Some things are intended to remain constant.
A week has seven days. Always. Never more and never less. Any given month may have 28, 29, 30 or 31; and you need a system to keep track of how many days will be in THIS month THIS year. Gravity is another constant, at least on earth. The force that pulls all of us towards the center of the planet acts exactly the same way on all of us at all times. Even upthrust, the term that describes the property of solids in contact with liquids, is a measurable constant. That’s why boats float. It’s also why you can calculate how much weight a boat can manage while maintaining buoyancy.
Constants are ruled by natural law or broad convention. They are not arbitrary, meaning that you and I cannot decide that WE are going to have nine days in our week, so we can have longer weekends. Our actions or decisions would have no impact on the constant.
Today’s verse describes another constant.
REJOICE IN HOPE. BE PATIENT IN TRIBULATION. BE CONSTANT IN PRAYER.
As one might imagine, these three elements fit together. Each one draws life from the others and adds its own strength to them. In other words, God knows what He’s talking about. (WOW !! Imagine that.)
REJOICE IN HOPE.
Hope is an expression of faith. We exercise our faith in order to claim the promises of God. The bible teaches us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the very substance of the things we don’t see yet. Hope sustains our hearts and keeps us engaged in the battles we face.
In this context, the word HOPE embodies the character and promises of faith. I’m not speaking about a whimsical hope, along the lines of “I hope it doesn’t rain during my vacation” or “I hope my favorite team wins this weekend.” The hope that we are called to rejoice in is founded on the promises God gives in His word.
This sort of hope begins with our rejoicing in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because He has caused us to be born again in Him. In so doing, He has given us a living hope; the hope that is the foundational promise of our salvation. God has promised us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. It’s not going anywhere, it’s kept in heaven for us. We don’t have it now, and so we rejoice in the living hope He gives us.
Hope that is alive is based upon the promises of God. We can count on it, depend upon it. Even this hope — perhaps ESPECIALLY this hope — HAS to be built upon God’s promise. When I ask someone if they expect to go to heaven when they die, if their answer is, “I hope so” I am going to explore the basis for that hope. If they say things like “Well, I’ve basically been a good person” or “I’ve tried my best,” then I know I’ve got a much BETTER hope to tell them about. A hope that isn’t based on their performance, but a hope based upon a covenant promise.
God promises many things. He promises to receive all who come to Him by faith. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. He promises to protect us, and that no one can take us out of His hand.
Here’s the rub … No one hopes for what they already fully possess. And we aren’t always operating with all of the information. He didn’t promise we’d always FEEL like He was with us, only that He always would be. He promised to protect US – the core spiritual being that is the essence of who we are, created in the very image of God – not this earth suit of a body we happen to be living in right now. Sooner or later we’re going to toss our body aside and enter the spiritual realm we’re currently only hoping to see. How and when that happens are truly immaterial. The only important thing is that we will be with him.
We hope for what we do not see, so we wait for it with patience.
BE PATIENT IN TRIBULATION.
We rejoice in hope, even though now, for a little while, we have to battle various trials and tribulations. These are TESTS, not temptations. We are tested so that the genuineness of our faith—more precious than gold —may result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Did you catch that? These tests will result in praise and glory and honor. Not only do they purify us and strengthen us, but they are going to result in honor.
It’s interesting that the bible would illustrate the process of our purification with that of gold. Do you know how gold is purified?
The goldsmith begins the process by heating the gold past its melting point. What was once hard and strong adapts to the shape of the vessel being used to heat it. As God purifies our faith, He “turns up the heat” in our lives. He is the vessel surrounding us, and making sure that none of what He holds so precious is wasted. And so, we end up becoming adapted to His shape – His character.
Once the gold is heated sufficiently, any impurities within the metal will begin to rise to the surface. As they do, the goldsmith will carefully remove them. As life’s trials and tribulations heat up around us, our sins, faults and temper rise to the top. They are hard to miss!!! But God lovingly removes them, and we are purified and strengthened.
You may wonder how the goldsmith knows when the gold is pure. When the surface of the liquid ore has had every impurity removed, the goldsmith can see the reflection of his face on the surface. When God’s face is reflected in our character, we’re ready.
God allows tests to bring out the best in us.
BE CONSTANT IN PRAYER.
Remember the constants we began with? The things that never change. For the living hope to remain alive in us as we pass through the trials and tribulations of life, we need to be constantly praying. Prayer is two-way communication with God. Speaking your heart, listening for His. Sharing your needs and concerns, receiving His consolation, comfort and provision. Prayer gives us the grace to maintain peace and hope in our hearts. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
We are called to lift holy hands without anger or quarreling in every place and at all times. Praying without ceasing. The bible encourages to pray in all circumstances. Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. The key is that we share our heart with God, which opens the way for Him to share His heart with us.
And, in so doing, we are strengthened. We are purified. We are lifted up. And we are not alone.
This verse is like a multi-level fountain with one layer cascading into the next, and the bottom layer being pumped back up to the top to begin the process all over again.
And the POWER to do it all is provided by God.
Are you plugged in?
REJOICE IN HOPE. BE PATIENT IN TRIBULATION. BE CONSTANT IN PRAYER.