Hope is an amazing quality. In a moment I can go from being tired, discouraged, aimless and withdrawn to being energized, focused, grateful to be alive and engaged with others. It all depends on whether or not I have hope. And unfortunately hope is not constantly present in me at the same level. It waxes and wanes. Sometimes I have a lot and other times little or none. And its not hard to tell which condition Im in. It only takes a glance or a few minutes of conversation before its presence or absence shows through. Theres a sparkle or dullness in the eyes. Theres confidence or dread in the way I talk about matters. Either I expect defeat or I expect victory. I expect weakness or I expect strength. I expect loneliness or I expect love. I expect failure or I expect success. My attitude reflects my assessment of whats possible. Its the way I see the situation. Its what looks real to me at the moment. Either I believe something good is going to happen or I do not.
To a group of people facing hostility, poverty and abandonment Paul said, In hope, rejoice! He was reminding them that hope, and the joy it produces, is absolutely vital to persevering through hard times. Without hope they would soon run out of energy to keep going.
What is hope?
Its easy to confuse hope with faith. They are deeply related, but they arent the same thing. Both are founded on Gods Word, but you might say faith is the grace to act, and hope is the grace to wait. Faith guides my decisions in the moment. By faith I do this or that. I obey what God has told me to do, confident He will do all Hes promised. But hope opens my spiritual eyes to see the unseen: to see Gods heart towards me, to see the reality of the spiritual world all around me, and to see the future that awaits me. The Holy Spirit removes my spiritual blindness and lets me behold reality. And when I do my heart leaps with joy for Gods plans are always good (Jer 29:11). Its like waking from a bad dream. One moment everything seemed hopeless, and the next everything seems possible.
Where do I find hope?
Hope naturally springs from the mind of the Spirit (Ro 8:6). Its not something I generate by trying to be positive, though trying to be positive is better than trying to be negative. Hope is something I see, not just something I believe. It comes when God opens the eyes of my heart and shows me the truth. Suddenly its there in front of me. Instantly the world I live in changes. The way I view the problem, the way I view myself, the way I view Gods heart toward me changes
in the wink of an eye, not gradually over time. The Spirit lets me view my circumstances through Gods eyes. I can see what He plans to do, my world turns upside down, maybe I should say, right side up. Discouragement drops away and I rejoice in hope.
Seeing the future
First of all, Paul was pointing the Roman church to the hope of eternal life. He wanted them to keep their suffering in perspective. He had expressed his own hope earlier (Ro 8:18-25). For him, all the problems and temptations we experience while living in this dying age pale by comparison to the resurrection and eternal glory waiting for us. In hope we trade the pleasures and treasures of this age for the new bodies and eternal joy of the next.
having a hope in God that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
1 Corinthians 15:19 ...If we have hoped in Christ in this life only we are of all men most to be pitied.
1 Corinthians 15:32 ...If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.
Titus 1:2 ...in the hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago...
Titus 2:12, 13 (the grace of God) ...instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.
Jesus said it this way: Matthew 6:19-24. He would ask us, Where is your treasure? In this world or in the next? If the eyes of your heart are focused on this world you are full of darkness, if they are focused on eternal treasures, you are full of light (spiritual revelation).
Hope knows that even the most intense suffering is temporary. It will soon be cast aside as we step into our glorious destiny. Knowing this allows us to suffer and rejoice at the same time (Ac 16:23-25).
Seeing the unseen
Yet believers must have hope not only for the age to come, but that Gods goodness will break into this life as well. Waiting for heaven is not enough. Like David we need hope that well see the goodness of God in the land of the living.
He said, I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living
Then he tells us,Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes wait for the Lord. (Ps 27:14)
Heres an example of someone receiving hope because God shows them the unseen: 2 Kings 6:8-17. In a moment the world looks different. Im confident this suffering (this depression, this grief) will end.
The power of hope
Hope can break the grip of depression and grief. I often tell people, I know you can be free. There is a real, workable way to be free. You can learn to lay hold of Gods power and find peace. The greatest worry in someone who is depressed or grieved is that their misery will never end. I tell them, prayer with authority can usually lift that cloud for a moment and learning to get in the Spirit can provide continuous relief."
Hope also assures us we can be blessed by God in spite of whats happening around us. Our provision and happiness need not be determined by the economy. Gods power to care for me is unaffected by the world around me. No, Im not exempt from all thats happening around me, but there is a reality at work in my life that blesses me. Theres a satisfaction that pervades my life that money cant buy (harmony, love, provision, protection, strength, peace
Where does Paul suggest we find this hope? In gathered and private worship (Eph 5:18-20) for hope is present when Gods presence is strong upon us. And there in His presence we let the Spirit correct our thinking. Our world turns right side up. The mind of the flesh bows to the mind of the Spirit. This is a constant process in the victorious believer. Recognizing the flesh and deliberately turning to the Spirit who brings us back to hope, and once again we rejoice because God is going to do something great.
This must be daily, not occasional, because I need hope to keep going, to live with energy, to make good choices.
In this season leading up to Christmas we start with hope. First we look back at the promises God made to Israel that He would send a Savior, and He did. God waited for a long time, but at the right moment He sent His Son. Those who hoped for the Messiah werent disappointed. And we who now wait for Him to come again wont be disappointed either. So we rejoice, as Paul said,
in the hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago
1) Describe a time when your attitude changed in an instant because the Holy Spirit showed you what God was going to do.
2) What do you do when you need to get in the Spirit?