a series of essays on the Spirit-filled life
by Del McKenzie
Hope is a huge topic in the Bible. Volumes could be written just in exploring the ways the word is used. Some powerful statements and ideas about it are found in Romans 15:13, "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." In God there is hope because it flows out of His very nature. He is the source of hope. He is the only source of real hope and has made provision for us to have it. That is a wonderful reality in a world permeated with despair.
Hope is the anticipation that things will get better. It is a confidant expectation of good things in the future. Human history reflects the rise and fall of hope in the different parts of our world. Looking to human governments for help has been a disappointment. Placing hope in ourselves will always end in despair. We may put a happy face on life, even up until death, but unless our hope is in God there will be utter despair on the other side of it. A characteristic of all religions is that they are offering hope. Almost all of them have some idea of eternal hope and some make great promises of hope to those that embrace them.
Christianity is certainly marked by hope. It proclaims hope for both the present life and for eternity. That hope is anchored in who Jesus Christ is and what He has done. It is Christ in us that is the hope of glory Colossians 1:27. Christians can and should be marked with hope. It should exude from them. But the opposite is too often true. Despairing Christians are common. They are marked by gloom, darkness, heaviness and despondency. They are sad and sour. Joy seems like on a mirage. Sometimes the lack of hope is covered with passivity. We just keep trudging on. We cover the inner emptiness with unending activity and never really deal with the reality of the hopelessness that gnaws away inside of us.
Because God is the God of hope, He has not left us in a hopeless situation. There is the objective side of hope which means we can put our hope in an object, God. The Bible speaks of the hope of the gospel. The good news of the death, resurrection and return of Jesus is a reflection of the God of hope. We can put our hope in the truth about God and His provision for us. The truth sets us free from the despair around us. And there is also a subjective side of hope. It can fill our lives with joy and peace and overflow from us. It can so saturate and permeate us that we live with an abundance of it and not simply a small amount. Our hearts can be so filled with it that we overcome the disappointments, accidents and struggles of life with an inner satisfaction that carries us triumphantly through the toughest things that can come our way. This is pictured as rejoicing in suffering and considering it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds. It is also pictured as the victorious life as we overcome the temptations that come from our sinful nature's desires.
It is fair for us to ask how this happens. Some people seem to find this hope while it eludes others. The answer to that question presented in Romans 15:13, and elsewhere in the Bible, is that this overflowing hope is from the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The kind of hope pictured in the Bible is not the product of human effort. It is supernatural. It is the Holy Spirit living in and filling us with Himself. It is something we can ask Him to do for us. It is something we can trust Him to do for us. We must be filled with Him and give ourselves fully to His control. That starts as an event and continues as a process. It is a relationship of two people, us and the Holy Spirit, living in each other. That personal relationship will grow as we walk on in life together. Ignoring the Holy Spirit will leave us searching for hope in the wrong places. He is now the executive of the godhead and shares with us this great gift of God as we walk in obedience and fellowship with Him.
How does the Holy Spirit implant this hope in us? It flows out of who He is. Having Him fully at home in us cannot help but fill us with hope. Whenever He is filling a person's life He will be pointing that person to Jesus. Faith and hope are inseparably linked I Peter 1:21. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith and we are to fix our eyes on Him. We are complete in Jesus and so our hope comes from Him. The Holy Spirit will be making Jesus and the things of Jesus real to us. When our faith is in Jesus, our God and Savior, hope will flood over our lives.
He will also be drawing us to the Scriptures. According to Romans 15:4, it is by the encouragement of the Scriptures that we have hope. God's written revelation is the basis for our faith. Without it we have only human ideas and they are like shifting sand. It is little wonder that there is a high level of hopelessness in our world today because the word of God is so widely neglected or rejected. When it is studied under the direction and with the enabling of the Holy Spirit hope is built because it shows what life is all about and what the conclusion of everything will be. There is the blessed hope and glorious appearing of Jesus!
At the heart of it all is trust. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust…" The trusting heart is a hopeful heart. We can trust the Holy Spirit. We can trust the Lord Jesus. We can trust the word of God. Or we can allow our minds to be filled with doubt and unbelief. The Holy Spirit has the ability to make hope flood into and over our hearts. It is one of His great ministries that He longs to do for each of us. It no doubt hurts Him to see any of us walking on in a fog of despair when there is an infinite supply of hope for all who will let Him fill their lives. His ministry is the answer to whatever shade of despair may come at us. By God's grace there is greater victory, holiness, deliverance and provision in the days ahead. We can be delivered from the desires of our sinful nature and become more like Jesus. And ultimately our eternal home in heaven will be far better than we can now imagine!