Monday, December 6, 2010

Abounding In Hope (Romans 15:13)

ROM 15:13
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”

Abounding in Hope

This morning in Advent 2 our themes are both repentance and what issues from it: HOPE.

There has been a lot of talk about hope in these last few years in our culture, but we have realized little actual hope, as the joyful expectations of change and a new type of leadership have been dashed again and again. Hope is a fragile commodity. It is easily broken and costly to regain.

In his final words to the Romans, Paul prays a blessing on the Roman Church that I pray for us as well, in our day: from 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”

Hope plays an important role in our movement toward the fulfillment of our salvation. It is intertwined with our faith, our trust in the Word of God and the God of His Word. Faith is in fact defined as “the Substance of things HOPED FOR”; and Paul weaves it together as one of the Big Three at the end of 1 Cor 13: “Now remain these three: Faith, HOPE, and Love…”

Hope plays a dynamic role, along with faith, [trust or belief ] in the walking out of our Christian Life in LOVE. It is in fact a kind of binding agent – the middle glue that binds our faith in God to an active love that lives its faith out in day-to-day sacrifice. In many ways HOPE is the fuel that propels us on the Way of Love.

Paul prays for a two-step action in the believers in Rome: Let me change up the phrase a bit… let’s start at the end:
“BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”
In our gospel reading, John the baptizer is recorded as pointing to Jesus as the One who will “baptize” you “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” To baptize, we know, is to overwhelm – to submerge into – like a ship sinking under the waves. It is as a result of this submersion in the Holy Spirit that we are then to be “filled with all joy and peace in believing.” This is the natural outgrowth of the life of God, by His Spirit, that is bestowed – deposited – within us at our baptism, both in water and in His Spirit. It is naturally growing fruit – the Fruit of the Spirit, in fact, by name: JOY & PEACE.

As we are filled to overflow by The God of Hope with the fruit of the Spirit of God, Joy & Peace, we will come to ABOUND IN HOPE. Once again we see Paul, here, referencing the superabundant nature of God’s promise and His action on our behalf. God’s intention is that our lives be ...
FILLED UP and RUNNING OVER.

The word Paul uses here for “abound” is the same word he uses over and over and over again in regard to God’s willingness to pour His Life into our lives – to make more of our lives than they are naturally – to fill our 12 baskets with leftovers after feeding an outrageous multitude. Can you imagine what that school boy told his mom when he came home with 12 baskets of bread and fish? “MOM, Look what God did?”

This super-abundance for those who live in Christ is the hallmark of Paul’s faithful prayers for his churches. We heard it most clearly in his prayer for the Ephesian church: “Now to Him who is able to do super-abundantly more than we can ask or even think… more than we can dream in our wildest dreams … to Him be glory in the Church from generation to generation.” This kind of abundance is the result of hope not the source of it. Paul’s prayer here is that we might be “filled with ALL joy and peace in [the midst of] believing.” All is a lot of joy and a lot of peace!

Hope is about where we keep our eyes

Paul writes the church in Thessalonica, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s the Big 3 again: Faith, Hope and Love.

Earlier in Paul’s letter to Rome we see this all intertwined again:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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.”

As I said earlier, our HOPE is not dependant upon our circumstances – none of this whole package is dependant on our circumstances! In fact, all this works in spite of our circumstance – in some ways, even building in the midst of our bad circumstances. Eugene Peterson in The Message captures this reality as he translates the final verses of what we just read:
We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
So our hope is “the alert expectancy of God’s provision” that comes from the virtue and patience gained in the fire of trial. It is our experience of God’s sufficiency in the face of our lack and need that provides hope for our future. Time after time after time … Jesus is right on time!
Advent is the Season of Hope: the alert expectancy of Christ’s coming and of His consummation of the ages as He gathers His church to Himself in love and comes as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, exalted to reign forever and ever.
So I pray with Paul: “And now, may the God of great hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!” (The Message)
Amen and Amen.

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