“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." Ro. 15:13
The apostle Paul encourages the Christians in Rome to trust God because he is the God of hope. If they trust him, they will be filled with joy and peace and have even more hope—hope to the point of overflowing.
Because the eternal God is the God of hope, our hope is both for the present and for the future. When we face trials in life, we have a hope for the present circumstances because we know that God is with us. Jesus himself understands our situation. He himself experience all of the difficulties that we are facing or will face. He was betrayed by a friend. He knew what it meant to be misunderstood, even by his own family members. He was criticized and despised. He was tempted and experienced hunger and pain. He knew grief at the death of his close friend Lazarus. He was lonely and even totally abandoned by his father while on the cross. As believers, we have a present hope that God will accompany us even in our darkest hour.
And our hope goes beyond the present. We know that God is preparing a bright and glorious future. Jesus told his disciples that he was going away to prepare a place for them and would one day return to take them to be where he would be. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee, the first installment of many more blessings to come when the Kingdom of God comes in all its fullness. We will receive a new body, a new home, and a face-to-face presence with the Lord Jesus for all eternity. When we have this hope of a better future, it can carry us through the greatest of difficulties.
A story is told of two men, each about the same age, each one imprisoned for more than 10 years. While in prison, each man regularly wrote letters to his wife on the outside. Both men were so encouraged by their wives who supported them, told them to serve out their time in prison, and then come home again to normal life. Thinking about being reunited with their wives was a real sense of hope for both men. During the 6th year of their time in prison, the wife of the 2nd man suddenly became very sick and died a few days later. Upon hearing of the news, the husband was devastated. Over the next several weeks, he became more withdrawn, had no interest in eating anymore, and finally after 2 months was found dead in his cell. Seeing his wife again had been his hope for the future. With her now gone, there was no motivation to continue on. The first man lived out his sentence in prison, and finally when the day came, was released with great joy and was reunited with his wife.
It is said that a person cannot live without food for more than a few months; cannot live without water for more than a few days; cannot live without air for more than a few minutes; but cannot live without hope for more than a few seconds. When we have no hope, our circumstances seem overwhelming and we lose the desire to even live.
During this challenging time of the corona virus pandemic, there is much to be anxious about. When will life return to normal? When will I be able to normally visit with family and friends again? What about my job situation? When will the brothers and sisters again be able to worship together in the church?
When God is our hope, we can overcome and rise above our circumstances because we have both a hope for the present and for the future. The questions we have will not make us anxious but rather we will be anchored by God’s peace and joy. And this hope in us becomes a testimony for others to see and experience. Just as the water in a cup affects what is outside the cup only when it overflows out of the cup, so as Christians, our hope can overflow by the Holy Spirit to bring hope to others. May the Lord of hope, give us joy and peace, producing hope to overflowing. AMEN.