Hope…for what we do not see

This morning, my Scripture reading led me on a trail back to Romans 7 and 8. I have a confession that oftentimes in my Scripture reading, I fall into the temptation to read as quickly as I can so that I can move onto the next item of my day – complete the next item on my checklist. I’m not proud of that quality in me. I tend to be a task-driven person. {I blame it on my dad – just kidding – sort of. ;)} But today, I actually slowed down my brain to take in the whole of the words I was reading. If you’re anything like me and tend to be a brain nomad during the day, I suggest reading out loud. It forces your brain to process the information at two different levels: visual and auditory. In other words, it occupies more of your energy/effort so you’re less capable of focusing elsewhere.

At any rate, this morning as I read a very familiar passage in my less utilized slower fashion, I was captivated by the words on the page that I had before missed.

23 And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:23-25

I included verse 23 primarily for context but want to highlight Paul’s wisdom in verse 24-25.

How many of us have compared ourselves to others and then placed “hope” in having what they had. We even catch ourselves saying, “I hope I could be like her one day, have what she has, do what she does.” Frequently these days, I find myself hoping that I could write a book like some others have. In fact, I’m reading a book right now in which my personality bears so much resemblance to the author, I feel as if I could just put my name in the author spot and call it my own (minus our life experiences – those have been different…and the fact that that’s plagiarism…anyhow…).

But what Paul is stating in Romans 8 is that hope in what we can see is not hope at all. Comparing ourselves to others and “hoping” for what they have doesn’t by definition count as hope. We must hope in what we cannot see. Here he speaks of hoping for the salvation of our redemption bodies upon the returning of Jesus Christ our Lord and King. And truly, is there any greater thing for which I could hope? I think not.

But when we focus on the smaller details of our days, about which the Lord cares very much {Psalm 37:23-24}, we find ourselves not hoping for what we cannot see – but hoping for what we can see in others’ lives.

Many of us know and understand that comparison is a theft of our joy. In fact, while listening to an “Ask Pastor John” podcast episode recently, John Piper was asked by a listener how he does all that he does. The question included the phrase, “when do you eat your cereal?” implying that Pastor John is the standard by which this other man was to live and experience success in his own writing and speaking career. Per usual, I was amazed by Pastor John Piper’s response that highlighted the humility of his spirit and yet a reprimand for this man’s implications in his questions. Before addressing any part of his question, he said that he would strongly caution anyone against wanting to be just like him. He told the public that we don’t know his sin struggles or what it’s like to walk in his shoes. And he implied that should we know, most of us wouldn’t want to be anywhere near it.

Later in Pastor John’s answer, he cautioned the public against being so stuck in the comparison cycle that we think “if we can just achieve what ___________ did, we will have done our best for the Lord.” Instead he encouraged us to seek the Lord personally and His word for what He would like to do through us and with us that will look like nobody else’s life – but our own.

And this is difficult for us to do, because the Lord knows that comparison has been a part of our human experience from the beginning. Even Peter, who we admire for his amazing efforts in advancing the gospel, fell to this comparison trap.

This past weekend, as Pastor Mike continued his sermon series on the life of Peter, we were led to the passage in John 21 where Peter was reinstated to the cause of Christ {after denying Jesus three times surrounding his crucifixion}. After Peter is reinstated by the Lord Jesus, he is also given an insight into the fact that he will one day be martyred for the cause of Christ. When Peter hears this, it’s possible that he was encouraged to know that the next time he faced strong adversity for Christ, he wouldn’t run in fear. But after hearing Jesus’ words, he quickly looks to John, who had been following them, and he asks Christ to tell him whether John will experience the same death. Jesus says, “if it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” {John 21:22}.

I think we can hear the Lord saying the same to us. STOP LOOKING AT ___________. Look at me! Follow me! Let me make your story your own!

In a culture driven to greater comparison than ever by the mass amount of information at our fingertips {let’s be honest – social media is a never-ending comparison trap if we let it be}, I think it’s time for us to stop comparing. It’s time for us to look to Jesus and ask him what it is He wants for our lives. It’s time for us to seek His will for us – not through wanting what other people have. It’s time for us to hope not for what we see but for what is unseen.

These are difficult words for me to process, difficult words for me to live, but I know that the Lord will be faithful to complete the good work that he has begun in those who follow after him.

Comparison is heavy, but I trust that the Lord knows my heart more intimately than even me, and He will be faithful to paint beautiful moments in my life that draw me closer to Him and allow me to bring Him greater glory than if I had what someone else does.

So what should we do? We should seek the Lord through prayer and the Word. We should seek council if needed of godly women or men. We should keep making strides toward bringing the Lord glory through whatever way He has given us for the time. And then we should wait in eager expectation for Him to fulfill what He has promised in His Word. He will be faithful! Therefore, we can hope in what we do not see for our eternity and in the daily details of how He will work in our lives.


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