INTRODUCTION. A brief glance at the events of our world today would be enough to discourage all but the most determined optimist. In every sphere of life, things seem to be in a state of upheaval and change, and the change is not for the better. The cumulative effect of all this change and simmering (and not-so-simmering) chaos is that people feel weary and beaten down. Hope for better days is fading, our joy has become stoic, feelings of peace have been replaced with a sense of foreboding. So, where do we look for a restoration of our hopeful and joyful outlook on life?
In this post, we will look no farther than the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Philippians to see how we can weather stormy, unsettling circumstances while letting our light for Christ shine bright (Matt. 5:16) and while continuing to point to Jesus as the source of our joy and peace and contentment.
THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN
Based on what Paul writes in Philippians, we have a prescription for the normal state of the believer.
The normal Christian is hopeful, joyful, peaceful, thankful, and content.
One more important point should be made about Paul. The apostle Paul is the normal Christian. The New Testament presents Paul’s life as the normal life of the believer. By that I mean that, if you want clarification on any important aspect of the life of a believer, look at the life of Paul. What does conversion look like? What does baptism look like? How should a Christian evangelize? What is the believer’s commitment to Christ like? How does a believer pray? What is the believer’s attitude toward suffering? How does a disciple look at death? Look at Paul and you will have answers to your questions.
What are Paul’s circumstances as he writes this letter? For you may argue that it is easy for somebody to be all peppy and joyful when they are in comfortable surroundings. As Paul writes this epistle, he is imprisoned in the cause of Christ (1:13). More than that, he is aware that dubious men are preaching Christ, he is in danger of being executed, his friend Epaphroditus has almost died from disease, he has heard of a dispute in the church back home, and, up until recently, he had been in some degree of want. Paul is not in a palace, but in a prison, and yet he lives with power and energy because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.
THE BELIEVER IS NORMALLY HOPEFUL
The words we would find in Scripture would be words like “in hope,” “with hope,” or just “hope,” either noun or verb. The normal state of the believer is to be evidently hopeful.
In the Scripture, there are two ways that “hope” is used. There is Hope with a capital H. This is the idea of a settled confidence that an amazing event which has been promised by God will certainly take place, but it has not taken place yet. Therefore, the believer eagerly Hopes for the occurrence of that event. Consider, for example, Hebrews 6:19, which says,
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil. – Hebrews 6:19
The author of Hebrews is talking about the hope of the return of Christ, and he says that this promise is certain to take place and therefore acts as “an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast.” The believer who is rooted in Christ can endure the riptides of life because their Hope is the anchor of Jesus Christ.
So, the more powerful use of the word “Hope” refers to the unshakeable confidence we have that Christ is coming back soon to judge the world and take us to heaven to be with Him forever.
But there is a second use of “hope” that is derived from the more powerful use. The believer is hopeful, not only because of our ultimate hope in the Resurrection and the return of the Lord Jesus, but from that ultimate hope we derive, through spiritual discipline, a confident, hopeful attitude toward all of life, knowing that the God who has chosen us (Eph. 1:4) and redeemed us (Isaiah 43:1) and called us (2 Tim. 1:9) is also with us (Matt. 28:20). He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and He has promised to work all things together for good for us (Romans 8:28). Therefore, because of all His promises to us, promises which have been sealed by the blood of the Lord Jesus, the believer is hopeful. “The LORD is with me like a dread champion.” – Jeremiah 20:11. Since that is the case, I am hopeful.
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. – Romans 5:5
Our hope does not disappoint us. God has given us promises and He has sealed us with His Holy Spirit as a pledge that He will fulfill His promises.
Finally, Paul speaks of his hope from his prison cell.
according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. – Philippians 1:20
With Paul, our earnest hope is that Christ shall be exalted in our lives, whether by our life or by our death. “Oh Lord, use me for Your glory.”
Therefore, the normal state of the believer is to be hopeful.
SDG rmb 1/12/2022 #482