Perhaps I’m a little slow, but this week I had one of those “aha moments” when I realized just how much our level of joy is linked to our hope. While reading to my five year old from his Jesus Storybook Bible, I began pondering the story of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness.
They were such an unhappy bunch, weren’t they? And then I thought, “What made them so unhappy?” It certainly wasn’t God who made them unhappy. I think it was due to the fact that they had expectations of what that trip to the promised land would look like and God was not delivering on those expectations! They quit believing in God and in the hope that lay ahead.
The Israelites are not remembered as a joyful people. We remember them mostly as complainers and I’m pretty sure I’ve never spotted a joyful spirit behind a complaint. But the reason they lost their joy was because they lost sight of their hope. The hope was still there, they just couldn’t see it because their focus was on themselves and on getting through that wilderness comfortably. We are truly creatures of comfort aren’t we?
Have you ever thought of what Christ’s expectations were when He came to earth? Was He thinking and dreaming of what a comfy life He would have? It sounds ridiculous…and it is. But think about it for a minute. Everything about coming to earth was going to fall somewhere between uncomfortable and torture – to say the least. And wouldn’t that discomfort and pain be amplified after having spent eternity past with God the Father in heaven?
Would Christ have been able to maintain the attitude He did if His expectation had been focused on his comfort? No, His hope – His only hope – was in the Father. And because He focused on and abided in His Father, He was able to endure. Joyfully.
Christ endured the torture of the cross by setting His mind on the joy set before Him. (Hebrews 12:2) His focus was on what the Father had promised, what He knew to be true, and on what mattered most – the glory of God.
Romans 12:12 reminds us to be “joyful in hope.”
And again in Romans 15:13 we have this connection between our hope and our joy:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Friends, if we are going to be joyful in hope, we have to believe that our God is a God of hope!
Most of us know this, but we don’t always live like it. We don’t really believe God is who He says He is. We don’t believe He will make the best decision. We don’t believe He knows all. We don’t believe He really loves us or that He will always and forever, in perfect wisdom, act out of that love -for our good.
Our actions are an overflow of our beliefs, aren’t they? So, when we find ourselves void of that joy that we know should be ours, we fight for it; not by giving ourselves a lecture about how we really should be more joyful, but by choosing to take God at His Word and believing Him for each and every thing He has promised.
None of us want to be like the whining Israelites who never made it to the promised land because they lost their hope and joy. So, let us daily remember who God is, all that He’s done, and all that He’s promised. Let us meditate on God’s faithfulness in times past and those promises that are yet to come. Let’s believe that He is the one and only God of hope. And to the extent that we do, we will be filled with joy. And peace.
Have a blessed week rejoicing in this God of hope!