The God of Hope
In Romans 15:13, the apostle Paul wrote: “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.” Commenting on these words, Martin Luther said:
He that depends on the true God has laid all tangible things aside and lives by naked hope. To call God “the God of hope” is therefore the same as to call him the God of hopers. He certainly is not the God but the enemy of people who despair easily and are unable to trust anyone. In short, he is the “god of hope” because he is the Giver of hope, and, even more, because only hope worships him….
I once heard it said that if you have no hope, life is impossible. If you have unbounded hope, you better see a psychiatrist. If you insist on hoping against hope, then persist with all your might.
Our struggle, my friend, is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit. Only God can liberate the church and equip it for its task in the world. But He requires discipleship – not everyday discipleship, not “normal” discipleship, but radical discipleship. It was this type of discipleship to which Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the church in Germany.
In the space of just a few short years editing my website, I have become convinced that our situation in America is so hopeless that only God can do something about it. I know I speak for my colleagues in the battle that we feel totally inadequate for the task. The quest for renewal is nothing less than a timely reminder that our resources ultimately lie beyond ourselves.
But the message of the kingdom is a message of hope. This does not mean that our struggles for the kingdom of Christ are only “wishful thinking” on our part. The messianic times have already broken through (Luke 4:18-19), and in this we rejoice with joy unspeakable. Yet we must be clear that neither our political efforts nor our social activism will usher in utopia. Things may get much worse before they get any better. As Bonhoeffer put it in his Ethics:
Christ is coming, of his own will, by his own strength, and out of his love; he has the power and the desire to overcome all obstacles, even the greatest; he is the preparer of his own way; it is this, and really only this, that makes us preparers of his way.
The issue, then, is not a choice between hope and despair. In order for the church to be the church it has to rediscover the power of Christ. By the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the church reaches beyond itself to the future and thus keeps hope alive.
For years I have kept the words of A. E. Whitham near me to remind me of the desperate need of people for hope:
If you knew that there was one greater than yourself, who knows you better than you can know yourself, and loves you better than you can love yourself, who can make you all you ought to be, steadier than your squally nature, able to save you from squandering your glorious life, who searched you beyond the standards of earth…one who gathered into himself all great and good things and causes, blending in his beauty all the enduring color of life, who could turn your dreams into visions, and make real the things you hoped were true; and if that one had ever done one unmistakable thing to prove, even at the price of blood – his own blood – that you would come to him, and, having failed, to come again,
Would you not fall at his feet with the treasure of your years, your powers, service, and love? And is there not one such, and does he not call you…?
September 23, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.