Christmastime is often called The Season of Hope, but for the Christian every season is a season of hope. Being a Christian, we have good reason to hope and a good Father in Whom to place our hope!
Proverbs 13:12 talks about hope. It tells us that hoping can be very difficult sometimes!
“HOPE deferred makes the heart sick;
but when dreams come true at last,
there is life and joy.”
Proverbs 13:12 (TLB)
An easy illustration for that verse might be the expectant mother, waiting and hoping for the birth of her baby. Barring an unexpected incident, the mother-to-be has good reason to expect her dream will come true and her baby will eventually fill her arms.
Another illustration of that might be the parent who hopes for their prodigal to return home, and be restored to Christ. That is a harder scenario, because an infant in the womb cannot willfully refuse to be born. However, the wayward child can willfully refuse to be born again. This parent may hope for many, many years. And, I think that is the one we might describe as heart sick, the parent who waits for an unknown day when their prayers are finally answered.
Deferred Does Not Mean Denied
This past week I heard someone advising hurting wives about their husbands. They used this verse, Proverbs 13:12, to urge these women to give-up all hope of their husbands ever changing and becoming Christ-like men. “If you’ve been waiting and waiting, but it hasn’t happened, it is not God’s will, it is time to move on.” That is almost exactly what was said. This false teacher used this verse to give women permission from God to give-up, leave their husbands, and end their marriages!
Well, I’m sure you can guess that this did not sit well with me. I was actually dumbfounded. How could anyone make such a mistake, and interpret the holy Word of God so poorly—and so dangerously? This verse was twisted and warped so much that it became a contradiction of God’s Word.
I thought to myself that if I had heard this kind of counsel 25 years ago…oh, thank God I did not! I might not have been in a place emotionally or spiritually to stop, question, and consider the meaning of the whole verse. I might have trusted this counselor and self-anointed minister, though they never offered one sound proof for their interpretation. This false teacher was no less deceitful than the Serpent in the Garden, reassuring Eve that she was free to ignore God’s word and satisfy herself with the forbidden fruit.
Listening to this speaker twisting the interpretation of God’s Word was like watching a magician perform a sleight of hand trick. They not only ignored the portion of the verse that they could not warp, the promise after the comma, but they actually misinterpreted a common word we all know and use: deferred.
Let’s look at Merriam-Webster’s straightforward definition: withheld for or until a stated time. Have you ever deferred payment on your taxes? Or, received deferred enrollment to college? The bill isn’t denied, but payment is rescheduled for a later (but specific) date. Admission was not denied, but postponed for another semester.
In other words, to be perfectly clear, deferred does not mean denied. Withheld for a time is not denied.
This is good news by itself, but look at the promise after the comma: life and joy await. Oh, that is a great promise indeed! That is what God’s Word says to those who are walking according to His Word. As you wait day after day, do not believe the Devil’s lie that it is all in vain. When we are asking in agreement with God’s Word, why would He deny us? First John 5:14-15 assures us that He will not!
“And we are sure of this, that He will listen
to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line
with His will. And if we really know He is listening
when we talk to Him and make our requests,
then we can be sure that He will answer us.”
1 John 5:14-15 (TLB)
Do you see that promise after the comma? If He hears you, be sure that He will answer!
How Is Your Faith?
You might be asking: how do I know He hears me, that He is listening? Good question! Once again, we go to His Word for the answer.
“The Lord is far from the
wicked, but He hears the prayers
of the righteous.”
Proverbs 15:29 (TLB)
We have another promise after the comma. When we are in right standing with God, we can have every confidence that He hears our prayers. Therefore, according to 1 John 5:14-15, we can be sure that He will answer them.
How is your faith, Sister or Brother? That’s what it all comes down to, as we walk after the Lord. Hope is not a a wish or good intention, though we often use the word that way as we hope someone had a nice day or feels better soon. That is not the hope that comes from our faith in God and in His Word. That is a hope without substance, based on circumstance. Real hope comes by faith, and as we know Him and His Word more, that faith will grow. We will also learn to know His voice and His will for our lives.
God makes Himself very clear to us. He is not playing guessing games. Yet, the Enemy has deceived us into believing that God’s will is some mystery we must work our entire lives to discover. No, God will never hide His will from us. If we are struggling to know His will, it is only a matter of giving time to seek Him through prayer and in His Word.
It is not always going to be easy to believe God for difficult things. There will be times when Doubt, Fear, and Confusion try to shake us from our foundation of faith. For me, those were the times I would read this passage that I kept taped to my bedroom wall for many years:
“Let us hold fast the confession of our HOPE without wavering,
for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
This verse offers us one more promise: He who promised is faithful.
Life and joy is awaiting you—hold fast! Literally, there is life and joy means it is a tree of life. How can one lose hope, when the promise of our hope is a tree of life? That is a promise, my friends. Do not give-up!