How should we feel about our world in 2020? How should we feel about the days to come?
The Christian answer is hopeful.
This morning we continue our My Bible Year series in the book of Romans. Turn with me to chapter 15.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Hope is defined as a wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment. It is a powerful force.
“True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings,
kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.”
“Hope, like the gleaming taper’s light,
adorns and cheers our way,
And still, as darker grows the night,
emits a brighter ray.”
Paul used the word hope more than anyone else in the NT testament, 21 times. Despite all of his trials and sufferings, Paul looked to the days ahead with an unshakable hope.
Paul used the word hope a little differently than we do today. We say things like “I really hope that this is gonna be the breakout year for Mitch Trubisky and the Bears.” Or “I hope the schools open in person this fall.”
This kind of hope is wishful thinking. For Paul, hope is a rooted in certainty. It comes when we place our desires firmly in God and find confident expectation in the promises of the gospel.
What does it mean to say that God is the God of hope?
In verse 5, Paul tells us that God is the God of endurance and encouragement
The NIV translates that as “the God who gives endurance and encouragement.”
God is “the origin of hope and the object of hope.”
The Greeks and Romans of Paul’s day had many gods: gods of war, goddesses of fertility, gods of wisdom. When you had need, you went to the god who governed over your area of need.
Our God is the God of hope. It’s His realm. He has hope to give.
So why don’t we experience it more? Why are Christians overflowing with hope in their daily conversation?
Sometimes our hope is misplaced.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
Our hearts are prone to place our desires everywhere but in God. We put our hope in things like relationships, careful plans, athletic clubs and political parties.
As long as our hope is aimed at the shifting targets of temporary things, we will always be disappointed. Our hope is deferred.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Misplaced hope makes the heart sick. The good news is that Jesus can heal a hope-sick heart.
Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has opened the door for us to an eternal source of peace, joy and overflowing hope.
Look at God’s part in this transaction. God is the provider. He does the filling. The Holy Spirit does the flowing. What is our part?
Our part is to trust. The Greek word for trust in verse 13 is rooted in the word pistis, which is the word for faith.
Our part is to have faith.
Does that sound like good news to you? Maybe not. Maybe you struggle with faith. Maybe it seems that faith is a mystical and elusive thing to you. It’s just something you have or you don’t. It’s something that comes on you like a mood.
I have good news for you. The Bible gives us a very different view of faith.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Faith comes by hearing the Word. Faith is the result of engaging the mind with the solid, tangible content of the Scriptures.
Faith comes when we engage our minds with the Bible. Without regular intake of the Bible, we won’t have faith. And without faith, we won’t have hope.
Friends, it’s really as simple as that. Are you low on hope? Is your faith waning? Set aside your screen, open your Bible and bring your mind to bear on the Word about Christ. Let the promises of God fuel your faith and open your heart to the God of Hope.
In 2020 we can feel hopeful.
Because of the resurrection of Christ, we can look ahead with hope.
For the people of the Resurrection, it does not ultimately matter whether or not our bodies are ravaged by a lethal virus, because we know these earthly tents we carry will someday be exchanged for a glorious, heavenly home.
It does not ultimately matter whether our religious freedoms are taken away, because the gospel cannot be chained and the kingdom of God cannot be stopped.
It does not ultimately matter how bare our accounts are because we have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ and someday we will experience the full extent of those blessings.
It does not matter how thick the darkness grows, because the light of the Resurrected Christ will break through at just the right moment.
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