Fired by love's urgent longings, I am his rocketman.
Learning By Heart

Learning By Heart

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)

When I read this scripture verse this morning, I was struck by how well it captures what I long for — what we all long for — joy, peace and hope.  (Obviously, we need love too, but we will cover that in another post).  And not just a little bit of hope but overflowing hope, boundless hope, a full measure of hope, with plenty to share with others.

Of course, I have other things on my mind, things that I want and things that I need and so do you.  But I have lived long enough to know that the “other things”, though necessary, at the end of the day are only satisfying to the extent they add to or at least do not take away from our experience of or longing for joy, peace and hope.

Too often we think that joy, peace and hope come from what we do, or choose not to do, or what we achieve, or what we acquire, or the difficulties we avoid, or the relationships that we are able to hold together, etc., etc., etc.  In fact, our usual practices of striving to attain the very things that we believe will lead to joy, peace and hope, become the very sources of our lack thereof.

I know it seems complicated and certainly I have struggled to understand why I don’t have more joy, more peace and more hope.  But I have come to believe that it is much more simple than I originally thought.

Note from the verse, God is the God of hope.  Paul prays that the God of hope may fill us with all joy, and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We should look carefully at the word “all”.  Paul is trying to get us to understand the greatness of God’s generosity in giving us the very things that will make us happy, really, really happy (joy, peace and hope).  Joy and peace come in “believing” and “hope abounds by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

What does believing mean in this context and how do we lay hold of the joy and peace promised us in this verse?  Believing means having faith in, that is, the on-going exercise of our faith in, the promises of God, contained in the Word of God.  In Romans 10:17 Paul writes, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard  comes by the preaching of the word of Christ.”

We may think that we have little, if any, faith and we may be right.   However, we can grow in faith and should be growing in faith.  Our faith grows as we listen to the Word of God in all of the ways He speaks to us.  This almost seems to good to be true, but it’s not.  We have been created to hear God’s voice; we are designed to hear him speak, though we may not be very good at it because of neglect.  There is something inside of each of us that longs to hear God speak.  Like young Samuel in the Old Testament, we have a hidden disposition, ready to say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”. (1 Samuel 3:1-10)

Paul writes:

The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.   (Romans 10:8-10)

This is a very simple concept.  In fact, it’s so simple that children often get it before adults do.  Confession with our lips leads to belief in the heart.  And, likewise, belief in the heart leads to confession of mouth (out of the heart, the mouth speaks).

Think about how we teach small children nursery rhymes.  We speak or read the nursery rhymes and then we get them to repeat the verses back to us.  Or think about multiplication tables.  We teach children to repeat the tables over and over until they memorize them.  How often have you heard a child say, “I know that by heart”?

The same principle applies to scripture.  Confessing with our lips leads to belief in the heart.  For us it’s not just a matter of memorization, although that in and of itself is good.  As Paul says, “… that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  The Word of God is alive, divinely empowered, able to achieve in us what it says, and we have the power of the Holy Spirit at work to produce inside of us what scripture contains, in this case,  joy, peace and hope.

How does it happen?  Well that is a mystery.  Why does it happen?  That has been revealed to us.  The Father loves us with immeasurable love and he wants us to have everything we need, abounding and overflowing, so that we can be happy in him.

Suppose we take this next week and do what Paul challenges us to do.  Let’s confess this verse with our lips, over and over and over again, until we know it by heart.  We may just find that we come to really believe it and live out of it.

But let’s make it personal.  Try praying it throughout the day and over the next week this way:

May the God of all hope, fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, I may abound in hope.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. This is great Mark, and a lot to meditate on. It’s very much my mini-project in life as you can tell from my Blog subtitle- I should have more accurately named it Mr Hope – but that (this virtue) is really my goal rather than my identity.

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