The first 13 verses of Romans supply believers in Christ with great grounds for hope. True hope is part of the Christian’s DNA. Yet, it can be elusive as well. We hope but we also can struggle with gloom, regrets and cynicism. We know hope is right, but it can sometimes seem so far away. In our conversations, we sometimes gravitate excessively towards all the bad things we see or the fears and worries we anticipate. Occasionally, no frequently, we need to be commanded again to hope in God.
Hope does not mean you should believe that God will make everything in the future happen just as you would prefer. It does mean that we as Christians can confidently expect that true good is coming our way from the hand of God. Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” So, we can expect that God has more grace stored up for us in the days ahead. This is not an exemption from pain, hardship and trials in the coming days, but it is a guarantee that God’s faithful and wise love will continue to care well for His beloved children. That is hopeful!
In view of this, let’s note several points from this passage in Romans 15 that encourage and strengthen Christian hope.
1. He Calls Himself the God of Hope
If God identifies Himself in Scripture in this way, surely it is meant for us to take note of this emphasis. He is the true source of hope. Verse 13 connects joy, peace and hope with believing. The whole book of Romans is a great treatise of the Christian gospel, the good news that God makes sinners righteous through Christ’s righteousness, not through their own deeds. It speaks of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the way of salvation and access to God. So, God is the source of hope because He has made a solid ground and foundation for hope in Jesus Christ. Mark this down, there is no true hope apart from the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! Does your heart take this description that God gives of Himself seriously? Even when hope feels far away, do you cling to the truth, “He is the God of hope”?
2. He Kept His Great Promise
Verse 8 and 9 says, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.” The coming of the Messiah into the world was the fulfillment of Divine promises throughout the centuries, dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden. There were promises concerning this event to Abraham, David and many more. From a human perspective, it took “forever” to fulfill. But, in God’s wisdom it occurred at just the correct moment in human history. Rememer that there were threats to this promise being fulfilled. The famine that would have killed Jacob’s family was overcome by God’s providential sending of Joseph into Egypt to provide food for them. Haman’s devious plot to exterminate the Jews was thwarted and reversed in a stunning chain of events in the book of Esther. Many other examples could be given, but the point is this: God kept His great promise. And if He kept that promise, will He abandon you now, child of God, after all that He has done on your behalf? If He kept that great promise upon which human history is centered, will He not keep all the rest of His promises? Lay hold of God’s promises for you such as His simple, yet rich promise from Isaiah 43:1-2: “I am with you…When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…The rivers will not overflow you…The fire will not burn you”.
Believing these promises of God help us sustain hope. Believing that God is with us helps us lean into His truth even when we don’t feel it. It helps us to believe and do what is good and right, even in the moments in which we don’t feel what is right. It helps us to endure in faithfulness to Him, though it may sometimes seem that our efforts for good are worthless and failing. Finally, believing that His presence is with us means we can expect help from His mighty hand.
3. The Scriptures Give us Hope
Verse 4 says, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Paul had just quoted from the Old Testament in verse 3 and then drops in this nugget of wisdom. The expression “might have hope” according to the Greek grammar communicates the idea of “might keep on having hope”. The point is that the Scriptures are used by God to sustain and fuel our hope. As we read in the Scriptures of the glory of our great God, we can see beyond just this corrupt and fallen world. The word reveals God’s great salvation which revives our confidence and joy in His love. As we are commanded and instructed in godliness, we are taught the lifestyle of hope. The Scriptures reveal to us the glory to come, which is the ultimate consolation to our souls.
Paul believed what he said in verse 4. In this very section of Romans 15, he quoted the Old Testament Scriptures repeatedly. In the book of Romans itself, Paul quoted from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Dueteronomy, 1 Kings, Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, Nahum, Habakkuk, Malachi and I am pretty sure I have left some other books out! This should shout to us, “The Scriptures give hope! Read them. Immerse yourself in them. Believe them. Act upon them.”
The Scriptures teach us how God gave David hope in the midst of his guilt (Psalm 51). Note how God showed mercy, compassion and tender care to a weary, overwhelmed, guilty, suicidal prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19). All these accounts point us to the faithfulness and trustworthiness of the God who gives and sustains our hope in Him.
You may be thinking, “But, I have read the Bible. And I still don’t feel hope.” I assure you that your experience is not uncommon. So what do you do? Keep listening to God’s word. Keep on, keep on prayerfully filling your mind with the truth of Scripture until God uses it to revive and encourage you. God values endurance in seeking Him through His word.
4. The Holy Spirit
Our text in verse 13 is a prayer. A prayer that we might abound or overflow in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it a relief to be able to pray, “Lord, I am not hopeful. Fill me with your hope”? The Christian life is started, empowered and sustained through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone! The blessed Spirit is our companion in this world of vain and empty hopes. He illuminates Christ and His gospel to us and guides our feet in following Christ all through life. Finally, He will lead us into glory where all our hopes in Christ will be realized in all their fulness. Hope, Christian!