I saw something this morning that I've never seen before. I'm still working it out in my mind, so this blog entry will be as much me quite literally thinking thoughts as it will trying to say something or teach. Here's what I saw...
In Romans 5.2, Paul speaks of boasting (rejoicing, praising, etc.) in hope of the glory of God. Because of peace with God and access to grace (v.1 and first part of v.2), Paul boasts in hope of the glory of God. What does it mean to rejoice in hope? I think it's probably something like rejoicing in the certainty of an event that hasn't happened yet.
I remember my friend Steve and his wife Cindy sitting in our living room when Baylor won the women's national championship in basketball. Steve blurted out, with a huge smile on his face, that he couldn't believe that we were going to win it. This was with about 5 minutes left and Baylor was up something like 20 points. That feels like rejoicing in hope.
Here's the connection I hadn't made before, though. Paul also boasts/rejoices in sufferings because they bring about perseverance, which yields proven character, whose product is...hope.
And I think it's the same hope that he is referring to in v.2. I think it's hope in the glory of God. I think I had always put the hope in v.4-5 in a different category. Hope that God is working through suffering. Hope that God is producing character. Hope that God will not forsake me in hard times. I think instead Paul is writing about this hope as hope in the glory of God. The suffering I endure will actually increase the acuteness of hope in the glory of God. This seems to be the driving force behind Bunyan and Bonhoeffer and thousands of other saints through the ages who have struggled and suffered and maintained hope in the glory of God. Bunyan even blessed the prison that held him for helping him see God.
Maybe that's because Bunyan's hope doesn't disappoint, because God has poured out His love in his heart by the Holy Spirit (v.5).
But that's just me thinking thoughts...