Our topic this morning is hope.
Hope is desire accompanied with a confident expectation of its fulfilment.
Hope is the Christmas wish of a child transformed into certainty by the serendipitous discovery of a Target receipt in the kitchen trash.
Hope is a vibrant, buoyant, lively thing. Hope transforms the present moment with the eager anticipation of future good.
Today we are going to see how the Holy Spirit is a source of hope for the believer.
Turn with me to Romans 15:13:
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.
Observe with me the character of God, the direct action of God upon the believer’s heart and the human response to God’s activity.
1. God is the God of hope.
What does this verse mean when it says that God is the God of hope.
It may mean that God is the source of hope. God is the God who gives hope. This is undoubtedly true.
But the language seems to imply more than that. Hope is not simply something given by God, it is a quality inherent in God’s nature.
Why is the heart of a young child filled with a bubbling joy that fills his days with energy as he anticipates the arrival of Christmas morning? Because God is a God of hope and that child bears the image of God. God is a hoping God.
It is also true to say that God is a God of hope, because His work in the world is good and satisfying to the deepest desires of the human heart.
God is the God of hope…
- Because God’s ends are exceedingly good.
- Because God’s plans are exceedingly wise.
- Because God’s arm is exceedingly strong.
- Because God’s heart is exceedingly merciful.
- Because God has communicated the ends which his wise plans and strong arm will certainly accomplish to his people.
And if God is a God of hope, what does that make his people? We are the people of hope. Isn’t that right?
Now the question is, how does that happen? How does the hope of God transfer to His people?
Do we become hopeful as we discipline ourselves to pray and read the Bible? That certainly helps.
Paul tells us elsewhere in Romans that the OT was given to us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.
When I read the histories of God’s work among his people, I gain hope as I see how his good plans come together time and time again. I read in Exodus how the people of Israel are rescued from Egypt only to find themselves caught between a sea of water and a sea of spears. I read how the brink of disaster becomes the edge of a miracle through the action of God in the world.
That gives me hope when I feel caught between a rock and a hard place in my own life.
There is also hope to be found in the revelation of God’s character in the Scriptures.
I read Jeremiah 29:11 and it gives me hope – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
This is a word directed toward a rebellious people who have turned their backs on God, who deserve nothing but judgment. What is God’s response? Mercy, goodness, hope.
When I see that God is a God who has good plans of hope even for sinful, stubborn people, I find hope that I too can look to the future with hope.
There is hope to be found in the promises of God in the Scriptures.
Is there any hope brighter than Revelation chapters 21 and 22?
The end of sin. The arrival of justice.
The Scriptures reveal that with God, the best is always yet to come.
They show me that because God is the God of hope, there is always hope.
There is certainly hope to be found in the Scriptures, but that is not what Paul is describing in Romans 15:13.
The hope of this passage is the result of
2. A direct action of God in the human heart.
God fill you with all joy and peace.
This action takes place in two steps. First God fills the heart with joy and peace.
In Christian circles we often say that joy is not a feeling. We recognize that not everyone has a bubbly personality. Not every season is a happy season. We don’t want to discourage people. That’s good, but we also don’t want to limit the experience available to a believer.
In the Greek text, the word translated joy means gladness, cheerfulness, calm delight. Joy is a feeling of good cheer.
In Biblical language, peace is more than the absence of conflict. It implies a wholeness, a fulness.
God pours joy and peace into the human heart. Notice the word fill. Paul doesn’t say that God sprinkles a bit of joy and peace into the heart. God is a God of fulness. God’s storehouses of joy and peace are infinite.
What does Paul know about this experience? Turn with me to Acts 16. Paul was a man who experienced extraordinary hardship and suffering in his life. Yet joy is a major theme in his writings. In Acts 16 Paul is in prison, he has just been beaten severely. What is his response?
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…”
They were singing! Where did they find the ability to sing praise to God in the midst of such intense hardship? They experienced a direct action of God on their hearts. They received a supply from an outside source.
God fills the heart with joy and peace and then God adds to that mixture the power of the Holy Spirit.
That you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Power! The Greek word is dunameis, the inspiration for the word dynamite.
The kingdom of God not a matter of mere words, but of power. The Holy Spirit is a source of personal, present power in the life of the believer.
When the power of the Holy Spirit ignites a heart filled with joy and peace, hope erupts. It abounds and overflows.
I want you to see something important here.
The gospel is a message of objective reality. Through the finished work of Jesus, my sins are forgiven. I am united with Christ. I am a new creation. These things are true no matter how I feel. They are true whether I understand them or not.
There is nothing more important than receiving these benefits of the gospel.
But God has more for us.
There are psychological benefits provided by the gospel. As I learn about what God has done for me, my heart changes. My mind is renewed. There is joy, peace and hope to be found in the knowledge of the gospel.
But God has still more for us.
In the gift of the Holy Spirit, God has provided a personal, present power in the life of the believer. God has given us His presence. He has given us His power.
The power of the Holy Spirit is dynamic power. It is power that can change anything at any moment. It can fill an empty heart with joy and peace. It can fill a suffering and anxious believer with overflowing hope.
There’s no better picture of this hope than the life of Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie’s family sheltered Jewish people from the Nazis in the Netherlands. They were caught and taken to concentration camps.
Corrie and her sister Betsie were taken to Ravensbruck where they suffered unimaginable circumstances. Circumstances harsh enough to break the most lively spirit. Yet when Corrie came out of that camp, she walked out with an unshakeable smile bearing this report, “there is no pit so deep, God’s love is not deeper still.”
How is that possible?
It’s possible through the present, personal power of the Holy Spirit.
In the concentration camp, Corrie learned that God was with her. She experienced a peace and a joy that were unexplainable. She learned that not even a concentration camp, not even the death of her sister, could separate her from the love of God.
Here’s how an old preacher, Alexander Maclaren, described that experience:
“The more you have of Jesus Christ in your lives and hearts to-day, the surer you will be that whatever death may do, it cannot touch that, and the more ludicrously impossible it will seem that anything that befalls this poor body can touch the bond that knits us to Jesus Christ. Death can separate us from a great deal. Its sharp scythe cuts through all other bonds, but its edge is turned when it is tried against the golden chain that binds the believing soul to the Christ in whom he has believed.”
How does the hope of God become the hope of the believer? It happens through the direct action of God. It happens when He meets us in the most unlikely circumstances with an outpouring of joy, peace and hope through the Holy Spirit.
What’s my role in this?
3. The response of the believer.
There’s a very important phrase I want you to see in this verse – “in believing.” There is one qualification to the experience of overflowing hope: trust.
The word translated believing is pistis. Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest defines the word like this –
“The New Testament conception of faith includes three main elements, mutually connected and requisite, though according to circumstances sometimes one and sometimes another may be more prominent: (1) a fully convinced acknowledgement of the revelation of grace; (2) a self-surrendering fellowship (adhesion); and (3) a fully assured and unswerving trust (and with this at the same time hope) in the God of salvation or in Christ.”
Though the winds of hope blow all around us, sometimes our hearts are closed to their influence. It is through the trust of a believing, open heart that the power of the Spirit is received.
An old timer was afraid of airplanes and refused to fly throughout his life. Towards the end, circumstances forced him to take the risk. After his flight, his friends asked about his experience. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” he replied, “but I’ll tell you this, I never once put my whole weight down.”
Can you relate to that? It’s ridiculous, but we all do it.
Friend, God can handle your full weight.
Years ago there was a church in Germany with a grand old organ. The church rector was fiercely protective of that organ. Once a group of tourists came to the church and one man requested to try out the organ. The rector refused, but was eventually worn down by the repeated request. That man climbed up into the organ seat and went on to play the most sublime notes anyone had ever heard in that church. Stunned, the rector looked at that tourist “who are you?” The man replied, “my name is Mendelssohn.”
That rector almost missed the chance to hear one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time play his organ.
Friends, don’t miss the opportunity to let God work in your life. Trust him. Give him control.
One last story. The famous missionary Hudson Taylor traveled by ship to China. On the journey, the ship hit a patch of doldrums. The wind died and the ship was caught in a current flowing directly towards a rocky shoal and an island inhabited by a violent tribe of cannibals. The captain announced to the passengers, “we’ve done everything we can do.”
“Not everything,” thought Taylor. “Four of us are Christians. Let us pray.”
Each of those Christians went to their rooms to pray. And each of them came back with a sense that God had met them in prayer and would deliver them.
Taylor approached the captain, “have your men raise the sails.”
“There’s no point,” he replied. But Taylor compelled the captain to lift those sails and moments later they were filled with wind and the ship sailed safely away.
Sometimes we need to let go to trust God. And sometimes we need to raise our sails and prepare for action.
It is in believing that we open ourselves to the supernatural hope of God. Let’s believe Him this week.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown