Follow Your Prince of Peace

I wonder what longings surfaced in you as the calendar advanced to 2014.

Perhaps like me, hope fills your heart when you contemplate the potential of the year ahead. But if you are like me, the uncertainty looming in its future may have reined in your expectation to cautious optimism. After all, we can’t allow ourselves to expect too much. Experience has left us a little gun shy.

Maybe we need to see what scripture says about that.

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:5, NIV 1984

When Jesus remains the source of our hope, we can always expect greatness. If you and I will stick with Him through the fulfillment of His plan, we’ll never end up disappointed. Let’s look to the Lord of Glory with unguarded expectation and allow Him to surpass our wildest dreams!

We have reached the final week of our series exploring the four names given to Jesus in His prophetic birth announcement from Isaiah 9:6. Let’s revisit the entire verse and view it in context with verse 7.

“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

Did you notice that the first thing scripture tells us about this child given to us is that government will be on His shoulders? Guess what that means. Our ability to experience Jesus by every one of these names will link directly to whether or not we allow Him to lead.

Does He govern you, dear one?

Jesus came to lead His people to glory. The moment we put our faith in Him—repenting of our sin, believing in the power of His sacrifice, and committing our lives to follow Him—He seals us as His own by giving us the Holy Spirit. We receive the Wonderful Counselor, the power of Mighty God comes to rest within us, and we become eternal sons and daughters of glory, belonging forever to the Everlasting Father.  As if that weren’t enough . . .

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-2

Jesus becomes our Prince of Peace as our broken relationship with Holy God is restored, our sins are forgiven, and we enter into divine fellowship with our Creator. Unbelievably, He offers more! As we allow the Prince of Peace to rule and reign within our hearts, wonderful fruit will begin to emerge in our lives. Romans 15:13 names a few of them:

“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.”

Trusting Jesus to lead allows God to fill us with joy, peace, and hope!

Whether you realize it or not, dear one, peace is what your heart seeks. Have you ever noticed how elusive contentment can be? We set our hearts on one thing after another, assuring ourselves that this “one thing” will finally set our hearts at rest, only we soon discover that restlessness remains. It simply sets its sights on something else, and we find ourselves plagued once again with longing.

Can you relate? I can.

The absence of peace can even rob us of our ability to find joy in what we have. The sin nature that has governed us for so long will always crave more and send us in pursuit of something else. And sometimes that search for more ends up costing us the blessings we already have.

But Jesus . . .

In Christ, our souls have the ability to finally find rest and end our destructive cycles. Jesus said in John 14:27,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

You and I now have the ability to find that elusive rest. Jesus has given us His peace. So, how do we claim it? Isaiah 9:7 holds the key.

The increase of His peace accompanies the increase of His government.

The more we yield to the authority and leadership of the Holy Spirit, the more peace will abound. And as peace abounds, so will the life that springs from it.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body.” Proverbs 14:30

As we trust Jesus through our obedience, allowing Him to take His rightful place on the throne of our lives, joy, peace, and hope will flood our hearts and filter into our circumstances.

Let’s invite Jesus to take His seat on the throne today, beloved. After all, God placed government upon His shoulders, not ours. And Jesus desires to lead you to abundant life. Will you trust Him?

“Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” Job 22:21

A Season of Hope

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Romans 5:5

I love Christmas. It’s always been my very favorite time of year.

Don’t get me wrong. If we were strictly talking about weather, summer would certainly get my vote. Warm summer nights, cookouts, and sunshine beat cold, gray winter doldrums any day.

But Christmas to me was never about the weather. It was about the feeling.

Do you know the one I’m talking about? My mother called it sugarplums. Every year, along with the onset of Christmas carols, decorated trees, holiday smells, and exploding trays of Christmas cookies came the inevitable dancing inside my soul that would start in the depths of my stomach and flutter up into my heart.

Excitement would grip me from top to bottom, anticipation building with each opened door on the advent calendar. Finally on the night of December 24th, I would lose the ability to sleep altogether.

I wish I could say that my excitement over Christmas found its roots in its spiritual implications. It didn’t. Although I marveled at the wonders surrounding Jesus’ Bethlehem story, it would be years until I understood its profound meaning to my own life and opened the wondrous gift God gave me in His Son.

No, my sleepless nights and Christmas sugarplums were the result of something much more tangible to my childish mind. They were roused by anticipation over the presents.

You see, although my childhood was rich in love, we couldn’t afford to spend a whole lot on extra things. As a result, if there was something my brothers or I wanted throughout the year, we would be instructed to place the item on our Christmas list.

Then we’d wait. And we’d hope. And as the big day drew near, we’d wonder what treasures might actually appear beneath the Christmas tree.

Oh, the glorious excitement that hope brings! Do you remember what it feels like to hope?

I believe it’s safe to conclude we’ve all felt it. At some point, even if only for a few brief moments of childhood abandon, we’ve each allowed the glimmer of possibility to stir our hearts.

And that stirring kindled anticipation, igniting a spark of joyful expectancy within our hearts at the thought that what we wanted just might come to be.

Perhaps that hope even inspired a step of faith.

You bought that lottery ticket expecting your number to come up. You made a big investment, wooed by the promise of greater rewards. Or maybe you opened your heart to take a chance on love.

Then you waited and watched . . . and hoped. And you didn’t get the outcome you desired.

Unfortunately, in a world with very few guarantees, we often end up disappointed. Scripture confirms the validity of our response,

Hope deferred makes the heart sick . . .  Proverbs 13:12

Maybe you’ve arrived at a place in your life where you no longer dare to hope. Shadows of disappointment have drowned out the merriment hope brings, leaving cynicism in its place.

And so stories of a child Savior born in a stable with the power to redeem you seem a bit farfetched. You can appreciate the sentimental wonder of the story, but you dare not open your heart to really believe Him for His promises.

Yet Romans 5:5 makes a bold claim, “And hope does not disappoint us . . .”

How can this be? My own track record proves that hope can certainly disappoint.

Perhaps, but the hope that Scripture offers differs greatly from the hope we’ve experienced out in the world. And that difference changes everything.

My dictionary defines hope as “the feeling that what is desired is also possible, or that events may turn out for the best.” The Greek word translated hope in our Bibles actually means, the “desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it.”

Do you see the difference? Hope as we know it involves possibility. Biblical hope includes expectation.

Unlike anything else in this world we might place our hope in, Jesus includes a guarantee. Every promise made in Christ is as good as done. We just have to trust Him for them.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Romans 5:5

There is no gift greater than transforming love, and this gift keeps on giving! Will you take a chance on hope, dear one? Will you trust Jesus to change you for the better? I can promise you this time you won’t be disappointed. Better yet, God promises. And He sealed that promise with the blood of His Son. Perhaps it’s time to make possibility your reality.