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I pray also that you will have greater understanding in your heart so you will know the hope to which he has called us and that you will know how rich and glorious are the blessings God has promised his holy people. Ephesians 1:18 (NCV)
It wasn’t the teachings of Jesus that drew people to him. It was his character. That may seem strange to say. We focus our energies on what Jesus taught, and to be sure, those teachings are the basis of life. The things Jesus taught us bring hope from despair, confidence when we are afraid; wisdom when we are worried; direction when we don’t know the way. But the reality is, the blind man wasn’t able to fully understand the spiritual blessings Jesus had to offer until his vision was restored. The parents who lost their little girl no doubt knew that God was a mighty and powerful God, but the full realization of what that meant didn’t come until their little girl sat up in the very bed she’d died in moments earlier. The father who sought Jesus out for healing for his demon possessed son knew the power of prayer. Why else would he seek Jesus out? Still, until he saw his son in a normal, calm state of mind, he didn’t fully grasp the significance of the hope Jesus offered.

Jesus’ teachings simply backed up, clarified, and verified what he’s already done in the lives of people who were in need. No wonder that in the garden he prays for those who will seek him after he is gone. He understood the difficulty we have as finite humans to believe without seeing; to hope in the unseen; to live by faith when prayers seem unanswered, and life is unbearable.

As Christ-followers we are called to show others the hope they can have in Christ. What an awesome privilege! So many are looking for hope in today’s world. Hope to get through physical pain and illness. Hope to endure the pain of relational disaster. Hope to endure one more day of starvation or the ravages of natural disaster.

Paul prays that we will understand the hope Jesus has called us to. Why this prayer? Paul also knew, perhaps better than any of us what it meant to be rejected, alone, in danger, despised and rejected. But he also knew the hope only Jesus can offer. People around us aren’t seeking profound teachings or messages of a better tomorrow. They are seeking strength to get through one more day. What can we do to show them the hope of Christ? That answer is different for each of us because we each live in different situations, different circles, and different circumstances.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I am surrounded by people who are seeking hope in a world where hope seems dwindling at best. I praise you for the hope you have shown me and the blessings of living in you. Empower me with strength, courage and wisdom to lead those around me to the hope I’ve found in you. Amen.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

It wasn’t enough to watch from heaven. Your car died. Your kids have just told you that they don’t believe in God. You just lost your job. You can’t sing in church anymore. It’s not that the music is bad. In fact you like the music. You just can’t sing the words anymore. They’ve become hollow syllables, empty letters, and meaningless chatter.

You’ve tried to get the feeling back. You’ve prayed. You think about reading the Bible every day. It’s hard to know if it’s your own failure that has driven you to this point, or if it’s the pain that others have inflicted on you. You’ve been scolded one too many times. You’ve been reminded once too often that you’ve failed.

“Is it worth another try?” you ask yourself as you lay on your back staring at the ceiling and hoping that sleep will come soon to give your mind some rest. The same situations keep replaying themselves over and over in your head. What if you’d made a different choice? What if he didn’t hit you that last time? What if you’d told her she couldn’t go to the party? What if…?

The loneliness and despair surround you like the darkness of your night. You hope sleep comes but fear the dawn because you know the problems will still be there and you aren’t sure where you will get the courage and strength to go one more day.

Then a still small voice comes from the dark corners of your troubled mind. It’s a verse…no a phrase really. You don’t remember where it’s from. It was part of a Sunday School lesson years ago. “I’ll never leave you or forsake you.” That was it, right. He’ll never leave. He promised to be with me…always.

As sleep finally begins to creep in the words keep reminding you, consoling you, healing you. It wasn’t enough for him to watch from heaven. It wasn’t enough for him to ‘understand’ your plight. He knew that the best way he could help you was to come to live with you.

Jesus has felt the pain of every broken relationship. He’s cried with you each time you’ve been lied to. He’s worked through the feelings you have had of failure even though he himself never failed.

That’s what grace is about. It’s about the son of God coming to earth to feel your pain. To endure your failures. To feel your loneliness. He did all of this because he loves you and desperately yearns for a relationship with you. Jesus is passionate about you! It wasn’t enough to watch with sympathy from heaven. Jesus loves you so much he came to earth to experience the pain you feel in life.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I don’t understand how you, as the Son of God, can feel all the feelings I feel. I don’t understand how you can love someone like me who seems to find new ways to fail every day. I don’t understand it. But I like it! Thank you for understanding me. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for loving me so much that you came to earth to show me how to live in the midst of this struggle we call life. Amen.


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