One of my favorite verses on hope in the entire bible is found in Romans 15:13. Here’s what it says, “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.”
How does God do that? “In believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” What does the word “abound” mean? If I had a glass of water and I filled that glass to the top, when it started rolling over the top and onto the table, I would call that an abundance of water.
God says we can have so much hope that we will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m reading to you from a little booklet called Hope Scriptures that I compiled some years back, and here’s the way it starts.
Life can be tough, but there’s no shortage of God’s grace and goodness in hard times. You may think the Bible is a book about heroes and holy men, super spiritual people who never failed and always did the right thing. But the truth is, it featured an all too human cast of failures who were transformed by the grace of God to accomplish great good.
Do you think there’s no hope for you? Just take a quick look at the people who changed their world: Moses, King David, and the apostle Paul were all murderers. Have you ever thought of that before? Moses, King David, and the apostle Paul were all murderers, yet among them they wrote at least 19 of the Bible’s 66 books.
Moses’s brother Aaron, Israel’s first high priest, led the nation into idolatry. Samson, the strongest man in the world had a fatal, sexual attraction. Jonah, the prophet of God sent to evangelize the people of Nineveh was so prejudice against his audience that he got angry and was disappointed when God forgave them, instead of killing them.
Jacob was a mama’s boy. Favored by Rebekah and raised in a dysfunctional family. What happened when the Bible’s league of rejects encountered God’s grace? Abraham believed God and became the father of all who believe. Moses led God’s people to a land of promise. Jonah preached and a nation turned to God. David repented and served the Lord so faithfully that God himself called him, “A man after my own heart.”
Rahab the Harlot risked her life to save God’s servants and subsequently made history, not as a harlot, but as a heroine. In the New Testament a murderous rabbi named Saul met Jesus in a vision and then became Paul, the most prolific missionary in history, as well as the writer of 13 books of the bible.
Doubting Thomas, the disciple who was last to believe in Jesus’s resurrection was so transformed that he dedicated his life to God, and then went to spread the gospel eastward starting the first churches in Iraq and then he went on as a missionary in India. I have been in churches built by Thomas in the first century of the Gospel.
The message should be clear: God turns abject failures into spiritual champions, and then he uses them to change the world. That is why I have hope for humanity. We have failed in some pretty spectacular ways; I know I have. Perhaps we’ve betrayed a vow, pursued illicit relationships like Samson, exploited people like Zacchaeus, or abused authority like David. We may simply have been a doubting Thomas all our life, and are convinced we’ll never change. But our failure only qualifies us for greater transformation.
Let me say it one more time and go back to my favorite verse, “Now, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope.” We can and will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.