At Ivy Church we said 2019 was our year of HOPE. It was the toughest year of my ministry life.
Something struck me about hope this morning when Zoe and I did our Bible Study together and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
Part of our readings for today were in Romans 5, and verse 5 was a key one for me last year and came up a lot in my prayers and my preaching “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us.” I love that verse.
But of course David Suchet also read the verses before it on Youversion, and then Zoe repeated some of it under her breath…
“Suffering, Perseverance, Character, Hope”
And it got in my heart somehow all day since as I reflected on a hard year, and what struck me is that hope is not what you might have at the beginning.
If it’s “Hope it will all be okay” – that’s not biblical hope, it’s just optimism. And I’d rather be an optimist than a pessimist – because you’re a pessimist you have an awful life even if you’re right!
But the way the Bible lists it here, hope is not up front – the way the world sees it. It may not even be what you have with you at the beginning. It’s what you’re holding onto, at the end.
The way Paul writes, hope is an outcome, of what you undergo. Part of a process.
“For we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance – character, and character – Hope.”
Do we know that?
Where are you in the process right now? Where is hope? If you will keep going – and you’re still standing after the storm, hope’s what you held onto, that is still holding you, at the end.
Is this process automatic? No. Not at all.
Suffering happens to everyone. So many remain stuck in suffering… that goes nowhere and only produces bitterness, resentment, doubt or falling away. So it’s not so much about what you go through – it’s how.
Suffering will happen to everyone. Suffering is not a choice. Perseverance is.
- When we lose the ones we love; but we don’t give up on love.
- When some we thought loved us don’t; but we don’t give way to hate.
- When we let ourselves or others down; but we know God does not give up on us.
- When our prayers are not answered the way we’d choose; but we choose to not give up on prayer.
And Character is not built in such times – it’s revealed. Because like a tea bag, what’s in us only comes out when we go through hot water!
Suffering cannot steal this hope. This hope will last, if it ‘is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness‘ – this is the precious hope that Paul says we rejoice in (5:2).
Whatever happens around us, if we have this hope within us it ‘does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit – who is given to us.‘