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Hope for the New Year

Posted on January 3, 2019 at 10:25 AM

Dear Saints;

Each New Year I get a little confused about what exactly I am celebrating. Am I celebrating the fact that I made it out of 2018 alive? Or am I celebrating the fact that I have new opportunities in 2019? Most of the time I don’t give it a lot of thought but deep inside there is this sense of joy and peace and I wonder where that comes from. Looking back over the last year I am satisfied with what I consider to be progress in several areas. But I also see other things that are incomplete and still need a lot of work. That inner sense of joy and peace doesn’t seem to come from the things which have been accomplished this last year nor the things which are to come. 

Toward the end of his letter to the Romans Paul records what seems to be a spontaneous, one verse prayer. In Romans 15: 13 he writes, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you might abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.” The reason for that inner joy and peace I sense in celebrating the New Year must have something to do with this little prayer being answered in my life. It seems to be directly related to the “God of hope” working in me through his indwelling Spirit causing me to “abound in hope”. My only part in the experience is described as “in believing”.

The biblical definition of hope is far different than the way we typically use the word today. It is not simply “wishful thinking” as when we say, “I hope I win the lotto this year”. Neither is biblical hope to be confused with happiness. Happiness depends on circumstances in our lives. If we have good “happenings we are happy. If we have bad happenings, we are unhappy. Instead, the biblical concept of hope is a “confident and joyful expectation concerning our future”. It is what Paul describes in his little prayer as being filled with “all joy and peace”. And the source of such hope is not our circumstances of life, but the “God of hope”. 

In this short prayer Paul is asking the God of hope to fill us with all joy and peace when we believe in him and all that he has done for us. Our faith in God, not our circumstances in life, is the key to the experience of such joy and peace. The experience of hope is an often overlooked miracle of God performed by his indwelling Spirit. It has nothing to do with our present circumstance in life and neither does it have anything to do with our performance. It is an act of God through his Spirit working in us as a direct result of our trusting him. That joyful and confident expectation concerning our future with its deep joy and peace is what the God of hope does for those who will simply trust him and his provisions for them.

It is this biblical hope that underlies my celebration of the New Year. And it is that joy and peace it brings that will sustain me through whatever lies ahead. As the old hymn says, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow” and trust him to do what is best for me in all 2019 brings my way. May you all likewise be filled with all joy and peace in believing. 

John

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