Living With Hope

Romans 5:4

November 28, 1999 | Brian Bill

We’re going to talk this morning about how God takes the problems in our lives and uses them in ways that we never expect.  We’re going to learn about the single most important attitude for getting ready for the future.  

It’s an attitude that is entirely different from many of the attitudes we have when we face the future.  There are some people who have an attitude of apprehension.  I know other people who have an attitude of excitement.  Some people are apathetic.  Others have an overwhelming sense of fear regarding the future.     

But the attitude above any other, that can change the way we face what’s ahead, is the attitude called hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’”  

I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed with the word “hope”.  The way we use it today has nothing to do with the way the Bible uses the word.  When we use the word today, it’s sort of wimpy.  We use it to mean little more than, “I wish.”  

Before I went deer hunting, this past weekend, I hoped that I would get a deer.  When I left my dad on his stand in the woods, my last words were, “hope you get one.”  As I was stumbling through the underbrush, he shouted out to me, “I hope you get one, too!”

My daughters, on the other hand, were hoping that I would just leave Bambi alone.  They were unanimous in their hope that I wouldn’t shoot a mommy dear.  When I asked them why I couldn’t shoot Bambi’s mom, Becky said, “Because mommy deer are more important than daddy deer.”  I thought about that for a few seconds and then said, “Is that your final answer?”  She didn’t even need to use a “lifeline” to help with that one!

The Bible doesn’t use the word hope as a synonym for wish.  It’s much stronger than that.  It’s a confidence.  It’s not “I hope so…” Rather, it’s, “I hope… so I have confidence.  I hope … so I’m not afraid.  I hope… so I can walk into the future.”  That’s the kind of gift God wants to give us.  Someone has said that this kind of hope… real hope… is like oxygen to the soul.  You can’t live without it.  

It’s not just being an optimist.  A lot of people mistake hope and optimism.  An optimist sees the glass as half full and the pessimist sees the glass as half empty.  A person of hope sees that the glass is firmly held in the hand of God.  This is good news for some of you who are pessimists.  You feel like you can never be hopeful.  Do you know what?  You can be pessimistic and hopeful.  You can recognize that even in a world where things aren’t perfect, God is still in control.  He still holds things in His hands.

When I realize that God’s plan will always prevail, I can have hope

Here’s a four-word definition of hope that I really like: hope is when I realize that God is in control.  That’s what hope is.  When I recognize God’s control over everything in life, it changes everything.  When I realize that God’s plan will always prevail, I can have hope.  

This morning I want to talk about what happens when we have hope and then conclude by showing how God uses a process to develop hope in our lives.

When I Have Hope

Now, what happens when we have hope?  I see at least 5 practical results of a hope-filled life.

1. I can get started

What is it that gets you started in the morning when you get up?  It’s interesting: You look at a car.  It can be as shiny as you want on the outside.  It can have the greatest engine.  But if the starter doesn’t work, it’s not going anywhere.

I know a lot of people like that.  They look real great on the outside.  They’ve got some real power on the inside – but they just can’t seem to get started.

Isaiah 40:31 reminds us that, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”  God’s hope helps you to get started.

2. I can live with…. 

You fill in the rest of that.  You can live with… whatever burden is in your life right now.  You can make it through.  It is hope that enables us to handle tremendous pressure.  I’ve noticed that people who have hope can handle incredible amounts of burden in their lives.  

Hopeful people are like the apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:8, when talking about the  burdens that he had because of the persecution that he faced:  “We had great burdens that were beyond our own strength.  We even gave up the hope of living.  [Some of you feel like that today.  You can relate to those words.]  But this happened so we would trust not in ourselves but in God.”  Even at that point where he wondered, “Am I going to make it?” he was able to find hope.  He could live with anything because of the hope that God gave him – and so can we.

3. I can go on.

Hope is what gives us the strength to go on after a loss or a disappointment or a dream that refuses to become reality.  

I like the story of Florence Chadwick who was the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways.  She didn’t quite make it on her first attempt.  It wasn’t the cold water.  It wasn’t the sharks.  It wasn’t the 15-hour swim.  It was the fact that the fog rolled in and she couldn’t see the coastline.  She quit half a mile from the goal.  When she got out of the water she said, “I’m not trying to make an excuse but I feel like if the fog hadn’t been there and I could have seen the land, I would have made it.”  Later she tried again.  The fog rolled in again but this time she knew that the coastline was there.  And she completed the journey.  In fact, she did it in two fewer hours than anybody else had ever done it.

A lot of us are like that.  The fog has rolled into our lives and we’ve lost our bearings.  Like a coastline, God’s promises are immovable – even if we can’t see them.  They’re going to be there.  Hope is out there in the future.  That’s what hope does in our lives.  

I like this verse about hope in 1 Peter 1:6 from the Living Bible, “So be truly glad!  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.”  When I have hope, I can get started, I can live with anything, and I can go on. 

4. I can slow down.

Hope is what gives me the ability to slow down my busy life.  Life gets out of balance when too much becomes too important.  Without hope, we’re always in a hurry.  We don’t know where we’re headed but we’re all revved up.  It’s hope that enables us to slow down just a little bit, to realize I don’t have to rush through so fast, because I know exactly where life is headed.

Psalm 62:5 “I find rest in God.  Only He gives me hope.”  Hope and rest go together.  Without hope you’ll find you’re very rest-less.  But with hope, you have the power to be rested.  

There’s a final thing that hope does.

5. Hope gives me the power to say no. 

I can get started, I can live with anything, I can go on, I can slow down and I can say no to the temptations of life.  Hope is the foundation of integrity.  If I have no hope for the future, then truthfully there is no logical reason to live a life of integrity.  

1 John 3:3 “Everyone who has this hope in Christ keeps himself pure just as Christ is pure.”  That’s the power of hope in our lives – it keeps us pure and motivates us to holy living.

Now does Hope happen?  I’d like to get started.  I want to be able to live with the problems that are facing me.  I’d like to be able to go on when things are tough.  I’d like to slow down.  I’d like to learn to say no.  How does hope get into my life?  How can I have hope?  

How Hope Happens

Romans 5:2-5 gives us God’s assembly line for hope in our lives: “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

Did you catch the part about rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God in verse 2?  We’re able to rejoice because God’s glory is certain.  We can hope in God’s glory.  This is the easy one. 

But notice how verse 3 begins, “But not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings…”  This is the tough one.  It’s relatively simple to hope and rejoice in God’s glory, but how can we rejoice in our problems?  How do we do that?  It seems so unnatural, doesn’t it?  Well, actually it is.  It’s really a process that we have to go through.

Finding hope is not easy.  God’s process is not the process I would choose.  If I were going to develop a system for discovering hope, I’d prescribe a week of deer hunting. But that’s not how hope happens.   

To help us visualize how we find hope, I want to use a baseball diamond analogy.  Let’s start with first base.

1. First Base: GET A PROBLEM

This is pretty easy, isn’t it?  God says that if you want to live with hope, you need to get yourself to first base.  Romans 5:3 says that you need to go through some suffering or experience a problem.  As I look around this morning, I’d say that every one of us is either camping out on first base – or we’re on the way.

Are you going to have problems in 2000?  Yes, you can count on it.  And if you and I are going to have hope in the new millennium, we have to learn to deal with that.  The incredible thing is that God takes the very problems that we think are sent to steal our hope and He uses them.  

Here’s a biblical philosophy of problems:

  • One, problems are inevitable.  We’re all going to suffer.  Sometimes when people have a problem, they say, “Why me?”  A better question is, “Why not me?”  Everyone has problems because they’re inevitable. 
  • Second, problems are unexpected.  You can’t plan for them.  The word in the New Testament for problems is the word from which we get our English word “pirate”.  That’s a pretty good picture of how problems happen.  They ambush us.  They’re unexpected.  Some of you are still reeling from unexpected loss in your life.
  • Third, problems are used by God to develop us and grow us.  I say that not to minimize your problems but to recognize God’s power.  To say that God uses problems to develop us and grow us is not the same thing as saying that problems are good.  Problems are not good.  God is good but problems are not.  But He uses them.

So I start by getting a problem and I realize that hope happens when I’m hurting.  The truth is, if hope can’t happen even when it hurts, it’s not worth happening at all.  That’s the kind of hope that God brings into our lives.  

Now, how do we get to second base?


In order to get off first base, you need to practice patience.  Romans 5:4 says that, “We know that suffering produces perseverance [or patience]” Growth requires both problems and patience.  If problems alone were enough to grow us, we’d all be very mature by now.  But God requires both – problems and patience.  It just takes time for some problems to be solved.  Some problems in our lives we can solve pretty quickly.  But there are many others you just can’t fix right away – and some are frankly unsolvable.  As you patiently wait, God develops you.  

This is a crucial point in God’s Hope factory.  There are at least 3 ways we try to avoid second base.

  • One, we try to run from our problems.  We try to get as far away as we can.  When you try to run from your problems, you keep running into the same ones again and again.  Different names.  Different circumstances.  But it’s the same problem.  You can’t run from your problems.
  • Second, we try to hide from our problems.  We try to pretend that they don’t exist.  We have an incredible ability to lie to ourselves about this.  We try to hide behind our anger or we try to hide behind blaming other people.  Or we even try to hide behind our Christian optimism.  That’s one of my favorite ways to hide – to just pretend that everything’s going to be OK.

Practice patience.  Don’t run.  Don’t hide.

  • A third thing we try to do is we point.  We become convinced that we’re the only one with real problems.  So we point at other people.  We say, “Look at that person!  They don’t have the problems I do.  They don’t have the kind of kids I have!  They’re not sick like I am!  They’ve never had the struggles that I’ve had!”  

Friends, stop pointing and stop hiding and stop running.  How do you develop patience?  Romans 8:25 “If we must keep trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently.”  It grows out of trust.  That’s where patience comes from.  God is in control – we need to trust this truth.  

For many of us life has kicked the hope out of us.  We wonder who we can trust.  How do you rebuild trust in your life?  Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  

Hope is always built on the truth of the Scriptures.  You can’t build hope on a lie.  You will always strikeout in the end.  This verse reminds us that this book is the truth – and everything written in it was written to teach us how to endure – and how to have hope.

While the Bible offers a lot of hope and encouragement, there’s one section that really stands out – the Book of Job.  I was able to read this entire book while I was deer hunting last weekend – maybe that’s why I didn’t see any deer!

I don’t know how Job did it, but he’s known for his patience and perseverance.  Listen to what he said in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in Him.”  Job was practicing patience in the midst of his problems.  He engaged his will by choosing to hope – even when it was tough to do so.

Now, it’s a good thing to be on second base, but it’s not good to stay there.  God wants us to move toward home plate, to discover hope.  The next step on the way is third base…


As we move along God’s bases by practicing patience with our problems, He starts to change us.  Romans 5:4 provides us with another link: patience produces character.

Our English word tribulation comes from a Latin word tribulum.  In Paul’s day, a tribulum was a heavy piece of timber with spikes on it, used for threshing grain.  The tribulum was drawn over the grain as it separated the wheat from the chaff.  As you and I go through tribulations, and depend on God’s grace, trials and problems can only purify us.

Trials always work for us, not against us.  Character emerges out of the fire.  If you find someone with great character, I guarantee that they’ve been patient – that they’ve endured through some great trials in their life.  When faced with more problems than he thought he could bear, Job responds in 23:10: “He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”     

This is a good moment to be honest about a false kind of hope that we often try to build into our lives.  Some of us instead of trying to build character in order to build hope try to accumulate possessions in order to build hope.  There is a temptation to think, “If I can just get enough things in my life, then I can build a foundation of hope on those things.”  

Look at what the Bible has to say in 1 Timothy 6:17 about this “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”    

When you build hope on the character that God alone can develop in your life, no one can take that away from you

We’ll run into big problems if we build our hope upon things, which can so easily be lost.  When they get pulled out of our lives we think hope has evaporated.  The truth is, we’ve built our hope on the wrong thing.  When you build hope on the character that God alone can develop in your life, no one can take that away from you.  Always build your hope on something that no one can take away.  Hope doesn’t come by developing a portfolio.  It comes by character development.

That’s what God does as we’re patient through the problems of life.  Notice the next link in the assembly line – character development then produces hope.

Are you ready to round all the bases?  Home plate is where we can enjoy hope…

4. Home Plate: ENJOY HOPE

You don’t have to wait to get to heaven to enjoy the hope God wants to give you today.  1 Peter 1:3 “In His great mercy, He’s given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.” 

In the New Testament, the word “hope” occurs one time before the resurrection of Jesus – but it occurs 70 times after Jesus was raised from the dead!  Clearly, hope comes from the resurrection.  

There’s a story I love about a Little League baseball game.  A man walks up to a young slugger sitting on the bench and asks him a question, “How’s it going?”  The little leaguer looks up and says, “We’re behind 18 to nothing.  But we haven’t been up to bat yet.”

Some of you feel like you’re behind 18 to nothing but in many ways you haven’t been up to bat yet.  There is a hope out there in the future that’s indescribable.  It’s a place called heaven.  It’s a perfect hope.  It’s a perfect place, with a perfect God who makes things perfect for eternity.  Even in this life, sometimes when the fog rolls in and when you feel behind and you feel like there’s no hope, it’s not true.  Hope can begin right now because of what God has for us in the future.      

After taking some incredible hits, both personally and corporately as God’s people, Jeremiah wrote down his thoughts in Lamentations 3:20-24: First he recalls all the problems as he writes in his diary of despair: “My soul still remembers and sinks within me.”  But then, it’s as if he forces himself to see the good that can come out of the bad, of the character that God builds out of tribulation when he writes this: “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.”  His hope is coming back as he locks into what He knows to be true.  

Then follows a very familiar passage: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness.”

Finally, after going through God’s process of character development and Hope restoration, he concludes with these beautiful words, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I have hope in Him!”

Friend, is the Lord your portion this morning?  Is He your everything?  If He is, you can have hope for the future!   If you’re still somewhere on the base paths, don’t give up now.  Play through the problems with patience knowing that God is changing your character and preparing you to taste some hope – perhaps for the first time.

You don’t have to wait for hope to happen.  I said earlier that hope is always built on trust and the truth.  I want to encourage you to trust the truth in your life.  Some of you need to trust the truth that Jesus Christ loves you.  

Some of you need to trust the fact that God is working in a problem that you’re facing right now even though you can’t see it.  The fog has rolled in and you have no idea what God is doing.  But today you need to say in your mind, “God, I trust the fact that You are working through and in this problem in ways I don’t know – but I choose to remember that you are in control, therefore I have hope.”

Where are you on God’s base paths this morning?  Are you on First Base?  If so, it’s time to practice some patience and slide into second.   

Are you on Second Base?  That’s great, but head for third where God can build your character.  

Are you standing on Third Base?  You’re so close to scoring.  Friend, bring it on home.  The third base coach is waving you in.  Come home and taste the hope he has for you there.

In this analogy, God is at bat.  He’s the one who will drive you to Hope – if you’ll just stay in the game long enough to score.

Let’s pray.  Prayer.

Benediction. This is from Romans 15:13“Now may the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?