Romans 5: 1-5
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
As I promised a few weeks back, I want to spend a few weeks looking at our core values. If our vision statement is a destination, and our purpose/mission statement is the vehicle, then our core values our the route we take to get to our destination. They are what inform “the Project Way”. Those values are Hopefulness, Excellence, Integrity, Relationship, and Servanthood. I wanted to start this morning with “hopefulness”.
I’ve retuned to a city completely turned on its head. It is September… and people are talking about the Pirates. They are doing so without irony or malice. What gives? The last time the Pirates had a winning season, I was 13. Since then, they’ve been a laughingstock, a sterling example of mismanagement mixed with bad luck. It’s been fun to watch the excitement build as we crept closer and closer to that elusive 82nd win. People began to talk about things like playoffs and October baseball. Yeah… they play baseball in October. Who knew? People began to hope and it’s been really fun to be around.
The apostle Paul seemed to believe that hope is a product of struggle. The hope of a perennial loser is different than that of those who have always been on top. The reward is greater. The victory sweeter. The process… longer and harder. But Paul’s equation is this; struggle leads to endurance, which develops character and people of character are hopeful people.
Our world is cynical. We’ve become a culture of skeptics. To be hopeful at times feels naive. I repent of my participation in the cynicism of the world. It takes no character to be cynical. It asks nothing from us. To be hopeful asks us to trust that the love of God that has been poured into each of us can get us through the circumstances that surround us. We hope because of love and the power that love has to change the world.
The work that we do requires that our outlook is a hopeful one. We hope to see our students rise above difficult circumstances. We hope for a safer community where people have opportunities to better themselves. We hope for our homeowners to be able to live out their days knowing their worth in the eyes of God. Ultimately, we hope for a city renewed by the love of God reflected in humble service.
A very practical application to this is being hopeful in our speech. Again, I confess my weakness in this area. Call me out on it! We need to communicate with each other, with our students and homeowners, and with those outside of the organization in a way that let’s them know that we believe that God has good things in store for them and for us. Removing negativity and cynicism from our speech is a difficult process that requires discipline. It’s not that we need to be Pollyanna-ish in our conversations, but we do need to ask ourselves whether what we say projects our trust in God’s goodness and provision.
Difficulties make it easy to lose hope, yet the irony lies in the fact that it is those same difficulties that create the space in which hopeful character can be born. My hope is that as we begin to come out of a difficult season that we emerge as an optimistic people, believing that we can see justice and love reign in our city.