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.