Rom. 15.4 thru 13 Delivery Copy Sermon 2
Hope…I learned something about the origin of hope during my wife’s second pregnancy. She had to endure the usual nausea and incredible discomfort for nine months and basically sharing her body with another being. Her abdomen had been stretched to new limits. But along with all of this she was diagnosed with “preclampsia.” I had no idea what this condition was, but, it turned out that the pregnancy had triggered a High Blood Pressure disorder that put her in the danger zone much more than I, or the doctor, would have liked. She had to cope with all of this nausea and the changes in her body, but more importantly, she had to prepare herself for the upcoming trauma of birth with this new threat of a stroke. The doctors were worried that her blood pressure would rise to levels that would endanger both her and the baby during the birth. She needed inner strength at this time in her life. Through the enduring of this pregnancy her faith was strengthened. God worked through the pregnancy and in the end her hope in God was stronger. This was quite something for me to watch. She was given a stronger hope, and then faith, in Christ through a difficult time in her life because of the character that was built as she endured the hardships brought on by the pregnancy. This pregnancy was a gift from God in more ways than she, or I, could have ever imagined. He gave my wife the gift of endurance, which in turn gave her the gift of character, which then gave her the gift of hope.
Paul is asking us to learn something about this same Christian hope today as well. Not through a pregnancy, but he invites us in verse four of our text that, “through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope.” First of all the hope he is talking about is a specific, Christian hope. This is the Christian hope that is given to us through our hardships and the endurance of them.
Now, what does Paul mean by “through endurance?” Well, Christians have been “enduring” throughout history. The entire Old Testament is a story of a people who endured incredible hardship. They withstood devastation, even an almost complete annihilation…multiple times! The Israelites endured slavery under the Egyptians. But Paul tells us that our God is a God of endurance. He gives us endurance to enable us to withstand what may come our way and through it that we might have hope. God gave the Israelites endurance through this extremely long period of slavery that they suffered. They were being prepared for His servant Moses to present a hope they would accept. After this they barely escaped and after being pushed into a corner between the sea and a huge army they made it to the desert. They then underwent forty years in this bleak desert. This was a refinement of the character of the people of Israel and through it they again had hope. After that they fought every -ite people there was, including; the Hittites, Ammonites, Canaanites…you name ‘em. This was only to be overrun by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and then the Romans. They bore persecution and enslavement under most of these peoples. The only thing that the remnants of the Israelites came away with was a hope that came from having to endure the long hardship of captivity and persecution. They were given this hope through God’s mercy.
He gives us the gift of endurance but do we use it? We are often put to the test in our lives, do we shirk the responsibility? Do we quit when the going gets tough? I must admit that I have done this. We sometimes look for the easier route, or just stop going forward at all, instead of pushing on in the direction God would have us go. This gift isn’t always utilized in our lives to bring the hope that God is trying to give to us. God gives us the gift of endurance so that we can grow in our Christian faith through character and hope. Even when we quit God still gives us endurance and even hope. Despite our unworthiness God is gracious and gifts us with hope through endurance. He is a gracious and merciful God and loves us enough to pull us through even the deepest despair or hardship. He did this by example. He is the one that didn’t shirk His responsibility. Our Lord and Savior pushed on, all the way to the cross, for us.
In our text Paul tells us that we also have hope through the encouragement of the Scriptures. The Israelites had the prophets, and they were encouraged through the telling of a savior. As did the Romans have the promise of the final Day of Judgment revealed through the Scriptures. God told the Israelites before they escaped from the Egyptians, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you.” They had this same God who had delivered them from each and every one of the earlier mentioned calamities. He rescued them from the Egyptians. He provided them with manna in the desert. He was with them in battle after battle in which He defeated their foes. They always had a merciful God with them. He would send prophets to help them see the truth even after they deserted Him. Even when they had broken through all the boundaries of sin, God would forgive them and save them. He gave them an incredible hope through the scriptures as it is written, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” These accounts were written down on scrolls and they had the prophets. These are the scriptures that gave the Old Testament Israelites hope.
Now imagine another pregnancy in which the encouragement of the scriptures gave hope. Mary, a fourteen year old girl going through all of the physical changes along with the overwhelming nature of her particular pregnancy. Mary is pregnant by the spirit of God, but she was betrothed to Joseph. This was in a society that is not very tolerant of pregnancy out of wedlock. She is looking at some pretty rough repercussions as a result of God’s gift to her. But there it is. This was God’s gift! How does she react to the announcement of the coming hardship for herself? She reacted out of the faith that God gave her through the scriptures and the hope given to her people. She said, “May it be to me as you have said” to the One who had always kept His word. Then she sang a hymn of praise recounting how God had extended His mercy from generation to generation. Instead of taking the stance of, “Oh whoa is me,” she sang joyfully! Her words were, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” She sang of all the things that God had done for her found in the scriptures. She sang of the mighty deeds He has done with His arm, the rulers He has brought down, and how “He has helped His servant Israel,” all of this fulfilling His promise to Abraham and his descendants. This is a faithful hope and the result of a gift from God.
We have these same scriptures. Do we allow them to permeate our lives to the extent that we abound with hope? In the world today there is so much to busy us. We can get caught up in our everyday tasks and to-do-lists so easily. We are so involved in getting life done, that we forget about the gift that has been given to us. We forget the joy that is ours as a gift from God. This hope is only possible because of the incredible hope of the Christmas gift that is given to us in God’s Child and the sacrifice that the Son of God made for us. Through this gift, of a Savior, He has forgiven us any forgetfulness we might display. He has forgiven us our oversights, or “undersights,” of this loving gift of the hope he brings to our lives. And even now we have this faithful hope, that He has given us, to help us endure each day because of the promise of His coming again.
We know through the scriptures that He is the great keeper of promises. This is the same keeper of promises that we saw throughout the Old Testament. This is the same keeper of promises that promised the Gentiles, thus including all peoples, that “the root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.” This is the same keeper of promises that told Mary about her coming Son, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” He also told her then, that, “His kingdom will never end.” He tells us that “He will come again” and “even though you do not see Him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
The closing verse of the text reads, “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.” We know that hope comes from God through Romans 5:4 which reads, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts….” For, if we accept that what is said in the Bible is true, then we have a notion of hope. This hope comes from God who gives us an affirmation of life after death in the His Word. Therefore, we have heaven, and therefore it is the eternal life of the Bible that we understand through the mercy of our Lord that we have hope in. Martin Luther said it this way, “By faith we began our spiritual life, by hope we continue it, and by revelation we shall obtain the whole.” God has filled us with hope! We have the hope that Paul speaks of earlier in Romans. We have the hope that the “whole creation” groans about, “as in the pains of childbirth.” The hope that our closing verse talks about is one that “overflows” or “abounds.” This means that we have a superabundance or to exceed in quantity or quality. He has given us this hope by giving us the Holy Spirit. We wait patiently, or endure, as He has given us the promise of His return. We especially remember this promise during the Christmas season by remembering the gift of His Son having come as promised to us. He lived a life on earth and then gave His life on the cross for us, even as we did not deserve this wonderful gift.
So, abound in this hope of eternal life that is given as a gift to us through our Lord and Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.