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And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

I love the story of ‘The Polar Express’. This simple Christmas story captures the wonder and excitement of the Christmas celebration and the process in which we all come to realize that the wonder of Santa Claus is simply a story that many of us grow out of as we become ‘older and more refined’.

But ‘The Polar Express’ is also a symbol of what happens when hope dies. As we grow older we lose hope in the myth of Santa Claus, but we never lose the dream of ‘what if’. We never lose the wonder of what lay behind those wrapped packages under the tree or the excitement when the gift we made or purchased is celebrated by the one we chose to bless with it.

Losing ‘hope’ in Santa Claus isn’t a terrible tragedy. We learn to outgrow Santa. Losing hope in other areas, on the other hand, can cripple us for life or, at best leave us bruised, battered and hobbling along the path we call life.

We put hope in relationships, careers, and our health. But relationships fail. Jobs come to an end. We come to a point in our lives when we realize…we’re old, and with age can come the realization that some of our dreams just simply will not come true.

Hope fails when our hope is placed in things that, because of time and circumstance, fail. Even the best of relationships will end with death. Jobs and careers change with society. Aging is a natural consequence of time.  

Hope that endures the tests of time can only come through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Relationship isn’t an object, it’s an organism. It’s not something you do; it’s something you work on every day. Hope that is built on a love relationship with God never ever fails because love never fails.

Too often we put our hope in God and when things don’t go the way we ‘hope’ we instinctively play the blame game. God’s an easy one to blame. You can’t see Him. He makes all these claims to be powerful and loving and merciful and just yet, we are surrounded by hate and injustice and death. But in those quiet, brutally honest times with our thoughts we have to admit that the pain we suffer isn’t the result of God, but the actions of evil people around us.

Hope built on God will not spare us the pain and the bruises of life. Hope built on God may not immediately take away the pain of divorce or the crippling action of disease or the consequences of addictive behavior or our poor choices.

Hope built on God will enable us to grow in relationship with Him and help us to endure all the trials of life. Hope in earthly things will fail. Hope in God never fails because all of God’s love is poured out on us through His Spirit and it fills our inner being with peace in the midst of the storm.

PRAYER: Holy God, I look around me and see so many things that have failed in my life. Some of those things are a result of my own stupid choices. Some are result of unrealistic expectations of myself, others or even you. I ask that your Holy Spirit would empower me to place all my hope in you so that I can have the inner peace I need to endure life because of your love. In Jesus name I pray this. Amen.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36

During New Testament times the most cherished and protected item of a soldier’s armor was his shield. Those who lost their shield, and survived, were humiliated and at times killed by their own men. In fact, it was nobler to be carried home dead on your shield than to return home healthy and minus the shield. The shield was more important than life itself!

The word picture that the writer to the Hebrews gives us of confidence is likened to the shield of battle. The faith we have in God should be the most important thing we possess. Our faith in Jesus should be so important that we are willing to set aside our own personal reputation and safety to protect it. Jesus was humiliated, rejected by family and friends, wrongfully accused and eventually murdered by the very people He came to save. In spite of all that pain, He believes in you!

To many people their faith is an add-on to life. Faith is fine to have when times are tough, but when times are good it’s not necessary. To some it’s even confining. When faith is nothing more than an add-on and adversity comes we’re faced with a dilemma. We blame ourselves and try harder to ‘be good’ but this leads to frustration because we aren’t perfect no matter how hard we try.

We blame others and become angry and bitter, but that really only leads to our own emotional prison. Anger and bitterness robs our joy and our strength and keeps us from experiencing the joy and freedom only Jesus can give.

We blame God when our prayers aren’t answered the way we want or ask. But God isn’t a vending machine. His promises aren’t for an easy life here on earth. Jesus warns us repeatedly that we will be faced with tribulation and pain throughout our lives.

When you encounter battles and trials in life, learn a lesson from the admonition of Hebrews. Don’t throw away your faith! It doesn’t matter who is at fault in the trials you are enduring. If it’s your past you can be forgiven. If you’ve suffered evil at the hands of others God can help you recover from the wounds. But if you lose your faith in God, then you are truly without hope. Faith in God through Jesus Christ is the only way we can endure the attacks that others put in our way.

Persevere. Be strong. Guard your heart from the enemy. Never grow tired in your quest to follow Christ. Trust Jesus to empower you through His Holy Spirit to work in your life for good. Regardless of how things look around you Jesus is in control and madly in love with you!

PRAYER: Father God, I praise You for the protection and strength You have promised through Jesus Christ. I confess to you that I’m struggling with the things that are going on around me. There are times when I feel completely overwhelmed by enemy attack. Help me to hold fast to the confidence I have that You are an all-powerful, loving God. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live a life of faith in the midst of struggle. Amen.

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