A few days ago, in one of my emails, I shared this scripture, “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17:13). It has been on my mind ever since we covered it in our young adult study. What does hope mean to you? One person writes, “Hope that is reduced to the level of wishes and dreams can be like soap bubbles that look beautiful to the eye but disappear at the slightest touch.” Jesus wanted His joy to fill His apostles. Why? Because it would be central to all they would soon proclaim concerning Christ. The writer of Hebrews wrote long ago, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The source of our hope, of course, is Christ, but our understanding of this hope comes from the Scriptures. Paul writes, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. Those things were written so that we could have hope. That hope comes from the patience and encouragement that the Scriptures give us” (Romans 15:4, ETRV). Hope is something we learn about, and like the algebra I learned long ago, it is something we can easily loss sight of over time. As you may have guessed, today I want to talk about hope. But not simply hope for us as individuals but how that same hope can empower us as a church family
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
As Paul says this brief prayer, his desire, in part, was for the church in Rome to “abound in hope.” The idea of abounding means to superabound, be in excess, and be superfluous. The word hope carries the idea of expectation or confidence. So, Paul wants the church in Rome to be overflowing with the hope of Christ in their lives. Now it is the context that makes this so important to grasp. As the gospel spread, Jewish and Gentile believers had to work through years of hostility and unite for the cause of Christ. Paul wrote, “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6). Why was this unification of minds, centered on the hope that is in Christ, so important? It was so they could “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He would repeat this idea in the very next verse, “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). Hope realized as a church family glorifies God! Bible verses flood my mind: 1st Peter 1:13, “…set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” Ephesians 1:18, “…that you may know what is the hope of His calling…”. Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” The list can go on and on. Hope is central to our ability to bring God glory.
According to Paul, the source of hope, which is God, will fill us with two things that appear to be characteristics of hope itself: sort of a by-product. I had to laugh when I first looked at the meaning of “fill.” It means to make replete, i.e., to cram, level up, or to furnish, satisfy, execute, finish, verify. You may have guessed that it was “to cram” that I chuckled. But maybe it is what God desires to do, cram us full of His wonderful message of hope. A hope that has joy; that is, gladness, cheerfulness, i.e., calm delight, as well as a hope that has peace. Paul says that “…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Who among us would not want to be filled with joy? Or peace, for that matter? God was willing to provide them with it; they only needed to have faith that He would. It is no different for us today.
I reflect on the quote about the soap bubbles earlier. Joy and peace, like hope itself, can seem so fickle at times. Why is that? It could be rooted in what we have as a source of joy, peace, and hope. So often, it is in transitory things that are here today and gone tomorrow. For Christians, our belief needs to be focused on the hope that is found in Christ and Christ alone. This hope is central to our mission to share the gospel of Christ with those around us. 1st Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”. Fill us anew, Lord, with the hope of Christ. Fill us till it is overflowing, and we can do nothing but talk about You with others. Make joy, peace, and hope so real within us, that people will notice and ask why? Why? Because we believe in YOU! Amen.