Whether you are inclined to watch such movies or not, it is interesting to note that the film The Shawshank Redemption has been voted into the #1 spot on IMDb.com’s 250 all-time best films list. It is one of the most often-aired (on television) films in history. While sensitive viewers may want to avoid it due to its violent and mature content (which is not surprising from a film that is rated R and set in a prison), it has struck a chord in the hearts of millions. This is in part, I believe, because one of its primary themes is the importance of hope in the midst of trials.
Hope is something we are hearing a lot about because these are challenging times. Our society needs hope. Hope matters. It helps us persevere. Without it, we are tempted to quit when we should keep going.
Still, as important as hope is, I’d suggest that the object of our hope is even more important.
We must hope in the right direction.
As America continues to deal with racism and racial tensions, political division, the ongoing fallout from COVID-19, and other challenges, we have seen the absolute folly of putting our hope in our own self-sufficiency. We have been reminded, too, that putting our hope in our finances, our workout program or health-consciousness, the government or either political party, science, or any number of other things, will lead to disappointment. And there is the rub.
Hope is good, but if we place our hope in the wrong thing, we are likely to end up disappointed.
In Romans 5:1-6, Paul reminds us of a hope that will not disappoint:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Paul shares profoundly great news here. First, believers have been justified by faith. His followers have been declared righteous before God, and thus our ultimate destiny and future is secure because of who God is and what He has done. Second, Paul reminds us that the result of our justification is that we have peace with God right now, through Jesus. This is also remarkable; we were formerly His enemies and the objects of His wrath. Third, we are reminded that we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We know, deep down, that we were incapable of earning this access. But God, in His love and graciousness, granted it to all who have turned to Him by faith. Therefore, Paul reminds us, we can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
When our hope is rooted in Him, who He is, and all He has done, our hope will not disappoint because God will not fail.
Paul then reminds us that even if we suffer (and we will, this side of heaven) the result will be endurance, which produces character, which produces hope. We can rejoice because, even in the midst of suffering, God will be at work to bring about good. And we can know that this hope won’t disappoint, Paul writes (vv. 5-6), because God loves us and proved it on the cross.
Thus the Christian’s hope is not found in some baseless optimism, but rather in the solid rock that is God’s word.
Near the end of Romans (15:13), Paul writes: “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.”
This is my prayer for all who read this.
Heavenly Father, You are the God of hope and we praise You. Forgive us for ways we have been unfaithful to You. We thank You for the grace in which we now stand, and for Jesus’ obedience even unto death on the cross — on our behalf. Fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may abound in hope. Let our hope — and words — draw others into a right relationship with You. In Jesus’ name we ask these things. Amen.
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