Rejoice In Hope
Rejoicing In Hope

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 63a of 83

“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

We have begun a study of a portion of the letter of Paul to the Romans where he teaches us—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—how we may grow together in unity of love as a church comprising sinners justified by grace, being transformed by little by little by the renewing of our minds.

We have seen previously that: (1) we must love sincerely; (2) we must seek to do good and avoid doing evil to one another; and (3) we must cultivate a warm brotherly affection in the church (v. 9-10). We have also considered how we must be on fire to serve the Lord in all areas of our lives—whether in church at home or in school. We must not be slow and lazy in our attitude. We must be fervent in spirit (v. 11).

In our present study, we must consider Paul’s next instruction. At first look, this seems to have nothing to do with unity of love in the church. Indeed, it may even seem be out of place.

12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.

Does this have anything to do with unity of love in the church? Well, if you look at how this verse is translated carefully, you will realise that it does not stand alone. It is a participial clause. Our schooling children will know what a participial clause is. If I say, “Eat your food without complaining!” The main verb is ‘eat.’ The participle clause is “without complaining.” A participial clause cannot stand alone; it must be connected to a main verb.

Well, if you look at verse 12—“Rejoicing in hope &c,” you will notice that it is a participial clause. Where is the main verb? Well, in our English translation, you can see that the main verb of verse 12 is all the way back in verse 10: “Be kindly affectioned one to another…” But in the Greek, it actually harks back to verse 9—“Let love be without dissimulation…”

But whatever the case, we know that in the mind of the Spirit, the instruction, “rejoicing in hope &c” serves to augment the call to love one another in the church. It is as if Paul is saying—“Love one another; and as you do so, be rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation and continuing instant in prayer.”

So the instruction in our text has indeed, something to do with loving one another in the church!

How is this so, you may ask? Well, we must remember that the church is made up of persons. If the church is to grow healthily in a bond of love, then each member in the church must be healthy spiritually. If we are to be healthy Christians, we must learn to deal with trials and difficulties that come along the way—including those that arise out of our rubbing shoulders with other members in the church.

Can you see now, why it is essential that we learn to rejoice in hope; to be patient in tribulation; and to continue instant in prayer if we want to cultivate the bond of unity in the church?

So then let us consider these three instructions together that we may grow together in the bond of Christ.

1.  Rejoicing in Hope

What does it mean to rejoice in hope? In the first place, what is ‘hope’? Hope, according to the Webster dictionary, is “a confident expectation that a desire will be fulfilled.”

Hope, in other words, speaks of an anticipation that the future will turn out well. Hope is different from faith. Faith is believing in someone; hope is trusting that the future will be good.

But the believer’s hope, we must remember, is not the same as the world’s idea of hope. For the world, hope is really just a wish.

·        “I hope it will not rain today,” simply means “I wish it will not rain today.”

·        “I hope I will recover soon” simply means “I wish I will recover soon.”

·        “I hope everything will turn out well” simply means “I wish that everything will turn out well.”

The world’s hope is an empty wish. There is no basis for genuine hope for the unbeliever. Unbelievers, in other words, have no real hope.

Those outside Christ are “strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12) says Paul.

But as believers, we have hope. Hope, for the Christian, has an objective basis, namely, our relationship with our sovereign heavenly Father.

Because our heavenly Father loves us, and He has entrusted all things in this present world to the hand of Christ our elder brother, we can have the assurance that all things will turn out well for us.

All things will eventually turn out well for us. This is the promise of Scripture. We will be glorified. And as we saw in chapter 8 of this letter, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). Therefore, says Paul, we must “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:2).

But our hope is not only that things will turn out well in the distant future. We can have hope or assurance that all things are working together for our good even today.

We saw that in our study of Romans 8:28. All things are—in the hand of God—working together not only for the glory of God, but for the good of God’s children.

They will not only work for our good eventually. They are already working together for our good.

Our life is running like an old-fashioned clock. If you open up an old-fashioned clock, you will see that the gears are all running in a very chaotic manner. Some are running clockwise. Others are running anticlockwise. And there are some parts which seem to be twisting and turning in some inexplicable manner. And yet the clock is running perfectly as it has been designed.

God is the master clock maker. In fact, Christ our Lord is running the clock of our lives. “My times are in thy hand” (Ps 31:15) says David.

Do you believe, as David did, dear Christian? If you do, you must rejoice in hope. You must be so strong with hope that your heart is filled with joy. You must not live your life with a sour face even in the face of difficulties.

You must have such hope that unbelievers can see your hope. Notice the counsel of the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:15:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

Why would unbelievers ask you for a reason of the hope that is in you, unless that they first discern the hope in you? How do they discern the hope in you? By observing you!

But what exactly do they see? They must see your joy in all circumstances in your life.

Let me put it this way: if you see a person who is moody and negative and always fearful of how the future will turn out, what will you ask him?

Will you ask him for the reason of the hope that is in him? Will you not rather pity him and even offer to give some advice?

Or if you see a person who is always full of complaints and grumbling, what will you ask him? Will you ask him for the reason of the hope that is in him? Of course not! You may not even want to talk to him!

Who will you ask for the reason of the hope that is in him? Will it not be a person who has a cheerful countenance, who is joyful even under adverse circumstances, who does not complain, but is always positive, and full of confidence even when things do not appear to turn out well? Will you not ask such a person for the reason of the hope that is in him?

We should be such people. You may have hope because you know who holds tomorrow. And you know that He who holds tomorrow is also holding you in His hands.

Remember that whether we have hope or not is not a matter of character or personality. It is a matter of faith. If you have genuine faith, you should have genuine hope. Do you have hope? Are you hopeful? If you are a believer, you should hope. You must hope; or you are telling God in the face, “I don’t believe you.”

But I am persuaded better things of you. I am persuaded that you do believe God and that He is sovereign over all the affairs of our life.

If so, and you are living a consistent Christian life, then when unbelievers see you, they notice how different you are from them, and they will be moved to ask you what is it that makes you tick. Why? Because such a joyous disposition is very desirable! And such joy can be infectious! It can become a tool for evangelism. And it can be the glue in the church. If everyone of us know how to rejoice in hope, oh what a joyful congregation this will be; and oh what a blessing it will be to be a part of her!

Brethren and children, let us learn to rejoice in hope. 

But now, in order to rejoice in hope, we must be patient in tribulation.

Let me put it this way: It is difficult to know if an umbrella is leaky until it starts to rain. So it is hard to tell if we are truly rejoicing in hope or not rejoicing in hope when everything is going well. But once God sends rain of trials or tribulations into our life, then it becomes clear whether we are rejoicing in hope or leaking in unbelief.

Thus, as soon as Paul teaches us to rejoice in hope, he reminds us to be patient in tribulation.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim