Hope has many definitions and can apply to our lives in many different ways. I remember when I was searching for a youth pastor position some years ago and I was exhausted from either saying no to some and hearing no for others. I had shared the issues I was having with a friend and was told that “I had hope, and hope does not disappoint.” I was a bit baffled at the usage of the Romans 5:5 passage and realized that many misinterpret that passage.
Hope, by worldly definition, is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen (noun) or wanting something to happen or be the case (verb). This definition is defined to be something a bit different biblically. When we read the preceding verse, Romans 5:3-4 tells us:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…
It is a 4 step process before hope is even defined. The Apostle Paul tells us that we must first rejoice in sufferings. Positive thinking and speaking are great and necessary to live a Christian life, but it does not remove the suffering that humanity often endures. If we do not suffer, we become like the couch potato who decides to run a marathon next weekend; it will not happen. Our suffering produces the very endurance needed to create something else, character. Character includes things like integrity, joy, the fruits of the Spirit. Once character is built, our hope is built up. We also understand that this building never stops until we go to heaven.
Is it wrong to dream or hope for things that you desire to happen? No way! You had better have dreams, goals, and vision for you, your family, your ministry, etc. The problem is that we end up running out of hope when we tell God what has to happen. We do that when we plan things with God as our theme, but He is not the center of the plans. I am a Christian, so I do everything in life with a God-like theme, but this does not make what I do God-centered. Much like how our relationship with Jesus transforms us by renewing our mind, so our journey with Jesus transforms our hope into a God-centered hope.
Now, let’s get real analytical here on Romans 5:5 in the ESV
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
I use the ESV for Bible study for reasons like this Scripture. The translation of the word shame is more accurate here. The NKJV and others use the word disappoint, but that word does not mean it disappoints our standard of hope. It means that we will have eternal life with Christ and so this hope we have is Jesus, and He will not put us to shame in the end.
It is good to have hope in your life, but if your primary hope is not Jesus, your hope will not endure. The great news, Jesus is our hope and the peace He gives us is enough to sustain us through the greatest of trials and suffering. It’s easy to say this, but until you are reliant upon that very peace, we can only talk of it. It’s when we live it out that our hope is truly transformed from ours to His.
Marriage is not about getting out of your comfort zone to make your spouse happy. It is about becoming one flesh, and that alone can be uncomfortable for both. Happiness is about self-fulfillment, and when one spouse spends time and energy on happiness, it can create a void in the relationship. What about when both spouses strive for the happiness of the other, it may seem to be the right motive, but something will still be missing. Happiness is subjective and is not a proper motivator for a marriage.
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” – Mark 10:6-9
The act of “becoming one flesh” is something that happens to the couple through submission to God and each other. When we submit to God, the process of “one flesh” begins and can be a fun and incredible journey. Love is the sole motivator for a healthy marriage and happiness can simply be a periodic byproduct of this love. Love is action-based and not an emotional response or feeling like happiness is. One of the most dangerous questions one could ask a married man or woman is, “are you really happy?” and ironically it is a common question asked when infidelity is being presented. Watch any Lifetime movie with an affair in the plot and that question is bound to be asked. When answered honestly, any spouse can admit at some point in their marriage that they are not happy.
Love always gives while lust always takes. One spouse cannot give happiness to the other, but they can give love. Becoming one flesh comes when we lay our lives down for the other, for example, giving up our preferences for the sake of the one we love. There is no way to cover the many ways we allow the “becoming one flesh” process, but specifically, couples should communicate their spiritual journey with Christ.
As a couple grows spiritually as individuals, the key is to share the details with each other. As communication of spiritual growth, decline or battles become more common in the marriage, the stronger the bond between the couple grows stronger. You literally build spiritual character together. For my wife and I, we each grew up in Christian homes and believed the same things about God. The spiritual maturity we each possessed was different, our moral compasses slightly different and our ability to be tested spiritually were different. Why? We each grew up under different circumstances, and so our marriage started with varying differences that could either pull us together or drift us apart. We chose to be submitted to God and each other, and we grew together, our becoming one flesh helped us build spiritual maturity together that no man can separate. Your spiritual growth is both individual and plural. I am not suggesting an unhealthy co-dependancy, but I am suggesting fortifying marriages with spiritual growth that both husband and wife own together with Christ at the center.
John 15:15 is an interesting passage and often the subject of modern Christian apparel and vernacular. Jesus is my friend! I love that aspect about walking with Jesus, but let’s remember that Jesus said this to his disciples at the end of His ministry when they walked through a discipleship process. I would be robbing God’s people if I told them that “Jesus is your friend” right after they gave their lives to Jesus without letting them in on the discipleship process.
John 15:12-15 tells us:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
The discipleship of Jesus was a process and a tough one at that. Jesus instantly had his disciples working from the start of the relationship and challenged the first disciples in Matthew 4:19.
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
A key to the process, follow —> make —-> fishers of men. In other words, our obedience affords the creation process of who we are supposed to be. The word “make” in verse 19, is the same word from Genesis 1:26.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Jesus told a group of Jewish males that if they followed Him, Jesus would CREATE them into what they were not. He would do the impossible in and through them. I love this! As believers, we are created into this status of a child of God, but the only way to be a child of God is to follow him. We need to drop everything and surrender to him. This is the discipleship process, and it is never easy, but only God can do the creation aspect of this relationship.
You remember the Jesus is my homie movement? Then came bobble head Jesus that said yes to just about everything. Jesus is not my homie; he is my King and Savior. Jesus can call us friends when we have heard from Him and obeyed (vs. 15).
I want Jesus as my friend because I want to do the will of God. Otherwise, we only want a ticket to heaven or at least an escape from hell without the road of discipleship that God wants for us. When we follow Jesus, we submit our authority to Him, and He then will make us (create us) to be more like Him.
His love for us is so deep and goes to all lengths to meet us where we are at, but as cliche’ as it sounds… He does not want to leave us there. Jesus no longer called the disciples servants, not because they stopped serving, but because they knew the plans of the master. Servants never know the plans of the master, friends know and do the plans of Jesus.
I was reading from John 9:1-6 last week and something hit me about Jesus, his work ethic. I have read numerous books, articles and opinions on the work week and the knowledge input are coming out of my ears on how to strategize my day (by the way, I will add to that overload at some point). Notice in verse 4 he says
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. – John 9:4 ESV
Jesus was speaking to his disciples openly about the coming of the crucifixion and that his earthly ministry was here and it was time to work while He was still on the earth. He then mentions that the night is coming when no one can work. Jesus set a deadline for the work. While I would love to reflect on life balance and how Jesus even knew the limitations of time while on earth, there is something even tinier here we could miss. The blind man was a setup!
Jesus told his disciples that this man born blind was not so because of sin, his parents or anything except the will of God to show the power of God. Here is verse 3:
Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. – John 9:3 ESV
Boom! I almost read over it as I have done for years, pull it out for a cool sermon that God is in control and even suffering can be for the glory of God, have an altar call and move on. Then I got stuck on work aspect. You and I are called to work the harvest, and that is not just salvation of the lost, which is really good.
So you walk into work one day and your boss tells you to walk around the building and take inventory and everything with a green sticker is yours to take home and do with as you please. There is the one person who will hunt down every green sticker making sure they get what is theirs to take. Then there is the person who walks around and convinces themselves that boss is selfish and there is no green stickers and does very little of anything. Then there is the one person who comes in, prioritizes the inventory task and is sure to be detailed enough to check for green stickers as the job is accomplished. Who is the good employee? I would venture to say the third one is.
When we are confronted with the opportunity to God’s work, we have the choice to 1. seek the opportunities that bless us the most right now 2. take on an attitude of false humility and do little work at all 3. Do as Jesus asked of us and get blessed along the way.
The blind man was a setup, a freebie of sorts for the disciples to see the power of God. Our job is people, not a passion! The disciples would have easily overlooked the blind man since he was that way from birth and the impossible was overshadowed by their belief that the blind man did something wrong. I do that all the time; we do that. Jesus is not asking us to go out into the world and find out who is worthy of freedom, just offer it to all. God has setups (opportunities) for us not to use our power but to see God’s power to free others. May you be encouraged to set the captives free!