Are you a hopeful person? In other words, as you look to the future, do you anticipate good things? We might (or might not) say, “Yes, I am hopeful but possibly not as hopeful as I should be.” That statement might fit a fair percentage of us. The fact is, however, that we can each be full of hope.
The Apostle Paul was inspired to write, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). One of the great descriptors of our Father and of Christ is that of hope, because they do anticipate good things ahead. As we see here, there are several factors that come together in order for us to abound in hope. Through faith in Christ’s sacrifice for us and the subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God can fill us with the joy and peace that make hope flourish.
Sometimes, even though we fully understand these facts, we can feel lacking in hope at the level that God intends for us. That, of course, would point us back to joy and peace. Is it possible that we have been overlooking or misunderstanding these two fruits (or any of the others for that matter) of the Holy Spirit?
We can ask ourselves if our perception of joy and peace is only about our own comfort level right now, in the moment? If it is, we are misunderstanding these fruits. Like love, peace and joy are outgoing and reciprocal. They are things that we freely give to others and that other like-minded individuals can freely give to us. They are not physical fruits, but spiritual ones. Understandably, we can satiate our physical appetite with physical fruits that we consume – we all do that. Spiritual fruits, however, are different in that we give them to others. When we pursue peace with others, we might extend hospitality, offer encouragement, be patient, be kind or forgiving. We can write our own list of all the ways we can give of ourselves in the pursuit of peace. The point to focus on though is that the giving of them is one of the major ways we come to experience joy. There is joy for us in being a part of generating peace. That joy doesn’t come about because we got our own carnal way, it is a result of giving. Likewise, we experience peace when we give others our self-controlled attitude, our faithfulness, kindness or goodness, etc.
To summarize, God doesn’t give to get. He gives us the power through faith to produce all the fruits of His very own loving mind. That is why Paul was inspired to characterize Him as the “God of hope.” Through hope He and Christ anticipate good things to come. Likewise then, when we see the fruits of the spirit for what they actually are, an expression of God’s own mind and character in us, we’ll have the same certain and abiding hope of the future!
By Marshall Stiver