A Hope That Will Not Disappoint

Honestly, when I prayed my feeble “sinner’s prayer” 45 years ago, what I think I wanted most was peace in my world and some assurance of a better next world. The next world had come in focus as a result of surviving a pretty bad car accident. While I slept through the accident, literally (yes, I was driving at the time), it awakened me to my mortality and the need to deal with things of eternity sooner than later. And my less than peaceful world was a result of my parents’ marriage imploding and all the upheaval that brings into a house. So, when I prayed the prayer, I wanted peace on earth (at least my little part of it) and a place in heaven. Beyond that, didn’t know really what I was signing up for.

Reading in Romans 5 this morning, I realize that I really wasn’t looking for “peace with God” (v.1). Hadn’t really appreciated the deadness of my soul, the depths of my sin, and the degree to which I lived as an enemy of God. But when by faith — what little faith and little understanding there was — I cried out to God, I was declared righteous by faith and was reconciled with the Creator. Thank You, Lord!

Nor, when I first believed, did I understand that I now had access to a boundless ocean of grace in which I suddenly stood (v.2a). Having been saved by grace in a moment, I would be secure and sustained by grace for eternity. Didn’t know that I had signed up for that either. Praise You, Father!

I can look back and see that whatever rejoicing I did at the time it was pretty horizontally focused, hoping that my life was now going to be good. Didn’t fully appreciate the joy that would be possible as I came alive to the vertical reality of encounters of the divine kind as I tasted repeatedly “the hope of the glory of God” (v.2b).

So, a lot I didn’t know back then that I have come to more fully appreciate over the years since praying that prayer.

But, here’s the other thing I didn’t know that I was signing up for — afflictions!

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

(Romans 5:3-5 CSB)

While it might be easy to rejoice in hope, didn’t know back then that I was also enlisting to rejoice in afflictions.

Afflictions. The ESV and NIV call them sufferings. The NASB and NKJV, tribulations. And my friend, Mr. Peterson, renders it hemmed in with troubles.

We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles . . .

(Romans 5:3a MSG)

Really? Yeah, really. How come that was part of the deal? Because when God enlivened me to pray that prayer in the late ’70s loving me just the way I was (and despite how little I knew), He also loved me too much to leave me the way I was.

Cue afflictions. Cue tribulations. Cue trials. Cue endurance. Cue character. Cue a hope that will not disappoint.

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (v.2b) and so we rejoice in our afflictions because they make real the hope of the glory of God. Our hope not merely an escape from reality, but a hope which becomes more sure as we persist in our journey towards our full and final redemption.

Afflictions producing endurance, an endurance possible only by the sustaining grace of God and power of the Spirit. Endurance producing character as we persist in seasons of suffering, of cross-bearing, imitating Jesus who endured His cross for the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2). Not only looking to Jesus but also experiencing Jesus. Experiencing the reality of Him living in us and through us (Gal. 2:20) as He invites us to come to Him and take up His yoke so that can bear the burden with us (Matt. 28:11). And so, as we experience Him we become increasing like Him. Endurance producing proven character.

And that proven character, which knows the reality of not growing weary or giving up just as Jesus knew (Heb. 12:3), seals the deal on the hope set before us. Having experienced God’s love poured out into our hearts and Jesus power poured out into our lives–even when we are hemmed in with trouble— assures us that we will realize fully what we signed up for even though what we signed up for was “what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man’s heart” because it’s “what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1Cor. 2:9).

And that’s a hope that will not disappoint.

By His grace. For His glory.

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