Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Expectations and Hope – Ultimate Hope

Expectations have a tension that is caused be either hope or fear. Hope that is based on God’s Word is a confidence in God and we can expect God to be true to His Word. Expectations that are based on misinterpreting God’s Word can create an anxiety and fear. Expectations are usually things we want so bad that we convince ourselves that it is based on God’s Word.

When people are in a chronic ailment situation there are times that they want healing so bad that they will believe anything that promises healing. Some will place all their faith in medical science while others will put their faith in misinterpretations. Let’s take a look at how misinterpreting the scriptures can create a false expectation.

Jesus Christ was the “expected one” in the Old Testament. The Jewish people hoped for the Christ to come and that hope had a confidence in God’s Word. After they interpreted that Word they developed expectations concerning His coming. They expected Him to come in royalty. They expected Him to be physically outstanding. They expected Him to be a great military leader. They expected Him to establish His physical kingdom on earth right then. They expected Him to be what they had interpreted Him to be.

When the Christ came the expectations had been so integrated with the hope of His coming that most Israelites missed seeing Christ for who He was. Those who missed by the largest margin were those who were responsible for the interpretations, the religious establishment.

Our interpretations of the Bible can create expectations that cause tension between true hope and interpreted expectations. For instance, the hope of the New Testament believer is the confidence that the Scripture says that Christ will come again. Commonly, this is called the second coming of Christ. The New Testament even ends with a statement about this coming.

Concerning this hope of the second coming there are many different interpretations that create numerous different expectations. There are views that are called Amillennialism, Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Preterism, to name a few. In each of these views there are various interpretations that create different expectations concerning the second coming of Christ.

As you can see, certain interpretations create certain expectations. It is no different with healing. Jesus Christ healed people when he was walking on the earth. Some of His disciples preformed healings as recorded in the New Testament. During the years of the church there are recorded testimonies of people who have experienced physical healings. Yet, did Jesus heal everyone who was sick in Israel? Did His disciples wipe out sickness in the New Testament? Has everyone who was sick over the past 2000 years been healed by His church? No, no and no!

So, what in the scriptures is it that gives us hope and confidence as we suffer through our physical ailments?

James 5:7-20 (NASB)

7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.

8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.

14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;

15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.

18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,

20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The truth of hope tells me that God is much more concerned over my spiritual health than He is my physical health. He is more concerned with my character than He is with my comfort. Patience is a work of the Spirit upon my impatient nature.

The truth of hope tells me that God has the ability to heal me if He chooses to do so. Every time I hear of God healing someone reminds me of His ability and assures me of His power to heal. Yet, physical healing is useless without the power to forgive. Forgiveness of sin is the ultimate healing.

The truth of hope tells me that my life is not defined by my physical ailment. It may limit my physical abilities but it doesn’t identify who I am. Christ does that. My righteousness is not of self but the imputed righteousness of Christ.

The truth of hope tells me that all physical healing is at best temporary. The course of all physical life ends in death. Consider the prophets, Job, or Elijah. None are still with us. If I am healed of this ailment I will still ultimately experience death. It may come in a sudden moment or it may come through failing physical health.

The truth of hope tells me that my physical existence on this earth is brief compared to eternity. In heaven I will not have physical ailments. Physical existence on this earth is test of endurance, a marathon of faith. As a believer in Christ, heaven is my ultimate hope.

Expectation is impatient. Hope is patient.

Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
(Is 40:31)

(This is the end of looking at the difference between expectations and hope as they relate to suffering. I hope it has been helpful.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Expectations and Hope – Hope’s Fuel

The prophet Ezekiel warned the generation who were into Babylonian captivity. He laid out a constant warning to Isreal who was in a foreign land and susceptible to being converted to pagan beliefs. But he also warned about the false prophets of Israel. I like Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of 13:1, 6 in The Message.

“Preach against the prophets of Israel who are making things up out of their own heads and calling it ‘prophesying.’
“All they do is fantasize comforting illusions and preach lying sermons. They say ‘GOD says …’ when GOD hasn’t so much as breathed in their direction. And yet they stand around thinking that something they said is going to happen.”

In my opinion, those who proclaim the health, wealth, and prosperity message are like those false prophets Ezekiel preached against. “All they do is fantasize comforting illusions.” They create an illusion of belief on things that they have either been deceived in believing or are flat out deceiving others for personal gain. They create a situation where the power of suggestion can bring about a healing of some but most go away unhealed. The power of suggestion is a “standing around thinking that something they said is going to happen.”

Rather than trying to create a power of suggestion why not just establish an environment where real faith results in an optimistic positive outlook. After all, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. (Heb 11:1) The Message

The best healing agent for someone who is chronically ill is an optimistic positive attitude. It is a proven fact that maintaining a positive outlook on life will release the natural healing benefits of the body. Consider the following verses that illustrate the hope of faith:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Ro 15:13)

“we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Rom 8:25)

“according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phil 1:20)

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.” (2 Thes 2:16-17)

“we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” (Heb 6:18)

Faith is hope’s sustenance. Yet, our faith and hope are not in things that fail. “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” (Gal 5:5) The “hope of righteousness” is obviously Jesus Christ. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Heb 10:23) Our hope is unwavering not because of our faithfulness but because of His faithfulness. We have placed our hope in Him “who raised Him(Jesus) from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Pt 1:21)

Hope produces an optimistic positive outlook on life, even if we face chronic ailments, because our hope is not fueled by the fleeting health of physical life. Our hope is fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of our hope gives us joy and hope in this life. In fact, it goes beyond this life and looks toward eternal life in heaven.