When Hope Was Born

Jonathan Daugherty

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Ever since I was a little boy I have felt the excited anticipation of Christmas day approaching. There were the traditions of church services, singing carols, drinking eggnog (non-alcoholic, of course), and lots and lots of wonderful food. The sights, the smells, the sounds ‘ they all filled my heart with a sense of wonder and joy. And then there was the Baby.

Ah, the Baby Jesus. Could any other image bring such innocence and purity to the season? This perfect child, conceived by God’s Holy Spirit, and born to the young virgin, Mary.

Can you picture this holy, yet unusual, scene? A city bustling beyond its capacity, a young couple tired from a long journey, an innkeeper with enough mercy to provide a stable, and a night sky filled with twinkling stars awaiting the moment ‘ the moment God becomes a man. Words like peace, joy, and awe come to mind. And in my Christmas nostalgia I smile and take another sip of eggnog.

For many, this is where the season ends. A pleasant nativity, festive music, and all the sweet food you can eat. Christmas has become all about a feeling. But is there more to it? Did something else happen that cool, dark night in Bethlehem? Is there more to the story than the marking of an annual holiday?

Yes! Hope was born that starry night. Jesus, though a baby, was also the eternal king, our hope of glory. He came, not to mark off a holiday on the calendar, but rather to set captives free from the shackles of sin, shame, and despair. He was born to offer hope to you and me, broken sinners in need of a savior.

What I have come to appreciate most about the Christmas season is remembering that Jesus’ birth was only the beginning of the hope to come. In His birth was the anticipation of the hope that would eventually be realized only through His death on the cross. And by His death (and subsequent resurrection to new life) we were offered hope of freedom from our sin.

Did you know that hope really isn’t hope if what you hope for is never realized? Let me explain. The definition of hope is to desire with expectation of fulfillment. If you hope for something with a sort of fingers-crossed-one-eye-closed-toss-
fairy-dust-over-my-shoulder-while-chanting mentality, you aren’t really hoping; you are wishing. Hope has a certainty to it. This is why we can confidently place our hope in God, because what He says He will do, He does! We can expect Him to fulfill His promises.

God said to Abraham, ‘You will have a son.’ At 100 years of age, Abraham had a son.

God said to Noah, ‘A flood will destroy the earth and only those on the ark will be saved.’ It rained forty days and nights, and everything was destroyed that was not on the ark.

God said to Moses, ‘You will deliver my people from Egypt.’ Moses delivered God’s people from Egypt.

Time and time again throughout Scripture God tells His people what He will do. And time after time He keeps His promises. God does what He says He will do. This assurance that He keeps His word helps us to place our hope, our expectation of fulfillment, in Him.

He also makes some particularly powerful promises to you and me.

John 10:28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (NIV)

We have hope that nothing (no cause, no opponent, no addiction, nothing!) can remove God’s salvation from us through Christ. Do you believe God will keep His word?

Romans 8:1-2Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (NIV)

We have hope of a life free from shame and self-hatred because we have a God who erases the penalty of death we owed by covering us with the life of Christ. God is not ashamed of you. Do you believe God keeps His word?

2 Peter 1:3-4His [Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

We have hope of walking in purity and wholeness because God has given us everything we need to experience His power to live free from this world’s wickedness. Purity is possible for every man. Do you believe God keeps His word?

What is blocking you from having hope?

What lies are pulling you away from the truth that you can expect God to do what He says He will do? Hope in God is not wishing. God promises to finish the good that He started in you. (Phil. 1:6) Will you believe Him to do it and stop resisting His leading?

Christmas is a special time of year for me. And not just for all the peripheral festivities that adorn the season. It is special because I am once again reminded that it was at Christmas when Hope was born.

May the Hope of the world change your life’

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.

When the Bathroom Door is Locked

Dwayne Collins

Recently, my wife and I were flying on a small commuter jet. The plane was full and we had the last row on the right side of the airplane. I was on the aisle and immediately behind and to my left was the sliding bathroom door. I was trying to read, but was aware of the people as they entered the door to the bathroom.

I vaguely noticed a little child, about 4 years old, enter the bathroom and slide the door shut. A short time later, I thought I heard a light tapping. I listened, and again I heard the tapping. It was getting louder and louder. It was apparent that the child, a little girl, had locked the door and didn’t know how unlock it. She was stuck.

I glanced across the aisle and the passenger there nodded his agreement with my assessment. I got out of my seat and tried to slip the slide lock with my finger, to no avail. I got close to the door and yelled for the child to slip the lock back, but she could not understand. I could tell the she was beginning to cry.

I knew that an adult next to an empty seat was probably her parent. I walked about four rows forward and found a lady sitting alone. I told her that her child was locked in the bathroom and couldn’t get out. She looked back and motioned to her husband who was sitting two rows back. He jumped up and tried to force the door open. By this time, the flight attendant, a male, came and began to work the door. He finally got it open and freed the child. Crying, she climbed into her father’s arms to be comforted.

I was reminded of another time, years ago, when my sister was taking her three children to Florida from Illinois on the train. My nephew experienced the same fate. He too, was hysterical by the time he was freed from his prison, unaware of all that was going on, outside of his sight and understanding, to unlock the bathroom door.

Isn’t this just like us. We get ourselves locked in the bathroom and can’t get out. We panic and yell because we don’t know what is going on outside the door. Yet, all the time, God is making the necessary arrangements to rescue us.

The problem is that we can’t see what is going on outside of our sight. We don’t know what God is doing to help us. We begin to doubt. We take matters into our own hands. We think we have to devise a plan instead of letting God work.

This happened in Genesis 15 when God promised Abraham (Abram) a child, even though he was already old, and his wife Sarah (Sarai) was long past child bearing age. Abraham could not see how God was going fulfill His promise. He did not know how God was going to get him out of the locked bathroom of childlessness. So he and Sarah panicked and took matters into their own hands. Sarah gave her maidservant to Abraham to bear a child.

To sit in the locked bathroom and wait on God takes faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. So, even when we are in the bathroom, and don’t see what God is doing, we can be patient and know that God has a plan.

We need to remember that God hears the first tap on the door. Daniel found this in Daniel 10:12. Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.

Are you locked in a bathroom? Have you tapped on the door? Do you think that no one has heard your tap? Be assured, even when we lock the door ourselves, and don’t know how to unlock it; when we tap on the door, and are not sure anyone has heard; when you are trapped in circumstances that you don’t know how to get out of, don’t be alarmed. God has heard your tap on the door. He will answer.

In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Psalm 31:22.

Join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Why Hasn’t God Delivered Me From This Sexual Struggle?

Sam Fraser

The story line for myself and many Christian men wanting to achieve sexual integrity often feels like an endless pattern of short-term successes and long-term failure. Exasperated, I turned to God crying out, ‘remove this thorn!’ But He didn’t. Hey God, why not? If God is good, and He is; if God is love, and He is; then what’s up with that? There must be another message that God is giving me and it’s not sinking in. Why have I not been delivered from this? The thorn remains.

Paul reports his experience of praying for God to remove a sin pattern that he was unable to master, his personal thorn in 2 Corinthians chapter 12. There is much speculation of what Paul’s thorn actually was but nobody knows for certain. However, I definitely know what mine has been. Perhaps you do as well.

Paul prayed three times to have this ‘thorn’ removed. The Lord’s answer: Uh-uh, nada, zilch, negatory, no deal. God did not deliver Paul from his personal thorn either. Sometimes God is like that; He doesn’t always do the straightforward thing. Paul prayed and did not get the obvious and expected solution. God was up to something else. God was teaching Paul a deeper spiritual truth. For some things, God wants us to rely on Him much more than we normally would.

The answer was elucidated for Paul when he writes, ‘When we are weak, then we are strong’. (2 Cor. 12:10)’.

So, I am spiritually strong when I can confess that my puny human strength fails me. I can identify with that. I cannot maintain my sexual integrity in my own strength, in my own power, through my efforts. God has to supply the strength. The flesh nature is not strong enough and it never will be. But, rather, it is a confession that sets me free from continuing in my futile attempts. It also disrupts the powerlessness and shame of failure that lead to despair. The despair sets in motion a cycle that leads to more acting out.

By confessing that I don’t have what it takes I find healing. I can now agree with Paul that the secret of my strength will be in a willing confession that I don’t have what it takes. Nor will I ever. This has been very restorative. Additionally, knowing that each time I cry out for His strength and relying on Him will make me spiritually stronger. Hallelujah! Now I get it’ duh!

Still, asking for help (cf., my article in the archives on the H-bomb) takes a lot of courage and strength, and/or desperation. Not only the first time, but every time. Eveeerrrry time! Even now, I have to rely on His strength and I have to ask for it. It has taken such a long, long time to follow through and maintain this strategy. After millions of failures (it seemed like that many) I felt like turning away from God and giving up hope because of the depth of my despair. I was humiliated and hated myself for not being able to overcome my acting out.

As a Christian I thought that I should be able to overcome this sin sooner. But the spiritual truth that God taught Paul is that I do not have it within me’ at all. Ever. It is a theological fact. Period.

Initially, I was taught that I needed a Savior to overcome my sinful nature. But, somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that now that I have been a Christian for a while I should somehow be able to achieve moral victories through my own efforts. The misconception was that by this stage of my Christian walk I should have accumulated enough of ‘whatever’ to achieve moral victory. Failure translated into the belief that there was something lacking in me. There was, what has always been there, my human nature. I cannot save me from myself. Knowledge is one thing. Understanding is another. Until the knowledge in my head drops into the heart of my understanding it is like a banging gong and a clanking cymbal.

I am strong only when I confess I am weak. To take it a step further in this weak-strong principle, we must rely on others. It is another aspect of accepting my weakness. But’ that is an article for another day. Blessings.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.