Expected Hope

expected hopeGod has a plan for all of us. It is a plan with a hope, a future and an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11). We need to have faith in His plan for us. We need to know that when we follow it, it will cause us to experience all that He has created for us and bring about the best possible outcome.

However, we can get too focused on the outcome of God’s plan for us and miss the importance of the process. We sometimes think we need to get to the end as quickly as possible while bypassing everything else on the way.

Desiring an instant result will make us impatient and impatience causes us to abandon the plan early. Think of the process an apple tree goes through in order to become a mature, fruit-bearing tree. It starts off as a seed, grows into a sapling, and only after years of the roots growing deep and the branches growing strong, does it bear healthy fruit.

Like an apple tree, it is in the process that we become strong. Following God’s plan day-by-day makes us more like Christ. We have to commit to this process otherwise, we may never see the fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives.

Impatience makes us grow weary, though. We think to ourselves, “If it was going to happen, it certainly would have happened by now.” This kind of thinking is born out of fear. We’re afraid that God’s plan just won’t happen. We fear that He’s not working in our lives, or that He has forgotten about us. This fear makes us impatient.

If an apple tree tried to bear fruit in the first year of growth, the weight of the apples would break the small trunk of the immature tree. It has to be fully grown in order to handle the weight of the fruit it’s destined to bear. We must also be mature in order to step into the fullness of God’s plan.

“Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in,” (Galatians 6:9).

When we put our trust in God’s word and learn to keep our eyes on the path that He has laid out before

us, we can stand strong against discouragement and fatigue.

Psalm 1 describes the kind of person who has faith in the Word of God: “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do,” (Psalm 1:2-3).

When we believe in the truth and power of God’s Word, we are like trees planted by riverbanks. We have a constant source. This is what makes us strong and prepares us to fulfill God’s plan for us.

Fix Your Eyes

Fix Your EyesWe are all carrying, or have carried, hurts from our past. If we let them, these wounds have the power to influence our decisions for the rest of our lives. We give our pain this power when we are continually thinking about it, replaying it in our minds or coming up with ways that it could have been avoided.

What this does is keep the wound open. It could have happened twenty years ago and be as fresh in our minds as if it happened a month ago.

It may sound like this is the opposite of a hardened heart, but it isn’t. This is one of the definitions of a hardened heart, because a hard heart is one that is unresponsive to God. When we are more responsive to our pain than our heavenly Father, our heart is hard.

In this case we could say that our heart is cold. That’s what our pain does to us, it makes us cold. We turn inward and focus on protecting ourselves from ever being hurt again, and in the process, we miss out on the blessings of God.

We stop giving our pain influence and power in our lives when we turn away from it. If we’re going to turn away from it we have to turn to something else. What is that something else? Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2a says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”

As long as we are fixing our eyes on our pain, it will continue to have power over us. We should fix our eyes on Him. When our focus is on Jesus our healer, our hearts will be healed.

We will no longer identify with our loss, tragedies and missed opportunities. We will identify with our righteousness in Christ.

Keeping our focus on Jesus will make us sensitive and receptive to the love of God. We won’t be cold and unfeeling anymore. We’ll be able to trust Him and walk in the plan He has for us.

It all starts with turning away from the mistakes and pain of the past and toward our loving Savior, Jesus Christ.

Recognizing a Hardened Heart

There are many people who read books and articles or hear sermons about a hardened heart and immediately start thinking about everyone else in their life, because there is no way they could be talking about them. However, that kind of thinking is a sign of a hardened heart. If we refuse to see the need for healing or growth, our hearts have become hardened by pride.

If we allow our hearts to continue this way, our lives will be unproductive and we’ll be frustrated. The first step in solving this problem is recognizing that there is a problem. We have to realize that we have a hardened heart towards God in one way or another.

We don’t need to condemn ourselves for this. We just need to know if it’s true about us and allow God to work in our lives to fix the problem.

How do we know if we have a hardened heart or not?

One of the best ways to find out is by asking God. He promises to give us wisdom for every area of our lives. He’ll show us where we have shut Him out and help us soften our hearts.

There are ways that we can see where our hearts are hardened in our day-to-day lives. One indicator of a hardened heart is if we need constant validation from everyone around us.

If we always need other people to tell us how good we are, what a great job we’re doing, etc., then we have placed our confidence in man and not in God. What we’re saying is, “God, I know the Bible says that you love me and that I’m righteous in Christ, but I don’t totally believe it, so I’m going to continue to seek love and approval elsewhere.”

This is a spirit of fear and insecurity. We are afraid of the idea that what God says about us isn’t actually true, and it makes us insecure around people. So we have to constantly make sure that we’re on good terms with them.

God created us to get everything we need from Him. If He says that we are loved and approved of, that should be more than enough. When we go around seeking

approval from everyone else, it means that we aren’t putting our faith in our heavenly Father; we’re putting it in man, and we have a hardened heart.

How do we fix this problem?

Through the power and word of God.

The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

The spirit of fear that makes us insecure and timid around people is not from God. That means we don’t have to accept it. We have to resist the need to seek out the approval of man.

The first step is how we talk to ourselves. We need to tell ourselves that we are the righteousness of God in Christ. We don’t just need to do this once a day. We need to do this every time we sense feelings of inadequacy creeping into our minds. Confessing the word of God will cause us to overcome the spirit of fear.

We also need to make a conscious effort to stop asking everyone what they think about every aspect of our lives. We don’t need everyone’s opinion about our

outfit, our hair, our choices, etc. We should seek the wisdom of God and the counsel of strong, godly people and let everyone else’s opinions fall where they may.

When we do these two things, we’ll see our hearts soften towards God. The voice of God will be clearer because it won’t be drowned out by everyone else’s voice. We’ll be more confident because our approval will come from our absolutely loving heavenly Father and
guard your heart
not the fickle opinions of man.

This is just one way to tell if our hearts are hardened. We’ll look at more signs of a hardened heart and how to move past them in the weeks to come.