When we look around at today’s world, hope usually isn’t the first word that comes to mind. In many ways we live in an unstable world where marriages fail, bank accounts run low, friendships end, and the everyday demands of a fast-paced life get us down. In the Book of Jeremiah, we find God calling out to His people with a message of hope—a message that intentional living is possible even in an unstable world.
In Dare to Hope, Melissa Spoelstra draws upon her best-selling Bible study Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World
to examine this hope-filled message, highlighting six guidelines for intentional living that enable us to overcome fear, worry, and doubt as we surrender to God and put our hope in Him alone. This book inspires us to dare to hope, remembering that God is rich in mercy and love and has good plans for us.
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About the Author
Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women’s conference speaker (including the Aspire Women’s Events), Bible teacher, and author who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping others to seek Christ and know Him more intimately. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Theology and enjoys teaching God’s Word to diverse groups and churches within the body of Christ. She is the author of five Bible studies (Elijah, Numbers, First Corinthians, Joseph, and Jeremiah) and three books (Total Family Makeover, Total Christmas Makeover, and Dare to Hope). Melissa makes her home in Dublin, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids.
Read an Excerpt
Raising the White Flag
When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven's Armies.
— Jeremiah 15:16
My husband and I discovered in our first year of marriage that doing home projects together is dangerous. When we tried to put up a wallpaper border in a bedroom, we had some pretty rough interactions. The root issue stems from both of us being control freaks. We like to lead and direct how things go. This can be a good thing in certain situations like when God has called us to lead, but when we have different ideas about anything from parenting to finances, our controlling natures war against each other. After several decades of marriage, I hope we have made some progress in the area of compromise — at least in the domain of painting walls and organizing the garage.
Being a control freak can get me in trouble in the spiritual realm as well. When life seems to be going as I think it should and God's instructions through His Spirit and His Word make sense to me, then I don't have to be daring with hope. However, I find more often that life feels complicated and often God's instructions take faith rather than sight to obey. It is during these seasons that I must raise the white flag and surrender to God's way.
The prophet Jeremiah experienced some instructions from God that didn't follow the rules of logic. God told him to hide underwear, speak bold messages, and identify counterfeits in the lives of the political and spiritual leaders of his day. I can't imagine what this would have been like when he was first called to deliver God's message of surrender as a boy of likely fourteen or fifteen years old. Though we might think that Jeremiah and other prophets of the Bible were super righteous, had it all together, and never struggled, the truth is that they were normal people like you and me. Jeremiah got depressed, made excuses, and even did some whining occasionally. But there is something that sets him apart from most of us: his unrelenting commitment to communicate God's message. You might say that Jeremiah was both deep and relatable!
Although Jeremiah's words resound from over twenty-six hundred years ago, they echo into our day with uncanny relevance. Our world is rife with greed, poverty, injustice, racism, and oppression, just to name a few of the challenges and battles. So what is our message to the world, and how do we go about sharing that message? To answer that question, we can look to the prophets — whose message, the disciple Peter said, is the light our dark world needs:
Because of that great experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place — until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet's own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:1921)
When we pay close attention to the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, we discover that the changing of a culture starts with those who are living within it. If we long to see a turning back to God in our land, then we need to recognize that it starts with us — with you and with me. Not only does Jeremiah's prophecy matter today; God Himself gives us some direct instructions regarding how we should respond to it. Let's unpack a few of these together.
Surrendering Our Excuses
Jeremiah is the longest and what most consider to be one of the most disorganized books — chronologically speaking — in Scripture. We might find ourselves throwing in the towel and assuming that we don't have the biblical expertise to read Jeremiah, thinking, It's too hard to understand; I don't know the geography or cultural context; how am I supposed to relate it to my life? But as Peter's words remind us, we must pay close attention to what the prophets have to say to us — even now. And when we do, we will find direction regarding God's call on our lives.
We are not alone in our timidity to dig in to God's messages about our call. As a matter of fact, the Book of Jeremiah begins with a glimpse into his own tendency to excuse his ability to obey God's call. Jeremiah was the son of a priest living in the small town of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, the least significant of the twelve tribes of Israel. We might compare it to the suburb of a bustling city with the lowest real estate values. It wouldn't have been the hot spot with the incredible school districts and rule-filled HOAs!
Jeremiah emerged during a time of great political upheaval. Babylon, Egypt, and Assyria rivaled for world domination, and the land of Judah was shuffled back and forth between them as vassals paying tribute to keep from being destroyed. It was in this climate, during the thirteenth year of King Josiah's reign in the land of Judah, that God called Jeremiah to deliver His messages.
In the very first chapter God speaks kindly to Jeremiah, saying that God knew him and set him apart for this work before he was even born (v. 5). Psalm 139 gives a similar picture from David's pen:
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it. (vv. 1314)
Now, Jeremiah did not hear God's precious words and say, "Yes, sign me up!" He had some reservations about speaking God's messages to the people of Judah, just as we might. He was too young and couldn't speak well. And remember the small town and the least tribe that he came from? Who was he to speak for God to a culture that wasn't listening? He was more than just concerned about his ability to be used by God, set apart from the womb or not.
We, too, make our fair share of excuses when it comes to obeying God. I know I have come up with some good ones: I'm both too old and too young, I don't have time, and I am not qualified. At times I've felt nudges to do something outside of my comfort zone for God only to talk myself out of it. As a young mom, I started writing some articles but convinced myself no one would want to read what I had written. In Christian circles, ambition to do something big can be labeled as pride or self-promotion. Somehow we convince ourselves that humility means staying under the radar and not attempting anything great for God. Like Jeremiah, we want an "out" to disobey. Perhaps you're nodding your head in agreement right now. Or you might be thinking, I'm not sure God has ever called me to do anything! But the reality is that God has a calling on each of our lives. Let's look at what He asked of Jeremiah to see if it might speak to our own call from God.
In the simplest of terms, God asked Jeremiah to speak His messages; and, in fact, God's mission for us as followers of Jesus is very similar to that call. God wants us to go when and where He sends, speak His words, and prepare for action without fear. But let's be honest. How many people do you know who actually live like this, ready to follow God whenever to wherever, no matter the task? If you're like me, you might be prone to give up with the least amount of resistance. Insecurity and fear of failure can keep us from trying new things. We wonder if others will think we are prideful. We question if we really heard God correctly. But the good news is that God knows following Him can be scary for us in our humanness. That's why He told Jeremiah twice in chapter 1, "Do not be afraid" (vv. 8, 17). And like Jeremiah, God wants us to face our fears and trust Him.
Many Christians today often have a difficult time saying yes to big things for God — and women in particular can struggle with this. Dr. Jennifer Degler, coauthor of the book No More Christian Nice Girl, says, "Many times we find that women get a pass on not being courageous. We want to call that 'having a gentle and kind spirit,' but really it can be timidity or fear that's holding us back." We also can neglect to encourage others to step out in faith with bold moves. The success of another — or even the potential that another might be greatly used of God — can threaten our own sense of worth, so we sometimes talk each other down. Instead we should be encouraging each other to listen to God and then step out in obedience. I know I need that; don't you?
Thankfully, God understands that His callings can be scary. He doesn't give us marching orders and a slap on the back and then fling us out to figure things out on our own. As we see in His words to Jeremiah in chapter 1, God tells us to be brave, assuring us that He will be with us and fight for us (vv. 1719). He will take care of us even when the task seems too big for us, always assuring us that He will not leave us without His help.
Let this sink in: God has a purpose for each of our lives. He not only has a purpose for us; He has big plans for us! Sadly, we often miss it because of our own fear, insecurity, and excuses. As Craig Groeschel says in The Christian Atheist, "Before you can tap into God's life-changing power, you have to eliminate the excuses." Excuses keep us from daring to do what God has called us to do. But when we raise the white flag of surrender — letting go of all our excuses, saying yes to God, and trusting Him — we get to experience the power of God at work in our lives. Incredible!
Surrendering Recognition and Popularity
In addition to the instruction to surrender our excuses, we find in Jeremiah's writings wisdom regarding the need to surrender our desire for recognition and acceptance. This is a message that goes against the grain of our culture.
When I was in junior high, my mom told me not to worry about popularity because once you leave high school, no one cares about that stuff anymore. She was wrong! I see it in the neighborhood. I see it at PTO meetings. I see it in the church. We size each other up all the time. A blend of confidence, money, career success, appearance, education, and experience (even in ministry) all contribute to our "status" in whatever social circles we run. If anything, it gets more complicated as we grow older. We are still trying to find the right "lunch table" at every stage of life. Can you relate?
We learn from Jeremiah that God is not as concerned about our popularity as He is with our faithfulness to His message. While earlier God had told the people of Israel through Joshua to go in and take the Promised Land, we see that God gave a very different message through the prophet Jeremiah: admit defeat without a fight. Though the messages were different, the importance of responding faithfully was the same.
In Jeremiah's case, his words failed to win him popularity with the people, and we can understand why. Imagine the day the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell. Now pretend the people responsible for such brutality launched a full-scale attack upon our land. Suppose one of the great Christian leaders of our day began preaching that we should admit defeat without a fight. To say that we would resist that message is an understatement, right?
Remember that Jeremiah was the young, unknown son of a priest from a small town and tribe. No wonder he didn't jump up and down at the task set before him. His message foretold the destruction of their communities. Yet despite the risk and cost, Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed God's words over and over, and he began to get a reputation as a prophet of doom and gloom. This didn't go over well with the government officials.
Babylon was nipping at Judah's heels, demanding tribute, taking their best people (like Daniel), and threatening total destruction. Jeremiah's suggestion to fully give in didn't sit well with a government that was trying to rally its fighting men and boost morale.
In our lives as well, the message of surrender is not as popular as the message of victory. We want God to fix our circumstances and tell us everything is going to work out fine. We want our money problems solved, our physical illnesses healed, and our relationships simplified. Though sometimes God chooses to intervene in those ways, other times He calls us to surrender — such as allowing us to endure health challenges, grow through relational conflict, and learn to look for eternal blessings while temporal ones persist. But ultimately, God gives us victory through that surrender. He teaches us things, develops our character, and draws us close to Him through our struggles.
These prophecies in Jeremiah give us more than just a history of how Judah rebelled against God and faced punishment. While their story warns us to live righteous lives in obedience to God, it teaches us so much more, pointing us toward surrender to God's plan and purpose in the overarching biblical story. In fact, the last pages of the canonical Word drive home this truth: God's intent in prophecy is to give us a clear picture of our Messiah. Jesus is all over the pages of Jeremiah from start to finish! Although it may come in whispers, hints, foreshadowing, and messianic prophecies, we now have the fullness of God's Word and the hindsight to connect the spiritual dots; and we can praise God for allowing us to live at a time in history with access to so much of His truth at our fingertips.
The New Testament sheds further light on how the gospel carries a message of surrender. Jesus calls us, His followers, to deny ourselves and take up our crosses (Luke 9:23), essentially calling us to surrender. This message of surrender is not a "one-time" salvation experience. Rather, it is a daily call to surrender — and it can look different for different people. This is so important for us to take to heart and remember daily.
I recall a time when I was asking God to lead me in whether to help a single mom on welfare by taking her to lunch and giving her a gift card. My close friend who had a connection with her before I did felt that we should demonstrate tough love and not enable her because of some particular choices she had made recently. I struggled. I prayed. I read Scripture to look for guidance. I asked God to confirm His leading. As a consummate people-pleaser, it was hard for me to surrender to God's call to help the woman when I knew my friend might not be happy with my decision. She truly wanted to help the woman as well but felt that God was calling her to keep her distance. In this instance, the call to surrender looked different for each of us. (Incidentally, my friend ended up being totally fine with my decision; the battle was more in my insecurity than in reality.)
Just as God called John the Baptist to fast and Jesus to feast, He sometimes has us follow different directions for His purposes. The key is to stay close to Him so that we can hear. While God led His people to go in and conquer the land with Joshua, through Jeremiah His message was "surrender."
Maybe even now you are sensing God's call to surrender — perhaps by making amends with someone you are at odds with, by taking the leap to begin tithing to your church, by getting up earlier so you can pray, by obeying Christ in an area that you know won't be popular, or by becoming involved in or stepping down from a ministry because God says to. Whatever the specific call, we can know and rely on the fact that God will be with us in every faith-filled, obedient step.
Surrendering When Life Happens
So, we hear God's call or voice and we surrender. Sounds simple, right? Actually, acting on God's call and obeying God's message of surrender take faith and obedience. And once we've taken that step of surrender, it is often tested by fire. Sometimes even when we obey completely, we still end up in a pit. When my husband and I sensed the Lord calling him to plant a new church, we found confirmation as people joined our team and someone gave a large financial gift to get us started. It felt like such an adventure in the early days with all the new possibilities on the horizon. While we've seen God do amazing things in the season of church planting, we also spent many days in what seemed like a pit. Strained friendships, complaints, and misunderstandings made us want to give up and surrender to despair rather than to Jesus at times.
The pit, or cistern, was literal for Jeremiah. As we read in Jeremiah 38:4-6, the king's officials actually threw Jeremiah in a pit of mud. Now, a cistern was essentially a large pit that was cut into a rock and covered with a plaster made of mud. The people used cisterns to collect rainwater in the winter that they could use in the arid months of summer. We read that this particular cistern was actually so deep that Jeremiah had to be lowered into it by ropes. (Imagine the sinking feeling he must have had — literally!) We also discover that there was no water in this cistern — probably due to little rainfall — though there was some mud at the bottom from whatever rain there had been. Jeremiah could starve or freeze waiting for death in this solitary place.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Dare to Hope"
Copyright © 2019 Abingdon Press.
Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Raising the White Flag Surrender 1
Chapter 2 Recognizing Counterfeits and the Real Deal Reject Counterfeits 33
Chapter 3 Opening Our Ears Listen 69
Chapter 4 Staying Spiritually Sensitive Check Your Heart 97
Chapter 5 Quitting the Blame Game Take Personal Responsibility 129
Chapter 6 Finding the Source of Our Hope Pursue Intimacy with God 161
Epilogue: Living with Intention 189
About the Author 200
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dare to Hope is inspiring and encouraging in a world filled with uncertainty and negative influences. Melissa reminds us that a walk with God is a DAILY walk that requires daily Bible reading, prayer, and a focus on God. When we look to God rather than our problems, we find hope and encouragement. Outside influences of the world can be overwhelming and unsettling, but when we raise the white flag and surrender to God, He makes our way clear. This book will help you refocus your efforts on what really matters - a Christ-centered life filled with hope. #daretohope
I truly enjoyed reading Dare to hope. I thought it was a wonderful and delightful read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher and NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are of my own.
The author said that the book paralleled the world we live in today and I could see that. As I read the book and thought of the world we live in today, people have turned their back on God and I had lost my hope. The world today with its barrage of negativity, the turmoil, the struggles, was taken its toll on me. I think God led me to this book because as I turned to Him for understanding, He brought me here and I got clarity and understanding. Hope was and is what I need and this is a reminder that through hope you see the world differently. I will be keeping this book to read again when I seem to lose my way and my hope in the world as it is today.
Melissa takes the reader through Jeremiah's story and relates it to the present day. There is something for everyone in this book! She uses so much Scripture in this book, not just Jeremiah. She offers daily hope challenges at the end of each chapter. The epilogue is full of hope memory verses and how to live with hope. I recommend this book for everyone who wants to discover hope in this crazy world.
Such an appropriate title for the world we live in today. Through God we can dare to hope! I was thrilled to be part of the launch team for Melissa Spoelstra's new book 'Dare To Hope: Living Intentionally in an Unstable World.' I recently completed her Bible Study on Elijah and this is the first book that I have read by Melissa. When I finished the book, I was sad because I wanted to keep reading more! “Dare to Hope” really made me stop and reflect on my life and think about just what is really important in my life. Melissa shows us how to find the source of our hope and how we need to surrender our will to God’s will. She poses challenging questions that make you stop and reflect: are you placing your hope in God or other people, idols, material possessions, etc.: do you place more effort into your daily activities, work, vacations than you do pursuing God with your whole heart? Melissa shows you that “hope-filled living is possible even in an unstable world”! “We shouldn’t just talk about God; we should talk with God about everything we are thinking and feeling. Bring others closer to God – don’t let our culture pull you away from God. If we call ourselves Christ-followers, our relationship with God should be the number one thing in our lives. When we live like Jeremiah, putting fear of God over fear of people or circumstances, the road is not problem-free, but it is blessed.” Allowing God to work within your heart as you read this book and the closeness you will experience is life changing!