, Mary.

"In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her." Luke 1:26-38

What is the only thing you can think of that might require more faith to believe than old people having a baby? How about a virgin having a baby? That is exactly what Mary was asked to believe! 

That would take a lot of faith! How do you find faith like that? 

Mary found it through the hope spoken into her spirit by Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God!

But how would her fiancee Joseph ever be able to believe her story?

"This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." Matthew 1:18-24

Joseph's hopes had been crushed with the initial news of Mary's pregnancy. Suddenly his concern was not about her being his wife but about how to save her life! If she was found to be a adulteress she would be stoned! He hadn't even had time to worry about the hit his own reputation would take when this news got out!

In the midst of that concern and confusion Gabriel appeared and gave Joseph new hope! With renewed hope Joseph found the faith to do what God had asked him to do!

When God wants to strengthen your faith He renews your hope!

If you want more evidence to support this truth read the rest of Hebrews 11!

Have you been struggling in your faith recently?

If so, here's some new hope! Stop praying for faith and ask God to renew your hope!