“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. Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”—Rom. 15: 13, 14 (NKJV)
THE FULLNESS OF LIFE – HOW IT COMES
The passage before us brings a threefold answer to this question. We are shown the Divine Source. “The God of hope.” The fullness of life in the Christian is necessarily Divine not human. It comes from God, not from man. This title of God is very striking and occurs only in this place. “The God of hope.” What does it mean? Probably in the first place it means “the God Who is the source of hope.” But it may also include the idea of “The God Who is Himself hope,” thus calling attention to hope as one of the characteristics of the Divine Nature. If this is the meaning, or even a part of the meaning, it is full of significance for our purpose in discovering the secret of life.
We know well what hope does in connection with the teaching and training of children. If we wish a little one to undertake a task, and we show by our manner when we set the task that we expect the child to fail, we are almost guaranteeing the failure by robbing the little one of hope and encouragement. On the other hand, every true teacher knows the power of hope and encouragement in dealing with children. If we show that we expect the little one to succeed, we go far to guarantee the success. In like manner, God’s attitude to His children is one of definite and powerful hope. He knows what His grace can do, if only His children are willing to receive it. He does not expect His children to fail, but to succeed. He looks down from heaven as we yield ourselves to Him, and is to us the God of hope, full of Divine hope concerning us as we live in Christ. What a joy it is to be trusted by our God! What an inspiration to holiness and service to be assured of the Divine expectation of success and blessing! Surely we come at once to one of the deepest secrets of spiritual fullness of blessing, God’s trust in us, God’s hope concerning us as we yield ourselves unreservedly to His all-sufficient grace and power.
We are taught the Divine Medium. “Through the power of the Holy Spirit.” All the elements of the fullness of life already considered are stored up for us in Christ, and it is through the Holy Spirit that they are bestowed upon us. Our joy is “joy in the Lord”; and the Kingdom of God is “joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. xiv. 17). Our peace is the peace of Christ (John 14: 27) and this becomes ours by the Holy Spirit. Our hope comes from the indwelling of Christ (Col. 1:27); and this is made ours by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Our goodness is due to the indwelling of our Lord, and this becomes ours in the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Our knowledge and capability are also gifts of the Risen Lord which are made ours in personal experience by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. And thus he is the Divine Medium through Whom everything comes which is needed for the fullness of life and power and blessing.
We are told of the human channel. “In believing.” On our side, Faith is the response to Divine grace. Faith brings joy and peace; these in turn lead to hope; hope develops into goodness; goodness into insight; and insight into capability and usefulness. And thus Faith is the channel and means of everything God wants us to have. When we think of hope we at once realize that it is impossible without faith. God desires us to love Him supremely, but we cannot love a God Whom we distrust. God wishes our obedience, but it is impossible to obey one Whom we deny. God asks for our service, but we cannot serve a God Whom we discredit. Faith is at the root and foundation of everything in the Christian life.
Faith as revealed to us in Scripture is of a twofold nature; there is the faith that asks and the faith that accepts; the faith that appeals and the faith that appropriates. This is probably the reason why prayer and thanksgiving are so often associated in the writings of St. Paul. They represent to us the two aspects of faith. Prayer is the faith that asks; thanksgiving is the faith that takes. We lose a great deal in our Christian life by failure to distinguish between these two aspects of faith. We keep on asking, when we ought to commence accepting. “Believe that ye have received, and ye shall have” (Mark 11:24).
Two intimate friends were once lunching together, and after the host had said the usual grace, “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful,” his friend asked him when he was expecting to have that prayer answered. “What do you mean,” was the reply. “Why,” was the rejoinder, “to my certain knowledge you have been praying for the last twenty-five years to be made thankful: is it not about time that you were thankful?” This friend was trying to illustrate the difference between praying to be made thankful, and saying, “I am thankful.” In the same way in the Christian life there comes a time when we should cease asking and commence obtaining.
This is the value of the distinction between God’s promises and God’s facts. The promises are to be pleaded and their fulfillment expected. The facts are to be accepted and their blessings at once used. When we read, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” it is not a promise to be pleaded, but a fact to be at once accepted and enjoyed. When we say “The Lord is my shepherd,” we are not dealing with a promise or the groundwork of prayer, we are concerned with one of the present realities of the Christian experience. A man kneels down before leaving home in the morning and asks God for grace to be kept every moment that day. Then he rises at once and goes about his work. Has he done all his duty in thus simply asking for grace? There was something more and better that he should have done. He should have given a moment more after asking, for the purpose of taking, by saying to God, “O my God and Father, I believe that Thou art now giving me the grace that I have asked for; I here and now take Thy grace.” As the hymn aptly puts it,
“I take, He undertakes.”
The faith that takes is the secret of power and blessing, and the more trust of this kind we exercise the more power and the more fullness will come into our Christian life; and day by day we shall live a life of faith and shall say with the Apostle, “I can do all things through Him who is empowering me” (Phil. 4:13: Greek), because we are able to say, “The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
William Henry Griffith Thomas (1861 – 1924) was an Anglican cleric and scholar from the English-Welsh border country. He was converted to Christ at the age of sixteen, at which point he embarked upon a rigorous course of study (he was largely self-taught in Greek) that culminated in a doctorate in divinity from Oxford in 1906. Griffith Thomas became principal at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and was involved in the British Keswick Convention, and became co-founder (with Lewis Sperry Chafer) of Dallas Theological Seminary. https://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/whgt.shtml
This article is an excerpt from chapter 7 of his book, The Christian Life and How to Live It (1919). English spellings updated; references to “Holy Ghost” replaced with “Holy Spirit” (wording the author also used in this chapter).