May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13, English Standard Version).
Abba (God the Father) is the god of hope. In relation to Abba, hope is our lively expectation, our joyful confidence, that, through a fresh word from Jesus and by the power of Spirit, Abba will grant us again today all the wisdom, strength, courage, and good cheer we need to respond creatively to whatever evil challenges us.
Abba fills us with all joy and peace in believing. To believe in the one true god is not simply to agree to certain abstract statements about him. It is to live in such a personal relationship with him that we actually get to know him well enough to have complete trust in him and loyalty to him. To say in our hearts, “I believe in you,” is to acknowledge a trust in and loyalty to Abba, and his son Jesus, that is greater than our fear of challenging circumstances.
With this kind of believing trusting relationship comes joy. Joy is the abiding contentment we experience when we walk daily with our loving and living lord and savior Jesus. This abiding contentment is ours despite difficult circumstances. In fact, we often experience it most profoundly just when the going gets toughest because that’s when it becomes clearest to us just how profound Christ’s love for us truly is.
The joy of living with Jesus contrasts with the happiness we routinely look for from the false gods of this world. In relation to these gods, happiness is not the contentment of simply being with them. It is the contentment that is ours when our circumstances are comfortable in terms of them: opportunities to boss others (Jupiter), use of the latest technological gadgets like sleek new computers, smartphones, and cars (Vulcan), lots of money coming in (Pluto), and plenty of wine, women, and song (Venus, Bacchus). But this happiness, this contentment coming from pleasant circumstances, disappears when those circumstances change for the worse. Joy doesn’t. It’s with us as long as Jesus is, and he never abandons us.
Knowing Jesus well enough to have greater joy in him than fear of false gods, who like to bully us, also brings us peace. When we look for the meaning of life in happiness, power, and earned righteousness, threats to them disturb us profoundly. When we look for the meaning of life in our freedom to witness to Christ, his persistent presence grants us a quiet dignity.
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