Hope, Joy and Peace
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.
Paul expresses his desires and concerns for the people of God over and over throughout this epistle. The Romans (and we) are to be God's holy people. All along the way we get a little glimpse of what that means. We are to partake in the very nature of God and here we see that God is the God of hope and it is in the hope of God that we discover peace and joy. This peace and joy comes to the people by way of the Holy Spirit who fills us with God's hope. When we have hope in God, then the Holy Spirit enters every crevice of who we are and there is an abiding sense of peace and joy in every aspect of our lives.
When we first went to Russia in 1992 the situation seemed pretty hopeless. Economically and politically everything had fallen apart --and continued to fall apart. Lawlessness ruled for a number of years and food lines were a plenty. Life was especially difficult for the elderly who no longer had a support system to help them survive. I remember the sense of hopelessness that so many had. Around that time I attended a conference on Compassionate Ministries back in the United States. The discussion centered on the fact that we can't simply bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people but we must be engaged in making a difference in their daily lives. (ie. feed them, clothe them, etc.) I asked what we were to do if we couldn't make a difference in their daily lives -- couldn't knowing Jesus be enough?! You see, things were so bad that we didn't have the resources to make much of a difference. Things seemed pretty hopeless -- and yet, I discovered that when we had nothing material to offer people -- the good news of Jesus really was enough to bring hope into peoples' lives.
At some point life can be so bad here on this earth that the hope of a life with Christ really is enough. And as people entered into that relationship with Christ we saw incredible transformation. The hopelessness of the current situation was replaced with the "hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Their state of living was not changed, but yet they had joy and peace because of their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the hope that Paul was talking about.
I think that sometimes we have to experience hopelessness to truly understand hope. It's too easy to put our hope and trust in ourselves and what we can personally accomplish. This is not hope. And trust in ourselves will not reap the benefit of the kind of peace and joy that Paul is talking about here. There is a depth of joy and peace which can only come through learning to put all of our hope in God. Nothing in this world can satisfy us like he can. I want to experience his hope, his joy and his peace.
Lord, may I enter into the sacred space of trust in you in all things. Amen.