Prisoner of Hope

It is now the longest part of my 3-month support-raising goal; six weeks down, six more to go, and I must admit I haven’t needed to have this mindset of persistence since I was overseas or “in the field.” It’s funny because, although this culture is all too familiar, this ministry too is “in the field.” I remember encouraging team members on past mission trips, who were becoming worn out and disheartened, it’s a common experience to have during ministry, you're not alone. The honeymoon phase is over and the thrill of being in a new place, working on something new, or meeting new people, is more difficult, trying, and requires a new perspective because these are the times where lessons from the Lord are, too often, overlooked. How would I know? I, unintentionally, have overlooked a very important lesson.

Physically moving to a new place is exciting and helps distinguish a new “phase” in life; that a whole new experience is about to happen and will be fresh and challenging. Well, if done enough times, I’ve realized, moving to a new culture can be most helpful to literally sense how you adapt to change. Helping to recall what your practices are, which – hopefully – give you rest, restoration, strength, courage, and perseverance, because it has come to my attention, that by simply returning to a familiar place, it is more difficult to become aware of those unfulfilling practices you may not realize you do.

I think everyone has his or her own cool down, so to speak. When life gets too much, how, where, who, and what do you retreat with? Recently for me, it’s letting Netflix continue to the next episode, two scoops instead of one, the snooze button, going for a drive, unnecessary purchases at Target, deliberately playing extreme fetch with the puppy (poor Penny), cooking something just because, a good film, or infrequent exercises. These are fun, sometimes excessive, and can be a blessing that gives rest, although, none of which actually did for me what I may not of realized I needed. I think I hoped these practices would further motivate me and restore that original thrill or passion in ministry. In retrospect, whom was I kidding?

Reminded from encouragement I had given my team during ministry before, the ministry I am in now can lose its appeal and requires a lot of perseverance. From the book of Zechariah, I’ve gained a greater understanding and encouragement. To always return to God’s Word, but with greater urgency to obey it.

Zechariah 9:12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

As a minor prophet, Zechariah was giving a prophesy about the coming of Zion’s King, the Messiah, after the completion of the temple. This demand for Israel to return to their fortress can be cross-referenced with Joel 3:16.

Joel 3:16 The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.

The contexts of these verses are foreboding and involve warnings, but they are also filled with hope. Zechariah confronted Jews in Jerusalem with their task of building the temple and encouraged them to complete it. Joel was warning the people of Judah, after becoming prosperous and complacent, to turn from self-centeredness, idolatry, and sin because that lifestyle would inevitably bring God’s judgment. Both made it clear that when you retreat to the Lord with all your heart, instead of something else, He will be your refuge to rest, to restore, and renew His purposes within you.

I remembered a quote from Mother Teresa in India with my team, that asks: “Why can’t there be love that never gets tired?” When you become exhausted in ministry, it is probably a good sign because you are loving others well. There is also another phrase commonly painted throughout Kolkata, next to crucifixes in all of the mother home’s prayer rooms stating: “I thirst.” This is from Christ’s death on the cross in John 19:28.

John 19:28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

Recently, I have been reminded to thirst for the right thing. Jesus and His Word fill me up, restore me and make all things new. I encourage you to also remember that when you are at a low point, open the Bible and ask what the Lord is trying to teach you.

Yours in Christ.

P.S.  Please join me in prayer that I will keep opening my Bible, not only out of routine, but out of genuine need to understand God and His work in my life. Pray I will be renewed by the Lord and motivated in the support raising process to work toward completion. Please pray for good health among all my ministry partners and that they may also retreat to scripture at all times.