Yesterday, for the first time I can recall, I watched the entire movie The Shawshank Redemption. I’d only seen portions before, so now I know the full story of the two main characters, Andy and Red. Andy, falsely convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, and Red, serving a life sentence for a just conviction, both battled hope. Andy’s hope was stronger because he envisioned something beyond what he could see; he placed his actions and his beliefs in that hope. (That’s all the plot I’ll divulge; get some popcorn and watch it and enjoy to see how it works out for Andy and Red.)

The lines from the dialogue and the theme of the movie led me to think further about my hope, where is it and where should it be. I was reminded that my hope isn’t in temporal things but in eternal things. My values aren’t satisfied by temporal things, as much as I’m tempted to go after them.

Turning to scripture then, here are 10 passages that define my hope. May they give you a starting place for yours.

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:1-5‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:24-25 HCSB

“Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭39:7‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭62:5‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“The Lord values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭147:11‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“The hope of the righteous is joy, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭10:28‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is still young. Let him sit alone and be silent, for God has disciplined him. Let him put his mouth in the dust — perhaps there is still hope.”‭‭ Lamentations‬ ‭3:21-29‬ ‭HCSB‬

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry. The Lord frees prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are oppressed. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects foreigners and helps the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever; Zion, your God reigns for all generations. Hallelujah!” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭146:5-10‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

The Next Level (Book Review)

Thankfully, I took my time reading through this book. Bought it four years ago on recommendation, but it’s been waiting its turn. As often happens, the timing was perfect. So thanks for the recommendation, Nancy.

This book is palatable for readers of all levels, by the way. The 31 chapters, that Wilson labels days, are no longer than 8 pages. So one could move leisurely through the book if desired. Each chapter is very devotional in nature, ending with a few questions for personal meditation or for group discussion. If you are a small group leader, you should definitely consider using this book for your group.

God has good and specific purposes for the tests he gives us. 

Each day focuses on a character in the Bible and a test they passed or failed that provided a next-level opportunity in their life’s journey. What Wilson does very well is make these tests applicable to the reader’s life as well. Examples of these tests include obedience, identity, perseverance, readiness, honesty, humility, loneliness, direction and courage. Who of us have or won’t face these tests? Here are some observations from these tests:

In many ways, knowing who we are and whose we are is at the heart of every other test in our lives. 

God never wastes our pain. He uses it to draw us deeper into a relationship with him and to touch people’s lives. 

Insisting God answer our questions creates a roadblock for our faith. 

There’s a difference between saying “yes” to God and saying “yes” to people. 

We get the most joy in life when we become holders of the spotlight instead of insisting on being in the spotlight. 

Whether you read it now or it waits its turn, this book should be in your library.

Faith Things

Read one of the most quoted verses in Hebrews this morning:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews‬ ‭11:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These questions came to mind: what are some examples of these “things”?  What things, by faith, do we hope for?  What things, by faith, are we convicted of?  Is there a difference?  How might it help our faith to determine these things?

The difference is pretty clear by the definitions.  Hoping for something and being convicted of something are based on different levels of certainty.  You can hope for good weather on your wedding day, but you can be convinced that regardless of the weather nothing will stop you from walking that aisle.

Convictions are what we build our lives upon, what we build our faith on. For example, verse three of chapter 11 states the conviction of faith that God created the world.  That is a conviction of faith, of something unseen.  As believers, we have many of these.  We are convinced of eternal life.  We are convinced in the trustworthiness of God’s Word.  We are convinced the kingdom of God is inhabited by serving citizens.  We are even convicted to tithe by faith.

CHALLENGE: Write a list of your faith things you are convicted of, that you have no doubt about and determine your worldview and how you live.

Things hoped for are then the things that play out in our lives based on the faith things we are convicted of.  Parents hope, by faith, that how they have raised their children will bring the desired results.  So they parent assuredly in the things they hope for.  Employers hope, by faith, that their hiring processes result in building the right team.  So they offer the job assuredly in the things they hope for.  These faith things of conviction and hope work together.

CHALLENGE: Write a list of your faith things you are hoping for, keeping in mind they aren’t a random wishlist but stem from and should partner with your conviction things.

May your faith be commended along with those people listed in the rest of Hebrews 11.  Your lists may set you on the path to being commended by God because of your faith things.