HOPE(08): a reason to celebrate
Ruthie and I have become fans of Warrior basketball during this playoff season. Although we have other things to do, we find ourselves unable to take our eyes off of the tense, fast-moving games. Each game has its own personal dramas that play out as the time clicks down to the final buzzer. A roiling uncertainty generates the emotion for those few hours. There is something at stake that we care about enough to cheer toward our desired end.
In the letter to the early church at Rome, Paul made a point to cast hope in highly emotional terms. He writes that we who have found new life in Jesus cheer toward our desired end as we “exult in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). In fact, one of our identifying marks should be that we are continuously “rejoicing in hope” (Rom. 12:12). Near the end of that letter Paul offers this blessing:
“Now 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.” (Rom. 15:13)
This blessing is about hope—the God of hope and the hope of the redeemed. The evidence of that hope is emotional—joy and peace. The blessing seems to imply that faith is the foundation and hope is the expectation.
We can believe many things are true without having those beliefs move our heart. Many of our beliefs may be nothing more than an intellectual ascent to biblical data. Another step is needed. While faith regards something as true, hope expects something to happen because of what is true. Hope is a willful act of moving our focus to a future event … and cheering.
So once again I find myself asking some questions: What do I actually expect God to do in my life? What do I look forward to in the future because of what I believe is true? How does the hope of what lies ahead change how I live in the present?
Hope animates the present and revels in a reality that is yet to come. It transforms the routines of daily life into an emotional prelude. It transforms the fear of the unknown into the setting for a surprise ending. Hope transforms biblical truth into positive emotional energy.
Hope also brings a willingness to live with the present—peace in the midst of present realities. It is an internal confidence in the face of external chaos and confusion. It is fueled by insider information that anticipates an outcome that seems too good to be true.
These emotions come from a source beyond us—the God of hope. Paul prays that the source of our hope would saturate our souls with joy and peace; that He would infuse us with an emotional response to this life that confounds the world around us provides evidence of a greater reality.
Although we know how the story (game) ends, it often feels uncertain. Mini dramas play out and opposing forces battle as though victory was up for grabs. There is indeed something at stake; an outcome vastly greater than any basketball title—one that God of hope has already secured. It is an outcome that we care about enough to cheer.