We live in a broken world. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Rome touches on both the cause and effects of this brokenness. The cause is sin. Sin entered the world when one man disobeyed God (Rom 5:12). As a result of this, all of humanity became sinners (Rom 5:12; 3:23). Sin disturbed humanity’s relationship with God and humans’ relationships with one another. In Genesis 3 we see evidence of both of these things in the experience of Adam and Eve after they fell into sin. These realities are also evident in the relationship of their sons, Cain and Abel (Gen 4). Reading through biblical history one finds many examples of the brokenness that sin has caused. Paul lists some of the characteristics of this brokenness in Romans (Rom 1:29-31). But humans are not the only ones impacted by sin. In Romans 8:19–21 Paul tells us that creation was also affected. Evil spirits who seek to destroy people, perhaps especially the people of God, also contribute to the brokenness of the world (Rom 8:38; 16:20).
In our modern world we also see signs of brokenness. There are relational conflicts, not only between individuals, but also within and between companies and countries. In recent days we have seen political conflict, civil unrest, and economic hardship. On top of all of these things, the world has had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The signs of brokenness in our world are widespread; it seems that a person cannot escape these realities. How can one have hope in such an environment? Is it even possible?
As I have already mentioned, the Apostle Paul wrote about the cause and effects of the brokenness in our world in his letter to the Romans. In this same book he also wrote about hope. There are reasons for Christians to have hope in the midst of our broken world. I would like to highlight two that are found in Romans 15. The verses we will be looking at are Romans 15:4 and 15:13. As we look at these verses, we will consider them in reverse order. That is, we will begin with verse 13 and then go back to verse 4.
In Romans 15:13 Paul refers to God as “The God of hope” (NIV). Later in Romans he refers to Him as “The God of peace” (Rom 16:20 NIV). He is, indeed, the source of these qualities. So as Christians we have a God who can provide us with hope. In the later part of Romans 15:13 the apostle says that Christians “may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (NIV). Hope is available. The Holy Spirit will deliver it to the Christian who believes. And according to Paul, this hope is given in abundant measure, note his use of the word “overflow” (NIV). Hope is more than just a theological concept. God desires to give those of us who believe in Jesus an experiential hope. As stated above, it comes to us by trusting God. So, while we may at times be able to see some things in this world that give us hope, our ultimate source of hope is God Himself.
In Romans 15:4, Paul told us something else about hope. He said that the Scriptures can provide us with hope. Now, this raises some questions. How can books that were written to others, who lived in a different time period and very likely another country, help us in the here and now? These are valid questions. How can history, specifically biblical history, help us to have hope? Well, Scripture records not only the things which happened to people in the past, it also records their experiences of what God did for them. These texts show us that God involves Himself in human history. It is the same today, for our God has not changed (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8). And remember, all of the human race has experienced the brokenness of this world. But in the midst of this brokenness there are accounts of hope, of God intervening in the lives of His people, frequently doing what no human being could do. For example, He made Abraham the father of many nation even though when God spoke to him about this, he had no children. And not only that, but he and his wife were both old and his wife was barren (Rom 4:19; Gen 18:11; 11:30). In Romans 4:18 Paul wrote “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” (NIV). What God said came to pass even though it was physically impossible. Hope looks forward. This is true of the farmer who works in the field (1 Cor 9:10) and the minister who wants to remain faithful and be productive (Phil 1:20). As believers in Jesus, we should be hopeful about all the things God has promised us in Scripture and, if He has spoken personally to us about a matter, we should stand in hope for those things as well. Sometimes, like Joseph in the Old Testament, we may find that the journey of hope takes place in the context of adversity. This can be quite challenging when it happens. Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (NIV).
Are you in need of hope today? I am. In fact, I dare say that all of us are in need of hope regarding something in our lives. We face obstacles that in our own strength we can do nothing about; things that seem impossible. Perhaps you are facing challenges with regard to your health, your work, or your finances. All of these can exert tremendous pressure on a person. But don’t give up. Paul has told us that believers in Jesus can have hope. Our God is “the God of hope” (Rom 15:13 NIV). And the record of His dealings with His people in Scripture are also a source of hope and encouragement. Be encouraged — it is possible to have hope in the midst of a broken world as we wait for the return of the Lord.