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The God of Hope
Twenty-one-year-old Matthew had been homeless for three years – sleeping rough on the streets on London. Mark Russell (who was appointed head of the Church Army while he was still in his twenties) met him on the streets of Charing Cross in London, bought him some food and led him to Christ.
As he was getting up to leave he said, ‘Matthew, over the next month I am going to be on platforms speaking to thousands of people. One of the sessions I’m going to be speaking at is the whole General Synod about mission ... what piece of advice do you want me to give to the Church of England today?’
Matthew replied, ‘The church’s job is to stop arguing and to bring people hope.’
Mark Russell commented, ‘I have never heard a better definition of what we should be about: “Stop arguing about all kinds of stuff and bring hope.” Don’t we have a gospel of hope? A gospel that brings hope? A gospel of life, a gospel of transformation, a gospel of joy and a gospel of grace, and above all a hope of eternal life, the hope of Jesus.’
Hope is one of the three great theological virtues – the others being love and faith. As Father Raniero Cantalamessa writes, ‘They are like three sisters. Two of them are grown and the other is a small child. They go forward together hand in hand with the child hope in the middle. Looking at them it would seem that the bigger ones are pulling the child, but it is the other way around; it is the little girl who is pulling the two bigger ones. It is hope that pulls faith and love. Without hope everything would stop.’
1. Know the hope of eternal life through JesusPsalm 89:46-52
‘To live without hope is to cease to live,’ wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky. ‘What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life,’ wrote Emil Brunner. The psalm ends on a note of hope, ‘Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen’ (v.52). The psalmist clings on to hope in spite of the fact that he is wrestling with his own situation.
- Hope in the midst of suffering and despair
‘How long, O Lord?’ (v.46a) is a rhetorical question. It is a cry of despair. Will this suffering go on forever?
- Hope in spite of the brevity of life and the inevitability of death
Life is so short: ‘Remember how fleeting is my life’ (v.47a). If death is the end then there is no ultimate meaning or purpose, ‘For what futility you have created all humanity!’ (v.47b). No one can raise themselves from the dead. ‘Who can live and not see death, or who can escape from the power of the grave?’ (v.48).
But the psalmist does not rule out the hope of the resurrection. He knows human beings cannot save themselves. He looks to the Lord, ‘O Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David … your anointed one’ (vv.49–51).
Praise you, Lord, that what the psalmist saw only in blurry outlines is made crystal clear in the New Testament. Thank you that in your great love and faithfulness you raised up a King in the line of David. ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade’ (1 Peter 1:3–4).
2. Brim over with hope through the Holy SpiritRomans 14:19-15:13
Faith releases hope, joy and peace in our lives. Doubt steals our joy and peace. Faith means trusting in ‘the God of hope’. Paul prays, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow [“brim over”, MSG] with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (15:13).
The origin of hope is ‘the God of hope’, the reason for hope is Jesus, and the source of hope in us is the Holy Spirit. We brim over with hope ‘by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (v.13). It is the Spirit of Jesus living in us who gives us hope.
This hope is the driving force for our day to day living. As Erwin McManus comments, ‘There’s a power in hope that goes beyond explanation. It lifts us out of the rubble of our failures, our pain and our fear to rise above what at one point seemed insurmountable. Our ability to endure, to persevere, to overcome is fuelled by this one seemingly innocuous ingredient called hope.’
The hope for the whole world is in Jesus. He is the hope for Israel. He is also the hope for the rest of us. Paul quotes a number of passages in the Old Testament to prove this, culminating with the words of Isaiah prophesying that Jesus would be: ‘Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!’ (v.12, MSG).
Paul helps us to see different aspects of the hope that Jesus brings to the world today including:
- Hope for unity
Paul continues to plead that every effort is made for unity, ‘Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification’ (14:19). We guard this unity by being sensitive to our brothers and sisters in Christ and not offending them unnecessarily (14:20–15:1). Each of us should ‘please our neighbours for their good, to build them up’ (15:2).
He appeals to the example of Jesus: ‘For even Christ did not please himself’ (v.3). Like Jesus, we are to be God-pleasers, not self-pleasers or people-pleasers. Pleasing people is good but it is not good to be a please-pleaser. People-pleasers are those who try to please people even if they have to compromise their own conscience to do so. Paul tried to please people as long as pleasing them did not cause him to displease the Lord (Galatians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 10:33).
As Joyce Meyer points out, ‘God-pleasers are grace-based individuals who do not seek approval out of insecurity or fear. They strive to follow God with all their hearts, they also seek to please and minister to others without compromise or fear of rejection.’
- Hope from the Scriptures
The purpose of the Bible is to give us hope. ‘For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope’ (Romans 15:4). It is through the Scriptures that we know about Jesus and the hope that is in him. The way to keep our hopes up is to study the Scriptures regularly.
This hope leads to, ‘All joy and peace as you trust in him’ (v.13). I love the way that Corrie Ten Boon puts it: ‘Joy and peace mean going around with a smile on our faces and an empty suitcase.’
Lord, thank you that you are the God of hope. Thank you that all our hope is in Jesus and in his resurrection. He is the reason for our hope. Thank you that we can be assured of this hope as we study the Scriptures. Thank you that this hope is the focus of our unity. Thank you that you have given us your Holy Spirit to live within us so that we may overflow with hope. Thank you that this life is not the end. There is hope beyond the grave. Thank you that just as you raised Jesus from the dead, one day you will raise us with him to full and eternal life.
3. Put your hope in the coming of the King1 Chronicles 11:1-12:22
Our hope is in Jesus, the King, who will one day return and establish his kingdom forever. As we read of the kings of the Old Testament, it is important to remember that they, even at their very best, only faintly foreshadowed the ultimate king, Jesus.
In the chronicler’s eyes, David was the ideal king: ‘You were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord your God said to you, “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler” ’ (11:2). They ‘anointed David king over Israel, as the Lord had promised through Samuel’ (v.3). ‘David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him’ (v.9).
David did not do it all on his own. He needed a team around him. He had a group of thirty Mighty Men – which included the Big Three.
Amasai, chief of the Thirty, ‘moved by God’s Spirit’ said to David, ‘We’re on your side … We’re committed … all’s well with whoever helps you’ (12:18–22, MSG). This must have been a huge encouragement to David.
In these scriptures we see a direct equation of the Kingdom of Israel with the Kingdom of God (see 1 Chronicles 28:5; 1 Chronicles 29:23; 2 Chronicles 13:8). There was no question about the continuity of kingship because it was guarded by God.
Yet, when the chronicler was writing this (hundreds of years later) there was no king. He wrote about the past in the hope that in the future a king like David would arise. This was the hope of Israel – a coming king. Jesus was that king. He was ‘the anointed one’, the ‘Messiah’ (Psalm 89:51).
Now our hope is in the return of Jesus. As Lesslie Newbigin put it, ‘The horizon for the Christian is “He shall come again” and “we look for the coming of the Lord.” It can be tomorrow or any time, but that’s the horizon. That horizon is for me fundamental, and that’s what makes it possible to be hopeful and therefore to find life meaningful.’
Father, thank you that all the hopes of Israel were fulfilled when Jesus, the anointed king, came. Thank you that we can now look forward to his second coming.
‘Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen’ (Psalm 89:52).
David’s Mighty Men
I have a whole family of mighty men and women. They are slaying giants to help bring about the kingdom of God.