Summary: This message offers the source and necessity of hope in Christ contrasted with the hope the world may give us
Overflowing in Hope Romans 15:4-13
A city slicker moved to a farm and bought a cow. Shortly after, the cow went dry. A farmer, who got word of this, expressed surprise. The city man said he was surprised too. “I can’t understand it, for if a person ever was considerate of an animal, I was of that cow. If I didn’t need any milk, I didn’t milk her. If I only needed a quart, I took only a quart.” The farmer then had to explain to the city fellow that the only way to keep milk flowing is not to take as little as possible from the cow, but to take as much as possible.
In today’s epistle, Paul tells the congregation in Rome to take as much as possible of fresh hope. “May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may overflow in hope.”
We however do not always overflow in hope. Because of our sinful flesh, we are more ready to be disappointed, agitated and perplexed. In fact, our sinful flesh delights in being this way. That is, only taking some of what God has for us, when our need is for more hope to flow out to us, overflowing. Paul says this abundant hope comes from believing. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”
Often the world gives us other sources of hope. It tells us it will only come when Bin Laden is captured; when the economy is on the rise once again; when and if we get well. It would not suggest waiting for anything but rather to run from here to there – to a new job, a better location, a different doctor, a different church, or no church, better behaved children, a better spouse. Where is your source of hope? If it only keeps you on the run, rather than maybe waiting, you have something to think about.
Martin Luther reminds us “not in works, not in any other thing, but purely in hope the heart of man rejoices. The one who seeks to find joy apart from this hope will labor much but will labor in vain.” Then Luther goes on to remind us of the Bible story of the woman who went from doctor to doctor for 12 years, spending all she had until she met Jesus. Luther adds: “this happens also to those who run here and there with their troubled
conscience, now consult these folks, then consult those, now do this, then do that, and try everything in order to quiet their heart but do not seek the hope which gives rest to the soul and which they too could have within themselves.”
Our hope is not to be found in running from place to place or in smug resignation to the evils of life, but rather in belief and trust in God’s word. As Paul says at the beginning of this reading: “Everything that was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, the Psalmist reminds us. In ancient times it was the oil lamp that became a symbol for Christian education that has at its center the study of God’s Word. “Let there be light,” is the theme of the University of California,” with the oil lamp depicted on coffee mugs and sweatshirts. But in order to have hope, this same lamp ought to be emblazoned on our hearts and minds. It is a precious thing, this lamp, this Word especially as it is offered to our young in our Christian Day School and in our Sunday school. Think of it. We’re just offering kids hope, in a world that they’re finding out much sooner than we ever did that can never offer them hope. Thank God for this lamp of truth that burns ever brightly telling us of Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah sent by God to redeem us from the slavery to sin, death and hopelessness.”
Paul found power to hope in the Scriptures. But for Paul, this meant only the Old Testament, for that was all there was at his time. Think how fortunate we are then to have not only the Old Testament, but also the New. Herein we find the assurance that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Sometimes as I read or teach the Bible, I think that it is only information or history. Yet we are told that this Gospel, hinted at and promised in, the Old Testament and revealed in the person of Christ in the New Testament is ‘the power of God unto salvation.’ There can be no other source for our hope and encouragement in the darkness and despair of this world than the Word of God to us.