Surprised By Hope

I remember my sophomore year of college like it was yesterday. Let me tell you, it was like I got a one-two punch. Bad news threw the first blow and even worse news threatened to take me out. Isn’t it weird how tragedy comes in twos and threes? One was enough- thank you!

In a matter of minutes, a phone call changed the course of my year. In a matter of seconds, the light of God came and exposed darkness. That light would change my family forever. The circumstances were bad and the reality of sin was painful.  In that moment, I felt hopeless.

But I learned that I cannot surrender to my circumstances.  I cannot let betrayal, pain, and confusion dictate truth to me, because hope does not depend on my circumstances.

The truth is, “All things will work together for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).  

Honestly, I looked at my situation and asked God, “How is any of this good?” It wasn’t until later that I realized that God’s definition of “good” was very different from mine. I defined “good” as 1. Nothing bad ever happening 2. Things always going well for me 3. Always getting what I want 4.Succeeding in everything that I do, etc…”

My Pastor Nathan Tarr said, “When we hope in a promise, like Romans 8:28, that God will work all things in our lives together for good, but then import our own vision of what that good must be, we set ourselves up to be “ashamed” of God and “disillusioned” with God (cf. Phil. 1:20).”

I was disillusioned with God, and it wasn’t until I saw God’s definition of “good” that my perspective changed. So, what does God mean when He says “All things will work together for good”?

 Let’s redefine “good.” The “good” that God promises us in His word is that…

  1. The Gospel will progress.  Philippians 1:12 says, “I want you to know, brothers, what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.” The terrible circumstance in your life right now may be the very thing God will use to bring the Gospel to you or the people around you.       
  2. Faith will progress. In Philippians 1:25, Paul shows us that there will be “progress and joy in the faith.” We can be confident that it will progress because our hope is in Jesus who is the “founder and perfector of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). Sometimes the sanctification and progressive work that God wants to do in our hearts is hard, but He will refine us with the circumstances of life regardless of whether they appear good or bad to us.

Looking back on my circumstances as a sophomore, I can see how God was building up my faith. The circumstances never changed, but God was doing a good thing by conforming me into the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). He was giving me a testimony. God was showing me my need for the cross. Gospel work was happening in my heart. Faith was progressing. Jesus kept His promise to work “all things” together for good in my life.

Jesus kept His promise, and for the first time in my life I have hope. In the past, I hated the word “hope” because I was hopeless. So I was surprised by the hope the Lord showed me.  This hope is something that I expect God to do in me, yet I don’t possess it fully right now.   

This hope is not founded in my circumstances; rather it is founded in the word of God and in the person of Jesus.

I have hope that God will sanctify me in the truth of His word (Jn. 17:17).I have hope that these trails will make me steadfast and that I will lack nothing (James 1:2-4).I have hope that when God “has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10). I have hope that God will conform me into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). I have hope that I am being transformed in the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord who is Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).I have hope that if I endure, I will reign with God (2 Tim. 2:12). And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6).

Christ in me is the “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).