Photo credit goes to Psyche Angelik Mendoza Villacillo-Zuhura
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
Yes, I’m still thinking about joy, Lord. You gave us a lot to think about and meditate on and live in. Today, I’m thinking about this joy I learned of in batach yesterday, and adding to that the thoughts about the joy chara. Strong’s defines chara as “cheerfulness, that is, calm delight:- gladness, greatly, (be exceeding) joy (-ful, -fully- fulness, -ous).” But I want to take that into context with some other thoughts/truths in Paul’s words here. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…” What does that mean? What does “the God of hope” mean for me, for us, and what bearing does it have on our joy and peace in believing?
Is this about God’s hope? Or is this about “the God who provides us with hope beyond us”? (Skip Moen) How often have I stopped to think that it’s one thing for me to “will to believe” but a whole other thing for God to “will that I believe”? I would like to share more of Skip Moen’s thoughts here, “God’s desire that I believe is beyond me. It means that He will bend the fabric of the universe in order to bring me to the place of trusting Him. He will do whatever it takes to provide me the opportunity to choose Him. It is much more than my hope for something more, something better. God involves Himself in my attempt to believe. He steps in where I cannot step and transports me to a place I cannot find without Him. He believes in me before I can believe in Him.”
The Greek word for hope here is elopes. It means “to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation or confidence” and is tied in with faith. But faith isn’t just about my head belief or doctrine. Hope has to do with some Hebrew words. It’s tied in with batach which is trust, and yahoo which is wait, and qawa which is to look for or wait, and tiqwah which is to expect. Think about these words. Hope or faith is an action. It’s more than thoughts or words. If we tie them all together we see that hope is trusting, waiting, expectantly waiting and looking for that hope. Now, putting that all together, Skip Moen added these thoughts, “This means God trusts you, waits for you, looks for you, expects something better from you. God hopes in you! He doesn’t have to hope in Himself. He has no need. His hope is in what you and I will do, what we will become, how we will seize the opportunities to place our confidence in Him.”
Stop and think about that. God wills that I believe. He wills not only that I know Him but that I act upon that knowing. He is confident that I will find Him. He orchestrates that finding. He is the engineer of my life. He places things and events in my life to bring His will about. He confronts me time and time again with His faithfulness in my life and the lives around me. He acts before I ever thought about acting. And because of His acting on my behalf I come to believe and enter into that acting.
Now that is the cause of joy. When the shepherds saw the star and rejoiced exceedingly with great joy (Matthew 2:10) it wasn’t because they had to make themselves joyful. They were seeing You interact on their behalf. You found them in the fields where everyone else had forgotten them. You engineered this moment and every day in their lives. You placed this event there, for their behalf and on the behalf of all people, forgotten or not. You acted when they were helpless to act. Now tell me that You wouldn’t be filled with exuberant joy in that moment. God cares. God loves me. God sees me. God intervenes on my behalf. I am not lost. I am remembered. I am valued.
The problem is, sometimes we don’t follow suit. It’s so easy to fall back into our habitual thinking patterns. We forget the way You responded to us. And like the seed sown on rocky ground, we hear and see and grab it up with the right kind of initial joy, but then we forget or we look back. (Matthew 13:44) We stop trusting and waiting and looking and expecting something better from You. But it doesn’t have to be like that. I can choose to be like the man who found treasure hidden in a field and covered it and didn’t forget about it but sold everything he had to buy that field and went back and dug it up. (Matthew 25:21)
It was never about making joy happen. I can’t. It comes from the knowing of You. It comes from experiencing Your intervention. See, the faithful servant, interacted with what You were already doing. You initiated; he acted upon that. That’s faith. He was faithful in the little things, the normal, the mundane where You were still acting and interacting. And because He interacted with You in the normal and mundane areas where You walked and commanded, You invited Him into Your joy. Your joy is only experienced in You. Unless the servant walks in You and with You, he can’t have Your joy, and neither can I. Because You are the Author of joy. It’s the essence of Your presence. It’s the reward of knowing and living in You. (Matthew 25:21)
Women go to the tomb of Jesus to care for His body. But they find the tomb open and no guards and no Jesus. Instead, an angel tells them that Jesus is not here, He has risen. And he sends them to tell the disciples to get ready. Maybe that seems like it’s just special because Jesus has risen. It is, but He’s still turning culture upside down. See, women weren’t recognized as witnesses. Their witness couldn’t hold up in any court of law. But God chooses women to be His first witnesses. He gave them hope in Him. He entrusted them with the Good News, He waited for them to act, He looked for them, and He anticipated it all expectantly. He knew they would be the first ones at the tomb before they knew. And look what His hope for them did in them. “So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.” (Matthew 28:8)
Zacharias and Elizabeth would have joy and gladness at the birth of John (Luke 1:14) because You were intervening in their hope. The 72 disciples You sent out that ran back filled with joy because even demons were subject to them in Your name (Luke 10:17) were learning of Your hope in them and it brought joy to their hearts. That’s what happens when we see You intercede in our lives, when we aren’t cast out and alone anymore, when we understand that You want us back with You and You do all this for us.
It doesn’t stop there. That hope You have for humanity, for each of us and all of us, overflows in Your joy over us so much that it inhabits even the angels around Your throne. “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” What if the truth is, that we need to realize how great a thing God has done for us through Jesus Christ, from the beginning of time into eternity, by intervening on our behalf every moment of every day? What if we all stand in need of repenting for all the times we’ve not seen and not realized and not rejoiced in His hope for us that is so tangible? What if that is part of the sin we are guilty of?
I want to stop trusting in false things. I want to stop waiting for what doesn’t matter. I want to stop looking for what I think. I want to stop expecting wrongly and distortedly. I want to trust in You, in all You’ve done, in all You’re doing, and in all You will do. I want to appreciate every situation, good or bad, as an opportunity for You to demonstrate hope and bring me joy, not because of getting through or out of the situation, but by drawing closer to You and walking with You through it all, and experiencing You. I want to wait for You. I want to wait with You and in You. I want to look for You in everything. I want to expect You to be God. I want to expect You to show Yourself and bring glory in every situation and in me. I want to be that sinner who repents. I want to enter into the joy of the Lord. The truth is, I can have what I hope for. You’ve already made the way for me and You are continually making it for me. I just have to embark with You on it.
Even when my hope and my joy fades, Yours doesn’t. That’s why I can forever be confident of this very thing, that this good work which You have begun in me and for my behalf and on behalf of others and Your kingdom, You will continue it and complete it. (Philippians 1:6) You are the Strong One who will make me strong. You are the Hope that gives me hope. You are the Joy that fills my life with joy unspeakable. It was never about circumstances. It’s You. You are my happy thought. You are my joy. You are the reality of my every breath. And I don’t want it any other way.