Romans 15:13 Abound in Hope

17 04 2013

Come-Holy-Spirit

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NRSV)

Hope is a word that has been bandied about far too often by the purveyors of false hope.  The confusion of real hope with false hope has dulled the meaning of the word, in much the same way as the word “love” has been over and/or misused.  I might love chocolate pie, but that’s not the same kind of love that I have for my spouse or even for my dogs.  The hope that is spoken of in political and social circles is better equated with flimsy wishes and broken promises when compared to the real hope that is backed by the faithfulness of God.

The apostle Paul is not talking about “hope” in the context of political, economic or social change.  Those things are fleeting, cyclical, and largely outside of any individual’s control.

Paul is talking about real hope- the reality that in Christ there is abundant life, and in Him is the death of death.

fruit-of-the-spirit-master

There is a temptation for Christians to go off of either end of the scale- to be so preoccupied with the ills and evils of this physical world that they neglect the fact that our true citizenship is of the Kingdom of God and not this world, or to be so preoccupied with looking forward to the world we inherit when we leave this one that we don’t care about what’s going on in this world at all.  The reality is that for now we are bound to both worlds- we are called to bring about the Kingdom of God in this world, right now, while we realize that there is a far better reality to come beyond this world.  It’s more of that “now, but not yet” paradox that we live with that the apostle Paul describes in Philippians 1:22-24-

“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” (NRSV)

While we are here we have a mission and a purpose (to further the Kingdom of God on earth) even though we realize and have a valid and real hope that the life beyond this one is far better.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is a bit of an enigma to most Christians.  He is pictured as a dove, or as tongues of fire, or as breath or wind.  He is the Breath of God as He breathes life into creation, and more.

Jesus described the Holy Spirit as our Advocate, and Counselor, Who God the Father sends to give us the knowledge and power that we need to live as we are called:

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:25-27 (NRSV)

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John 16:33- Jesus Wins!

4 04 2013

 K123741

“(Jesus said:)I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” John 16:33 (AMP)

Jesus understood how difficult life could be for us, and how badly we need encouragement at times.

This life is not the end, even when it is easy to get to the end of hope.  It is easy to be overwhelmed by physical pain, by emotional distress, by all of the problems that plague humanity.  It is easy to be afraid, to withdraw, to try to escape the expectations and criticisms of others.   There is more to life than the routine of: get up, go to work, go home, go to bed.  There is something beyond loss and pain and disappointment.

As a person who struggles with both depression and chronic pain, the reality that Jesus has overcome the world is good news.  Otherwise life would be completely pointless and hopeless, with nothing to look forward to other than ever-increasing physical pain, as well as ever-increasing disillusionment and disappointment.

It’s easy to let circumstances steal our joy, but we learn from Proverbs that it’s not about our circumstances:

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is the man who reverently and worshipfully fears [the Lord] at all times [regardless of circumstances], but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Proverbs 28:14 (AMP)

The Apostle Paul echoed this sentiment to the Thessalonians as well:

“Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (AMP)

On the surface it seems to me like Paul is saying that we should be slap happy all the time.  When I first read this passage I thought ot the 90’s cartoon Ren and Stimpy, in which Stimpy was a happy-go-lucky fat cat, and Ren was a nervous, paranoid and seething little Chihuahua.  In one episode, Stimpy is upset that Ren isn’t happy.  So Stimpy manufactures a “happy helmet” for Ren, so that Ren can be happy all the time.

ren happy helmet

Stimpy’s invention didn’t work out well.

God never asked us to deny our true emotions, but He does ask that we surrender everything to Him.   He has ways of transforming us and changing our perspective when we surrender ourselves to him.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,

To the end that my tongue and my heart and everything glorious within me may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” Psalm 30:11-12 (AMP)

We aren’t going to be happy all the time in this world.  But even through our mourning, our disappointment, our pain, in Christ there is a steady and strong undercurrent of joy- not a superficial, feigned happiness, but a true and lasting joy.

Lord, I pray that we can see through our tears and trials and cling to the joy we find in You, and lift our hearts and voices in praise no matter what our circumstances.