Monday, May 3, 2010

Encouragement: Does Your Hope Encourage You Today?

A past filled with difficulty and broken relationships can overshadow the present. Though we have been forgiven our sins and have turned away from them, we are not automatically freed from the struggles of sin. If we are not careful, we can allow these struggles to sap our enthusiasm for life and douse our hopes for the future.

That was probably wat it was for God's people in Judah. As a result of the repeated sins fo their fathers, their families had been displaced from Palestine to Assyria and Babylonia. Seventy years later, at the decree of Cyrus, a remnant of Jews returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubabbel. Their first goal was to rebuild the house of God, but their initial enthusiasm was dampened by opposition from local residents. The work of rebuilding the Temple was soon stopped.

To counter the hopelessness, God appointed the elderly Haggai and the young Zechariah to prophecy, encouraging the returned exiles to rebuild God's Temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah, whose name means "God remembers", reminded the Jews that God had not forgotten them. Rather, he had a certain and dynamic plan for their restoration.

Hope for the future can provide great encouragement for the present. The promise of deliverance makes it possible to continue in the process of spiritual renewal. Zechariah's book in the Old Testament part of the Holy Bible is a fascinating study of how God, through His prophets, led His hurting people from hopelessness to commitment, through self-examination and transformation to a deepening spiritual perception. It is an account of rebuilding and spiritual renewal.

Disappointment ca lead to Despair
When faced with disappointment we have a choice: we can nurture our negative feelings, ro we can confront them and find a solution. The people of God chose to hold onto the disappointmentthat came from exile. This led to despair. To avoid despair we need to give our disappointments to God and confront those aspects of them that we can change. As we use the keys to spiritual renewal, we will find that our feeling of despair will pass. But we can not just passively wait for our transformation. We need to become actively involved in God's plan for our spiritual renewal.

Hope Encourages us Today
Zechariah's visions of the future gave hope to the people, helping them face the tasks their present. Our hope of God's complete transformation of our lives can encoruage us to endure the pain that may be part of our spiritual growth today. We won't always feel so hurt and confused. If we follow God's will for us in faith, we will experience His transforming power and discover the joy that only He can give.

Spiritual Renewal involves the Heart
Zechariah told the people that God did not care about fasts and religious observances. He did care about the attitudes of their hearts. Our spiritual renewal involves the attitudes of our hearts; it is not a matter of just doing and saying the right things. It is only as our minds and hearts are changed by God that our spiritual renewal can occur. As our hearts are transformed, our attitudes and actions will also be transformed. If we go through the motions without even being changedon the inside, our spiritual renewal will be superficial. We need to be changed from the inside out. Just as this was true for the people of Jerusalem in Zechariah's day, it is true for us today.

Be Encouraged


Letter # 17 (2. 5. 2010)