In one of his sermons, Dr. Dino Pedrone – a pastor and the president of Davis College in New York State – gave five things that hope involves in regards to believers. It occurred to me that hope has become another overused cliché for many of us. It’s been made into cute bumper stickers and flowery decorations we hang around our homes with vague, ambiguous sayings about hoping for something better down the road. We often ignore the very real implications of hope, and this is why I’m adding one more thing to Dr. Pedrone’s list.
For context, Dr. Pedrone’s inspiring exegesis came from Romans 5, and his main points were as follows:
- Hope involves waiting on God.
- Hope involves serving others.
- Hope involves walking with God.
- Hope involves worshiping God.
- Hope is a possession.
I won’t go into an explanation of the above five points, but I would like to focus on an additional prerequisite of hope that is often overlooked.
Hope involves suffering.
Isn’t hope supposed to bring comfort and encouragement? Yes, but not in the way we would always like. Look at Jesus, the ultimate and eternal hope of the world. The Messiah brought hope to the Jews. They thought His coming would end their oppression and persecution under other nations and peoples. They couldn’t even imagine Jesus as their promised Messiah because He didn’t fit their expectations.
It seems the desire for instant gratification wasn’t only an issue for our generation.
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:2-5)
The Oxford English Dictionary defines hope as the “expectation of something desired; desire combined with expectation.” We can’t hope for what we already have. By definition, the object of our hope is something that hasn’t yet come to fruition. To have our hope realized, and to receive the thing for which we hope, negates the purpose and need for hope.
We hope for something better, something that will improve our lives or bring joy or peace. Paul and the early church had high hopes for the coming “glory of God.” This would mean the fulfillment of God’s promises and a victory which would finally bring lasting peace and end the suffering of this world. They knew whether Jesus returned during their lifetime or after, they would see His Glory, and they lived with this hope. Naturally, however, as their hopes have not yet been fulfilled in this sense, there is still suffering on earth. That is the nature of hope.
We want quantifiable change now. Like the Jews awaiting their Messiah, we want God to reach down and change our circumstances. We want Him to give us our desires now, to make things better for us, to ease our discontent with our current condition. We don’t want the kind of hope that makes us wait through the storms, we want the kind of hope that brings the sun back before the rain has been given a chance to nourish and grow us.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
God is not stingy. He doesn’t relish holding back blessings from you; He wants to give you a life of abundance, but not always in earthly or material blessings. He wants to give you contentment and joy, but He does so by changing you from the inside out, not by altering your circumstances.
This change isn’t always pleasant; sometimes it’s downright painful. But we know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). This kind of patience and endurance are not built by giving us everything we want the moment we express our desire for it. Character is cultivated through faithful waiting.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Faithful waiting requires determination and perseverance. Hope is one of the few possessions we have the power to keep from being stolen, soiled, or destroyed if we choose. But as long as we possess hope, we have something to lose. Hope stands as an anticipatory substitute for that which we most desire. Hope is what has not been fulfilled yet, and leaves us vulnerable to doubt and discouragement. If we allow these things to eat away at hope, we not only lose hope itself, but we also lose the thing for which we had hoped before it has even come to pass.
Do not let the enemy steal what is rightfully yours. Safeguard your hope by persevering in prayer and supplication, even when it seems the fulfillment of your hope is a distant dream. Expel thoughts of doubt from your mind, and saturate your life with God’s promises. Have peace knowing that by enduring through trials and challenges, God is slowly changing you in order to bring about the realization of your hope. You are being refined, purified, and set apart for His glory. What more could we hope for?