I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13 NLT
Paul had hope. Not a self-manufactured hope based on some unreliable man-made institution or undependable individual. His hope was based on God. For Paul, God was the source of all hope. It was God who had sent His Son to die for the sins of man. It was God who had provided a way of salvation when there had been one. It was God who made possible forgiveness for sin when condemnation and death was the fate faced by mankind. God provided hope when there was none. Earlier, in his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul wrote, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance” (Romans 8:24-25 NET). Our hope should be in the future fulfillment of God’s promise to fully redeem and restore us to a right relationship with Him. While we can enjoy His presence and experience His power even now, there is a day coming when we will be completely transformed into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. The apostle John reminds us, “we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 ESV). Paul put it in slightly different words when he wrote, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5:5 ESV). While we are daily being transformed into the likeness of Christ by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, that process will not be completed until God calls us home or His Son returns. That is why Paul referred to the hope of righteousness – a belief in and reliance upon a future, as-yet-unseen reality. The day is coming when we will be like He is. At this point, we are seen as righteous in God’s eyes because of the sacrificial death of His Son. We are positionally righteous, but not practically so. We still sin. We still struggle with our sin natures. While positionally righteous before God, we can still find ourselves doing unrighteousness things. But our hope is based on the very real promise of God that there is a day coming when sin will be no more. We will be fully, completely, and wholly holy.
And Paul prays that we might be filled with that hope, revealing itself in peace and joy as we trust in God. Peter put it so clearly and optimistically. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV). Like Paul, Peter wanted us to know that our hope is based on a future promise. Our salvation, while fully accomplished in Christ, is not yet complete. Jesus saved us so that He might one day glorify us. We will be like He is. We will struggle with sin no more. Our sin natures will be done away with. These mortal bodies will be replaced with new bodies that will not suffer from disease, decay or death. We will enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself promised His disciples, “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:3 NLT).
Paul prayed that God would fill believers with hope – God-based hope that results in joy and peace. Our hope must be based on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Because of what He has done, our future is secure. Nothing that happens on this earth can change that. His sacrifice was sufficient. I can’t read this prayer of Paul without thinking of the words of a great old hymn.
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.
We need the God of all hope to fill us with joy and peace as we continue to trust in Him. We can trust Him because He sent His Son to die for us. We can trust Him because He has done for us what we could never have done for ourselves. He freed us from slavery to sin and the condemnation of death through the sacrifice of His own Son. And because of that incredible gift, we have hope.