Why I Am Hopeful for 2017!

Ponderings, No.1 (Jan. 22, 2017)
Robert V. Rakestraw

Sunset over lake

Welcome to “Ponderings,” a new category of articles for the Grace Quest Ministries website. These pieces will be more personal than the items posted under “Urgent Words for Apocalyptic Times.” My tentative plan is to post something at least once per month, mostly alternating between “Ponderings” and “Urgent Words.” Usually I will post only one item each month, due to an increasing concern to write other kinds of important materials as well.

I feel hopeful for the year 2017 and I’d like to share why. My hope is certainly not based on world conditions, national happenings, circumstances within the lives of friends and relatives, or matters pertaining to my daily health. Each of these categories tends to pull me toward hopelessness, not hope.

I feel these pulls at times and begin to drift down the river of futility: “Why bother?” “What does it matter?” “Things will never change.” Like you, I don’t want there to be misery in peoples’ lives, but I often feel extremely weak in my ability to make much of a difference for good.

External realities, much of the time, offer little or no reason for hope. The supposed hope-filled words and promises of our leaders and others who like to speak out, if such words are presented apart from Jesus Christ the Hope of the World, sound hollow and sometimes even hurtful. At times they are mistaken or even blatently wrong.

My hope is based on God’s promises—both for this life and the life to come—rooted deeply within me and put to the test over decades of living as a Christ follower. Hundreds of millions of others will testify likewise.

If we had a God who chose not to reveal himself through mighty works, trustworthy writings, a humble walk upon this earth, and a glorious, ongoing agenda of redemption and ultimate restoration, we would truly be hopeless. As the apostle Paul wrote concerning the resurrection and saving work of Jesus, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19).

To write more specifically, the assurances from God that make me hopeful for 2017 are wrapped together in one word, rather than a specific Bible verse. That word (in its verb form) is “focus.”

While this word is not found in the Bible versions I consulted, the idea is surely scriptural. In the NIV (New International Version) the words “devote,” “devoted,” and “devoting” convey the ideas of focusing and concentrating. One thousand years before Christ, King David exhorted the Israelites, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God” (1 Chron. 22:19). And the apostle Paul commends certain ones who “have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people” (1 Cor. 16:15).

In my personal situation, God is nudging me to concentrate on the specific responsibilities that lay before me each day: take them seriously, one at a time, do my very best with each, yet allow the lightness and freedom of the Spirit to float me above the heaviness of life. For the past few weeks this moment by moment unpressured focus has been producing greater rest of soul than I have known for months. I remind myself often that I cannot save the world, and cannot effect salvation or sanctification in any person.

Thus my initial word from God has now become a dual exhortation: “focus and rest.” These I have been practicing simultaneously, and I find the following words of Jesus ever-living and ever-balancing to me. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. . . . For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt.11:28-30).

I offer these simple words to you for 2017 in the hope that you also may be encouraged. Your set of circumstances and needs may be different—perhaps quite different—from mine, but both focus and rest, applied together, will very likely strengthen you and give you hope in whatever situation you are. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

This item may be found, along with other articles and essays, on Dr. Rakestraw’s website/blog, gracequestministries.org., where you may sign up to receive automatically postings such as this at no cost, and where you may order his books GraceQuest and Heart Cries. You may write to him at bob@gracequestministries.org.