This morning I again draw on EMW with the second part of Dr Davies’s writing on hope from Romans 8
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
For weeks, I was often away from my family in order to preach and teach in many churches and Colleges throughout Korea. On the first visit for two or three days it was exciting being in a new country but the busy schedule, constant travel, meeting lovely but new people daily while adjusting to new congregations, Colleges and students in various parts of the country was tiring. All the time, however, the ‘hope’ I had was of returning home eventually and being reunited with family. That ‘hope’ helped me to wait patiently for my eventual flight home.
That is the kind of ‘hope’ Paul writes about here. The Lord’s return will certainly take place and God’s glorious plan will be fulfilled. However, in anticipating this glorious ‘hope’, we are directed to persevere believingly with a strong sense of expectancy and faith. For Paul, this was not escapism or a theory in theology but a reality. In the middle of his sufferings and trials, he kept his eyes on the ‘hope’ in front of him. Just imagine what he suffered and he lists his experiences in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Beaten cruelly on occasions, imprisoned frequently, in several near to death situations besides being stoned, shipwrecked, and suffering cold, hunger, constant dangers and false accusers. Paul still looked expectantly to the ‘hope’ that lay ahead of him. His head did not hang down in self-pity or despair. His hardships were a ‘a light affliction’ (2 Cor. 4:17-18) which he regarded as being ‘momentary’, ‘light and a weightless trifle’ when viewed in the light of future glory. Paul did not ‘look’ at things seen but at things which are eternal. The verb for ‘look’ used by the apostle in verse eighteen (2 Cor. 4) has the force of ‘fixing one’s gaze’ and ‘concentrating one’s attention‘ on what is eternal.
In addition to this apostolic example, we have the supreme example of the Lord Jesus Christ. When facing the horrors of the cross with all its cruelty, shame and forsakenness, the Lord ‘for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God’(Hebrews 12:2). His pain and agony on the cross are beyond our imagination and comprehension but the Lord still looked forward and anticipated the joy that would be his eventually. He suffered like no one else has suffered in this world. At times, those sufferings were infinite and unbearable but he continued to look forward to the joy of returning home to heaven and being with his Father and enthroned in glory.
Do you feel despair? Are you tempted to give up? Has Christian work become a burden you don’t want to shoulder anymore? ‘Fix’ your gaze on heaven and the glory ahead, then believingly serve the Lord in ‘hope’.
Where are you looking and fixing your gaze?
Dr Eryl Davies (Heath Church Cardiff)