In my current sermon series I will spend one week discussing some of the bigger concepts in Christianity: Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. I don’t think the Bible ever groups them all together, but they often appear together in pairs or triads. Since they are core Christian values it’s not surprising that they’re each associated with the birth of Christ. Despite the connection they share to Christ’s birth, I chose to use Romans 15:13 as the key text for this series since it mentions Hope, Joy, and Peace.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
I find the logic in this sentence a little complicated to follow. The verse has a lot of great words, but the way they connect takes a little thinking through. Here’s my step-by-step breakdown of the syntax.
- God is given the title: God of Hope. I like that.
- God gives people joy and peace. We don’t generate them ourselves.
- Joy and peace are given to us as we trust the God of Hope. So if we don’t trust him, should we expect joy and peace?
- The God of Hope gives us joy and peace in order that we might receive hope.
- Therefore, our hope (confident expectation) is inspired by the joy and peace the God of Hope gives us.
- The Holy Spirit ties our joy, peace, and hope together. The Holy Spirit connects the dots for us.
I find it very interesting that hope comes from joy. It’s very tempting to say that our hope for the future comes from our knowledge of what Christ has done for us in the past. Or that our hope comes from the promises contained in Scripture. Both those things play a part, but since joy [and peace] is something we experience, it’s also true to say “Our hope arises out of our experiences of God in our lives.”
God promises to give us joy. When we fill our lives in such a way that we suppress God’s joy it impacts our relationship with Him and diminishes our overall hope. I’m not saying Christians should never be sad. Of course we should. We’re human. I do believe that Christians need to keep reminding ourselves of our reasons for joy. We need to remind ourselves of our experiences of God. We need to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness.
Even in times of great darkness our memories of good times, of joy, reminds us that life isn’t always dark. Our experiences of God inform our future. We need to remind each other individually, but also as a church. Our relationship with God isn’t limited to words on a page. It’s also experienced through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the blessings God gives us. Churches without stories are churches without hope.
Our trust in God should produce joy, that inspires hope. That’s why Paul could write to the Thessalonian church “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
- Pop culture often portrays Christians as morbid party-poopers. Do you think that’s because we don’t convey our joy enough?
- When do you most experience God’s joy? Is it a worship inspired feeling, or something that hits you at other times.
- Do you agree that “joy inspires hope”?