Great, Not Grey

Hebrews 12:1 — Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (NIV).

I believe if you can grasp the meaning of this verse, it will be an encouragement to you as you walk through life. I pray for you to be revived as you are enlightened by its message. God’s word brings life and liberty. May you be strengthened today, in the name of Jesus!

Many times Christians, and people in general, walk through life as if a grey cloud is looming overhead. The unsaved usually don’t know any better, but believers have no excuse for having such an attitude. The writer of Hebrews states that we are surrounded by a great cloud, not a grey cloud. A great cloud surrounds you whether you realize it or not, but you decide if you are going to acknowledge its existence.

The Bible calls this cloud a great cloud of witnesses. Who are these witnesses that make up this cloud? Read Hebrews 11. The great cloud that surrounds you is made up of heroes of the faith. The testimonies of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rahab, Joseph, and others have been recorded for you to draw encouragement from.

If you find yourself struggling today, go back through your Bible and read the accounts of those listed in Hebrews 11. Learn from their mistakes, and be blessed by their stories. All of them went through trials, but they persevered to the end. They made no excuses, and they fulfilled the destiny God had for each of them. When things are tough, you will be tempted to abandon the path God has marked for you. But instead of forfeiting your destiny, draw strength from the great cloud of witnesses.

Philippians 3:14 — I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (NIV).

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Trees of Life

Proverbs 13:12 — Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life (AMP).

We have learned that chronic disappointment makes the heart sick, but all it takes is one fulfilled desire to restore hope. The Bible also teaches a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. What an awesome truth! No matter how many failures you have faced, it is amazing how refreshing one victory can be.

Think of it this way. Let’s say you have been longing for a certain family member to come to know God. After months. or even years of prayer, he finally receives salvation. You get word of your loved one’s conversion, and joy floods your heart. In that moment, a tree of life is planted.

From then on, you are able to draw faith and encouragement from that tree. When faced with a relationship or situation that threatens to steal your hope, you are able to look at that tree of life and know God can meet your need because He did it before. The tree of life serves as a testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Its fruit is enough to get you through a tough season to the next victory.

Even greater is the fact that a new tree is planted every time a desire is fulfilled. However, hope deferred cuts these life-giving trees down. I want to encourage you today to not lose hope. No matter how dismal the circumstances are surrounding your life and relationships, dare to trust God and fight the good fight of faith. Draw strength from the good works God has done previously in your life. Those testimonies are there to help propel you to the next victory!

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 — 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV).

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Germ-Infested Restrooms

Proverbs 13:12 — Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life (KJV).

The Bible says unrelenting disappointment makes the heart sick. Those who have lost hope in relationships are no different. They literally become heartsick. That’s why it is so difficult for relationships to be restored. Allow me to explain.

Have you ever stopped at a rest area off the side of the highway? Odds are you have, but if not, you have surely gone into some skeptical truck stops or gas stations in your lifetime. I’ve traveled thousands of miles on interstates across the country, and I’ve found myself in some nasty, germ-infested restrooms. You know what I’m talking about—the ones you have to hold your breath in and tiptoe around not to step in something.

In those situations I do my best not to touch anything, and I’ve even used paper towels to turn knobs and open doors. Sometimes I won’t wash my hands because I know they will only be dirtier after doing so. There are others who go to even greater extremes to avoid germs. Why do we do this? We don’t want to get sick. Most people are not voluntarily going to make themselves ill, so they are very careful to stay away from germs.

This is exactly why broken relationships stay broken. Disappointment after disappointment causes people to become heartsick. They do not want to get sick again, so they avoid intimacy in relationships like they would avoid a nasty restroom.

Relationships are a gift from God, and He never intended for them to be a source of disappointment. Healthy relationships bring life and encouragement. They are meant for intimacy and accountability. Don’t allow rejection or offense to rob you of this beautiful gift from God. If you do, you will remain heartsick, and you will never know what intimacy with God or others is like.

Ephesians 3:19 — And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God (KJV).

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Disappointment With God

Proverbs 13:12 — Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (NIV).

The third area I want to deal with is disappointment with God. This may be the most difficult relationship for hope to be restored to. God is always ready to take you back, but human beings are notoriously stubborn creatures. Many people lost hope in God years ago and have held decade-long grudges against Him ever since. They no longer have any godly expectations, and they blame Him for whatever reason.

If you are one of those people, listen to me carefully: It’s not God’s fault, so get over it. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to downplay the personal pain and rejection you might be feeling. I understand feelings are very real, but you manufacture and manage your feelings, not God. He does not change, and His word is eternal. He is not capable of lying, and He has never let anyone down ever.

Many times people lose hope in God because of unrealistic expectations. Others misinterpret unanswered prayers as rejection. As the old Garth Brooks song says, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” Looking back over my life, I am very thankful now that I did not get everything I prayed for.

God has a perfect plan for your life, and His ways are sovereign. Do not lose hope when God doesn’t work things out the way you would like Him to, or when it seems like your prayers are falling on deaf ears. He is always working on your behalf, and He hears everything you say.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (NIV). What do you hope for? Do not suspend your dreams because you are mad at God for something He didn’t do. Give Him your grudge; you don’t want it anyway.

I Peter 5:7 — Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you(NLT).

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Disappointment in Yourself

Proverbs 13:12 — Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (NIV).

The second area I want to deal with is disappointment in yourself. People become disappointed with themselves for many different reasons. Failures in school, in the workplace, or in relationships cause many to lose hope. The guilt and shame they carry because of such failure leaves them imprisoned unable to forgive themselves.

Forgiving yourself is often times more difficult than forgiving someone else. Intimacy with God is largely dependent on your ability to let go of your mistakes. You have to allow the blood of Jesus to wash away your shortcomings. Micah 7:19 says, “You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (NIV). God has compassion on you; He wants to throw your sins away, but you have to let go of them first.

Perhaps you’ve been torturing yourself because of past failures. It’s time to let yourself off the hook. Don’t just blow off your shortcomings, though. Learn from them. When you fall short, don’t beat yourself up. Become a better person. I pray you will believe in and trust yourself again. To defer means to put off or postpone. Perhaps you have put your personal dreams and expectations on hold. If so, I encourage you to pray the following prayer over yourself:

“Lord Jesus, You are awesome. I surrender my entire self to You. I give You all of my failures and shortcomings. Wash me in Your precious blood. I want to be completely free. Take away my guilt and shame; make me whole again. Restore my hope, and help me to trust myself once more. The joy of the Lord is my strength, and I will walk in unspeakable joy. Thank You, Lord, for giving me the ability to dream again. I love You. Amen.”

Hebrews 8:12 — “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (NASB).

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Disappointment in Relationships

Proverbs 13:12 — Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (NIV).

This message has been burning in my heart, and if you find yourself lacking intimacy with God, this verse may be the key to your breakthrough. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. What a sad truth. To better understand the meaning of this statement, let’s look at another version: Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick (MSG). Disappointment comes in a variety of sorts, but the person who is continually disappointed winds up brokenhearted.

The first area I want to deal with is disappointment in relationships. There are countless people who have experienced broken relationship after broken relationship. As a result, they’ve closed themselves off to the idea of intimacy with anyone. They will allow a person to come “only so close” before they withdraw.

Many people have been cheated on, stabbed in the back, or abused by those they have been in relationship with. Children are mistreated by their parents, spouses are unfaithful, best friends gossip and slander one another, pastors betray their flocks, and the list goes on. When not dealt with, these types of experiences will be carried over into every new relationship.

Those who have deferred hope in relationships eventually wind up harboring unforgiveness toward those who have wronged them. They become bitterly offended and filter all of their relationships through that offense. This truth tragically includes their relationship with God.

Perhaps you find yourself separated from God today. Could it be that you have unforgiveness toward someone? Unforgiveness puts a wedge between you and Him. You may be justified in your offense, but you will not experience intimacy in any relationship until you deal with unforgiveness.

Matthew 6:15 — “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NIV).

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Are We There Yet?

1 Peter 4:19 — So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good (NIV).

Have you ever gone on a long, car trip with small children? If not, maybe you have been the small child on a long, car trip. If you’re like me, you’ve experienced it both ways. When I was little, my parents chauffeured my sister and me all over the United States from Carrollton, Texas. (There are not many states I haven’t been to because of our marathon family trips.)

We drove to Yellowstone in Wyoming, Disney World in Orlando, Seattle, D.C., Las Vegas, and more. We even drove to Toronto and Vancouver in Canada! The car rides were less than desirable, and my sister and I probably blurted out, “Are we there yet?” hundreds of times.

I can’t complain, though. I have had the rare opportunity to see Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. I’ve snow skied in both Colorado and New Mexico. I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge and walked Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Reaching the final destination was always the highlight of my childhood travels, but I did not fully appreciate the thousands of miles we drove in order to get there. I just wanted to be there fast. Some trips were smooth and easy, but others were long and exhausting.

The same is true as we travel down the road to God’s will. Many times you will enjoy mountaintop experiences, but other times God will lead you through valleys. Perhaps you are suffering today as you faithfully follow God’s direction. Maybe you’ve recently asked Him, “Am I there yet?” I want to encourage you not to give up. Keep in mind it is on the road to His will that your character is built. Lastly, enjoy the trip and be willing to endure because the final destination is worth it.

Psalm 51:12 — Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (NIV).

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