“Hope does not disappoint”
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint… ” (Romans 5:1-5 NASB)
Regardless of the outcome, I don’t believe that Christ-centered hope can ever be categorized as “false hope.” Even in our darkest trials; when we’re hoping (in Christ) for a miracle to bring us through the trial and the miracle doesn’t happen the way we envisioned, we can remain “in hope” if we are truly hoping (unconditionally) in Christ and not merely hoping for a miracle. Regardless of the trials we face, only hope in Christ is “the full assurance of hope until the end” (Hebrews 6:11 NASB)
The Apostle Paul (the man who wrote the opening passage) experienced many difficult trials, but was a living example that hope in Christ never disappoints. He wrote; (I have) “…been put in jail…whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27 NLT)
Like many of us, Paul’s trials didn’t always turn out the way he envisioned and prayed that they would. A great example of this is Paul’s so-called “thorn in the flesh.” The Bible never says what Paul’s “thorn” was, but I believe this omission was intentional so we could read Paul’s words and be able to apply them to whatever “thorns in the flesh” we might be dealing with, whether they are physical, emotional, relational, financial or spiritual etc.
Paul wrote;” Concerning this (thorn in the flesh) I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NASB)
God telling Paul, “My grace is sufficient,” isn’t His nice way of saying “No,” but it is His way of saying “Not yet.” The Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not God ever removed Paul’s “thorn” at some later point in Paul’s life and I think this omission was also intentional so we would keep hoping for God to grant our miracle.
I believe that God wants us to get to the point where our joy, peace and hope are not dependent on our circumstances. Learning to love God unconditionally, as He loves us, is the greatest of all miracles.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NASB)
His grace is sufficient!