With any new adventure, any new start - whether it’s the first day of school, or the first day back to work after vacation - really any kind of a first day back, we tend to come with some great hopes, some ambitious goals - and maybe some unsettling anxieties.
Will it be different this year? Will I be better than I was? Will “things” go better than they did last time?
We make big plans, we have great intentions, high hopes - but life doesn’t follow our plans. Life doesn’t respect our boundaries, it doesn’t value our goals! Somehow - in the midst of that, we’ve got to maintain hope. Hope keeps us moving through adversity, difficulty and pain - hope gives us the willingness to keep going until we get where we’re going.
Understand this: hope isn’t a feeling. It’s not an emotion. Hope is a perspective. It’s seeing life and its difficulties - in light of the sovereignty and goodness of God.
In 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 Paul says something that sounds odd to us, even contradictory, he says: “I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
We might ask Paul - which is it, is it good or bad?
Is it a good opportunity - or are you experiencing opposition?
Paul would answer: Yes!
Paul knew that he was doing the thing that God had called him to do. He wasn’t just doing his own thing - he was doing what God had called him to do (look at 1 Corinthians 1:1 “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus…”). And so, Paul knew (since God is sovereign, since He is King of all Creation) that if he was doing God’s thing - even if there is opposition - it is a great opportunity. Even if things go badly - in the end, God will have His way, in the end, God wins. So if we choose to do “God’s thing” instead of “our thing” - we can have hope, confidence, assurance that (no matter how things are going now) in the end God will achieve whatever He sets out to do.
Being able to live out that kind of confidence in God - only comes when we live in close connection with God. It only happens when we are coming close to God each day, and seeking to stay close to Him throughout the day. It happens when we “abide in Christ.”
It’s a great way to live - it changes us from anxious to joyful, from defeated to hopeful.
John 15:9-11 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Draw close to the Lord, invest yourself in His thing, abide in His love - and trust (regardless of any opposition or difficulty) that God will do what He has said that He will do.