Hope

— Reflection I shared at Staff Prayers —

It’s Wednesday morning, for most of us there is more of the week ahead of us than there is behind us. Some of you may have been working for a couple of hours already today, some of you may be appreciating the delay staff prayers offers to the start of your busy day. Some of you may have come back into the office this New Year feeling refreshed and ready to go, some of you may already be feeling like surely Christmas was at least 3 months ago.

I don’t know what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, what else you’re distracted with, what pressures await you back at your desk or at home. I don’t know if you feel like you’re on top of everything or if you feel like everything’s on top of you.

But I do know this:

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 41:30)

We work in an organisation where disasters, poverty, hunger and recurring disappointments perhaps are part of our every day lives. We are confronted with a world that seems to be falling apart – quite literally – but we have hope because we are following a God who holds all things together.

The bible has a lot to say about hope.

Psalms 25:4-5 “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame…All day long I put my hope in you.”

Psalms 33:18 “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,”

Romans 5:5 “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Isaiah 49:23. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

Lamentations 3:25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

Micah 7:7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

So what is it that we do when we hope? What is it that we are trusting God for?

In hoping, we are trusting in God’s goodness to us and his faithfulness to his promises. That he sees our circumstances and that He is bigger than them.

Hope requires persistence and needs to be fuelled by the truths that we know about God, by the stories we share with each other, by the signs of transformation that happen in our projects every day. Hope is stirred when we pay attention to what God is doing in this world and are thankful for it, when we let the things He has done encourage us to have hope in what He could do in the future.

We serve a God of miracles; a God who can step into our circumstances at any time and do anything. He is a God who hears our cries and answers our prayers.

I was having dinner with some friends the other night and during a conversation one of them said, “you know I’ve not actually seen a miracle myself, but I know that God does them” …But I’m just not so sure that’s true. I think that sometimes we wait for God to do really big things and completely miss the million little things that happen everyday that testify to the faithfulness and goodness of our god, that give us reason to hope.

We need to pay attention to these things

I was recently reflecting on a piece of writing by Pete Greig after it was shared at a friends wedding. He’s the founder of 24-7 prayer. It’s called ‘A Million Minor Miracles’ and I wanted to share some of it with you as a reminder to us of the things God is doing every day that more often than not go unnoticed.

A Million Minor Miracles by Pete Greig

I’m standing at night in this subterranean place of prayer, and perhaps it’s the coffee, or the music, or the Spirit, but the darkness doesn’t seem too strong. I’m praying for miracles in the city where I live – for healings, and salvations, and justice, and revival, and all those usual Kingdom kind of things. But tonight, as I do so, I find myself suddenly startled – like a boy blinking at fireworks – bewildered by how many miracles there already are.

It occurs to me that here in my city today, doctors dispensed healing – can you imagine anything more wonderful? Neighbours did favours. Dog-walkers in the park silently admired the shape of trees. Jokes were told in nursing homes. Thousands and thousands of people prayed, or wished, or merely unwittingly wanted what God wanted for a moment or two.

Chances are that somewhere today a young man and a young woman began to fall in love (although they don’t yet know it). A teenager picked up trash she had not dropped. A single mother decided, just for once, to buy herself a slice of chocolate cake and to celebrate the moment in long, slow, mouthfuls of happiness. A painter-decorator stepped back from a wall he’d just painted the colour of claret, and maybe at that moment the sunlight broke through the window, and he saw that it was a good piece of work. A man resisted the temptation to click the link he wouldn’t want his wife to see. Maybe he failed yesterday. Maybe he’ll click it tomorrow. But today he overcame. In the hospital perhaps a surgeon pinned a broken arm with immaculate skill. Delicious food was prepared and cooked and served in thousands of homes joyously. A pastor’s words, so carefully crafted, brought a little comfort to grieving relatives. People cried, but a check-out girl smiled at a lonely old lady. People died of course, but babies were also born. From time to time today, I was born too. We all were. A million, minor miracles.

We do not pray ex nihilo. We pray for more of whatever it is we see. Nothing comes from nothing – certainly not faith like this. Tonight I’m blessing the evidence of miracles; the pre-existing goodness, the presence of Christ in these streets, these surgeries, these schools, these art galleries, these pubs, these homes, these wards. Witnessing so many minor miracles I applaud the world.  If all of this is happening all around me, what might not happen next?

And so I stand here now in this subterranean place of prayer and it seems self-evident that there is more light in the night than darkness in the day. There is goodness breaking through, everywhere I look. And I’m praying for miracles tonight with greater faith than frustration for once. I can see creation rising like the moon above the Fall. Ultimately, almost inevitably, benevolence wins the day quietly.

I’m climbing the stairs to my car now, stepping out of the prayer room into the darkness. I’m driving home past houses and perhaps it’s the music on the stereo, or the coffee, or the Spirit, but the city seems to me to have become the place of prayer.

So maybe we should take a moment or two to just reflect on that. And maybe you just want to take a moment to thank God for what He has done, for what you can see Him doing – and let that fuel our hope, let it encourage us to be excited about what God is doing in our work place, in our communities, in our world, and let it be a testimony to us and to those around us of the goodness and faithfulness of our God.

“We pray for more of whatever it is we see”. Let us be a people who actively see what God is doing in our situations and pray for more of it.

Let us be people who bring hope into our circumstances and who encourage hope in each other.

…and “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

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