May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
What does it mean that we worship a God of hope? Well, much like faith, hope has an object. That is, we hope in something. If God is that object, why? Because the salvation He alone gives freely on account of Christ Jesus is the one thing in our lives that, try though we may, we cannot attain for ourselves. That fact that God provides the unattainable, freely, at no cost, because of the person and work of Christ for us, makes Him the God of hope. And sometimes, if we look closely, we can see glimmers or shadowy reflections of that hope in our everyday lives.
I grew up in the High Desert of California, in the small and quiet town of Palmdale. Though there was not much to do in this sleepy, dry town, the desert did provide us with some fun. My friends and I would build forts, play soldier, chase snakes and lizards, light things on fire (this turned bad more than once), and get into trouble while mom wasn’t looking. There was also Tarzan Hills in the desert across from my house right next to the Elks Lodge. Tarzan Hills was an impromptu BMX track made by the older, cool kids. They would go out there everyday riding, racing, and jumping. Their freedom made me jealous for my own, shiny BMX bike. I wanted to ride Tarzan Hills like a free man too!
The fact that God provides the unattainable, freely, at no cost, because of the person and work of Christ for us, makes Him the God of hope.
My problem was that I was only eleven (I think) and still had a kid bike. Luckily enough, I went to school in Lancaster, and in Lancaster, there was an honest to goodness bike shop with real BMX bikes. My school was just two blocks from the said bike shop, so I hatched a plan to acquire some new wheels.
I noticed that every day when our teacher, Mr. P., would let us out for recess, he would never come outside with us. Instead, he would sit at his desk and read his newspaper; I’m sure enjoying a few well-deserved moments of peace and quiet. What this meant to me was that I was unsupervised for a full 45 minutes a day.
My plan was simple. On Fridays, my best friend Justin DeBoer and I would leave the school campus at recess and walk to the bike shop. I planned to pick out the perfect bike, then casually work the idea of the bike into my Mom’s subconscious as the ideal Christmas present, and walla! I’d have a new BMX bike for Christmas.
Friday was the hot-lunch day, and I could ask my mom for some money to buy a hot lunch. Then Justin and I could take that money and stop at Der Wienerschnitzel to eat a chili dog and fries after visiting the shop before making our way back to school. It was a brilliant plan!
Justin and I successfully executed this plan, not once, but four times. We spent four glorious Fridays at recess looking at bikes and scarfing chili dogs and fries. I found the bike I wanted: a beautiful gold and black Redline with pads to match. It was bitchin! Better yet, to my knowledge, Mr. P. was none the wiser. To this day, I wonder how he never discovered our nefarious deeds; I’m sure we smelled of chili dogs and lies.
What my eleven-year-old mastermind brain didn’t account for was my Mom’s ability to sniff out when I was full of it. The minute I told her about the sweet black and gold Redline at the bike shop, she asked a very pertinent question: “How do you know about this bike? I’ve never taken you to that bike shop.” Crap, why didn’t I see that one coming? I may have been a mastermind, but I was not that quick on my feet. Every excuse fell short. In the end, I had to confess to my four glorious outings with Justin to the bike shop.
Mom didn’t have much of a reaction. She just said, “You’re a little young to be ditching school. Heck, I didn’t ditch school until I could drive.” My position was precarious. It was clear that she wasn’t livid, but it also seemed clear I didn’t deserve a bike for Christmas. My hope for the ultimate gift waned. So, I waited, without hope, pretty much sure that the bike thing was not going to happen. Mom never said another word.
My hope for the ultimate gift waned. So, I waited, without hope, pretty much sure that the bike thing was not going to happen.
I woke up on Christmas morning expecting to have a great Christmas (my Mom can always be counted on to do Christmas right), but not expecting my gold and black beauty. As I approached the living room, I didn’t see the usual pile of small presents under the tree. Instead, I saw one big lump of wrapping paper next to the tree; and I immediately knew what it was. It was my beautiful bike!
I wasted no time. As soon as we had the go-ahead (after stockings of course), I tore into that paper and revealed the most wonderful thing I had, to that point in life, ever seen. There before me was my black and gold beauty. I didn’t deserve it - in fact, I probably deserved to be grounded instead - but there it was in all of its glory, and it was mine!
I pulled on a sweatshirt, some jeans, and my Vans, and I rode that bike out the front door. First stop, Tarzan Hills for some jumping. Second stop, Justin’s house. Third stop, Grandma’s house. After that, no more stopping, just riding and riding some more. I rode the heck out of that bike. Together we jumped and soared, crashed and burned, rode and raced. But most of all, my Mom’s grace to me had given me the gift of freedom.
Grace and hope are like that. Grace is an attitude on the part of God whereby He no longer sees us as enemies and Lawbreakers. Rather, by grace on account of Christ and for the sake of Christ, He sees us as His own precious children. On account of Christ and by His grace, He showers us with His mercy, riches, freedom, and every good gift, which we do not deserve, which in turn, makes Him the God of hope. We hope in Him knowing we actually deserve the opposite of what He gives. We deserve His wrath and anger, yet He is the God of hope precisely because, on account of Christ, He counts us as righteous though we are nefarious sinners who smell of chili dogs and lies. To us, the God of hope looks like Christ hanging on a tree!
We hope in Him knowing we actually deserve the opposite of what He gives.
His gift of mercy, freedom, and salvation is so great that we who have received these gifts can’t help but share the message, just as I could not help but ride my bike. I was hopeless, but my mom’s gift gave me hope. This was a hope that didn’t depend on my success at coercing my mom to act according to my original scheme. Instead, this hope was dependent only on what she did in giving me the gift. Wonderful, undeserved gifts are like that. Their wonder is what motivates us to exercise such gifts and, in turn, we can then share our newfound hope in these gifts with others.
For me, I can say that my Black and Gold Redline bike, which I did not deserve, reminds me every day, in a small way, of the ultimate gift that I have in God’s grace on account of Christ! Thanks, Mom, for the gift of graciousness that just keeps on giving.
Justin was found dead in his home in November of 2015. I found out on November 13, at 7:30 am and was absolutely devastated. Justin lived a hard life and was by all accounts a broken man. A seemingly hopeless man. But I live in the sure hope of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come; that my God is the God of the broken and hopeless and that Justin was baptized into Christ. I hope to jump BMX bikes with him again one day in paradise.
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:13-14).