As I looked around, I saw other people I would never have considered worthy to be inducted into this heavenly school – they were a motley bunch! Each person was presenting his/her application form to a Man sitting at the registration table in front of the door to the classroom. It was Jesus Himself. I had been thinking to myself, "Lord, these people do not seem qualified to enter this classroom." Then He replied to my thoughts with joy, "They are qualified, because they are willing!" And He was stamping on their papers, "ACCEPTED."
When I entered the back of the room, I instantly realized that I too could not have come to this place without the prayers and support of many others– saints and friends in both Heaven and earth. I then saw the five rows of chairs. These were "rows of hope" that we were to learn about through this heavenly curriculum (I have also seen them in the Spirit as "pillars of hope").
We were being called to engage each lesson of hope, be challenged, tested and proven, cultivate the virtue of hope in the process of life circumstances, and then "graduate" progressively from one row to the next. The first row was "hope in God." The second was "hope in people." The third was "hope in the next generation." Then fourth, "hope in prayer." Finally, there was "hope in cities and nations." Here I heard and learned that "Hope is not measured by a day or a season, but by a lifetime." (Often when I share this testimony, it comes alive in the moment and I will know the names of and/or various situations confronting people who are hearing me and then also know where they are or have been in their classroom "journey.")
It is important at this point to address a potential misunderstanding or misapplication of our hope reformation message. Our hope is in God Himself, not what He does or intends to do He is the ultimate source and focal point of Biblical hope. Therefore, all these other aspects of hope flow from and are grounded in our hope in the Person of God. Still, it is important to say that He does desire to reveal His hopeful purposes and promises regarding people, answers to prayer, and whole cities and nations. We see this throughout all of Scripture. Furthermore, He often calls His anointed partners to prophesy and declare these temporal promises into such arenas. Hopeful and confident declarations are a mighty tool in the spiritual arsenal of God's Kingdom that can thwart and trump the demonic and human resistance to God's intentions on earth when they are properly employed.
Ultimately, "hope does not disappoint" because of our present and genuine experience with the love of God – for Him, for people, and for the planet (see Romans 5:5). As we prophesy, let us truly walk in the love of the Father and leave room for people and groups of people to work out with Him these promises of greater potential. Let us be very careful and discerning to not impose our own humanly generated expectations into the mix of their spiritual journeys and mysterious interactive relationship with God. Human choices can short-circuit or delay divine intentions, but we must also remember that He is the God of second, third, fourth...and beyond chances! And our unwavering hope for these situations can affect the whole spiritual climate around the people we love for good and grant them the best chance possible to see God's will accomplished.
Once we all graduated the course (no one could fail), we would only repeat the unlearned lessons, and we were then outfitted with advanced prophetic tools. We were given high-tech glasses, hearing aids, and body armor so that we could return to the mountain and succeed in ascending to the summit. I have recently seen this mountain again in several dreams and visions. It is Mount Everest – "ever-rest" which is a word play related to a new operating system for life and ministry that abides in the "rest of Christ." Also, the Lord's re-equipped hope reformers are presently being roped together in new configurations in order to reach the goal. There will be an amazing "acceleration by association" as we discover the proper relational arrangements for this new era in our Father's unfolding Kingdom purposes for the earth.
Since this classroom visitation of 2010, the Holy Spirit has provided some more specifics on the nature of the lessons and testings which take place at each "row of hope" so that genuine hope can be cultivated and embedded in our hearts throughout our spiritual development. He showed me in the past that hope is a divine force based in the confidence that He is good and that He intends to do good things in us, for us and through us – today, tomorrow, this month, this year, and in the days to come. There is no darkness or evil in Him, and He intends to trump all pessimism, doubt, fear, and negativity with the exercise and manifestation of His goodness. He also told me that He "hates this misery Christianity" that is prominent in our world and that He intends to overthrow it in the coming days (see our December 2012 Elijah List article).
There are four hope challenges we typically face and surmount at each of the five rows of hope before we graduate to the next row. I saw these clearly in a visitation in the night, which has since been repeated on several occasions. The first is "hope for the unseen." The second is "hope against hope." The third is "carefree hope." And the final one is "childlike hope."
The Spirit of God also revealed to me the four snakes that the enemy dispatches to attempt to negate the cultivation of each kind of hope. The devil is truly threatened by sons and daughters of God who are filled with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 15:13).
The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world. John 17:22-24
Hope for the unseen was pictured to me in a dream through the contrast between Zechariah, John the Baptist's father, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. The angel Gabriel came to them both with the sure promise of a miracle that was yet to manifest. Whereas Mary opened her heart widely to the message, Zechariah doubted the angelic testimony. Mary found her prophetic voice and freely spoke of invisible realities and glories. However, Zechariah's voice was silenced for a season and his ability to testify of God's greatness was delayed (see Luke 1).
The Lord showed me a snake that seeks to attack our throat – our voice of hope – that has been made to boldly declare the unseen promises of God's intention to manifest His power and might. If we allow this enemy room to roam on the heels of a revelation from the Holy Spirit, the graceful tone and tenor of our prophetic voice can be distorted and the perfect divine timing of that word can be hijacked.
Hope against hope has to do with how a clear, divine promise seems to fail to come to pass, at least in the time and manner that the recipients imagine. At the crisis points, it feels to them like a betrayal by God Himself, though it is not. Yet at the very time that the first hope is apparently dissolving, the Spirit of God is communicating a second hope that confirms, but displaces, supersedes and trumps the original one. (One of Michael Sullivant's major prophetic encounters was all about this "hope against hope," and I have since also dreamed about what he shares on this theme out of Isaiah.)
He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He hid me; He made me a polished arrow; in His quiver He hid me away. And He said to me, "You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified." But I said, "I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God." Isaiah 49:2-4
Abraham had two major experiences with "hope against hope" that even the New Testament writers draw attention to. God promised that Sarah would conceive a son through whom all nations would be blessed. However, Sarah was barren throughout all her childbearing years. To her it seemed that God's promise for her to bear a son (the first hope) had actually disintegrated. She even suggested that Abraham conceive his heir through a concubine. When Abraham did so, he asked that God would allow Ishmael to be this child of promise. Ishmael was their attempt to make God's promise come to pass in their own wisdom and strength. But God was not finished with His essential promise yet. He visited them and again promised that an heir would come through Sarah, though she was past the age of childbearing – it would be a supernatural birth! (the second hope). Though Sarah laughed at the promise, God had the last laugh and Isaac (literally means "he laughs") was born a year later.
Abraham's next related, but different, experience with "hope against hope" reveals how deeply he came to understand and cooperate with this rather strange way of God with His servants. It has also been tagged "death of a vision" by Bible teachers. Some years after Isaac's birth, God now required Abraham to offer his supernaturally born heir (the first hope) as a sacrifice. However, God stayed Abraham's hand and provided a ram to offer instead. Abraham, for his part, was convinced that God would raise Isaac from the dead (the second hope) if need be. That's how confident he had become in God's power and faithfulness. It seems God wanted a very clear foreshadowing of His relationship with His Son Jesus, and His death and resurrection to be played out in the prophetic drama of Abraham's life.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. Hebrews 11:17-19
In my dream, in close association with this hope challenge, I saw a snake that seeks to wrap itself around the feet and legs of God's children to keep them from advancing in hope. Though this demonic strategy is extremely common, far too few of those called to be God's hope reformers cast off this assault and, as a result, they become paralyzed and stuck. If we open our eyes to this spiritual test and understand the purpose of the challenge, we can actually use it against the enemy to propel us forward in the Spirit. Just being mindful of and exposing this satanic scheme is more than half of winning the battle.
This implies our material provision from the Father and our enjoyment of the beauty of His bountiful creation. He spoke about how much more valuable we are as human beings in the sight of God compared to the rest of His grand creation.
He spoke of the Father's commitment to ensure that we are fed and clothed. He spoke of the freedom from anxiety and fear of want and how counterproductive those cruel and haunting thoughts are to the abundant heavenly/earthly life in His Kingdom. We are empowered to live carefree when we are confident and full of hope in our Father's care for us.
I also saw the snake that seeks to attack this expression of hope. It was wrapped around the torso and bit the heart. The Spirit gave me the passage from Luke 21:34 in which Jesus warns, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with...the anxieties of life." This assault was all about filling our hearts and minds with anxiety, worry, and fretting over things both big and small. It is about the trap of being oppressed by the enemy so that we react to life's circumstances rather than respond in partnership with God to every situation we face.
How would we live, and be, and think, and do if we really believed at our core that Jesus is fully present to us, truly for us, effectively praying for us, pre-arranging provisions for us, committed to our success and actually interested in the smallest details of our lives? What if we discovered that we are even more imperfect, insecure, intimidated, restless, tattered, and torn than we know, but that we are also more loved, more accepted, more forgiven, more secured, more significant, more cherished, and more inhabited by Him than we could ever conceive on our own?
In another place and time, He cried out in great celebration and joy that our Father has "hidden these things from the wise and intelligent" but has "revealed them to babes." Here He was referring to our grasping the deep mystery of enjoying a true union with God as our Papa. Jesus was also pointing to the outcome of walking with Him in the "easy yoke" of true spirituality versus the heaviness of our man-made effort and performance-based religion. (See Luke 10:21 with Matthew 11:25-30.)
The snake I saw that was pitted against childlike hope was one that was wrapped around the waist and bit the liver. This represented how a demonic "gall of bitterness" can take over the human heart and mind as we live in both a despairing world and a prevalent pessimistic and rationalistic "churchianity." If the first doesn't kill our dreams, then the second will certainly try its hardest to finish the job!
Little children haven't generally lived enough life to become bitter and cynical, but as we grow older (not automatically more spiritually mature!) it is easy for our hopes and dreams to be dimmed through our reactions to disappointments and pain. In these times, the evil one is always lurking nearby eager to hand us a poisoned arrow dipped in bitterness and resentment. He entices us to pierce our own childlike and tender hearts whenever our hopes are temporarily dashed by negative circumstances, failures, or embarrassing situations. He even tries to manipulate us to feel ashamed of our deepest God-given hopes and longings. Nothing will hinder our friendship and open communion with God faster or more effectively than bitterness.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
And what is this perfect result where we lack nothing? Paul says it is hope!
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5
Even since we began to write this report, the Lord has shown me a vision of how He intends to restore hope to and renovate our hearts. He is calling us to reach inside and take out our wounded hearts, bitten, bruised and torn, and place them into His capable and faithful hands. It will require great vulnerability and trust in His goodness on our part to do this. We must lay down any blame toward God we have hidden away or denied that follows on the heels of asking "why" He, if He is truly good, allowed us to experience such opposition and disappointments in our journeys. And, He is promising that it will all work out and together for good if we love Him (see Romans 8:28).
In this vision He also showed me that the kind of spiritual maturity that will result from such fine-tuning is what will take God's hope reformers beyond being merely "prophetic" vessels who can reveal knowledge, to being "hope patriarchs" and "hope matriarchs" who have learned to love and who process spiritual knowledge, even foresight, and events through hope lenses (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Father, help our hearers to see beyond their present trials to the golden hopes that You are promising to embed within them. Will You show them where they are right now in the process of graduating from row to row of hope? Reveal to them how the evil one might be seeking to thwart their divine hope promises and give them grace to resist him, firm in their faith, and be catapulted forward in Your plans.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19
When the hope reformers graduated from this "classroom of useful information," not only did they return to conquer the mountain, they were enabled to seed clouds with their hope.
Then it rained down hope on whole cities and nations and the various "mountains" (the spheres of influence of many cultures and societies) of the earth. These mountains had been polluted with a dark mist of despair, but they were washed and cleansed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the strong hope for the whole earth encoded within it.
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths." Micah 4:1-2
Bob Hartley, scribed by Michael Sullivant
Deeper Waters Ministry
Bob Hartley is the founder of Hartley Institute/Deeper Waters Ministry in Kansas City, Missouri. Bob served as a pastor at Metro Christian Fellowship with Mike Bickle before entering the marketplace in 1983, with a vision to see the marketplace redeemed and cities established that value and love the person of Jesus. He is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Hartley Group, a "Hope Center" for the marketplace, consisting of Hartley's Executive Cleaning, Swift Chemicals & Supply, Prize Properties and H&H Management in Kansas City, Missouri. Bob is a frequent speaker to youth, churches, businesses, and national leaders throughout America and the world. His quest has been to bring the Kingdom of God into every arena of life and give spiritual tools and equipping to those seeking to know and love God in the midst of their everyday lives. Currently, Bob resides in Kansas City with his wife and four children.
with Michael Sullivant
Michael Sullivant resides in the Kansas City area, has been married to Terri since 1977, and is a father of five adult children. Their lives have been marked and shaped by a naturally-supernatural relationship with God as unashamed followers of Jesus Christ. Terri and Michael have been involved in active ministry since their days at Miami University in Ohio. They have given themselves to planting communities of faith in several U.S. states, pastoring, teaching, writing, coaching, building leaders, and traveling to offer ministry in many nations. Michael is the author of Prophetic Etiquette, Your Kingdom Come, and a devotional commentary called, The Romance of Romans: God's Big God-Story (2011). Michael and Terri are co-founders of Radius – an equipping ministry that reaches out to many people.