A small town was selected for the site of a hydroelectric plant. A dam would be built across the nearby river, submerging the city. When the project was announced, the citizens were given ample time to arrange their affairs and relocate. During those months, a curious thing happened. Home improvements, neighborhood upkeep, and infrastructure repairs ceased. The city looked and felt abandoned long before the citizens moved away, and the waters came. One resident explained: “When there is no hope for the future, there is no power in the present.”
That’s a life lesson worth remembering: Hope for tomorrow produces strength for today. There are three types of people. Some have no hope. Circumstances have made them downcast, defeated, discouraged, depressed, and desperate. Some have false hope. They place their hope in fickle people, material possessions, or favorable circumstances that will surely disappoint them. Some have true hope. They live with great expectations, stubborn trust, and blessed assurance.
- Unbelievers have no hope.
- Unbelievers or believers may have false hope.
- Only believers can have genuine hope.
If you have been born again to new life in Jesus Christ, you can live with hope to face any situation. Romans 15:13 says, “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.” Your situation may seem, feel, or look hopeless. God can give you hope to face any situation.
Romans 15:13 concludes the main body of this letter. It is a benediction – a prayer-wish that speaks to and about God. It is the second benediction in this chapter. Verses 5-6 says, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ethnic and ethical issues divided the Roman church. Paul called the saints to unity. The Lord Jesus Christ set the example. How can we live and love like Christ? Romans 15:13 answers that hope enables us to live for Christ. This hope is not found by looking within, around, or behind you. You must look to God in believing prayer. Why look to God for hope? This rich benediction gives three reasons to look to God for hope.
God Gives Authentic Hope.
Martin Luther experienced a lingering season of despair and depression. One day, his frustrated wife came to breakfast wearing a black armband, symbolizing mourning. Luther asked, “Who died?” Katharine answered, “Well, with the way you’ve been carrying on around here, I thought God did.”
God is not dead. He is alive, awake, alert, able, and actively accomplishing his almighty agenda. Because God lives, there is hope. Verse 13 begins with an invocation: “May the God of hope.” This divine title is only used here. It is provocative language. By addressing God this way, Paul does not mean that God hopes. Because God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, he does not need to hope. What does “the God of hope” mean?
God is the object of hope. Someone said, “Sure, I live in the past. It’s about the only thing I have to look forward to.” That’s the gloomy perspective of many people. They view hope as a fairy tale, a pipe dream, a fool’s paradise. Hope in God is real. It is more than wishful thinking. A wish is a line from the present cast into an unknown and uncertain future. Hope is a line from eternity into time that draws you into God’s purpose for your life.
True hope is God-centered, God-focused, and God-driven. That’s what it means to call God “the God of hope.”God is the object of hope. Hope only comes when you look to God. Romans 15:5 calls God “the God of endurance and encouragement.” That’s another way of calling God the God of hope.
- Hope in God gives endurance to hang in there when you feel like giving up.
- Hope in God gives encouragement to lift you when you are down and out.
Lamentations 3:21-23 says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
God is the origin of hope.
- God is the ground and giver of hope.
- God is the source and supplier of hope.
- God is the one who inspires and imparts hope.
“The God of hope” is a gospel title. Ephesians 2:12 describes the unsaved as “having no hope and without God in the world.” This is the tragedy of life without Christ. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Each of us must give an account to God. There is nothing we can do to fix what our sin has broken. But God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to save us. He lived as our prophet, died as our priest, and rose again as our King. You are without hope and God until you repent of your sins and trust in Christ. But everyone justified by faith in Christ alone has hope for time and eternity.
Romans 5:3-5 says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
God Gives Abiding Hope.
A benediction is multidirectional. It addresses the readers or hearers, expressing a good and godly desire to be fulfilled in their lives. Yet it invokes God’s name, character, or authority, acknowledging the desired reality cannot happen without divine help.
Thus, Paul prays God would “fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” Metaphorically, “fill” denotes totality or exclusivity. To be filled with something means that thing is your life’s dominating presence, controlling influence, and driving force. The verb is in grammatical emphasis that denotes continual action or habitual activity. God can fill you and keep you filled with abiding hope. The pronoun “you” is plural. This benediction is for all the saints. You can pray this benediction for yourself, the church, and every Christian you know. What is a life of abiding hope?
The Marks of Abiding Hope. Two spiritual characteristics mark a life of abiding hope.
Filled with all joy. Joy is wrongly used as a synonym for happiness. Happiness is based on what happens. Joy is a deep sense of triumph, jubilance, and satisfaction independent of circumstances. James 1:2 states the paradoxical nature of Christian joy: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” This joy is not a possibility; it’s an obligation.
The Christian life is marked by radical joy. We are filled with all joy. That does not mean we never experience sadness, sorrow, or suffering. It means we have reasons to rejoice in Christ even when our hearts are broken, minds are confused, and souls are troubled. 1 Peter 1:8 says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy inexpressible and filled with glory.”
Filled with all peace. Joy and peace are inseparable companions. Charles Spurgeon said, “Peace is joy resting, and joy is peace dancing.” A good definition and description of peace is spiritual rest. A life dominated by worry, doubt, and fear is restless.
- You can’t sit still.
- You can’t sleep well.
- You can’t eat right.
- You can’t think straight.
- You can’t feel calm.
Peace enables your heart and mind to rest. You can rest, not because the environment is tranquil. You can rest because you know God is with you. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” What Isaiah calls “perfect peace,” Paul calls “all joy and peace.”The Lord can give you internal serenity that is untouched by external circumstances. John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
The Means to Abiding Hope. Verse 13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” A life filled with joy and peace doesn’t happen mechanically, mysteriously, or meritoriously. It happens “in believing.” Here is further proof that hope is uniquely Christian. You cannot have joy and peace without faith. You must trust the God of hope to fill you with all joy and peace.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hope begins with saving faith. Romans 5:2 says, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Hope that begins at salvation sustains us to glory. John Bunyan said, “Hope is never ill when faith is well.”
In the first paragraph of the opening chapter of Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning writes: “This book started writing itself with a remark from my spiritual director. ‘Brennan, you don’t need any more insights into the faith,’ he said. ‘You’ve got enough insights to last you three hundred years. The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received.’”
Is that you? You may be a new believer who needs to learn the ABCs of faith. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Others need to remember what you have learned by instruction and experience. You need to trust what you know. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
God Gives Abundant Hope.
Romans 15:13 is a cause-and-effect statement: “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.”
- It begins with a divine process: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”
- It ends with a divine purpose: “So that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
What does it mean to live in abundant hope?
A Powerful Hope. Romans 15:13 is a Trinitarian benediction. It calls God the Father “the God of hope.” It is in believing in God the Son that we are filled with all joy and peace. And we abound in hope by the power of God the Holy Spirit. The verse assumes the indwelling of the Spirit. Romans 8:9 says, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” When you trust Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit takes residence in your heart immediately, completely, and permanently. He lives in you to enable you to live like Christ and for Christ.
- The Christian life does not happen by imitation.
- The Christian life happens by incarnation.
Colossians 1:27 summarizes the Christian life: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We live for Christ by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. “Power” is the ability to get things done. Philippians 1:19 says, “I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.”Paul expected deliverance because of the saints’ prayers and the Spirit’s help. That’s Christian hope. We don’t keep hope alive. Hope keeps us alive by the Holy Spirit’s internal, dynamic, and continual power.
A Plentiful Hope. By the Holy Spirit’s enabling help, “you may abound in hope.” “Abound” means to exceed a fixed number, measure, or amount. It is more than what is necessary. It is abundance, prosperity, and overflow.
Jesus took a lad’s lunch and fed five thousand men, not including the women and children. Matthew 14:20 says, “And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.” “Left over” is our word “abound.” This is how God wants you to live. He can take your life’s insufficient loaves and fish and bless them to bless others. After he uses your lunch, you won’t have to go home empty-handed. He can take the leftovers and give you an abundance of hope.
- God can give you abundant hope.
- God can give you hope to the max.
- God can give you hope to spare.
Romans 8:24-25 says, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
In 1981, the millionaire philanthropist Eugene Lang spoke to the graduating class at the East Harlem elementary school he attended 50 years earlier. He planned to tell the children to work hard, and they would succeed. But the principal told him two-thirds of the students wouldn’t graduate high school. Scrapping his notes, he said, “Stay in school, and I’ll pay the college tuition for every one of you.” Ninety percent of that class graduated from high school. One student said, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling.” God has done more than promise tuition. He has provided salvation through the bloody cross and empty tomb of Jesus. May the fact that you have something waiting for you give you hope to hang in there!