Praying for Pleasure (4) (Romans 15:13)1
Let’s me summarize what we’ve seen thus far. (1) God is not a miser with his mercy. (2) Paul prays for joy and peace because pleasure in God is the power for purity. (3) Pleasure in God is the fruit of faith in God.
Fourth, the purpose of pleasure in God is hope in God.
Why do we lack hope? Could it be because we’ve been “burned” by putting our confidence in something that we really didn’t need in the first place? We “hope” for a good paying job when we graduate. Some are “hoping” for a husband to wake up spiritually and get off the couch. Others “hope” for some way to cover next month’s car payment. But in the end, all we need is Christ. He is the object and focus and obsession of our hope:
Paul applauds the Thessalonians for their “steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:3). What is our “blessed hope”? It is the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). We are to “hope in Christ” (Eph. 1:12). The mystery of the gospel is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
John Piper put it best when he said, “Sometimes what we need from the Bible is not the fulfillment of our dream[s], but the swallowing up of our failed dream[s] in the all-satisfying glory of Christ” (When I Don’t Desire God, 101). The reason that may not resonate with our souls or sound very encouraging is because we really don’t believe Jesus Christ is all-satisfying. We don’t savor him. And we don’t savor him because we don’t see him, and we don’t see him because we fail to look upon him as he has revealed himself in Holy Scripture!
Hope is ultimately beyond our ability to produce. When we do try and create it or crank it up, it either degenerates into presumption or soon gives way to despair. But in this prayer in Romans 15:13 we are protected from presumption by Paul’s emphasis on “believing”. In other words, the revelation of God which we believe and trust establishes the boundaries, parameters, and the limits of what we may justifiably hope for. Joy and peace come from trusting only in what God has promised.
Fifth, and finally, there is no hope for hope in God apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you feel utterly exhausted, both spiritually and physically, and are on the verge of despair because nothing you can do will avail to awaken hope in your heart, you are in precisely the condition where God can perform his most glorious work in you. It isn’t your will power or good intentions or New Year’s resolutions that will bring hope. It is the Holy Spirit! It is the power of the third person of the Trinity!
The Spirit of God does far more than merely perform miracles and signs and wonders. His work goes beyond that of setting people free from demonic oppression. Yes, he imparts spiritual gifts and converts the lost and causes people to be born again unto faith in Christ. But never lose sight of the fact that it is the Spirit and the Spirit alone who awakens and sustains genuine hope in your heart.
Were you disappointed with the gifts you received last year at Christmas, or the gifts you had hoped for but never saw? When our daughter Melanie was about 8 years old, all she wanted for Christmas was a swatch watch. When Christmas morning arrived she was crushed when we discovered that Ann had accidentally thrown it out as trash along with some wrapping paper and other discarded items. Joanna experienced her own disappointment one year at Christmas. She kept complaining about how cold she was, so Ann got her a space heater. A space heater? Yes, and to say she was crushed and disillusioned hardly captures her emotions. Ann’s intentions were certainly loving and sincere, but it clearly didn’t connect with a little girl’s desires.
You may have had a lousy Christmas. You may have failed to give the gifts people expected from you. You may not have received the gifts you had hoped for. But here’s the indescribably good news for those who know and follow Jesus: our God is the source of hope, and he is unstinting and lavish in his desire to fill you up with joy and peace as you trust and treasure the truth of all that is revealed in his Word, and the Holy Spirit will never disappoint you but will graciously and powerfully awaken and sustain genuine hope in your heart, that you might forever enjoy all that God is for you in Jesus.
“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!”