No matter what kind of Christmas and holiday you had, I pray you will enter 2016 filled with hope about all the great things God is going to do. How can we increase hopefulness? Hope grows as we learn how to recognize what God is doing.

A good place to start is with our regular times of fellowship. How many times have we said, “What a powerful message,” or “Wasn’t the music great?” We talk as if the speaker or musicians had extra skill that day. It doesn’t seem to occur to us that perhaps God was doing something special.

We’re not looking for Him, so we don’t find Him. We don’t recognize him, so we don’t receive Him.

The same thing happened to young Samuel (1 Samuel 3). Remember how God called out to him three times—in an audible voice, no less! Each time, Samuel replied, “Here I am” . . . but then left before he heard the message.

You would think that a willing heart combined with God’s desire to speak would be enough—but the process was interrupted.

The turning point in the story comes in the second half of verse 8: “Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.” He passed on that realization to Samuel and instructed him that if God called him again, he should say, “Speak LORD, for your servant is listening.”

He did. And he heard.

We can too.

The next time something seems significant, stay there. Ask God if He wants to say something. Then listen.

That can lay the foundation for genuine hope.

Let’s close with another example:  The disciples on the road to Emmaus were deeply discouraged (Luke 24:13-35). They were leaving Jerusalem because they had given up hope that Jesus was the Messiah. The risen Christ appeared to them, explained the Old Testament prophesies about Himself—but they still didn’t recognize Him until He broke bread!

Then they realized the significance of their ‘hearts burning within them’ as He explained the Scriptures. Only after they recognized Jesus, did they become aware that what they had experienced was a result of who was speaking. They returned to Jerusalem, and to ministry, filled with hope.

Recognizing Jesus does that.