Hope Lives Next Door to Defeat

by Tad Lindley

All these years I never noticed Romans 12:12. It starts with the words, Rejoicing in hope… I’ve always just skated right by and thought, “Yeah, I’m down with that, ‘rejoicing’ is a good thing, and ‘hope’ is a good word.” Then last week I was listening to Johnny Cash read the New King James version and reading a long in the King James, looking for differences and suddenly I realized what a juxtaposition of ideas “rejoicing in hope” is.

Hope = problems

We always talk about hope as such a positive thing, but let’s get real about it. Hope is an admission of things that we need or want that we do not have. If I told you, “I hope I can get a Toyota pickup,” you would be confused. You would say, “Bro. Lindley, what do you mean, you already have a Toyota pickup?” You cannot hope for what you already have, only for what is out of reach. Hope is really a negative thing. Hope implies that we want something, we do not have it, and obstacles stand between.

When you tell me, “I hope I get the job,” it tells me that you do not have the job, and that there are other people that have applied. When you tell me, “I hope my loved one makes it,” you are letting me know that the doctor has told them they are going to die. Hope can only exist in the face of negative circumstances. Hope lives next door to defeat.

Rejoicing = celebration

Our Bible verse has this very strange juxtaposition, because against the dark and difficult situations that create the conditions necessary for hope to exist, is the word, “rejoicing”. Rejoicing is celebrating. When a child is born we rejoice. When the missing hunter is found alive, we rejoice. When a king salmon hits the net and goes airborne, we rejoice. Rejoicing is a celebration that happens after the battle is fought and the victory is won, and yet here is this strange expectation that if we have been saved from sin, then one of the expectations from God is that we will rejoice in hope. We will celebrate in the face of sickness. We will praise when we are surrounded by problems. We will high five against hopelessness. We will rejoice in hope…or will we?

Our natural tendencies

As is common to most human beings, we have a hard time rejoicing in hope. Instead, we tend to dwell in fear of the future. We embrace the doctor’s diagnosis as if he or she was the author and finisher of our lives. We complain, we get bitter, and we get depressed. I have stepped out into this issue of the Delta Discovery to tell you that we do not have to live like that, because we are called to rejoice in hope.

The hardcore rejoicers

When Jehoshaphat was king of Judah (the southern tribes of Israel), he got word that a multinational force was headed his way. The men of Judah understood that they did not have the numbers to stand against the foreign armies. They realized that they would likely be slaughtered and their wives and children taken as slaves and given to the men that murdered them. It was a terrifying situation to face. (II Chronicle 20)

A military strategy based on Romans 12:12

As the Judaic army prepared to breathe their last breaths before being massacred on the battlefield, King Jehoshaphat spoke to them: Trust firmly in the Lord your God and you will stand firm; trust firmly in his prophets and you will succeed. And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed them that should sing unto the LORD, and praise in the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and say: ‘Give thanks unto the LORD, for His mercy endureth for ever.’And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set liers-in-wait against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, that were come against Judah; and they were smitten.For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them; and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another. (II Chronicles 20:21-23 JPS) Did you notice that the king sent the choir out ahead of the army, and that they were not singing funeral songs? The choir was singing and praising! They were rejoicing like they had already won, even as they marched to certain death, but instead, when they arrived at the battlefront, it was the enemy that was strewn all over the ground!

What about you?

Where are you facing dark situations in your own life that seem as if they will not work out the way you want them too? Have you given up on hope? Sure, you will celebrate if hope becomes a reality, but why don’t you put the rejoicing before the hope? Can you celebrate even though it is not resolved? Can you celebrate the fact that there is nothing too difficult for Jesus? Can you praise him for the fact that he has worked the needed miracle in other people’s lives in times past and that means he can do it for you too? Rejoice in hope!

Reverend Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.

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