Mark D. Roberts

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Genuine, lasting hope is in short supply these days. Oh, you might hear some hopeful words from political candidates. And every now and then somebody suggests that things might be getting better. But mostly we are inundated with bad news and the despair it engenders, whether we’re talking about world events or local challenges. A hopeful word usually gets drowned in a sea of naysaying if not cynicism. It’s much more cool to be cynical than to be hopeful.
Christians, however, are to be people of hope. Our hope does not involve denying the genuine pains and frustrations of this life. But it is hope in the midst of them. Our hope begins by seeing the genuine good news in the midst of the bad news.
The eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans begins with lots of good news:

• There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ (Rom 8:1).
• God destroyed sin’s control over us (Rom 8:3).
• If we belong to Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in us (Rom 8:9-11).
• We are God’s children who can call God “dear Father” (Rom 8:14-16).
• We will share in the treasure and glory of Christ (Rom 8:17).

But then, on the foundation of such encouraging news, Paul adds something that hits us like a punch in the solar plexus:

And since we are [God’s] children, we will share his treasures — for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Rom 8:17).

Whoa! What is this? As believers in Jesus we look forward to sharing in his own glory. Now that’s hope! But also we share in His suffering right now. This may seem like more than we bargained for when we became Christians, both positively and negatively. The idea that someday we will be glorified along with Christ exceeds our expectations for heaven. But the notion that we must suffer in the meanwhile pours a bucket of icy water on our warm passion for following Jesus.
Why, if we are part of God’s new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), must we still suffer? The answer is that, though we begin to share in the new creation at the moment we believe in Jesus, we are still caught in the old, fallen creation for a while. As Paul explains in Romans 8, God’s perfect world has been subjected to a curse because of human sin. Death and decay replace life and health as the chief characteristics of creation, a creation that “has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom 8:20-22). So, even though the Spirit of God lives within us, giving us a foretaste of glory to come, we also “groan to be released from pain and suffering” (Rom 8:23). In fact, we wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as His children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom (Rom 8:23-24). (Picture above: When I think of glory, I remember watching sunset over the Grand Tetons.)
In the midst of our current struggle, we look forward with hope to the completion of what Christ has begun with His death and resurrection. We yearn for the day when “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. And he shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!” (Rev 11:15, translation from Handel’s Messiah).
Living with such hope in the midst of a hurting world necessarily creates tension in our lives. Tomorrow I’ll have more to say about that tension.

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