Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 NIV)
It is said that when it feels like a word or sentence stands out, to pay attention, there is a reason for it. Proverbs 13:12 was one of those for me, not only did it stand out as I was reading it but I also had someone approach me at church and speak it to me. I started looking deeper into the meaning behind the verse using the words hope and deferred as the basis.
The Noah Webster Dictionary of 1812 defines hope, in part, this way:
- A desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or belief that it is obtainable. Hope differs from wish and desire in this, that it implies some expectation of obtaining the good desired, or the possibility of possessing it. Hope therefore always gives pleasure or joy; whereas wish and desire may produce or be accompanied with pain and anxiety.
- Confidence in a future; the highest degree of well-founded expectation of good; as a hope founded on God’s promises.
Defer is defined this way:
- To delay; to put off; to postpone to a future time.
Using those definitions Proverbs 13:12 can be reworded in this way:
“Confidence and expectation of good in a future event, founded on God’s promises, that is delayed or put off makes the heart sick, but a longing, or God’s promise, fulfilled is a tree of life.”
How does that hope work? Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist, reports that when we hope, it is an activity of the mind that literally changes the structure of our brain in a positive and normal direction.
- Our brains are being rewired by our expectation of the future.
- Imagining a positive future reduces the pain of the past.
- Hope leads to expectation, which creates peace, excitement, and health in our minds.
- Faith motivates us to pursue these goals.
She references that faith motivates us, so how does that fit in with promises God has given us? Jesus said that with faith just the size of a mustard seed nothing will be impossible.
And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. (Matthew 17:20)
Neil Anderson writes: “The truth is, everyone lives by faith. The only difference between Christian faith and non-Christian faith is the object of our faith. The critical issue is what you believe or who you believe in.” In Hebrews hope is used to define faith, and I believe that one word is what separates Neil Anderson’s Christian and non-Christian faith.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Hope is the core of our faith. Hope is what is created when the Holy Spirit speaks truth into our spirit. He tells us what is yet to come; He gives us the confidence; He gives us the expectation; He gives us the promises. The choice is then up to us to accept and hold on to those promises:
Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagle; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
In the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ago (Titus 1:2)
With hope being an expectation of God’s promises, Abraham is a perfect example of how hope works.
In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. (Romans 4:18-21)
And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. (Hebrews 6: 11-15)
In Chaos and Grace Mark Galli states “The Lord promises to give Abram and Sarai not only a child but offspring in spades. It would seem the longer the promise is delayed and the more doubts Abram and Sarai have, the more the promise grows. At the moment when it is absolutely clear that Abraham had forsaken all attempts to control the divine command and promise – that is when the divine command and promise reveals itself for what it is.”
Have you ever hoped for something but because it didn’t happen when and/or how you wanted, you doubted it or even gave up on it?
- The delay is never in God’s promise or God’s timing, God’s timing is perfect.
- The delay may be in our lack of confidence for that promise.
- The delay may be because we are trying to accomplish the promise in our way, in our own time.
Sometimes our greatest challenge is to believe His Word over our existing conditions. Hope is designed to help us believe, and the sooner we forsake our want of control and give it to God the sooner God’s promise may come into fruition.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)
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