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Hope for the New Year 01/02/2009

Last year, the Chinese called it the "year of the rat." For many, that feels about right. Military families continued living under the cloud of war. Economic troubles drained bank accounts and cost many people their jobs. All of us know someone who experienced health problems or faced tragedy. Perhaps that "someone" was you. Whatever the circumstance, we can all use a little more hope.

So where do we look to find it? The Bible warns against looking in two of the most common places: strength and wealth.

"A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save." (Psalm 33:17)

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (1 Timothy 6:17)

In the times of King David, the horse symbolized military might. But he knew that even the best that the world had to offer could not save him. That's also why he wrote, "You [God] are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word."

He understood that there is more promise in one word from God than a thousand fighter jets or a million dollars. He wisely looked to God's word for hope. "I wait for the Lord," David wrote, "my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope."

God's word develops wisdom, which "is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

You may not feel like you deserve hope. Perhaps you think that you have sinned too much or haven't been spiritual enough to have any hope from God. The Israelites were in exactly that position in the book of Ezra. Over and over again, they had broken their covenant with God. Yet Shecaniah, one of the direct descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel."

The Israelites had "married foreign women," which is analogous to us letting our hearts go after things other than God. In spite of anything we do, there is always hope in God. His hope came to life through His son, Jesus Christ. Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared, "Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight...In his name the nations will put their hope."

Through Jesus Christ, we are given "new birth into a living hope." After His ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit came to carry on the ministry 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."

In the Old Testament, they had ungodly prophets who turned a blind eye to sin and tried to soothe people with their own words. Today, we have the same thing, mostly in the government or the media, but also in some churches. But God warned, "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord."

False hope is destructive. But true hope comes from God, through His word and His Spirit. It is not wishful thinking, but the realization that the future is in God's hands and He never fails His people. Once we understand that, we can "be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, [and] faithful in prayer."

You will know that you have found true hope when your entire outlook changes. You will sleep well at night (Psalm 62:5), look forward to the next day (Jeremiah 29:11) and actually feel good about life (Romans 15:13). You may even have an uncontrollable urge to sing! (Psalm 71:14)

In late January, the Chinese will celebrate the "year of the ox," but what good is that? Let's make 2009 the Year of Hope!

Author: James Robison

Editor: Randy Robison

Word Count: 700

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Soul of a Nation, The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.