The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The God of Hope

“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

The news of what is happening around the world seems to be getting progressively worse. Compounding the darkness are the memories we deal with that are associated with the acts of evil or natural disasters. If we aren’t careful we can nosedive into a downward spiral of darkness that will leave us crashed and burned. Can we pull up out of such hell bent plunge? Yes; God reaches down and offers us a strong right hand to save us from our fears.
Isaiah 41:10 states “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” There are a myriad testimonies of those through the ages who have been lifted and sustained by the righteous right hand of their God. Be encouraged; God knows your circumstances; God has your back; and God will bring you home.
But how does God lift us, sustain us, give us hope? In Romans 15:4 He tells us, “that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (15:4b). God has give us a tangible tool to direct us in hopeful paths and buoy us through hard times - His Holy Word. God’s word reveals the nature of God and gives us hope because we learn God is not against us but for us (Romans 8:30-31). This is a key ingredient in being prepared for whatever this world throws at us. God’s hope revealed in His word helps us face present and future difficulties with confidence as we trust in Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit
The God of the Bible is the “God of hope.” In Paul’s benediction to the church in Rome he writes, “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). Here’s a verse we need for our day. This verse points us toward a victorious journey. This verse is the right door to pick. This is the verse that points us to the Author of the hope we are thirsty for; the hope that we need. This verse points us to the God of hope. It is in the God of hope that we have a future with the hopeful prospect of Christ’s return. God reveals Himself in nature, in His word, He reveals Himself to humankind by various names. But one of the greatest ways God has revealed Himself to us is as “the God of Hope.”
The word “hope” (Greek elpis) means to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation; confidence; faith, hope.” Hope is the gift of God to be able to look forward with anticipation of good.
Hope produces “joy” (Greek chara) a delightful gladness in God; a calm delight. Joy is a settled assurance that God is in control and because he is in control everything will turn out well in the end. Joy is not merely happiness. Joy exceeds happiness in that happiness depends on happenings, or circumstances in life. Paul is inspired to use the superlative “all” when he says, “all joy.” God doesn’t just fill us with a little bit of joy, but He fills us up to overflowing with “all joy.” And we should therefore look for God’s joy in Jesus when we go through trials (cf. James 1:2ff.).
 “Joy” is a word closely connected to the “grace” (Greek charis) of God. Grace is God giving to us something we don’t deserve. God has sent His only Son Jesus to us in love and grace. Jesus is the epitome of hope and joy. When he died on the cross all hope seemed lost. When he rose from the dead it showed there’s always hope with God. When He died on the cross people seemed emptied of joy. When He rose from the dead there was fullness of joy. Hope and joy depend on Jesus.
Hope and joy lead to peace. When we look to the future with anticipation of God’s good, it enables us to weather any present storm in His “peace.” Peaceis translated from the Greek term eirene meaning “peace; prosperity; feeling one or together; quiet; rest; brought together again. God’s peace is like the feeling we get when a loved one returns or when two that have been separated come back together. It’s of feeling of thanks, security, good conclusion; faith fulfilled. We have peace in Jesus who brings us back to God. Through faith in Jesus we have peace with God (Romans 5:1). When we turn all our troubles over to Jesus in prayer we can have the peace of God in anxious times (Phil. 4:6-7).

Hope is faith for the future. Hope is a product of faith. Hope is faith progressing and persevering. Hope is the fruit of faith in God. The key to God’s hope, joy and peace is unlocked with the words, “in believing.” When we put our faith in God, in Jesus, the God of hope will fill us up with hope, joy and peace to weather the storms of life. The closer you get to God in Christ the more hope, peace and joy you will have in life.

The Bible connects hope to our faith relationship with God over and over again. It states, “For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15). The Bible states, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. . . . 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:5 and 11). Faith is trusting God in the present. Hope is trusting God for the future. That is what God wants to give you. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Hope is a product of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The hope of God is not something we can work up within ourselves. The hope of God is something we can only receive by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul concludes this verse on hope, joy, peace and faith with the words, “by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Hope, joy, peace and faith are the products of the Holy Spirit’s work in the believer. It is the Spirit who bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:15-16). And if we are His children, God will look after us to care for us (Luke 11:13). It is the Spirit who helps our weakness (Romans 8:26). It is the Spirit who assures us in times when we are too weak to handle the trials and circumstances of life. Hope is something the Holy Spirit works in us. The Holy Spirit is our Source of hope. The hope of the Spirit prepares us and empowers us to carry on.

Hope is an essential of life. Even the secular world realizes the importance of hope. Years ago the Duke University psychology department did an interesting experiment. The objective was to study SURVIVAL. The results showed the importance of hope. The experiment involved taking Norwegian wharf rats and dividing them into two groups. (Warning: PETA or The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals probably wouldn’t approve of this today.) The first group of rats was put in a large container of water. A spray of water was hooked up on top of the container to drench the swimming rats. The rats were taken one by one and placed into the container of water. THERE WAS NO POSSIBILITY OF ESCAPE FOR THIS FIRST GROUP OF RATS. The rats placed in this HOPELESS situation were able to swim for 17 minutes before they drowned.

The second group of rats was also placed in the large container of water with the spray except this time at about the 15-16 minute mark; (just before the rats exhausted their strength) the rats were RESCUED. This process was repeated to see the effect of the rescue on the rats in the second group. What they found was that THOSE RATS WHO WERE GIVEN HOPE OF RESCUE WERE ABLE TO SURVIVE 36 HOURS!
What does this study show? It’s an example of the importance of hope. If rats need hope don’t you think humans do? Hope is essential to survival and perseverance. Without hope there is no reason to go on. Without hope one is likely to just give up and die. But with hope there is every reason to go on in life. There is no greater hope than the hope God provides. With god there is hope no matter the obstacle. With God there is always hope; there is always the possibility of overcoming.
You can’t live without hope. The world is filled with people who are enslaved to their anxieties and worries. There are many in this world that live little better than rats in water that have no hope. They often address their worries and uncertainties with drugs of one kind or another obtained legally or illegally. And sometimes people lose hope to the degree that they end their own lives.
A 2013 article in the Health section of the New York Times noted that, “More people now die of suicide than of car accidents, . . . . From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose nearly 30 percent, . . . .”[1] The recent suicide of Robin Williams is a vivid life photo of the rise in suicide. And what is worse, suicide is rising among the young. “According to 2010 statistics reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: For middle and high school age youth (ages 12-18), suicide is the second-leading cause of death. For college-age youth (ages 18-22), suicide is the third-leading cause of death. Overall, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for our youth ages 10-24.”[2] If hope is what we need to press on through life and God is the One who is the Source of such hope, and His word is His prime instrument of such hope, then such increased acts of hopelessness shouldn’t surprise us. We have for decades been systematically removing any trace of God and His word from our schools and society. There is a better way. There can be hope.
God wants you to hope in Him. When we hope in Him we won’t give out. When we hope in God we’ll be ready and unashamed to minister the gospel and be filled with His joy and peace in the circumstances of life, no matter how hopeless they look. Hope is only as strong as what it is based on. When you hope in God all things become possible to those who trust in Him (Mark 9:23). There is power in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). There is power because the gospel offers us hope. That is God’s desire for you.

Jesus is our model of hope. We find our hope when we look to Jesus. In Hebrews it states: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls”   (Hebrews 12:1-3). Look to Jesus for your hope. Jesus went to the cross and did so with joy! How could He have done that?

Jesus had joy in going to the cross (a settled satisfaction he was in the center of God’s will). Jesus knew the cross was the crux of redemption for humanity. That’s hope! Jesus had a steadfast hope that even though the cross would be the hardest thing He ever did, in the end, it would accomplish the redemptive plans of His Father. He had a hope that rested in the Father’s plan. He had a hope that rested in the faithfulness of the Father. And that hope bolstered Him and encouraged Him through the depths of darkness of His atoning work as expressed in His words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Ever feel like that? Jesus understands. Look to Jesus and he will give you hope to get through.

But there is a “weight, and . . . sin which so easily ensnares us.” What is that weight? What is that snare? It’s us! It’s our self-centered focus. If we see the world and everything else revolving around us, we will not only have a distorted view of reality, we will have no hope. If we want a sustaining hope from the God of hope then we have to look away from “me” and look up to “Thee.” We have to look to Jesus. Jesus is the light that shows us the way through the darkness. For those sinking in a smothering quicksand of bad news in the world, Jesus reaches down to lend us a righteous right hand. Look to Him. Take hold of His hand. And if you can’t see in the darkness, He will shine the light of His word to show you the way. Hope in the God of hope. He will get you through.


[1] Tara Parker-Pope, Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in the U.S. New York Times 5/2/2010.
[2] Gary Herron, Teen Suicide Rate increasing,  Rio Rancho Observer

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