Well I hope you had a blast creating your first coloring page! I also hope that it was a meaningful time between you and the Lord. I also sincerely hope it was a time where you grew closer to Him and a moment of restful embrace.
For those you who may not know, Spiritually Hungry is currently leading a Coloring Series: Color Your Way Closer to God. We would love to have you join in, or just follow along with us!
The Scripture for this exercise is from Romans 12:12:
Be Joyful in Hope
Be Patient in Affliction
Be Faithful in Prayer
My Experience With This Spiritual Exercise
As I was coloring, the first line of this verse really jumped out at me and was all I could focus on. I would love to share my thoughts with you from my experience in the hope that it might help each of us grow closer to God.
Paul, the author of Romans, tells us in this passage that we should be joyful in hope. My immediate question is, “Hope in what?”
“A better future?”
“That your dreams to come true?”
“For your pain to dissipate?”
Of course, I think we all know what Paul is referring to, the hope we have in Christ, but for those of us who are American Christians (like myself), we often confuse hope in Jesus with hope in a better future that looks like, “The American Dream”, because… that’s what Jesus wants for us, right???
Cognitively I think most would agree that Jesus is the object on which we should place our hope in, but practically it’s a different story.
What Are We Hoping And Praying For?
So how do we respond to our hopes? With prayer right? So we get praying…for a better job, a better house, a strong Christian spouse…and we package it around things that sound like Godly attributes. We say things like, “I want to give my kids the best possible, and a home that is big enough for all of us to have the space we need.”
Or, “I want to have a job that enables me to live more comfortably and will free up my stress and worry about money.”
Or perhaps, “God, give me a mate that will really share, support and grow in their/our relationship with You.”
These are all good things, but they are not the thing to which we should place our hope. They should never be our focus, but rather a byproduct of our life spent with Christ.
I often hear people spiritualizing the American Dream and twisting it into believing it’s something God wants for them. Jesus does want to give you a better life, but through Him and Him alone. You may think that a house, spouse, promotion, or whatever else may be on your heart, is the ticket to your happiness, but it never is. Because the house needs repairs, the job has demands and the spouse disappoints.
But what doesn’t need fixing, have impossible demands, or ever disappoint is Jesus. That’s why Jesus is the only true place to put your desires. Because He is the only thing that is true, stable and lasting. He truly is the only thing to bank on. This is the Redeemer of the world friends, He is worthy of our attention and hearts.
The hope is in Jesus and Jesus alone.
Sink your mind around that.
Our hope is in Jesus not obtaining anything but Jesus.
So what does that look like?
It means you might be living in a smaller house or an apartment, even though it’s overcrowded, because you’re just not in a place to take on the responsibilities or demands of something bigger or more expensive without it consuming your life. Or it might be staying put in your current job, because getting a higher paycheck will bring more responsibilities and more stress, which will distract you from your life with Jesus.
It’s about learning to trust Jesus will give you what’s best.
Jesus is concerned with your heart not your circumstances, because circumstances are always shifting- but the heart is the stable thing. Now it should be noted, that Jesus is concerned with every aspect in your life. But He wants to be the center of it, not have you just come to Him with your wish list, even if it seems spiritual.
Boy, have I been guilty of this one! My wish list has changed through the years, from seeking God in prayer fervently for a husband (which He provided) to professional ministry jobs (which He provided) and pretty much everything in-between. What God has revealed in my heart over the years of seeking Him in this way, is that He doesn’t want to just give me things, He wants to give me Him. He wants to give His presence, His love, His spirit. He is providing so much more than my desires, even though I have fallen short at times, and my desires I ultimately wanted more than I wanted God.
What God wants for you is closeness to Him. That’s it.
He wants to be in an all-consuming relationship with you because that is what He created you for, to be in relationship with Him. So the big house, the promotion, the perfect mate or whatever else is the treasure of your thoughts and heart, God simply wants you, not those things. Because if we are going to God as our gift giver we really aren’t having a relationship with Him anymore than a child has a relationship with Santa Claus.
So what does this all have to do with joy…?
Joy is a Fruit of the Spirit, as we find described in Galatians 5:22-23. This is a gift from taking part in relationship with God, being close to God. It takes time for God to remove the junk that is in the way of you and Him, and that’s sin. Sin is not an easy thing. Not only do we sin, but others do sin unto us and we live in a sin drenched world. A world that has literally decayed because of sin. As you grow closer to God, the Fruit of the Spirit develops and become rich, lasting, deep fruit.
Joy is more than bliss, more than happiness, more than celebration. Joy is an attribute and is available to any believer should they allow God to develop it in them.
There is so much to hope for in Christ.
So much. When life is overwhelming or if you are trying to lay down your desires and exchange them for a desire for God alone, know there is hope and as the verse states be joyful in hope.
By believing that God is overwhelmingly in love with you. By seeing he is so consumingly interested in you and fostering and growing you closer to Him. By recognizing He has your best interests and He is good. I mean GOOD. God may take you through some scary stuff, that you two need to visit, but it’s all so you can be closer together! It’s all for the sake of the relationship. He wants you and nothing but you. This is the Gospel, this is what it means to follow Christ. It is all good – no GREAT – joyful news!
Life can be better, right here and now. Will disappointments happen? Yup. Will suffering occur? Yes. Will it be scary? Probably, especially until you learn to trust that God’s direction and calling is trustworthy. But friends it does get easier! This is how life becomes better, not by the bigger house or perfect spouse, but because you are walking with the King of kings, the Creator of the universe. This is the hope God wants you to have. This hope is what brings about that Fruit, joy.
Next week, color with me the next page in the book: Psalm 46:10, how to be still before God.
Often one of our biggest problems is that we are not truly aware of our thoughts, desires and actions. Upon reflection, we can open themselves up to exploring motives and desires. Understanding where your attention is helps the beginning steps of transformation. Should you desire to have your focus be solely on God, then turn to God and speak to Him about your wishes and wants. Ask Him to help remove the personal desire and replace it with a desire for Him alone. Repeat, this process many many times for the journey to closeness with God is never found in one prayer or spiritual practice.
How about you? What was your time with God like? What did the Holy Spirit bring forth in your heart and mind? Was it on the other Fruit of the Spirit mentioned, or perhaps another, such as patience or faithfulness? Or was it something entirely different? I would love to hear how God spoke to you, please feel free to leave a comment below about your experience.