Last week, we talked about learning to rejoice always because we know our God holds us (and everything else) in His hands. Shifting our focus to Him gives us the perspective we need to have true, lasting joy. It also gives us something else.
I quoted a definition of joy in last week’s post (titled “The Joy of the Lord”) that stated it is “acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful.” We could further simplify this definition by saying joy is a result of hope.
Hope in the Bible isn’t just a vague sense of wanting something with no guarantee it will happen, the way we often use it today when we say things like “I hope I win the lottery” or “I hope this new superhero movie is good.” Rather, it’s about an expectation that you can count on being fulfilled. It’s intimately connected to salvation (Rom. 8:24; 1 Thes. 5:8), provides comfort in sorrow (1 Thes. 4:13), and is used as a title for God (Jer. 17:13; Rom. 15:13). And it’s essential to joy.
Hope, Suffering, and Joy
Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom. 5:1-2, WEB)
“We rejoice in hope,” partly because, as Paul says later in this letter “we were saved in hope” (Rom. 8:24). Our hope and rejoicing are connected with faith and grace, as well as the glory of God. Though we don’t yet see the end result of our salvation, we hope for it and we have joy in that expectation. But that’s not all we rejoice in.
Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom. 5:3-5, WEB)
As we learned last week, joy is intimately connected to our relationship with God. One part of that relationship (a part we’d often rather not talk about) involves participating in the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 4:13). These sufferings produce steadfast constancy and endurance, an essential characteristic of those who follow God faithfully. That leads to proven character — character which has been tested and found to be good.
When suffering brings us closer to God and forms His character in us, we can find joy in it. We rejoice in suffering (or aim for that goal) because we see the big picture that it brings us closer to Him. And the more we understand Him, the more solid our hope becomes.
Sure and Steadfast
When the writer of Hebrews discusses the surety of hope based on God, he talks about imitating “those who through faith and perseverance inherited the promises.” Abraham, for example, had hope in the promises God made and, “having patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” Similarly, God has demonstrated the reliability of His promises to us by a promise to us (Heb. 6:12-16).
In this way God, being determined to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:17-19, WEB)
Our hope is guaranteed by the faithfulness of God’s character. It is solid and reliable, though we don’t yet see it. We can “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23, WEB). God cannot lie, and His promises are the foundation of our hope (Tit. 1:2). There is nothing more reliable.
Great Is His Faithfulness
One of the most heart-wrenching books in the Bible is Lamentations. There’s sorrow, misery, and weeping in the midst of horrible tragedy. Yet in the center of all this, Jeremiah brings a radically hopeful perspective to Israel’s suffering.
This I recall to my mind; therefore have I hope. It is because of Yahweh’s loving kindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassion doesn’t fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Yahweh is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lam. 3:21-24, WEB)
His country was being invaded, people were dying all around, and the famine got so bad mothers ate their children (Lam. 4:10). Yet through all this, Jeremiah knew Yahweh was faithful and because of His faithfulness and mercy there was hope. In some ways hope seems like a fragile thing, but with God backing it up it is incredibly strong. It can even drive out despair and put joy in its place.
Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him: my Savior, my helper, and my God. (Ps. 43:5, WEB)
The God of Hope
“Rejoicing in hope” is an integral part of godly, Christ-like living (Rom. 12:12). We look to Him “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” and saved us, leaving us “an example, that you should follow in his steps” (Heb. 12:2; 1 Pet. 2:21).
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13, WEB)
Our God wants to fill us with joy and peace because He is the God of hope. When we’re secure in a hope that’s founded in Him, we can have a sense of peace and rejoice no matter what we face in this life. He wants us to abound in hope and in the power of His spirit. The life He desires for us is a rich, abundant one characterized by a relationship with Him. He offers this to each of us. All we have to do is accept His gift and trust in His faithfulness.
Featured image credit: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay