The psalmist recognized that God is the source of our hope. He declared, “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You” (Psalm 39:7).
To understand how the Lord brings that hope into our lives, let’s again read what Paul wrote to the Romans. “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). But how does that give us hope?
When Paul wrote about the relationship between perseverance and hope, he was referring to the kind of patience motivated by seeking the good of others (Romans 15:1–3). Christ Himself endured pain on behalf of others to demonstrate the heart and goodness of God (vv. 3, 5–7).
History shows the worthiness of such perseverance. In the late 1700s, a small but growing movement to abolish slavery from the British Empire needed a voice in the British Parliament. The abolitionists pursued a young Member of Parliament named William Wilberforce. His Christian faith proved to be fertile ground for seeking freedom for all.
But the path to abolish slavery did not come easily. The abolitionists faced daunting odds. Repeatedly, Wilberforce introduced bills to abolish the slave trade, only to have those bills resoundingly defeated.
Over time, Wilberforce and his growing team of abolitionists continued to wear down the opposition. It cost him a large part of his fortune and had a debilitating impact on his health. But he persevered.
Finally, on March 25, 1807, the king gave royal assent to the Slave Trade Act—after 20 years of perseverance on the part of William Wilberforce and his colleagues.
Wilberforce and his friends show how perseverance can help us reach a worthy goal. The apostle Paul saw one such goal of perseverance to be hope.
But Paul also saw another relationship between hope and perseverance. In the same letter he wrote:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (5:3–5).
Taken together with Romans 15:4, this establishes an important truth. We persevere by hope to realize a worthy goal. Yet at the same time, our perseverance produces hope. As such, hope is both the means of our perseverance and a byproduct of it as we rest in God. We can never fully understand or develop hope without trials, because trials bring about the need for perseverance. In seasons of struggle, perseverance allows us to experience the love of God in new ways. And the hope that it produces will be deeper and greater than anything we could have gained through ease and comfort. In perseverance we can experience:
Hope and the Grace of God. In the things we are not able to do, God is more than enough. To our inadequacy, God responds with lavish grace. Paul discovered this grace to be greater than any season of suffering. Three times he had asked God for deliverance from a certain trial. He records God’s response for us in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” To which Paul responded, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
Hope and the Protection of God. The uncertainties of life can fill our hearts with terror. But when we persevere by faith, we will discover that God is our protection even in the darkest times. Our safety in Christ gives us hope through His power, for followers of Christ are those “who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
The power of God is such a ready source of hope that it caused the psalmist to worship:
But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress (Psalm 59:16).
We do not have to approach life with a heart of dread or despair. We can engage life with confident expectation.
Hope and the Provision of God. According to the writer of Hebrews, because Jesus understands our weaknesses and temptations, we are to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16).
Grace. Protection. Provision. Together they are sources of hope that we don’t fully comprehend until we experience them amid conditions that threaten to destroy us. Yet looking back we can say with the apostle Paul, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).
The reality that Paul expressed is an honest reminder that followers of Christ are not immune from heartaches, turmoil, challenges, and struggles. We will experience the “many dangers, toils, and snares,” but not like those who have no God and no hope. Because of the object of our faith, followers of Christ are people of genuine hope.
Finding Hope in the Stories of the Bible
God’s ability to work on our behalf has been repeatedly tested in the lives of men and women just like us. They learned that God could be trusted in the toughest times. The New Testament writer James encourages us to learn from their experiences. “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10).
As a youthful shepherd, David showed up at the battlefield when the giant Goliath challenged the armies and God of Israel. First Samuel 17 tells us how David volunteered to face the Philistine champion because God had previously enabled him to protect his father’s flock against the attack of a lion and a bear (vv. 34–37). Because of his experience with God’s faithful protection in past confrontations, David had a confident expectation.
In Daniel 3, three young Hebrew captives in Babylon were commanded to dishonor God by bowing before a giant idol. Armed with the remembrance of God’s deliverance of them when their convictions were challenged in Daniel 1 and their lives were threatened in Daniel 2, they stood fast. Their past experiences with God prepared them to trust in Him in this challenge as well.
We hear and read these stories so often that they lose their impact. But these were not superheroes with special enabling. They were ordinary people facing the challenges of life.
They faced those challenges with hope because their past experiences with God told them that He was worthy of their trust and confidence. Dread and apprehension turned to confidence and expectation because God had proven Himself faithful.
The Scriptures give us hope because the God described in the Bible is not only their God, He is ours! And He has not changed. He is still “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20).