Advent Devotionals: Friday December 11

PERSEVERANCE:  The Foothold that discovers HOPE

A Prayer of Relinquishment
Lord, I do not know what I ought to be asking of you. 
You are the only One who knows what I need.
All I can do is present myself to you.
Lord, I open my heart to you.
I no longer have any desire other than to accomplish your will.
Teach me to pray.
(Francois Fenelon)

Psalm 78, Romans 5:1-5, Hebrews 10, 11,12

Imagine someone reading these devotions several years from now, maybe a generation away.  2020 is in their rearview mirror. They have heard about “The Great Pandemic” in a history class or read about it in an archive somewhere.  Or maybe they still remember it, having lived through it and possibly are still dealing with some of the aftermath of 2020.   Wouldn’t you love to know how the world was shaped by what we are experiencing right now?  Did some good come out of this?  Did humanity shift its perspective?  Was there an awakening?  Is the world good?  Did it heal? In the end, did we collectively respond in such a way that the next generation is able to live with hope and peace?

This is who we are fighting for - those who are coming up behind us.  Psalm 78 talks all about passing our stories and the Story of God down to the next generation and their children and their children’s children.  What kinds of stories do we want to pass on to them? Clinging to our hope found in Jesus is the gift we will give the next generation.  Hope is how we will endure anything that is thrown our way no matter how unexpected or how difficult.  

This week’s readings and studies have felt intense.  Looking at the power of lament, faith and prayer are lofty practices that often feel out of reach for us ordinary people.  We like to leave those kinds of things to the spiritual giants, the ones with all sorts of energy, charisma, and who border on a little bit of crazy.  

If there is one foothold that brings it all down to real life and ordinary people, it is the foothold of perseverance.  It is not glamorous or exciting.  It is hard work and often tedious.  But it is the difference between breakthrough and breakdown. 

We persevere because we have an expectation that on the other side of fear is something good. Really, really good. 

We lament with expectation that God listens. Otherwise, wouldn’t it just be words that disappear into the atmosphere?

We pray with expectation that God will move.  At least that’s what we’ve been told. 

What happens when our expectations are not met?  We are doing everything “right”.  We pray, we worship, we read our bibles, we are kind people… but nothing changes.  At least nothing that we can see.  

Unmet expectations and unanswered prayer can cause us to give up and lose hope.  This is where perseverance must kick in.  

Because here’s the deal.  According to Pete Greig (co-founder of 24/7 prayer movement), even Jesus has at least one prayer that has never been answered.  Jesus prayed for us (the church) that we may be brought to complete unity.  This has never happened. In fact, it feels like we are more divided than ever!

Greig also writes in his book “How to Pray”,  that there are three things unanswered prayers can be attributed to:
  1. God’s World - where God has established certain governing principles in the universe that make the world work best most of the time.  Laws of gravity and laws of science explain the ways which God chooses to act and every once in a while he breaks those laws (i.e. walking on water, turning water into wine, rising from the dead…).  God can choose to modify things when and however he wants, but these times are quite rare. It is good for him to not micromanage his own creation.
  2. God’s War - sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because there is a battle going on in the supernatural realm.  God doesn’t always get his way, even though he is God.  But we do have the hope that the battle will be won once and for all when he returns. 
  3. God’s Will - Sometimes our prayers are not answered because they oppose God’s will.  Even Jesus before his death, pleading with God and asking him to figure out a different way to save humanity, surrendered control and said, “not my will but yours be done.”  We cannot begin to comprehend God’s reasoning as to why he says yes to some things and no to others, or not right now.  This is where our faith in the face of doubt and trust in the face of fear carries us through. 

As we actively wait in this time between, may we continue to look toward the second arrival of Christ when he comes again bringing the glory of a world fully reconciled, redeemed and restored. This is God’s promise to us and the hope that spurs us on. 

Perseverance is the way we claim that hope is ours. We keep our eye on the big picture and our focus on Jesus as we run, walk, climb and sometimes plod toward that hope.  But hope keeps us in the battle and perseverance is our strength. May our hope be placed in the person of Jesus Christ, the promises of God and the faithfulness of the saints who have endured before us. (Read Hebrews 11)

NEVER. GIVE. UP.  

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:23-25

REFLECTION:
  1. Identify your unmet expectations.  What were you hoping for this year that did not come to fruition?
  2. Where have other people disappointed you? What do you need to relinquish?
  3. In what ways have you struggled with God?  (he feels distant, unanswered prayer, he has let you down. etc)
  4. Bring all of these things to the Lord. Be honest and vulnerable.  Wait and listen. Write down what you hear or sense.


PRACTICES: 
  1. Morning Prayers of praise and gratitude. (Suggestion:  Write out your prayers)
  2. Evening Prayers - Examen. 
  3. Scripture Reading as assigned above.  

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