THE GOD OF HOPE

"Again, Isaiah says, 'There shall come the root of Jesse, and He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, in Him shall the Gentiles hope.' [Isaiah 11:10Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:12-13)

I have begun reading a book written by Hannah Whithall Smith, a Quaker author and speaker of the latter half of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century. The book is called, "The God of All Comfort" (from 2 Corinthians 1:3). Her goal in the book is to help Christians recover the joy of their salvation so that they glorify God before a watching world. One of the things I so appreciate about Christian authors and ministers of earlier times is the emphasis they place upon the real purpose of our lives, according to the Bible: to glorify God through Christ's holiness displayed in us as we trust in Him. To be fair, there are many Christian authors and speakers today who manifest the same spirit and goal but their books do not reach the level of best sellers among Christians.

The great majority of popular non-fiction books among Christians today (that is, among those Christians who actually read) are about how Christ can give you success in achieving your goals, whether they be in the areas of health (mental and physical), finances or relationships (dating, marriage and family). Books about knowing God, glorifying God or growing in Christ-likeness, are far less popular. These are the goals we should be aiming at, according to the Bible. Of course, good health, good stewardship and God-glorifying relationships are included, but as means to a higher end. When it comes to goals, hope is essential to their achievement. If we have no hope, or too little hope of attaining our goals, we will probably not even begin to set out after them or will quickly become discouraged and give up.

That is why the Bible places so much emphasis upon hope. It would probably do us all much good if we were to do a thorough study of the Bible's teaching about hope. Among the texts we would find is the one quoted above from Romans 15. Early in the chapter, Paul mentions hope: "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (verse 4) One of the great purposes of the Bible is to give us hope that if we persevere in doing the will of God and trusting in His providence we will achieve the wonderful purposes for which God created us.

We live in a very discouraging world, as far as the purposes of God are concerned. All around us are people who are living at cross-purposes to God's will in one way or another. In addition, these people seem to delight in pouring cold water on the first sign of any spiritual passion in our lives. It does seem as if the world, the flesh and the devil hold supreme sway in the affairs of men in general and in our own lives as well. How, then, do we gain the hope about which the Bible speaks? In the midst of this dismal scene there is one sure beacon of hope: the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul quotes from Isaiah 11:10 - "In Him shall the Gentiles [nations] hope." Jesus said, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Jesus was never defeated. He said, "I always do the things that are pleasing to Him [the Father]." No one else can truthfully say this. We, like sheep, have all gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). But there is hope, through Jesus Christ, that we may become like Him, persevering in doing the will of God and achieving His purposes despite the obstacles presented to us by the world, our flesh and the devil. This is the life of the overcomer and it is our birthright as believers.

The Bible is full of the promises of God. They relate to three great goals of God for our lives. The first goal is that we grow to full maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-15). The second is that we faithfully serve Him in this world, contributing our part to the salvation of souls and the ultimate conversion of the world to Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). The third goal God has for us is that we attain the resurrection to eternal life (Philippians 3:10-16). All other goals in our lives should be subordinate to these ends. God promises to bring us to the attainment of these goals. He promises to provide everything we need: "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." (2 Peter 3-4) God has not promised to help us attain worldly or selfish goals. Having a good job, a happy marriage, well-behaved children, fun vacations and lots of money may be part of God's plan for our lives - or they may not be! We must concentrate on doing God's will, fulfilling His goals. In so doing, we will experience in this life what He deems best for His purposes. Worldly goods of one kind or another will undoubtedly come our way, for which we may be justly grateful. But we must not be surprised or discouraged when some worldly goods fail to materialize. We need to keep our eyes on the real prize, what Paul called, "the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14) This is the real hope and one that, with God's faithful work and our trust in Him, shall not fail! As we believe in our Savior, God will fill us with His joy and peace, even in the midst of much tribulation, knowing that this is obtaining for us "an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison." (2 Corinthians 4:17)