Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 March 4, 2018
“From Troubles to Hope”
Last week we learned, from 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, that God’s power is made perfect in the weakness of His redeemed children—when we are weak, then we are strong in Him. How welcome to our souls is such a Biblical truth is this? We continue this week in the same vein. We see how troubles lead, through certain things good in themselves, to hope—and, therefore, we rejoice in (or boast in, Greek kauchaomai [kaucaomai]) those troubles. This is good, for who can live without hope? We have hope aplenty before us, and let us have it bolstered as we hear God’s Word, through Paul’s Spirit-led pen, today.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The Holy Spirit declares, through Paul, that we rejoice in (or boast in) two things—one self-evident, and the other surprise. First, we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. To hope is to look forward with confidence to that which is good and beneficial. Hence, we look forward to good things both in God’s glory per se and in the blessings that flow from it. When we think of God’s glory, we think of a number of qualities: His shining brilliance, or splendor; His amazing might; and His heaviness, weightiness of being, or gravitas. All of this, and more, describes God’s glory. We look forward in hope to all of this being revealed to the full in God’s good time—and we are grateful beyond speech for the measure of His glory that we behold today.
We have this hope for several reasons. We have it because God justified us by faith in His Son, Christ Jesus. That is, God declares us legally, forensically, and jurisprudentially (and any other appropriate adverb) not guilty before God. Jesus both assumed our guilt and bore our sentence—and, yea, He became sin for us, in order that we in Him may become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). The benefits of Christ’s atoning work the Holy Spirit imputes to us, and in Christ we are free of divine condemnation, wrath, fury, anger, and all the rest.
We have hope of the glory of God—and rejoice in the same—because, since justified, we have peace with God. Peace with God has two facets: both cessation of hostilities against Him and inner tranquility before Him. Certainly, if delivered from sin, death, and hell, we have such God-given peace in our souls. Moreover, we have hope because God grants us who are in Christ access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. We have access to blessed intimacy with God through the new and living way (Hebrews 10:19), and we have this access by faith—by cognitive, volitional trust in Christ—by grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor extended to us. This access by faith into God’s grace in Christ is ours now—and forever, to be sure.
Second, and surprisingly to some, we rejoice in our troubles. To rejoice in trouble, to some minds, is tantamount to insanity, but—as we shall see—we rejoice in trouble because it leads to more blessed estates. Note in our text that troubles work endurance. By troubles we mean circumstances involving direct suffering—from persecution or otherwise. By endurance we mean the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances. Troubles develop endurance, and it is a blessed things that as the troubles grow long, the endurance grows strong.
Furthermore, endurance works character. The sense of the Greek text is proven character, and many English translation state explicitly the proven element of Godly character. As we endure many troubles, with at least some of them lasting a long time, our characters are tried, purified, and proven true. We have seen two good things that rise from troubles: endurance and proven character. Now let’s proceed to the best thing of all.
Character, proven character, works hope. This humble expectation of future good in Christ and through Christ does not make us ashamed. Hope never embarrasses, nor does it disappoint. These claims prove true because God’s love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Whom He has given to us. The Greek word here used for love (agape, agaph) denotes the love that God has for Himself within the Godhead. This is the love, among others, that God gives to us—a love poured, or caused to flow, into our hearts, and that not in stingy measure, but lavishly. Ideally this love is the characteristic love between Christians. All of this is through the Holy Spirit—God with us today—Whom God has given unto us.
When God wants us to emphasize a thing, He repeats it. Let us now note other Scripture that corroborates the truth we hear today. In James 1:2-4, James, that pillar of the Jerusalem church and half-brother of the Lord Jesus, tells us to count it all joy when met with various trials. We can do this because James, through the Spirit, shows us the end of trial. The testing of our faith leads to endurance, and this endurance must have (or finish) its work, in order that it may bring maturity and completeness in Christ—with no lack associated. We read also in 1 Peter 1:6-7 that trials purify our faith—a faith more precious than valuable, perishable gold—and the trials and the consequent purified faith redound to Jesus’ praise, honor, and glory.
Therefore, we may have troubles in this world. Jesus Himself tells us to be of good cheer, though, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Even amid trouble, then, let us rejoice in confident expectation of the glory of God—now and future. Let us even rejoice in the troubles themselves, which lead through intermediate good things to hope—a confident expectation of good things from God, both now and forevermore.
 For this definition see Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).
 Interestingly, the title of the first book of Rev. Billy Graham (1918-2018) is Peace with God (1953).