Hope and Grace

For the last few weeks, I have been spending time in the book of Romans, revisiting some basic themes of what it means to be a follower of Christ. As I have been reading, two words have rattled around in my thinking: grace and hope, and I want to share a few of my thoughts with you.

Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

First, let’s look at some definitions of hope. The definition of hope that we use today in modern language is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Another way of saying that is hope is a desire accompanied by expectation of our belief in fulfillment, or a strong and confident expectation. An example of this definition of hope would be this: Saturday I ran a 5K. I have run many 5K’s in the last few years, and it was my hope that in this one I would set a new personal record. I was hopeful that this would happen. But, while that was possible, there was also a possibility that it wouldn’t happen, so with this kind of hope, there is also a sense of doubt—it might happen, but it might not, but you want it to happen and you expect that it will happen, but there is still a possibility that it won’t. (I did set a new PR, by the way.) We say things like, I hope I get this job, but there’s a chance I won’t. I hope we can afford this house, but we might not be able to. I hope my friend recovers from this disease, but it doesn’t look good. Hope in this sense requires no faith.

Another definition of hope is a person or thing in which expectations are centered or trustful expectation with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises. This is closer to the type of hope referred to in Romans. The definition of the hope used in these scriptures is more along the lines of trust. In fact, the archaic definition of hope is trust. So think about using the word trust in place of hope in the above. Gives it a whole different feel doesn’t it? We TRUST that He is God and is the Lord of our lives. There’s no doubt that we are going to share in the glory of God. We trust it. When our hope (trust, alert expectancy) is in the Lord, there won’t be disappointment. We won’t be put  to shame, or deluded, or left feeling shortchanged other versions of this scripture say. Even when things don’t turn out the way we expect, because our hope isn’t in our circumstances, but in the Lord. The more we suffer, persevere, endure and see God at work, the more our hope (TRUST) is built.

You see, if our hope truly is in God and not our circumstance, or in how we think things should turn out, or how other people treat us, or let us down, we can be filled with joy even when the world falls apart around us because we trust that God is in control, that God has our best in mind, that the God who has given us Grace is still giving grace.

But what is it that gives us this trustful expectation of God?

We are able to be called the children of God because of what Christ has done for us, not because of anything we have done on our own. Which is the meaning of grace. We can’t obtain it. It has to be given, and because of the gift of grace, we not only are saved but we have hope that we are part of God’s plan to reveal Himself and His glory to the world. God’s grace, which can be defined as the state of God’s favor or undeserved privilege, brings us to the place where we can put our hope, or trust, in Him. What has been done for us is so big, so freeing, that how can we not trust Him? We tend to think of grace in terms like this: a child messes up, but rather than getting the spanking they deserve, they get loved on instead. In a sense, this is grace, but the grace being given to us through Christ is so much bigger. This grace saves us from certain death, it gives us Hope. This grace empowers us. We can’t even come close to attaining the perfection that is expected of us, but this grace enables us to do more and be more than we are able to do and be. A book I have been reading called Radical by David Platt talks about grace this way:

“Here the gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves  and to follow Jesus…We are saved from our sins by a free gift of grace, something that only God can do in us and that we cannot manufacture ourselves…But that gift of grace involves the gift of a new heart. New desires. New longings. For the first time we want God. We see our need for Him and we love Him. We seek after Him, and we discover that He is indeed the great reward of our salvation…So we yearn for Him. We want Him so much that we abandon everything else to experience Him.”

That’s how big this gift of grace is. When we receive it, this is what our response should be: hopeful, trustful, expectation that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. Here is where our hope lies. Here is where our trust is. None of the things that can happen to us in this world can change the fact that we are the children of God, that we have been saved by the blood of His Son, that we are called righteous. That His grace covered our sin.

And yet, most of us simply hope for good outcomes to our lives, to our troubles, for our families. But we are called to put our hope in Christ. Not in chance, or karma, or our abilities, or other people. In Christ. Hope in Christ isn’t doubtful, it is trustful, and He is trustworthy. We don’t hope for Christ and His glory, we hope IN Christ and His glory. Here is where it is helpful to think of hope in terms of trust.

Putting our hope in Christ should be a natural response to the grace and redemption that we have received through Him, and yet it is still our tendency to put our hope in just about anything but Him.

I remember when Mike and I were trying to start our family. We had tried for a year with no success and finally sought medical help. For seven more months I took medication to help the process along to no avail. Throughout the whole time I would say I was trusting God and His timing, I would even pray those words, but it wasn’t true. I was putting my hope in my timing, in my doctors, in the medication, in the ways that we were trying to time things just right. I was sure I could make it happen on my own. It wasn’t until I finally came to the end of me and truly said, with conviction that I was done trying. I was done putting my effort forth. I was ready to truly put my hope (Trust) in the Lord and His timing, His will for our family and our lives, that we finally conceived Anne.

Saying that we put our hope in God and giving lip-service to our trust isn’t enough. It has to be genuine. It has to be honest. And when we just can’t get there on our own, that’s where we have to ask for God’s grace to enable us to get to the point that we can honestly say, with faith believing, that we do trust and put our hope in Him. It’s not easy, but nothing in God’s word promised us easy.

But one of the most freeing moments comes when we remember grace. Romans 8:1 says There is therefore now no condemnation for those  who are in Christ Jesus. Sometimes we are going to fail. We’re going to put our hope in the things of this world. But, we are not condemned for it. We are given grace. Grace that enables us to try again. And again. And again.

Examine your life and where you place your hope. If there are areas where your hope is not in God, ask Him for his grace to help you place your hope in Him. And keep asking and receiving until your hope is where it should be. In Christ alone.

Where are you placing your hope today?

(If you want to read more about hope, there is an excellent post on one of the blogs I follow here.)

 

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