You have the right to hope because you have the promises of God.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Hope is not casual. Hope is something you mainly think about when you really need good news in your life. We often talk about hope as a good thing. And it is a good thing. It’s a virtue, a fruit of faith. But it doesn’t always feel great. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” That’s what the Proverb says.
When your hope is fulfilled, it feels great! You feel joy, you feel gratitude. What’s a bit harder is waiting for your hope to be fulfilled. It makes you feel heartsick.
And yet God wants you to “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Think about what He is really is asking of you.
Have you ever hoped against hope? Maybe in your life, there was something that looked like it was going wrong. All the signs pointed to disaster. All the people around you said to expect the worst. But you still hoped for the best. How did that feel?
It isn’t easy to carry hope in your heart. Some people will tell you, it’s better for you to have low expectations. Give up and save yourself the heartache. A hope deferred makes the heart sick – so don’t bother hoping.
Well, that’s not the Spirit of God. You have the right to hope. It doesn’t matter how high the barrier is, how low the expectation is – you have the right to hope. The higher the barrier, the lower the expectation – the more right you have to hope in Christ. God didn’t send his Son to educate us about the harsh realities of life. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Pt. 1:3)
We are born into a living hope. An immortal hope. An invincible hope. That’s the Gospel. That’s the good news. But here’s the bad news: hope hurts. Like with all rights, exercising your right to hope comes with a cost, and a lot of responsibility. The cost is your heart, your feelings, your emotions. The responsibility you have is to be willing to pay that price – otherwise, you won’t have any hope. You won’t be able to exercise your right to hope.
Hope matters. Paul tells us, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for, and the assurance of things unseen.” So that tells us that there is no faith without hope. If we don’t have hope, we don’t need faith – or I should say, we don’t think we need it.
But God knows you do. Faith is the means of grace God gave you to be saved. It is God’s gift to the world, and the reason he sent his Son. Some rights in the world are paid for by war, and they are shakable — but the spiritual right to hope was paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, and your right to hope is unshakable. While freedom in America might be defined in the Constitution by things like the right to say what you want to say and bear arms, etc, freedom in Christ is defined in the Spirit by the right to hope.
In the book of Hebrews, Paul goes through a long list of all the believers from Eden to Israel who hoped for a heavenly city, who longed to see Jesus’ Kingdom. Many of them suffered and were martyred for their hope – but even those who died in chains died free, because they died exercising their right to hope, which no one could take away from them. They didn’t just pay an emotional price for their right to hope – they paid the ultimate price. But even threatened with death, no one could get inside their heads and take away their hope.
No one can get inside your heart and take away your hope, no one.
What Paul says is that, even though these ancient believers didn’t live to see what they hoped for on earth, they lived to see it in heaven. God was faithful and fulfilled their hopes. And Paul wants you to know that, what they only got to see in heaven, you get to see on earth. This is the living hope of the Gospel: heaven and earth are reconciled into one in the body of Christ. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called.” Eph. 4:4.
Heavenly things happen on earth when we are in the body and Spirit of Christ. When we pray in the Spirit, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” God is faithful to do it. The God who trampled down death under Jesus’ feet is going to work miracles in your life. That is his promise. That promise is why you have the right to hope.
I saw an amazing testimony of a woman from Tampa. Early in her pregnancy, she was diagnosed with a miscarriage. She knew the science, she knew how low her expectations should be – but she didn’t let that enter her heart. Instead, she exercised her right to hope – and she stood on the promises of God. She stood on Exodus 23:26, “No woman in your land will miscarry or be barren.” She said, if that was the promise of the old covenant, where only the most righteous and obedient could receive blessing, how much moreso is it true of the new covenant, where sinners can receive the blessings by faith. She claimed that promise for her own.
She stood on the miracles of God, and said that if God can raise children to barren Sarah, barren Elizabeth, and even the Virgin Mary, surely he would raise children to her. This woman said that a time came during her pregnancy when she appeared to have the miscarriage predicted by her doctors. But even then, when anyone else would have given up hope, she kept hoping. By the grace of God, 9 months after conception of this child, whom doctors said was miscarried, this woman gave birth to a happy, healthy, whole and holy child.
Maybe there’s a natural explanation for this miracle, maybe there’s not. Natural or supernatural, it makes no difference to God – and when it’s the miracle you’ve hoped and prayed for, it makes no difference to you, either. “A longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
This woman said something important, too: she said that her hope made her angry. She heard that grim diagnosis, and she became angry. She became emotional. Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but I come to give you life, and life abundantly” — so she got angry at the Enemy, and brought that anger to God, saying – “You can’t let the thief steal, kill, destroy my baby! That’s not what you promised!”
It reminded me of my father’s mother, Granny Joan: years ago she was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. She is a woman of great faith. But when she heard this grim diagnosis, she got angry. Her husband had died years before. She said, “You can’t let the thief destroy me, and steal me away from my children – you can’t let my children become orphans!” She stood on those promises, and God healed her.
I don’t know if the anger both of these women felt caused the miracle to happen. I would imagine that praying with your whole heart comes with all sorts of feelings, not just anger. What I do know is, their hope riled them up to this level of anger. Their hope made them heartsick, like the Proverb said. They held on – and it hurts to hold on.
I want to do you one better here: the best reason you have to hope is because God is faithful to fulfill your hopes even when you give up. That’s the story of Easter. On the Road to Emmaus, the risen Christ runs into his disciples, and they are downcast. They’d given up hope that Jesus was going to redeem Israel, because he was dead – or so they thought. And yet, without them realizing it, there he was, standing right in front of them.
What an image: two disciples who had lost hope, standing their chitchatting with the very fulfilment of their hope, risen from the dead and in the flesh, and they didn’t even know it. That’s how God works: He’s not just going to give you what you hope for, even when you’ve lost hope; but for all you know, He already has, it’s right in front of you, you just don’t know it yet.
Like all rights, the right to hope is available to all, but not everyone exercises it, or exercises it in the same way. Some Americans exercise their 2nd amendment rights by hunting with guns, others keep them in their house for home protection, some walk around with them, locked and loaded, ready for anything. But how easy it would be to take away the right to bear arms by taking away their arms.
The right to hope is nothing like this. It’s a right that can never be taken away, because no one has the power to take away your hope. Your hope is yours, it lives in your heart’s secret place. It is a gift from God, and no thief has the right or power to steal, kill, or destroy it. You don’t have to exercise your right to hope – but God has given you the right to, and He hopes you do. “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Rom. 5:5.
May you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.