Scripture: Romans 8:18-21, NIV
This is the season of Advent. We celebrate hope. The Bible emphasizes faith, hope, and love as our three essentials.
Each is necessary for a vibrant faith, they are different from each other, but are related. They are like three sisters.
Hope says, “I know things will work out, I just don’t know how or when!” Her sister, Faith, says, “Things have already worked out” (even before they do in actual experience). Love says, “Even if they don’t work out, even if I don’t understand what’s going on, nothing can separate me from the affection God has for me!”
Hope is defined as the confident expectation of good. In order to hope for something, you’ve got to have faith. If you hope for God to do something, you must have faith, that is, (1) believe that God does exists, (2) believe that God can do that thing you hope for, and (3) believe that God will do it for you.
I’m hoping that things will change. I’m hoping for a shift in the atmosphere. I’m hoping for a shift in the political arena. I’m hoping for a time when love will abound, peace will be practiced, and all citizens will live in the beloved community.
The book of Romans is fast becoming one of my favorite books of the Bible, besides Philippians. The Apostle Paul wrote it to the people of the church in Rome, who were predominantly Gentile believers. There was a small minority of Jews in the congregation.
Paul’s primary theme in Romans is the basic Gospel — God’s plan of salvation for all people — Jews and Gentiles, alike. Walter Wessel wrote, “The letter served as a systematic theological introduction to that hoped-for personal ministry.”
Paul wanted to visit Rome, but the timing was not right for him to go. So, he sent a letter to prepare the believers for his impending visit. Romans 1:16 – 17 sums up the entire message of the Romans letter:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous [the just] will live by faith.” Paul hoped for, longed for the day when he would visit the church at Rome.
Our scripture is a text about suffering and hope. Paul talked about present suffering. Anybody suffering? One minute things are fine, the next moment, they are not.
Anyone dealing with the vicissitudes of life? One day you are on top of the world; the next day, the world is on top of you. One day you have money in the bank; the next day your bank account is empty.
One minute you can breath; the next moment you can’t breath. One day they called him Christ the King; the next day they cried, “Crucify him!”
Anyone experiencing the vicissitudes of seasons? Everything must change. Atmospheres shift.
Life is unpredictable. Therefore, in this life, there will be trouble, heartache, and pain. But, even though suffering is a part of life, we have this blessed assurance that trouble won’t last always. It’s temporary.
We have a future hope that the wicked will cease from troubling and the weary will be at rest. We have a future hope that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Our first lesson from this scripture is expectation, which means the act or state of expecting. Expectation is the basis for expecting. When you have expectations, you wait, you anticipate, you look forward to, you are pregnant with possibilities.
In this past 2018 mid-term election season, voters in several states had expectations. Many in the state of Georgia expected to elect the first Black female governor. Some in the state of Florida hoped to elect the first African American male governor. A few in the state of Mississippi anticipated the election of a more inclusive Senator. The runoff gave the Democrats a sliver of hope.
The expectation was that inclusivity would overcome separatism. The hope was that an integrationist would surpass a segregationist. But, the struggle continues, because the candidates of color on the side of the oppressed lost their contests.
But, here’s the sad commentary, they did not lose on their own. They lost because they didn’t receive the anticipated support.
The Georgia Democratic candidate hoped that the African American voter turnout would help her win the election. The exit polls showed that 11% of Black male Democratic voters voted for the male Republican candidate. My hope is that one day, we as a people will unite as one.
Here’s the expectation – vote for the candidate who has your best interest. Elect persons who will represent your views. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said, “Keep hope alive.”
God knows the plans for our lives. God’s plan is to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). It’s because of God’s mercies that we are not consumed. Therefore, we have hope (Lamentations 3:21).
Put your hope in God’s word! Put your hope in God! Put your hope in people who stand on the promises of God!
The second lesson is that oftentimes, expectation requires words of encouragement. Sometime, the words of encouragement comes from others. Sometime, you have to encourage yourself!
Stop letting people, who do so little for you, control so much of your mind, feelings, and emotions. If your glass is half empty, either pour more water into the glass or pour the water into a smaller glass and stop complaining.
You have permission to rest. You are not responsible for fixing everything that is broken. You do not have to try to make everyone happy. Take time for you. Love yourself so much that when someone treats you wrong, you recognize it.
Maya Angelou said, “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” When you feel like you are drowning in life, don’t worry — your lifeguard walks on water!
What your enemy / opponent does not understand is that every time they mouth words of discouragement, God’s hand of favor covers your ears and moves on your behalf.
Paul wrote, Romans 8:24-25, “We are saved by hoping and trusting in God. But, if we must keep hoping and trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently.”
God’s people live in the sphere of hope. God will free us from the bondage of decay. Live in the spiritual bubble of hope. Robin McMillan says, “Hope fuels victory in the face of overwhelming odds and is a “devil”-conquering force!”
Hope gives us the impetus to go on. Hope says, “Don’t you give up! Hold on!” We need hope in this life. We need hope in the struggle. We need hope to struggle against this mess. I do not know about tomorrow, but I know who holds tomorrow in His hand. Therefore, I hope in the Lord!
I hope one day your tragic accident will turn into a testimony. I hope one day your mourning will turn to laughter. I hope one day your pain will turn to joy. I hope one day your rain will turn to sunshine. I hope one day your burdens will turn into blessings.
Hopelessness is a lie — a delusion! They placed Him in a borrowed tomb. He stayed there for three day. But, early on Sunday morning, He got up. God raised Him up with all power in His hands! McMillan says, “The empty tomb makes the bold proclamation: there is no hopeless situation.”
We have this hope that God will forgive us of our sins. Hope comes from believing the promises of God. I’m standing on the promises of God. Things are going to get better. I believe they will.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
The Rev. Dr. Mary S. Minor is the senior pastor of Brookins-Kirkland Community AME Church, 3719 W. Slauson Ave., in Los Angeles.