Not too long ago, during some personal Bible study, I read through Zechariah 9 and a phrase from one of the verses lodged in my mind. It occurs in Zechariah 9:12: “Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.” Through these words God was and is encouraging His people to remember who is in charge and who will save them despite their circumstances. It was the phrase “prisoners of hope” that struck me and prompted deeper consideration.
You have the chance to live a life filled to the brim with hope!
The word “prisoner” often has a negative connotation, bringing up mental images of chains, prison uniforms, restriction, hard labor and misery. But here, it shows how Christians—those who have surrendered their lives to God—in return are absolutely filled to the brim with hope. There’s no escaping it. We are bound up with hope.
It’s easy to look around and see the world needs more hope. Wars (national and interpersonal), hunger and sickness (physical and spiritual) and the often manic pace of life have robbed much of this current world of any sense of hope and seeing beyond the day in, day out toils of life. So how do we build hope in our lives?
1. Ask God for it.
It really is as simple as that. Jesus Christ told His disciples (and us today) to, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you . . . what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:1, Matthew 7:9-11).
God looks at us as His children and wants to give us the best gifts—hope is one of those gifts.
2. Obey God.
The apostle John elaborates on our first point: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). When we are doing our best to follow what God says, as laid out in His Word, the Bible, He gives us what we need to continue to build on that obedience to mature as members of His Church.
Spend time in the Bible every day. Live it. You’ll notice a drastic difference in the trajectory of your life.
3. Keep God’s Holy Days.
When studying the Bible, we start to see an overarching message that is absolutely full of hope: God’s plan for all mankind. From His direct instruction to the nation of Israel regarding His Holy Days in Leviticus 23 to the masses of prophetic passages showing how those special days will translate from a personal to a worldwide scale build a great deal of hope for the future.
We know our future is in God’s hands, and He is working things out for the good of all who have and who will ever live.
4. Seek out messages and information that help you understand God’s plan.
UCG.org is replete with in-depth study guides that help each of us fully appreciate and understand God’s hope-infused plan for all mankind. Browse its contents and take a look at articles, blogs, sermons and videos that will amplify your appreciation and conviction of God’s ultimate goals for all of us. Request printed materials that can be sent to your home. Take the time to comment and engage with others.
5. Encourage hope in others.
We all get discouraged at times. The circumstances and difficult people in our lives can rub us raw like sandpaper. We need each other’s help to keep our eyes on God’s ultimate purpose for our lives. Paul encouraged Church members to “comfort each other and edify one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
The byproduct of offering encouragement and pointing others toward hope is that it in turn builds encouragement and hope in our own lives. Encouragement is synergistic and benefits all involved.
6. Serve others.
Difficult circumstances will arise in our lives. It’s part of living in a world that as a whole does not serve God. It can be easy to focus on the negative in life, but in service, we are reminded that we can learn to think outside ourselves and do that which benefits others.
You’ve no doubt noticed the effect that comes from helping others unselfishly. Often times you come away from that experience feeling better, lighter and more focused on the positive. Serving others helps us get our minds off ourselves and onto the larger and hope-filled commandment to love (Mark 12:31).
Imagine a world filled with only those who are focused on serving others. That’s the future that God will bring about!
7. Reflect on your blessings.
The fact that you’re even reading this is filled with hope. It means you’re seeking to learn more about how to live the kind of life that God intends you live. Living such a life brings abundant blessings (Deuteronomy 28:1-14 is just one example).
Does it mean your life will be easy? Definitely not. Living as a Christian in this world is not simple (Matthew 7:13-14), but we are not alone in doing so. Take stock of where God has amplified your life with blessings for obeying Him. Concentrate on those in the difficult times. It will build hope.
I challenge you to take just one of the aforementioned strategies where you feel you are weakest and focus on it in the next few weeks or months. Take stock of your mindset before you make a positive change, and then reflect on how you progress. You have the chance to live a life filled to the brim with hope!