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Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12(NIV)

When you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. When the day seems as dark as the night. When you haven’t heard the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit in far too many days. When hope seems lost. When the answers don’t come. When the waters around you seem to engulf you.

“But God remembered Noah…” (Genesis 8:1).

Is the reader to infer that Noah had been forgotten by God? Maybe Noah and his family felt forgotten. Do you feel forgotten? Does your “new normal” seem unbearable? Are you sick and tired of suffering? Is there no relief? Is the same ‘ole same ‘ole depressing? Do you wander how much longer you are capable of continuing?

The real live story of Noah and his family, as told in Genesis 6-9, encourages me. Can you even imagine how ready Noah and his family were to get out of the ark? Talk about cabin fever! This ark by theologians has been described as being tomb-like, as well as like a prison. It was a dark place with no sunlight to warm their souls. We recall that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, but did you realize they were in the ark for more than a year? After it poured from the sky for more than a month, they were not able to leave the ark until the waters receded and the ground dried up. Noah had been warned by God that it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights. But, did he expect to be in the ark for more than a year? Did he know to forewarn his family of the length of their stay in the boat? Did they trust Noah like God trusted Noah?

I wonder if Noah’s wife whispered ridicule in her husband’s ear, or if she yelled in front of the whole family her doubts about Noah’s faith? Did she criticize her husband and say God has left them to die? That God doesn’t really care. Did the wives of Noah’s sons question their father-in-law mocking the ark as being one of the largest coffins ever made? They all must have been so ready to get back to a normal life – to wash and bathe in private, to eat from the ground, to cook without holding on to everything. Ready to get a good nights rest on a bed that didn’t sway. Ready to feel the sunlight on their faces. How restless they all must have felt as they cautiously established a new normal on the ark. As days went on and on and so much rain – so much tossing and turning – and so many questions unanswered. When will they be released? Has God forgotten? How and where will they live after the flood? Will there be food? Would the sun shine again?

We, too, may feel forgotten by God. Noah knew about the timeframe of the rain; we don’t normally get the exact about of days a trial or tribulation may last. Our tribulation may have been forewarned by a doctor’s prognosis. It may also though have come completely out of the blue catching us in the most unexpected moment of our lives. We count the days. It’s been 3 days, then a week, then a month, then before we know it, its been hammering us for almost a year. Why doesn’t He do something for me? Where is He? Why can’t He just answer this one prayer of mine? How much longer do I have to wait? Does He even hear me? Maybe I should just take matters into my own hands.

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Amid all the corruption on the earth, Noah had intimacy with God. Even though everywhere he turned wickedness prevailed, Noah walked with God. He sought the Lord, he heard from the Lord, he had a relationship with his Creator. Noah fellowshipped with His heavenly Father. He didn’t have a church family, accountability group, Christian radio, or Bible studies. He didn’t have access to Christian conferences, podcasts, retreats, devotionals, magazines, or books. And yet, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). Don’t you love and admire that about Noah? God distinctly gave Noah instructions and he followed them unwaveringly. It took Noah 100 years to build the ark. I have no words to express a man like that’s patience, perseverance, faith, hope, and stability. Astounds me!

I think Noah lived like he wasn’t forgotten!

Oh, I am sure he wanted to escape the ark just as anyone would! He must have been craving for fresh air and open skies. He may have even felt sorry for the animals as they had no place to run free. But, he knew God had told him to build the ark. Then, God did just as He had said He would; God brought the rain and preserved he and his family from death. God had been faithful and would continue to be faithful. This is what it means to have hope.

Paul encourages Christians in their tribulations: “And we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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 5:2b-5, NIV). The word “perseverance” is translated as “patience” in the KJV. The word in the Greek means to be “cheerful or hopeful.” It also means to endure and to wait. So, this word perseverance/patience basically means to not give up, to have hope, to keep on keeping on. In our suffering we stay hopeful because it builds our character, and then what is most interesting, is that the end result is where we find hope fulfilled. We begin in our sufferings with the mindset of having hope, knowing at one point, our hope will be experienced; what we expected will happen. We have confidence that God will come through for us!

I can’t help but think of a different mindset. During trials, tribulations, sufferings, we want to do the opposite. We want to give up. We begin to believe our situation is hopeless. We begin to listen to the critics who mock our faith. We doubt God. Some may even completely walk away from God and say He didn’t come through. That they gave this Christianity, this “God” a chance, but was abandoned by the One who said He would never leave us. Now being mad at God is all the relationship has come to. We live with a sick heart.

Did you know that one reason we as Christians have the Bible stories written down for us was to help us to keep the faith? “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Noah is one of so many in the Bible who teaches us to hope. I also recall Joseph who was sold into slavery, Jonah and the whale, Abraham and Sarah, and the list could go on and on. They teach us that just because we don’t feel like God is working or it seems we can’t see Him, doesn’t mean He isn’t doing anything. “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you and the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night” (Psalm 121:4-5).

“But God remembered Noah and al the wild animals and all the livestock that were with him in the ark…(Gen. 8:1). No, we are not to infer that God forgot Noah. The Hebrew word for “remembered” means “to mark (so as to be recognized), to mention.” It simply means at this point God is choosing to act on behalf of Noah and his family and the animals. I love the part of the definition “to mark.” Makes me think of marking time, kind of like we do with calendars. We mark our calendars for upcoming events, or we mark our calendars for something that happened that may not have been planned so that we will always remember the exact day.

One of my new favorite things about this account of Noah is that Noah patiently waited for God to tell him they could leave the ark. “Then God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ark…'” (Gen. 8:15). Noah had sent a raven out of the window, then a dove 3 separate times in 3 weeks time. Noah was anxious to get off the ark! He knew it couldn’t be forced. Same for us. No use trying to force anything. Let’s use our time to enjoy God, to enjoy the life He has given and has planned. Trust that He sees us. He remembers you. Don’t be in a hurry to move toward the next thing. Be patient. God is working and has a plan. Even when frustration sets in and the thought of continuing is overwhelming, rest in God’s love and care and providence for you. Call upon Him to give you the strength and courage needed. Continue to wait with expectation.

“So Noah came out…then Noah built an altar to the LORD…” (Gen. 8: 18, 20).

Hope fulfilled! The rains stopped. The wind died down. The ark rested. The waters receded. The dove brought back an olive branch. The dove found a resting place. The Lord called he and his family out. They are saved. They are alive. They are free.

It wasn’t just a kissing the ground kind of moment and moving on with the rest of his life. This was the type of moment where it seems the heavens opened up, the type when you know God has outdone Himself. The kind of moment that out of sheer compulsion you are brought to your knees in awe of your Savior and Deliverer. Not to kiss the ground but to look up and give glory to the One who is faithful! You clap your hands when there is no music. You shout “hallelujah” at the top of your voice not caring who hears. You raise your arms in total surrender acknowledging you are not God and never will be. The moment you know in your heart you will never be the same.

“Then God blessed Noah…” (Gen. 9:1).

A blessing is coming. Believe it! Don’t forfeit what God has in store for you because of a lack of trust in God (Jonah 2:8).

I leave you with a prayer from Paul to the church in Rome.
“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.” Romans 15:13

HOPE

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Daniel praised “the God of the heaven” and spoke “He reveals deep and hidden things” (Daniel 2:22 NIV). I wanna know “deep and hidden things” too! I may not want to be in the same predicament as Daniel and his friends were – execution – if the deep and hidden things were not revealed, but I do surely desire to understand and have supernatural insight into the things of God and His Word. I am convinced that the best way to have a revelation is to read God’s Word and simply talk to Him about it. There is a passage of Scripture that has captivated me and prompted a desire for a deeper understanding. The passage is found in 2 Timothy 2. This is a letter to Timothy from his mentor, the apostle Paul, who is writing while being imprisoned for the sake of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. In verse 6 Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God”. Meaning – DO WHAT GOD HAS EQUIPED YOU TO DO. Then, Paul issues a call not just for Timothy but for the whole province of Asia (2 Timothy 1:15). Before he issues the call, he exposes a possible excuse to not answer the call. “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner” (2 Timothy 1:8a). Paul is saying that before you decide to say “No”, please don’t let your own insecurities keep you from fulfilling God’s call on your life. The call – “join with me in suffering for the gospel…”(verse 8). At this point, Paul was in unbearable conditions; he was in prison. His environment was not one to be envied. He was hungry, dirty, stinky, cold, hurt, and in need of basic human dignity. How dare he issue such a call! What was he thinking? He wants someone to join him and he even uses the name of Jesus as a lure? Wouldn’t this just scare people away from wanting anything to do with Jesus who put him in such conditions?? Shouldn’t this be the appropriate time for him to keep his mouth shut for fear of giving the name of Jesus a bad rep? Paul’s response: “Yet I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

Oh, we American’s sign-up for things! In fact, just this morning, via email, I signed up to win several prizes for home improvement. I also had an opportunity, again via email, to sign up to win a $1000 gift card if I just answer a few questions. We are the first to sign up for whatever requires the least amount of work. We sign up for giveaways whether we want the products or not. We sign up to be the first to go on vacation on the assumption we are most deserving. We sign up whenever we get something bigger and better in return. We sign up to be a part of a program that offers “get rich quick” even at the expense of family. We don’t want to sign up for something that is obscure. If we can’t post it on social media, then it is a waste. I am totally not pointing fingers by any means! I am the first to admit, I tend to not sign up for things that requires me to sacrifice my time. I have so much on my own “to do” list, that I know I have missed out on serving Christ because of my own selfish reasoning.

What do we do with the call to “join with me in suffering for the gospel”? What specifically does God call me to? What specifically does God call you to?

Paul issued the call to the province of Asia. Do you know how many responded? One. One brave, one devoted, one unselfish, one servant-hearted man. His name was Onesiphorus whose name means “profit-bearer”. Paul described him as “he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains” (2 Tim. 1:16). Paul goes on to say that Onesiphorus “searched hard for me until he found me” (verse 17). Sometimes the very thing that God calls us to does not get thrown into our lap. We may have to do some research, get counsel, make phone calls, visit several people and places, and search our hearts. Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chains. He was not overly embarrassed to be near Paul in his filthy confinement.

My question I have for you and myself is: What symbolizes “chains” for you and for me? What are we afraid of? What do we not go near for the sake of being grossed out, uncomfortable, or feeling inadequate? Or maybe it is because of our pride. What if someone saw us with someone in chains? What if we get dirty and stinky too? Or maybe we lie to ourselves and say that we are not called to that type of suffering; someone else is more qualified.

Paul mentioned two men who I am assuming he thought would be there for him in his time of need but were not. The two men were Phygelus and Hermogenes. Phygelus’ name just happens to mean “fugitive”. This tells me that when approached with a similar sign up list, we have 2 choices: 1. Embrace 2. Run away. We are either going to open our arms to the “chains” or we will simply ignore the “chains”.

Paul used the word “refreshed” when referring to what Onesiphorus did for him. The word literally means “comforting, reviving, bracing me like fresh air!” Can you imagine anyone needing real fresh air more than Paul? Who knows how long he had gone without being outside or near an open window! Someone needs us to be like a breath of fresh air to him/her. Someone needs a hug. Someone needs to know he/she is thought of and cared for. Someone needs to be heard. Someone needs to be validated. Someone needs love. Someone needs you. “…by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8b-10).
We may feel inadequate, embarrassed, unworthy, uncalled, ashamed, afraid, and insecure. No doubt – the chains are intimidating. No more excuses! No more lies! No more fear! Search for what God has called for you to do and know that “God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9b)! Hallelujah!

Jennifer Johnson

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"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelations 1:5b-6

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