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As I Live
A poem based on Ezekiel 34
Many of the candidates throwing their hat in the ring to be the next president of the United States are speaking much about helping our nation return to something she was in the past. Just so you know, I understand what they’re saying. Everything in our nation seems in flux these days. Many are asking questions like; how did things get this way? Why is it that our nation seems so different? What happen to patriotism?
There are a lot of opinions and even more questions as to why things are the way they are. Let me share, though, what won’t bring our nation back to what it was:
I completely understand the confusion, however. So many think that prosperity is what made our country great and many, many immigrants came to this nation looking for that prosperity. What the immigrants had, however, was much greater than prosperity. (More on that in a minute).
Unfortunately, the confusion continues even in and through the American church. So many look at the church as a gateway to prosperity and look at God as someone who exists to give us more and more. Megachurch pastors seem to be competing against each other to see who can build the biggest multi-million dollar mansion and who can buy their own private jet. It’s pretty bad when CNN has to tell people who Jesus was and what He taught. (See Video below).
Now, we have Donald Trump throwing in his candidacy for president, full of boasting of his own prosperity. The Donald rolls out his campaign plan by boasting his eight plus billion dollar net worth. His goal is seemingly to lead us back to prosperity. He has no hope of doing that by the way.
The problem is that the search for prosperity and our finding sufficiency in it is fleeting.
Here’s the truth: prosperity is not what made our country great. That which made our country great is what made us prosperous.
We’re not the first nation in the world to place false hopes in prosperity. It’s happened many, many times before. You can see it all through history in the story of many nations like the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, and yes, even in God’s own nation of people, Israel.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God told Israel what their prosperity was actually getting them–nothing. Actually, it was less than nothing. Because they “did not look to the One who [gave] it,” Israel ultimately lost it. And that’s why America is losing it too. It is today just as it was then, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (See Isaiah 22:8-14)
That’s why James’ words are recorded in the New Testament:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. (James 5:1–2)
Because prosperity does not deliver greatness!
As long as we think prosperity is what makes men great, we’ll continue to choke on it.
Will God allow our prosperity to fail? Has He? The answer is yes! Why? So we will return to the things that truly made our nation great. He knows as long as we’re enamored with stuff we won’t be seeking Him and He is gracious enough to let those things fade so we will look up again.
You see, it wasn’t prosperity that made the immigrant come to the United States. It wasn’t prosperity that made him leave his home and family in search of something better. It was hope.
Hope is why many an immigrant came to the shores of the U.S. Hope is why so many men and woman in history have looked up from adversity and found the strength to continue. They found the ability to put one foot in front of the other to work, fight, climb, and struggle to make it; to even be great. It was hope! That’s why the psalmist so long ago wrote:
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11 Emphasis mine)
Will prosperity make our nation great again? No. Is it evan possible for our nation to be great again? Maybe not. But this I know, if we ever decide to return to what made our country great in the first place, things like faith, hope, and love; only then will we ever see greatness. Only then will we again be a place where people will want to come for a better life.
Hope in God!
(Start at 39:56 to see Trump share his net worth)
There is a great difference between a wish and a prayer. It’s very possible that what Christians so often do is offer “wishes” to God instead of praying in hope. So, let me say again, there’s a huge difference between praying and wishful thinking.
This topic really takes us to the big struggle of prayer. Why does God, at times, seemingly not answer and why is the answer sometimes just “no?” If you don’t struggle a little bit with this question you probably don’t have much of a prayer life. If you’re praying as a lifestyle, you will eventually run into the difficulty of not understanding why God is doing or allowing what He is or why He doesn’t seem to want to do what you’re asking.
So, here’s the question: is what I’m doing praying in hope or just wishful thinking? There’s a big difference in praying “wishes” to God and praying in hope.
To understand this difference in prayer, I must first demonstrate the difference between these two things: a wish and a hope.
Henry Cloud tells a story of a conversation he had with a woman who was frustrated with the relationship she was in. She had boyfriend and their relationship had been serious for some time, even to the point of talking about marriage. But, the longer their relationship went on he seemed to have less and less time for her. She felt that she was very low on his list of priorities. Out of frustration she broke up with him. After some “time off” she called him back to talk about rekindling the relationship because she missed him. When they were together, they enjoyed each other’s company. But, the problem was, he just didn’t seem to have time for her even when she gave him a second chance.
As she was trying to figure out whether or not to continue in the relationship she ask for some guidance. “Should I continue with this relationship?” was her question. The answer to her was that it dependent upon if there was hope or not. She said that she hoped it would work out. The problem was that it was not really hope at all, it was just a wish. She had all the objective evidence that clearly showed that he would not treat her as a priority, ever.
A wish is subjective, hope is objective.
Cloud’s summation of the story was this: “Remember that hope means investing time and energy toward results that you have solid reason to believe can be achieved. It is not hope to invest time and energy in a goal that has no forces acting upon it to bring it about.” That’s just a wish! (Henry Cloud. 9 Things You Simply Must Do. 63)
To pray for things that God is not even doing is nothing more than a wish.
How, then, do I pray in hope?
Before I can answer that I first must define what hope actually is. Here’s three definitions of hope:
Hope is something known but not yet seen.
- “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24)
- Peter describes hope as something “living.” Because of who Jesus is, what He’s done and what’s he’s promised to do we have hope that has life to it.
Hope is expecting what is to come because of God’s reliability.
- “Faith trusts in God’s promises, while hope expects what is to come. God’s reliability and his promise should foster lively, growing assurance, despite delays and doubts.” (Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. 306)
- “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
- In other words, we have great evidence from the Old Testament account of God’s reliability. He promises and does what He promises. He knows all things, even before they happen. Therefore, we can attach ourselves to Christ’s words all the more: “….your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)
Hope is solid reason to believe because God is acting on it.
- Christian hope is: confidence in the future, consistent trust in Jesus to provide and patient endurance to wait.
I still need to answer the question, though: how do we pray in hope?
It’s impossible to pray in hope if you don’t know what to hope for. Here’s a few questions that may help steer you in the right direction: What does Jesus promise? What is His desire for your life and the lives for whom you’re praying? What does He want to teach you? Are your current circumstances part of His plan for which you hope?
Praying in hope, then, is always praying “forward” (always looking to the future based upon the promises God has made) basing our request on what we know God is doing. That’s how we have true prayer in hope. Our prayer is based upon objective evidence that God is able or working to bring something about. That “something” is that for which we ought to be praying. This is essentially what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. This is praying in hope.