Thursday, May 26, 2011


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13, ESV)

Hope is a powerful word.

Without understanding why, humans are drawn to that which inspires hope. As Alexander Pope saw it:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
 (in An Essay on Man)
Pope certainly hit upon one big reason for our hope: there is within us something that looks heavenward. Poet Robert Browning identified it as that which causes us to aim just a little higher than we can achieve: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" (Andrea del Sarto). Solomon called it "eternity in man's heart" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And what a hope heaven brings - what an assurance we have in Christ!

But I'm surely not alone when I want to hope for something different in the here and now. We've all faced circumstances that we hope will pass quickly: tight finances; challenges at work; a sick child or spouse. We've seen realities that we earnestly hope will change: trafficking; abuse; neglect of the elderly; devaluing of life at all levels; greed; poverty; injustice. Many of you live and work in settings just to make that kind of difference in the here and now.

Faced with a series of circumstances and realities, I needed to know that God's hope wasn't relegated to a future heaven only. Without diminishing the hope of heaven one single iota, I wanted - needed - to know whether there is a Biblical foundation for earthly hope as well. I was inclined to believe so; after all, the Psalmist penned: "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13). Indeed, like you I've faced times when I needed to know that God didn't just want to change my future, He wanted to change my day.

God didn't let me down. He led me to Scripture after Scripture about Hope - not only our eternal hope, but hope that impacts the here and now. He taught me about a hope that is closely linked to faith. Biblical hope isn't wishful thinking. The word means "a favorable and confident expectation" (Vines). It's a hope that does not disappoint, because He is the God of hope. As I pored over the verses about hope, especially those I've included below, I came to see a hope that is produced by character-shaping experiences. It's a hope that is closely linked to the love of God that is continually poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit. It's a hope that comes with the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit, a hope that is sustained by the Word of God which He gave to encourage me to continue to hope. I came to realize profoundly that hope ultimately brings glory to God-whether He calms the storm or calms me in it, hope has shown up and I can praise Him.

Hope isn't ambiguous - our hope is in God alone, through Christ alone, and by the power of His Spirit alone. But when His Spirit floods our hearts with His love and His hope shows up, He can empower us to have hope whatever the circumstances. And as we pray and seek His Word, He might lead us to be part of bringing hope into the world - a hope that points them heavenward even as it brings His will on earth, as it is in heaven.

Keep hoping.

(Romans 4:18) In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be."

(Romans 5:2-5 ESV) (2) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, (4) and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, (5) and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(Romans 12:12) Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

(Romans 15:4) For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13, ESV)

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