This morning, we’re going to take a fresh look at hope. God has given us a new revelation about receiving hope. Although many of us might think that hope is just something that we either possess or lack, God’s word teaches that there is actually a process through which we obtain and maintain hope until His promises are fulfilled. We’re going to learn this morning about the road to hope.
Hope – elpis (el-pē’s) – favorable and confident expectation
God’s promises come by faith so that it might be by God’s grace and guaranteed to all the children of God, both by faith and by descent. They do not come through obedience to the law, but by faith.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5 (AMP)
3 And not only this, but [with joy] let us be glad in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; 4 and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope andconfident assurance [of eternal salvation]. 5 Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
None of us ever desire to be given hope. To be given hope means that we are placed in a place of lack and need.
hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?
Hope does not come natural to us. Hope is not our initial response to lack and need.
Take a newborn infant for example. When they are hungry, they know that they can trust their mother to provide for that need. However, that newborn doesn’t just lay there smiling with confident expectation. Rather, that newborn screams and kicks and cries until it is red in the face and receives its next meal.
Fast forward a few decades later and, unless God has intervened, our response to lack looks much the same. We react emotionally in our flesh and demand that we receive what we want, how we want it, and when we want it. Let’s be honest with ourselves this morning. Some of us Christians label this response faith to justify our behavior. God, however, calls it immaturity.
Although I had never thought about it in this way previously, God reveals through His word that obtaining and maintaining hope is a process. God’s word teaches that hope is what we obtain only after we have gone through three other steps. This is revealed not only in the black and white text statement in Romans chapter 5, but is also clearly seen and revealed throughout the lives of all those who had hope throughout scripture.
This revelation from God’s word can help us to gain a better understanding and a better response when things in our lives do not agree with God’s promises.
The first step in obtaining and maintaining hope is suffering. Although none of us desire this step, it is a logically necessary one for hope to exist. When we do not possess God’s promises in their fullness in our lives, it creates some degree of suffering in our lives. God’s will is to give us life and life abundant (John 10:10). Anything short of this abundant life is an area of suffering.
This suffering could be caused by many things including: broken or missing relationships, sickness, financial lack, material needs, death, to our own thoughts and views of ourselves.
Hope simply cannot exist without suffering. Suffering is a necessary component of hope. So long as we live in these tents of bodies on this side of our resurrection, there will always be some area of our lives that exists in a state of suffering. There will always be something that we are in need of until we are resurrected and enter into the new order of things where Jesus makes all things new and we receive our eternal, glorified bodies (2 Corinthians 5). Suffering is a part of this earthly life.
However, too many of us stop at this step and never grow beyond it in life. Yes, suffering is the first step in obtaining and maintaining hope, but that is never where God desires us to stay! Yes, we are suffering, but we must move forward toward hope by persevering!
I mentioned how none of us desire the initial step in obtaining and maintaining hope of suffering. I would like to say that suffering is the most difficult step and that it is all easy going from there. However, the second step is even less desirable to us and more difficult to walk through.
In this step, not only do we suffer, but we continue in it. Perseverance is the step, however, in which change can happen. This is the step where we make a choice to either remain in suffering and throw ourselves a big ‘ole pity party or whether we move forward. This is the step where nothing changes, but yet everything changes. This choice lies in our focus and perspective.
It is here where I can find God’s promise that is missing in my life and choose to trust that He will fulfill it if I am faithful to do my part. It is here where I can choose to fix my eyes on Jesus, whose name is Faithful and True, and trust Him with my life. However, it is also here where I can keep my eyes fixed on the suffering in my life and accept it, giving up any chance at receiving hope. The choice is ours. We’re reminded of these truths at this point in the process of obtaining and maintaining hope:
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
2 Corinthians 1:20
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
James chapter 1 reminds us that as we persevere through trials of many kinds that it works to mature us so that we become complete and lacking nothing. To persevere simply means to keep pushing forward through our suffering. If our eyes are fixed on Jesus, then this becomes much more bearable. If our eyes are fixed on our suffering, perseverance is nearly impossible and hope will be stolen from us.
As we persevere through our suffering, character is built.
Character is the stuff that we’re made of. The Greek word used here is dokimē and is also translated, depending on the version of the Bible that you’re reading, as the word experience (KJV), spiritual maturity (AMP), virtue (MSG), approval (GNT/ASV), and proof (ERV). The Greek word literally means the process of proving you by experiment. Therefore, after experiencing suffering and persevering through it, our character is proven.
I’m of the opinion that this is also not only the step where our character is proven, but also where our character can be molded and shaped by God. The analogy that we are clay in the hands of God is used in Isaiah 29, 45, 64, Jeremiah 18, 2 Corinthians 4, and 2 Timothy 2. I believe very strongly in God’s ability to radically transform and reshape the core of who we are; our character.
God permits suffering, trials, and testing in our lives not to harm us and break us, but as the necessary pressure used by the Potter as He slowly reshapes and transforms who we are. If we, the clay, remain softened and allow change to take place, this is a quick and painless process. If we, the clay, remain hardened and resist change to take place in our lives, we will live with this pain, pressure, and suffering until we are finally broken.
Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Is it the Potter’s fault that pressure applied to one person caused them to blossom and mature and that this same pressure applied to someone else caused them to break? To be broken is not the heart of God, our Father! After all, He is our healer! However, if we remain stubborn and hardened and are one of His children through faith, He loves us too much to leave us in that state. If breaking us down is what we force Him to do, then He will break us and rebuild us from the ashes left over.
His plans and purposes for our lives are too great and too significant to allow us to be used as a spittoon by everyone for the rest of our lives. We are destined for far greater things! We are all called to be the body of Christ, to represent Him here on the earth and to bring His Kingdom wherever we go. How can we do that if we are so brash, rude, and unloving to others? How can we do that if we think that our lives are meaningless and worthless? How can we do that if we think we’re just a screw up that will never get things right? How can we do that if we never let go of who we used to be and embrace who we are in Christ?
I don’t know about everyone else here this morning, but I would rather remain softened and allow Him to change me. I don’t like having to suffer and persevere through that suffering in life because of my stubbornness. I don’t like lack and need. I would rather just throw up the white flag and surrender my entire life to the Potter than to struggle even a single day more.
After all, if I would remain humble and teachable, maybe my life wouldn’t require so much suffering through trials and tests to become mature and complete; lacking nothing. If I would just do things His way and put some effort into doing things the right way, maybe my life would begin to change. If I would just believe that truth that if I change nothing in my life, nothing will ever change, maybe change would actually happen. If I would stop sitting around waiting on God to do something for me when He has empowered and equipped me and given me everything that I need to do it myself, maybe something would actually happen.
This is the point in the process of obtaining and maintaining hope where most of us get stuck. We go through the same trials and tests over and over again and fail them. It is this point where we give up hope when we’re right at the finish line to receive it as our great reward. It is this point where we either admit that we need to change or we begin to change who God is, which is a dangerous thing to do. We either change ourselves or we justify our miserable suffering and excuse away our responsibility in it.
This morning, God wants to give us a new perspective about this step, though. If God keeps allowing us to go through the same trials and tests, it means that He loves us. It means that He has things so huge and significant waiting for us at the finish line of that test. He continues to experiment on us to reveal and prove to us who we truly are. These are the mirror that God holds up in attempt to show us who He sees us to be. If we look in the mirror and only see who we currently are, however, we’ll never receive hope and we’ll never pass the test.
Any of us who are parents have put our own children through these tests to prove to our children who they can be and what they are capable of. Think back to when your child first learned to walk. How many times did we have to pull them up onto their feet and begin walking them with our fingers and then letting go to have them fall on their butt before they finally let go and began to take their first steps all on their how? We had to put them through that test over and over and over again. However, they finally picked up on the idea and realized what they were capable of. From that point forward, they were an unstoppable force running around everywhere getting into everything. I bet that to this very day, they are still walking on their own, too.
It’s no different with the trials and tests that God puts us through. It’s not that He wants us to suffer and get hurt. We didn’t force our kids to fall on their butts over and over again because we enjoy to see them hurting and frustrated! It’s that He wants to prove to us who we are and what we’re capable of. The sooner that we get up off of our butts and stop crying and whining, the sooner we’ll begin to realize this and embrace what God is trying to show us!
God has hope for us. He sees our potential, but we won’t receive His hope until we pass this experiment that He is putting us through as proof of His truth.
As we remain softened and allow God to shape and transform us in the midst of persevering through our suffering, we will finally obtain and maintain hope.
Hope is favorable and confident expectation. Hope is expectation. Hope is knowing and trusting God and that our suffering will come to an end as God’s promises are fulfilled in our lives. When our hope is rooted and anchored in Jesus, we will not be put to shame and will not be disappointed!
Everything that we receive from God, every fulfilled promise of His is by faith. Faith, however, requires two ingredients.
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Faith requires hope and certainty. A third element, the unseen, is also required, but I don’t believe that any of us struggle with that one. We’re 100% confident that we don’t have something. We can even easily have others confirm that one for us if there is a question. Hope and certainty are the two ingredients that we struggle with.
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What He promises, He will fulfill. He is the only certainty that we will ever have in this lifetime. Hope is what we must obtain and maintain for faith to actualize what we realize. When we realize what God sees in us and is trying to do in our lives, then and only then do we have hope. Once I have this hope and I’m certain of God’s ability, then faith exists and we can finally receive God’s promises. As Romans 4:17 states, God calls things that are not as if though they are. To Him they exist, to us they do not. Faith is what reconciles this difference so that we receive what God has willed. Here, we find a real life example of this to use as a model for our own lives:
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
This morning, God wants to give us hope. All of us here this morning are at some point in this road to hope. All of us are in the process of obtaining and maintaining hope for something in our lives. Perhaps we are merely suffering. Maybe we are persevering through that suffering. Maybe we are allowing God to shape and transform us in the midst of persevering through that suffering. Maybe we finally have received hope, but are waiting for faith to activate so that we receive God’s promise.
Wherever we might be in this process, it is God’s desire to prosper you and to give you hope and a future. The primary point that God wants to remind us of this morning is not only that there is a road to receiving hope, but that this road starts, continues, and ends all with seeking after Him with our whole heart.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosperyou and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Starting now, and continuing all the days of our lives, let’s be ones who seek after God with all of our heart. Let us not be ones who merely persevere through suffering, but ones that seek after God and allow Him to change and transform who we are so that we will become mature and complete; lacking nothing! He will show us why we are suffering. He will show us what He sees in us. He will show us what we are capable of. Jesus, named Faithful and True, will never give up on us until who we are created to be becomes our reality!