Good words and good works are both a source of wonderful blessing in our lives. The godly have learned something about plodding ahead without clear direction - aimless wandering usually producing nothing but heartache and unwanted challenge. They have also learned a great deal about relationship exchanges where words fly and consequences of "unchecked" words makes for many a sleepless night. It probably goes without saying, but we learn more by our mistakes than we do by avoiding them - simply because the mistakes seem to be more common than the ability to side-step them in time to avoid them! As we have observed in our study, the life of wisdom is one marked with light and joy. Light which provides illumination before we actually take the misstep; joy because we have learned to step into the tracks left by the one who walks before us (Jesus)! Too many times, our focus remains inward, not outward. As this is the tendency of our hearts, we experience a great deal of "heart-sickness" we might otherwise avoid if we just got our focus corrected. Inward focus leads to alienation - first from God and then from others. It is a hindrance to every "good step" we might just want to take, so learning to redirect focus is paramount to avoiding all manner of heart-sickness.
Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around. (Proverbs 13:12 MSG)
This morning, I'd like us to consider the idea of "deferred hope". As scripture aptly puts it, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick..." Hope is more than just expectation - it is the honest belief that what we desire can come to fruition. If I hoped to be a millionaire, but only played the lottery or signed up for every sweepstakes that came along, I'd say I was living with a whole lot of deferred hope! On the other hand, if I actually took the monies I earned from my job, invested it wisely and consistently, I might just grow a little closer to the reality of being that millionaire. The difference between the two is the focus - one is counting on the easy way out - the other is determining the course may be a little rugged, but worth the ride.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is great joy and a sense of life. A hope is a longing - something we desire and have a dream of fulfillment. There is an expectation of fulfillment - attainment being the ultimate end. The thing longed for may not be the best for us, though. So, sometimes deferred hope is really an wake-up call to get us to see the thing longed for so desperately is really not what will provide the best of outcomes for our lives. We see delay in fulfillment as God saying he doesn't want us to have something (or someone). In truth, God may indeed be saying just that! Yet, there are times when God says it is not the right time - the dream still lives on, but the timing of the fulfillment dwells at a point yet to be determined. Either way, hope can be crushed. When we hear a clear "no", it can be very hard to accept. When we hear a "wait a while", it can rob us of our joy. We have to learn to accept the "no" as an attempt on God's part to protect us from damage down the road and the "wait a while" as a way of God getting us fully ready to receive the blessing.
Both of these are struggles for us, right? Both can lead to "heart-sickness". One thing is apparent in scripture - dreams and aspirations are a part of our make-up. God actually created our brains, emotions, and hearts to dream big and aspire to great things. All God asks is for us to allow those dreams and aspirations to be realistically founded in God's will - to live without these dreams or aspirations is to live devoid of emotion and faith. If you pair this idea of having dreams and aspirations realistically founded in God's will with the reminder to actually ask for what it is we desire, then you might just be coming a little closer to understanding how God intended for things to work! James tells us: You crave for something and don’t get it, you are jealous and envious of what others have got and you don’t possess it yourselves. Consequently in your exasperated frustration you struggle and fight with one another. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And when you do ask he doesn’t give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit—you only want to satisfy your own desires. (James 4:2-3 JBP) It is in the "listening for the leading" that we understand the doors which are open to us and those which remain firmly shut.
A person of good sense is respected - not because they have some status which makes them receive elevated attention, but because they have learned to choose wisely and to walk uprightly. They have learned to avoid the dreams and aspirations which do nothing more than act as snares in their lives. The wise (godly) have learned to "listen for the leading". They dream big, but don't allow those dreams to define them. They are defined by one greater than their dreams - the creator of those dreams. Jesus did great works on this earth - but before leaving here, he reminded his disciples they would do even greater works! It became his joy and delight to illustrate for us the possibilities of big dreams and gigantic aspirations - as long as those align with God's will for our lives! The willingness to allow God access to our dreams is sometimes a little frightening to us - because we somehow think he will squelch them. Yet, if we read what scripture says, he delights in giving to his children. As long as what we dream won't hinder our walk with him, he probably won't find fault with our dream! When we align our dreams with his purposes - we can dream bigger than we might imagine! Just sayin!