The God of Hope is in Our Midst
Photo by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
It is difficult for me to imagine how a person without hope can face each tomorrow. How will he find the courage and strength to enter the coming day?
Regarding Covid-19, we all have the same hope: that within the year or so, it will blow over – that the vaccines for the coronavirus will be available to all soon. Such hope will surely bring comfort to the countries still frantically fighting the pandemic.
Towards the end of the Epistle to the Romans, Paul brought an unmatched sense of hope and comfort to the disciples of the church in Rome, despite the fact that he himself faced trials and challenges. Paul had a complete and unquestioning faith and trust in the Lord. As described in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans while he was in Corinth, towards the end of his third missionary journey. He suffered greatly wherever he preached. What was the thing that kept him going, such that he was willing to place his life on the line to bring the gospel to the Jews and Gentiles? Only one thing – his hope in Jesus Christ.
It is natural for those who are in despair to lose their sense of bearing and become fearful and depressed. When we are willing to accept the authority of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, over our lives, He will give us joy and peace, so that even in a desperate situation, we can have a great sense of hope, trusting that God will help us to accomplish His will.
When we are willing to accept the authority of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, over our lives, He will give us joy and peace, so that even in a desperate situation, we can have a great sense of hope, trusting that God will help us to accomplish His will.
Love One Another
V14 is a picture of how we may love one another in the love of Christ. Paul praises the Gentile disciples in the Roman church, saying that they “are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Paul addresses them as “brethren”. Within the church, this greeting fills us with warmth and kindness, and brings us closer. The essence of the church is about “being as loving as a family”, for in Christ, we have a shared life. All who believe in Jesus are in a covenant written in His blood, we are together as one in Christ.
Paul said, we are “no longer strangers and aliens, but … fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)
John Wesley had this conviction when he started the Holiness movement by forming societies, classes and bands. We must be able to reach the point where we may admonish one another, to be true brothers and sisters.
In these 4 years as Bishop, I saw a vision that will come about in the not too distant future, and that is “One MCS”. This idea was introduced by my pastor and then-Bishop, Rev Wong Kiam Thau (1996-2000), 24 years ago, and today, we see that we have taken many steps towards One MCS. Our churches are in very different times from 45 years ago; it is time to find new wineskins for the new wine.
Our churches are in very different times from 45 years ago; it is time to find new wineskins for the new wine.
In v16, the term “minister” is all about the notion of serving. Today we use the word “pastor” to describe our position, but it is not a title of superiority. Rather, it imparts a responsibility to service. When did the pastor become known as the CEO or boss? When we say “I am the pastor-in-charge here”, remember the next line, which says: “I am also the lowest of the servants here. May I know what I can do for you?”
Paul reminds us that we are to carry out the priestly service of the gospel of God. A priest, or ‘sacerdos’ in Latin, means a “bridge builder”, who serves as the bridge between God and man. Paul brought the gospel to the Gentiles that they may accept it, believe Jesus and become pure and holy sons and daughters of God. Today, it is not just the pastors who play the role as bridge builders; all disciples are also priests of the gospel of God, who are to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to all.
Depression and Hope
The word “hope” appears about 150 times in the Bible. It is clear that hope is extremely important and indispensable.
Depression has many symptoms involving inexplicable fears about the future, coupled with a sense of hopelessness. Sometimes, these feelings are so severe that one loses all courage and hope to carry on.
Retirees often feel a sense of loss. For some, this feeling is short-lived, but for others, it lingers on. Such a person may for no good reason, suddenly become unhappy about many things and people, and be constantly grumbling and picking at things. Over time, people may well begin to keep their distance and avoid talking to this person. A retiree’s life of such really calls on our need for the Lord of hope.
I am about to retire, but worry not, God has been very merciful to me so far. I am deeply certain that He gives hope to all His children. I heard Rev Lilian Ang preaching at Wesley Methodist Church on 1 November, All Saints’ Day. She reminded us that our greatest hope is that we can look forward to returning to our heavenly home. The pressures and pleasures of this earth, things which burden, our successes and failures – these will all pass away, but the fruits of our labour stays with us. What is most important is that because we put on Christ Jesus, we can be calm and at peace when we stand before God.
Three weeks ago, I listened to Bishop Emeritus Robert Solomon speak on “Maintaining Spiritual Disciplines in the Senior Years”. He said that we remain to practice the means of grace throughout our entire life, through in-depth study of the Bible, deep prayer, offering our bodies to the Lord, an attitude of service etc. These means of grace remind us that the Lord who brings us hope has never left us from since we were young and will continue to watch over us in our elderly years. He will certainly not retract His hand that has been extended to us. Since He has given us the crown of age, He will surely give us the crown of righteousness.
Ps 92:13-14: “they (the righteous) are planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.”
“The Best of all is, God is with us!”
Remember what Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” As he lay on his deathbed, John Wesley charged his friends and co-workers who had gathered around him to continue to keep up the revival movement, because he was convinced that God is with us. He therefore said, “The Best of all is, God is with us!”
Rev Dr Chong Ching Chung