Hope: The Pastor’s Endurance, Part 1By Robbie Symons
April 17, 2020
Church leadership is some of the most rewarding work one could ever hope to undertake. It is also some of the most arduous, painful, and difficult. Let’s not kid ourselves, church planters and pastors need help, and the best place to find that help is in the gospel itself. Let me explain.
What is Hope Anyway?
The three greatest pursuits of the Christian life according to scripture are faith, love, and hope. I had a mentor friend who recently said, “Faith and love get a lot of press, as they should. But hope—biblical hope—is often misunderstood.”
It’s amazing how many believers—even pastors—cannot describe in detail a biblical understanding of hope. And yet hope is so glorious. Hope is what carries us on. Hope is what strengthens us to endure because of the promises of God on which it rests. Over a few posts, I’d like to lay out three observances about hope found in Romans 5 to encourage you, pastor, in the work to which you’ve been called. Let’s begin with Paul’s words:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:1-5 ESV)
The Slingshot of Truth
That’s such a powerful passage of scripture, but I want to jump into the middle to start, if I may. When Paul says, “Not only that” in verse 3, you can metaphorically picture him drawing back the tension on a slingshot toward the truth preceding it. And when he fires the truth forward, it accelerates with glorious power, emphasis, and meaning to the reader. So, let’s makes sure we catch that truth Paul wants us to so badly understand.
He wants to remind us that we’ve been justified and all that justification entails. Recall, we were once enemies of God (5:10), but we have been justified by faith—not by anything we’ve done—and made friends of God. God, the judge of all eternity, slammed down his gavel and declared us innocent for all time because his son paid our debt. We’ve received the righteousness of Christ and peace with God for all time. We’ve been adopted into the family of God. In Christ, we are children of the king.
But Paul’s not done. He continues by addressing the inexhaustible, immovable, indestructible grace that enables the faith on which we stand. So, pastor, if you’re beat up and discouraged in the work of the gospel, Paul encourages you to walk in and by the power of the light that is found in the knowledge of the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds you how much you are loved in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then, at the end of verse two, Paul climaxes his rehearsing of the gospel with, “and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” It’s a beautiful expression of biblical hope—because we’ve been justified and have peace and access to the grace in which we stand. That truth is fuel for our hope because we understand it is our future.
See, hope like this is not a fingers-crossed “hope this works out” kind of thing. Biblical hope is certain—an absolute, confident, certain expectation. And that’s why the absolute right response to biblical hope is joy because it cannot be thwarted. It is promised, and it definitively will be!
Hope that Carries Us
Now, you know as well as I do that the presence of hope does not equal the absence of difficulty, suffering, and sadness. Horrible things happen. In a broken world filled with death and decay because of sin, we expect dark days. But the joy founded in biblical hope is the joy that carries us no matter the circumstance. It’s joy in the midst of grief, pain, and struggle.
This hope leads to joy, and joy in the gospel leads to gratitude. This is what happens when we rehearse the gospel for ourselves with sincerity. In fact, we say around our church in Oakville that it’s hard to be grumpy and grateful at the same time. When we refuse to focus on our circumstances but instead rest in the hope of the gospel, we are filled with joy, grateful to the God of our salvation despite circumstantial evidence to the contrary.
In all of this, what I want you to understand is that there is more. There is more. When you think you understand it all—all the greatness of God in the gospel—there’s more. That’s what Paul says here. He rehearses the gospel in verses 1-2, and then he has the audacity to say, “not only that…”
There’s more. There’s an incomprehensible joy built on the immovable foundation of grace. And it’s a joy that cannot be undone. And it’s yours.
This is the first in a three-part series. Featured image credit