“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)
What has happened to the hope of our generation? Can we honestly say this current generation lives with a collective sense of hope about the future? It might be important for us to first define the virtue of hope and make sure we are clear in our understanding. Here is a classic dictionary definition of hope: A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
There are two key points here.
First, hope is about expectation—it clearly relates to something in the future. But, perhaps more importantly, it is expected that this something in the future is a positive event that is going to occur.
Second, and as confirmation about the positive aspect of the future event, is the fact that hope engenders a desire for the thing to happen. We certainly would not desire something we did not want to happen.
It is not surprising to hear people today say these days that they have lost their sense of hope. But what might be surprising, to some, is the reason for the loss of the sense of hope. It actually has to do with what it is we most desire in life.
Without making this too theological, the main reason many have lost their sense of hope is because our generation has lost its understanding of, and fear of the Lord. This might sound a bit confusing at first, but let’s take look at what scripture has to say on the subject.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10)
What does it mean to say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom? Well, there is a reality about the gift of free will that our Father and Creator gave us when He made us, and that reality is that we can choose wrongly. Sometimes we do so out of ignorance, but the consequences of the choice, at least in this life, remain the same.
Many people misunderstand this idea of free will that was provided to us by God. It does not mean, as some think, that we get to choose between two alternatives, one good and one bad. It means, rather, that God has given us the grace to make an act of faith and choose Him and all that He offers, as well as all that He may ask of us. He does not force us either to choose Him, or to choose to do the things He asks us to do. However, if we choose the alternative to God or His good pleasure for our lives, it is not freedom but slavery.
This is a challenging idea for many in the modern world to grasp. Truly, freedom comes from our choosing the good, that which God offers. We must make a decision and act on it—that is freedom. Conversely, if we decide to choose other than what God has offered, we have abandoned our freedom. If we choose our own desires against God’s perfect Will often enough, it eventually leads to the darkening of our conscience and to our inability to understand any longer what it means to find our freedom in God.
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
Fear of the Lord, then, is the recognition of the significance of our gift of freedom, and the realization that God is both a God of mercy and a God of perfect justice. If God is going to be able to do the great work of transformation that He wants to do in all of us, then we must be willing to allow Him to have His way with us. God must be allowed to work freely in us; we must choose, in freedom, to allow Him to do His work. This means that we will experience trials, yes. But it is through the virtue of hope and the desire for all that is truly good and perfect for our life, that we will be able to overcome any trial. For it is those very trials that will deepen both our faith and our hope as we are being transformed into the person God has destined us to become.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
History records that man has gone through a number of different ages in the advancement of the human history. For example, there was, in history, a period we now define as the Age of Faith. That was then followed by what we now refer to as the Age of Reason. Today our society lives in what might be called the Age of Presumption. What does this mean?
Today many have lost any sense of the Fear of God or of the reality of choosing alternatives that are inconsistent with what God has given us in freedom. Many simply presume God’s mercy. You’ve probably heard someone say, “Oh, God is a loving God, He will understand. After all, I have free will to choose what I want for my life.” This is a dangerous and presumptuous mindset, and unfortunately, it is pervasive in our modern society. We should instead become the Age of Hope.
“Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)
Finally, back to that word desire. This presumptuous mindset, so pervasive in our modern society, basically says, “Here is what I desire, and I am sure God will understand.” But the desire that is expressed in our hope in God says, “I desire at all times to do whatever God may ask of me, regardless of what difficult circumstances I may encounter.”
What happens in this transformation of our mindset is that we move from a healthy fear of the justice of God to the appropriate fear of offending God by our potentially bad choices. And further, we move to a genuine concern, or fear, that we may not be loving God enough. We move to a place where we truly desire to show God our Father just how much we love Him.
We must ask ourselves this question: when is the last time we prayed, attended services, practiced some devotion, or did some act of charity for the simple reason that we Hoped it would simply put a smile on God’s Face?
We might want to take a moment this week to put a smile on our Father’s face. And we might also express, through prayer, the desire that all our loved ones will experience a true renewal of hope in their lives.
Copyright © 2020 by Mark Danis
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