Aristotle said “Hope is a waking dream.” In The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto III: The Gate of Hell, line 9, Dante wrote “All hope abandon, ye who enter in.” Lord Byron wrote in a letter to Thomas Moore in 1815 “But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence. The least touch of truth rubs it off, and then we see what a hollow-cheeked harlot we have got hold of.” Francis Bacon said “Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.”
In 1990’s Charles Stanley, pastor of the mega First Baptist Church of Atlanta since 1971 and founder of Intouch Ministries, was going through an extremely difficult set of circumstances in his life. In 1995, Dr. Stanley’s wife of more than forty years, Anna J. Stanley, filed for divorce. This resulted in a fair amount of controversy in the city of Atlanta, his church and across the Southern Baptist Convention. After several years of separation, the divorce was finalized in the year 2000. In the process of Dr. Stanley’s divorce the relationship with his son Andy was not the best. Dr. Stanley remained steadfast to his commitment to God throughout, though I am certain there were times that his humanity tugged at the strings of his heart with concerns and doubt.
In the midst of all of the negativity Dr. Stanley authored “The Reason for My Hope” in 1997. In describing what the book is about the publisher presents the following opening:
“You’ve just lost your job of fifteen years, sexual promiscuity runs rampant in your children’s schools, the financial safety net you’ve always counted on for your future seems unlikely. The realities of life make the future seem bleak and uncertain. However one thing has always overcome those living in seemingly unbearable circumstances – hope. Charles Stanley reveals the universal, yet extremely personal, reasons for remaining hopeful no matter what the circumstance. God’s desire is to restore, strengthen, and infuse the believer with life-giving, joy-filled hope.”
What is your concept of hope? And how can there be joy in life’s dire circumstances? The Bible teaches that circumstances must not dictate the Christian’s hope and joy in this life. God’s hope and joy are independent of our circumstances. How can that be? For an answer let’s turn to the scriptures.
Scripture: (all NIrV – unless otherwise noted)
Romans 12:9-12 – 9 Love must be honest and true. Hate what is evil. Hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other deeply. Honor others more than yourselves. 11 Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord. 12 When you hope, be joyful. When you suffer, be patient. When you pray, be faithful.
Romans 12:9-12 – 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
I have chosen the primary scripture passage for this devotion from the New International reader’s Version (NIrV) of the Christian Holy Bible. The NIrV, first published as a complete Bible in 1996, is written in simple English making it easier to understand by people who have difficulty with the English language. The translation is true to the same guidelines used for translating the New International Version (NIV), first published as a complete Bible in 1978.
Paul writes these simple but profound words, among others, to the church in Rome as part of his advice on how to truly live for God: “When you hope, be joyful (Romans 12:12).” So what do you think Paul meant by these simple words? What does it mean to hope and be joyful in that hope? I can tell you upfront what Paul did not mean. It is most certainly not the type of “human” hope wrapped up in the words “I hope that ‘something’ happens.” Something may be as trivial as avoidance of heavy traffic, sunny weather, win the lottery, etc. Or it could be as complex as “I hope they will find a cure for my cancer.”
So what is it then that Paul meant by hope? Earlier in the chapter (Romans 12:1-2), Paul told the Roman Christians to quit living by the ways of the world and instead mimic God’s ways by showing the same kind of loving-kindness (mercy) to others that He had shown to them. Their hope, their confident expectation, lay in the gift of eternal life that they had obtained by trusting in Jesus for their salvation. This is the type of hope that is patient in trials and tribulation, able to withstand whatever trouble may come your way. A hope that sustains because a better world awaits where there is no death, no illness, no sickness, no tears. A hope that springs forth in a spirit of perseverance, persistent and cheerful prayer … even in a state of great affliction … always remembering that our suffering is for Christ’s sake and His glory and not as punishment for us. A hope that means everlasting happiness. A hope that is filled with the love and joy of Jehovah God for those justified by the blood of Jesus. A hope that is free of fear and anxiety. A hope that is secured with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. A hope that is assured that ALL of God’s promises will be kept.
Placing your hope in the things of this world or the hands of man will only lead to gross disappointment. Accepting Jesus as your Savior and placing your hope in the hands of God will lead to eternal joy and eternal life!!
Our modern world is much like that of Paul’s time in many respects. We are prone to place our confidence, our hope, our joy in things of this world … our government, our own abilities, our fellow-man. We try to experience temporary human joy by doing such things as taking vacations, visiting with friends, watching TV, going to parties, attending movies and sports events. None of these will bring real joy to us.
Even when we face life’s most difficult hardships we can experience true joy. In the midst of anguish, suffering and pain Paul tells us that we are to: “Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord. (Romans 12:11)” That fire is the hope, the confident assurance, that the Christian possesses … assurance that Jesus paid the price for our sins and that we possess the gift of eternal life with God in Heaven.
At the age of 24 in 1786 Helen Maria Williams wrote a beautiful poem that was put to music and ultimately published in 613 hymnals. Below is the text of and a link to the tune of that hymn courtesy of http://www.hymnary.org. Thoughtfully read and soak in each verse, but note verse 4 in particular.
While Thee I seek, protecting Power,
Be my vain wishes stilled;
And may this consecrated hour
With better hopes be filled.
Thy love the powers of thought bestowed,
To Thee my thoughts would soar:
Thy mercy o’er my life has flowed;
That mercy I adore.
In each event of life, how clear
Thy ruling hand I see;
Each blessing to my soul more dear,
Because conferred by Thee.
In every joy that crowns my days,
In every pain I bear,
My heart shall find delight in praise,
Or seek relief in prayer.
When gladness wings my favoured hour,
Thy love my thoughts shall fill;
Resigned, when storms of sorrow lower,
My soul shall meet Thy will.
My lifted eye, without a tear,
The lowering storm shall see;
My steadfast heart shall know no fear;
That heart will rest on Thee.
Placing our hope in the temporal things of this world is useless. Consider these words from the familiar hymn “The Solid Rock” written by Edward Mote in 1834:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
This then, is how one can Be Joyful in Hope!
Books by Jim Davenport: Please purchase Jim’s books to help support his writing ministry.
- Christian Devotions & Quick Studies – Hardback, Paperback, eBook
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Related Articles by Jim Davenport:
- Our Comforter
- God Will Provide
- In His Time
- God’s Solution for Anxiety
- Facing Tough Times
- Is Anything too Hard for God?
- Do Not Fear
- An Anchor in the Time of the Storm
- His Grace is Sufficient for Me
- Become A Christian
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