February 6, 2016

Freedom and dignity: their true source

This post continues a review of key points in Ron Highfield's book, God, Freedom & Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered Culture. For other posts in the series, click a number: 12, 3, 4.

Used with permission from Cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ Ministries via Wikimedia Commons
So far in this series we've been looking at humanity's quest for freedom and dignity. In our world, that quest is typically guided and motivated by a me-centered identity that might, for a time, lead to the illusion of freedom and dignity, but ultimately leads to despair. That's the bad news of the human condition that dominates so much of life in our increasingly narcissistic world.

But, take heart, there is good news! Human freedom and dignity are not out of reach---they flow from a God-centered identity that has its grounding in the servant-heart of the God-man Jesus who by the Spirit is sharing with those who trust in him his own humanity with its true and lasting, God-given freedom and dignity. Ron Highfield elaborates:
In Christ we find an identity rooted not in others' changing thoughts about us, but in God's eternal knowledge of us. The Spirit leads us toward the perfect freedom of life in harmony with our truest identity. (p. 113)  
This true human identity is made available to us in Christ, through the Spirit, from the self-giving God. This truth is conveyed to us in the gospel---the biblical story of creation and redemption, which, according to Highfield, portrays our gracious God as...
...a fountain from which flow all good things in abundance. Infinite in goodness, God wills that there are creatures with whom to share his goodness.... God longs for our restoration and salvation so much that God becomes one of us and pours out God's life that we may live. (p. 115)
God, who is love (1 John 4:16), created us not because of some need in himself, but because of love and for love. His love for us is what gives us our personal significance and life's purpose. We don't have significance and purpose because of anything we do, but because of who we are (God's beloved). As Highfield writes, "We are significant because God loves us for no reason other than that God has freely chosen to love us" (p. 119).

By grace and for love, God chose to create us, then by becoming human save us---doing for us (as our representative and substitute) what the head of the human family (Adam) would not do---trust God and live only to do the Father's will. God's gift of salvation involved him giving us the best gift that he could give---himself, in the person of his Son, incarnate in Jesus. "Christ's self-sacrificial love [self-giving] represents how God really feels about us" (p. 121).

Dear reader, hear this declaration of the gospel---God is for you! His interactions with you are all designed to give you being, to save you from destruction, and to bring you to glory. There is absolutely no reason to fear placing yourself fully into his loving hands where, from him, you will receive the freedom and dignity you long for. This loving Father God, who wants nothing but your best, has supreme dignity. And what kind of dignity is that? Some define God's dignity on the basis of his divine perfections, noting his greatness and loftiness. Well, God certainly is great and lofty, but not in the ways that some think, in the sense of being separate, removed, aloof or in some way "above" us. That is not who God is and not the nature of his actual dignity---a dignity he freely shares with us, his children---the objects of his love.

Paradoxically, the true nature of God's dignity is revealed to us in the cross of Christ. It is there that we see portrayed "the power and wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). The cross represents the act of one "who was rich, yet for our sakes became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Highfield comments:
In the darkness and shame of the cross God revealed a glory and dignity far deeper than the superficial glory and dignity the world seeks [in its me-centered quest for personal freedom]. (p. 123)
How then does God's dignity, seen in the cross, become ours? The answer is this: through love. God's love, revealed in the cross, makes us worthy. We share in that God-given worthiness (dignity) as we love God and love others (because God loves them too). So our dignity is not based on power or prestige---it is not grounded in personal achievements, but on the dignity of God himself. And that brings us back to God, who has revealed himself to us in and through Jesus. Highfield comments:
The doctrine of the Trinity assures us that when, in the power of the Spirit, we look at Jesus, at his love, compassion and self-sacrifice, we are seeing into the very heart of God... God was always like Jesus, because Jesus is the exact image of God (Hebrews 1:1-3) ....The fullness of God's being...is the fullness of loving freely and being freely loved, of giving, receiving, returning and sharing. God's dignity is founded and expressed in the loving and being loved among Father, Son and Spirit. God gains worth not from exercising unlimited freedom to act arbitrarily or by making the whole world serve and cringe; God is infinitely worthy because each infinite divine person loves and is loved by the others infinitely. By loving, each gives worth to the others. (p. 124-125)
That is who God is---a triune communion of love. And it is in that self-giving love that is found God's true dignity. And being objects of this triune God's love is what gives us our true dignity. And as we share with the triune God in his loving communion, we find our true identity and true freedom and the dignity that goes with it. This is the God-centered self. In future posts we'll learn more about its nature---a journey of exploration that will always take us back to God, seeking to understand more about his love and grace. Stay tuned!

January 30, 2016

Do we have authority to forgive sins?

"My son, I have always loved, accepted and
forgiven you---now, come join the party."
The Parable of the Prodigal Son by Guercino
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
I'm often asked about something Jesus said to his disciples following his resurrection:
...“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23 emphasis added)
Is Jesus declaring that his followers have authority to forgive sin or to withhold forgiveness? Some think so, but note the context here---John is giving his account of the commissioning of Jesus' disciples (the Synoptic Gospels give another account). When Jesus says to his disciples, "I am sending you" (John 20:21) John likely intends that we recall what Jesus had earlier prayed to the Father: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Now in John 20, before his return (ascension) to the Father, Jesus commissions his disciples, anointing them with the Holy Spirit who (it is implied) will empower and otherwise enable them for their ministry in Christ's service to the world.

It is in this context that Jesus tells his disciples that in carrying out his ministry they are to declare that people's sins have been forgiven. This is another way of telling the disciples that they are now commissioned to do what Jesus had prophesied in Matthew 24:14, namely the preaching of the gospel in all the world. That gospel is the good news that because of who Jesus is and what he has done, sinners are forgiven. This means, to quote Paul, that God is "no longer counting people's sins against them" (2 Corinthians 5:19). Now that's good news!

In the John 20 commissioning, Jesus was not setting aside his disciples (or their successors) as a “spiritual elite” to deal with the sins of the world (that is Jesus' job!). The BBE translation gives a more accurate sense of v. 23: "Any to whom you give forgiveness, will be made free from their sins; and any from whom you keep back forgiveness, will still be in their sins." Jesus' disciples do not forgive people their sins, only God does that. Rather they were commissioned to announce God's forgiveness---to authoritatively declare to sinners that their sins are forgiven in Jesus, and to invite them, in response, to repent (turn to Jesus) and receive their forgiveness in faith (trusting in Jesus).

With that context in mind, we may conclude that Jesus is not telling these disciples that they (personally) have power (or authority or responsibility) to forgive sin or to withhold forgiveness (as though they were God, or in some way were appointed mediators of God's forgiveness to people). Instead, Jesus is saying that, as "Christ's Ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:20), they have been given a message (the gospel) to convey to the world. That message is about the lavishly forgiving God who Jesus beautifully portrays as the father in his well-known Parable of the Prodigal Son (pictured above and see Luke 15:11-32).

Consider this: there is great power in the declaration of the message (the gospel) that in Christ, God has forgiven all people. It is a message with great power to deliver (save) people (see Romans 1:16). They experience that power personally (subjectively), and are thus set free as they, in faith, believe the message. I think we sometimes underestimate how powerfully and effectively a clear declaration of the gospel conveys saving, healing power. That being the case, to withhold this message from people would, in my view, be to deny them the experience of their forgiveness and the freedom it brings. We have our work cut out for us, don’t we?

By the way, because of this passage (and others), together with consideration of the liturgy used by the historic Christian church, I personally believe it's valuable to have in each worship service a prayer of confession (acknowledging our need for forgiveness), followed by a declaration of God’s forgiveness (acknowledging that, by grace, we have God's forgiveness), followed by communion (the Eucharist), which declares (experientially) the grace of our forgiveness in and through Christ.

Of course, some churches celebrate the Eucharist less often than weekly (many once a month, some quarterly), but were you to ask for my advice (which I give here personally, not officially), I'd recommend that each worship service incorporate (among other core elements of worship) this gospel-shaped sequence: prayer of confession, declaration of forgiveness, celebration of the Eucharist (communion--the Lord's Supper).
  • For another post on the topic of forgiveness, click here.
  • For a helpful Christianity Today article on the issue of the Lord's Supper, click here.
  • For a brochure with a short gospel presentation, click here.
  • For a post about confession, with a sample corporate prayer, click here.

January 23, 2016

Evangelism brochure: You're Included!

GCI pastor David Gilbert has produced an evangelism, invitation-to-church brochure grounded in incarnational Trinitarian theology (see the text below). To download the brochure in Windows (.docx) format, click here. You have David's permission to use it in your congregation (first change the host church information). It's formatted for two-color, double-sided, tri-fold printing. To download another GCI-produced gospel tract click here.

Here is some good news: You’re included!

In a world filled with the heartache of broken relationships, it’s no wonder we long for connection—to love and be loved—to be included. Sadly, when struggles and heartaches mount, many of us give up on this deep longing.

But there is good news! God offers us a love worth finding and a love worth sharing. At [name of church] we experience that love, believing God absolutely and positively has done all it takes for everyone to be included in his love and life with its abundant, fulfilling relationships.

No matter what your background---no matter what you’ve done or what you’ve become---God wants you at His party and has made a way for you to join in.

Perhaps you remember the TV sitcom Maude. Maude, played by actress Bea Arthur (see the picture), was married to Walter who nearly every episode would do something that angered Maude. Her typical reaction would be to declare, Walter—God will get you for that!


Despite Maude’s opinion about God (one held, sadly, by many) God is not out to get you! The good news is that God (who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is love, and He loves you—he always has! And there is nothing you have ever done, or has been done to you, that can keep him from loving you. How can that be true? Find out by reading the rest of this brochure and joining with us as, together, we learn more about who God is and what he has done for us.
1 John 4:16 - And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 
John 3:16-17 - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 


Long before you were born, God the Father, in love and for love, arranged to make you part of his family so you could live with him forever. He did this by choosing (adopting) you, and he did that before you ever did anything good or bad.
Ephesians 1:3-8 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. 
In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. 


But there is a problem. Wanting to get our own way and to go our own way, every one of us, to one extent or another, shut God out of our lives. We all have been alienated from God.  
Colossians 1:21-22 - Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…


Knowing full well we would be alienated from him, God initiated his plan to deal with the underlying problem of our alienation from God (which is sin). The plan centered on Jesus, the Son of God, becoming human through what is known as the Incarnation.     
1 Timothy 3:16 - Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He [Jesus] appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. 
2 Timothy 1:9-10 - He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  


On the cross, Jesus, the sinless Son of God and Son of man, took upon himself our sins in order, by his sacrifice, to set us free.

Because he died, we live. Because he rose from the dead, we have new life forever. Because he ascended, we have a High Priest who is interceding for us in heaven.
Romans 5:8-11 (HCSB) - But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him.


God the Holy Spirit opens (illuminates) our minds enabling us to trust in this good news of our reconciliation with God through Jesus.
John 14:26 - "...The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” 
John 16:13-15 - “...[The Holy Spirit] will guide you into all the truth… He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”


The Holy Spirit empowers us to participate in the life of the salvation that God has given us through his Son. We enter this new life with God by placing our trust in Jesus, which means believing the "good news" (the gospel) about who he is and what he has done on our behalf. In trusting Jesus, we are repenting (changing our mind) about ourselves, about God and about the course of our lives going forward. We are here to help you discover and journey in this new life of participation in God’s love and life. You belong—you are included! We invite you to come and journey with us.
Mark 1:14-15 - ...Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” 
Acts 2:38 - ..."repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Image credits:
  • The Trinity emblem is used with permission from artist John Stonecypher 
  • The Maude picture is public domain (via Wikimedia Commons)
  • The picture with the quote is by GCI

January 16, 2016

Failed me-centered quest for freedom

This post continues a review of key points in Ron Highfield's book, God, Freedom & Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered Culture. For other posts in the series, click a number: 12, 3, 5.

Colours of Happiness by Candilov
(creative commons attribution, Wikimedia Commons)
Last time we noted that the modern, me-centered self is insatiable in its desire, particularly in its quest for a god-like personal freedom. But because we are not God (and thus lacking God's attributes, including his non-contingent freedom), we humans eventually crash up against the hard reality that our insatiable desire is "infinitely greater" than our capacity to satisfy ourselves. Thus a me-centered quest for freedom eventually leads to a state of futility, even despair, "for no finite thing can satisfy an infinite desire" (p. 100).

This time we'll examine the nature of human freedom, the limits the human condition places on that freedom, and the failure of the me-centered quest for freedom, leading ultimately to futility and despair. So this is a bad-news post---but take heart, the good news is coming!

Freedom and power 

In chapter 7, Highfield examines the "strange disparity between the inflated self-concept of modernity and the truth of the human condition" (p. 102). He notes that "since our desires cannot be satisfied by merely feeling them, they force us to look for means through which to fulfill them... The need for means raises the issue of power, which is the measure of our ability to fulfill our desires" (p. 103).

Seeking to exercise power, the modern self encounters resistance in the form of various barriers. This resistance raises the unhappy reality that we humans are not (as we desire) truly free. Yes, we desire to be free from any barriers/obstacles that stand in the way of fulfilling our desires, but then reality raises its ugly head to remind us that we are not truly free.

As a result of this reality, freedom itself becomes an object of our desire, standing as it does "for all the goods that would become available were all limits removed" (p. 104). Conceiving of freedom in this way leads the modern self to see God as an obstacle---as a limit to our freedom, "and by definition freedom cannot coexist with limits" (p. 104). Thus for the modern, me-centered self, God (who alone possesses the absolute freedom we desire) becomes an obstacle, a competitor---even an object of envy.

Freedom and happiness

Why do we desire the things we desire? Largely because we believe that the desired "things" will, in some way, contribute to our happiness. The desire for happiness is a fundamental driving (motivating) force in the modern self. But there is a problem---"As everyone knows, simply having circumstances favorable to fulfilling our desires cannot guarantee happiness...," for "even if external obstacles are absent, 'there may also be internal ones'" (p. 104, quoting Charles Taylor). The self, itself, is a very big internal obstacle to our happiness for our desires often are in conflict with our deepest, true self. And so we must ask two vital questions: Which is my true self? and the related question, What is my true good? Highfield comments:
We need the inner freedom of self-knowledge so that we know what is good for us. And we need sufficient knowledge of our actions' consequences so that we know what we are getting when we choose [i.e. when we exercise freedom]. (p. 106)
Finding answers to these vital questions necessarily moves us into a realm beyond the range of our human ability. Should we then give up on freedom, settling for the best we can get? Many moderns have settled and that leads to a great deal of pessimism, even despair. But we need not give in to despair, for as Highfield notes (and as we'll explore in the posts to follow), "The promise of freedom is at the heart of Christian hope" (p. 107, emphasis added). This is the hope the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote to the churches in Rome concerning "the freedom and glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).

Freedom and dignity

There is a close connection between human freedom and dignity. As Highfield notes, "The freedom we associate most often with dignity is self-determination" (p. 107). Indeed, one of the insatiable desires of the modern self is for self-determination and the sense of personal dignity it brings. But, once again, reality (both internally and externally) stands in the way. Internally, we are unable to be truly self-determining because "we may have some control over our actions but we have none over our willing." Externally, we may be able to "choose freely among available alternatives [but], we cannot choose which alternatives are put before us.... Being able to choose from among alternatives thus does not give us complete self-possession and hence proves an inadequate foundation for our dignity" (p. 108).

A quest ending in despair

The net effect of all this is that, in reality, our "control over our lives appears small indeed. We simply awake in our world to find ourselves already defined and largely determined" (p. 108). In the end, the modern, me-centered quest for freedom, power, happiness and dignity proves to be a dead-end street where "bold claims of natural freedom for complete self-possession and inherent dignity" are found out to have been "highly exaggerated" (p. 110).

Indeed, believing that humans are in control, possessing a dignity rooted in their own powers, and thus independently free, is an illusion that requires vast energy to sustain---an energy that even the strongest among us simply do not possess. As Highfield notes, "Augustine labeled this [sad] condition as a 'state of disintegration,' and Kierkegaard called it 'despair'..." But no matter what you call it, it is a "miserable condition far removed from the happiness and rest we seek" (p. 111). Miserable condition indeed, and with the far-reaching consequences seen all around us in our narcissistic, me-centered culture.

What is the solution to this miserable condition with its debilitating despair? Certainly it is not to give in to our me-centered propensities---that may make us feel better for a time, but it eventually leads to deeper despair. Next time we'll begin to look at the solution, as we examine the good news of the God-centered self wherein lies true and lasting personal freedom, dignity and happiness. Stay tuned!

January 9, 2016

The insatiable modern self

This post continues a review of key points in Ron Highfield's book, God, Freedom & Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered Culture. To read other posts in the series, click on a number: 1, 2, 45.

Last time we identified three reactions to God common in our day: defiance, subservience and indifference. All three see God as "unworthy of our complete trust and love" (p. 77). This negative assessment results largely from conceiving of God as "superhuman"---possessing qualities like our own, but in far greater measure. This modern/post-modern conception of God is not unlike that found in ancient mythologies (see picture). As we'll see, its net effect is rejection of a God-centered personal identity in favor of one that is decidedly me-centered---one that gives expression to what Highfield refers to as "the insatiable modern self."

Minerva and the Triumph of Jupiter by RenĂ©-Antoine Houasse (1706)
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

God as superhuman

The perspective on God that forms the foundation of a me-centered identity goes back at least as far as the mythologies of ancient Babylon and Greece where God was conceived of as possessing human qualities, both positive and negative. Though Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus criticized the idea of the gods having human flaws, they still grounded their concept of the divine in human nature---a concept that conflicts with what is revealed in Scripture:
The Bible...introduces a new understanding of the divine derived not from observing nature or from humanity's experience of itself. It finds its origin in God's self-revelation in Israel's history and in Jesus Christ." (p. 79)
Unfortunately, some very influential Christian thinkers (including Augustine and Anselm, and some of the Protestant reformers after them) departed at least to some extent from the biblical view of God by embracing the Greek philosophical perspective in which God's attributes (such as his omnipotence and omniscience) are understood as human qualities freed from any limitation. Taken to its logical conclusion, God is conceived of as pure will, pure activity, and especially, pure power. As a result, humanity and God become competitors, even enemies. Understandably, moderns react to this conception of God with defiance, subservience or indifference. In our day, a common form of indifference is atheism, which claims that the very idea of God is nothing more than a human invention/projection that must be rejected.

Modern me-centered identity

It's no wonder that with moderns conceiving of God almost exclusively from within themselves they would embrace a me-centered identity instead of a God-centered identity. "Why on earth," they ask, "would we want to ground our identity in a God who, if he exists at all, is a divine tyrant who seeks to control us and in so doing stand as an obstacle to our personal freedom and dignity?" Why indeed!

As Highfield notes, moderns tend to think of personal freedom as the ability to do and to be whatever one wants. From that perspective, submission to God looks like forfeiting one's freedom---losing control of one's life, with a resultant loss of personal dignity (p. 84).

The modern self

Key to understanding the issue of personal identity in modernity, is understanding the modern conception of self. Moderns tend to think of the human self as having no essential attributes. If I think of the my "self" as having essential attributes (characteristics), then, necessarily, my freedom to choose an identity for myself will be limited. But in modernity, the self is conceptualized as being free of any such essential attributes and thus possessing unlimited will. Highfield comments:
If [the self] is empty in every other respect, it is full of desire to bring all other things into itself. It is easy to see that this definition of the self guarantees competition and conflict among selves---among human beings and between human beings and God. If the essential goal of a self is to expand itself to infinity, only one's self can achieve its essential fullness. Others must defy, submit or hide. By definition, God is a barrier, a limit, a competitor or at best a means to our ends. (p. 89)

The desire for freedom

The ambitions of the unlimited self (unlimited will) for freedom are, of course, insatiable. Highfield (referencing Mortimer Adler) notes that modernity has three conceptions of this personal freedom:
  1. Self-realization. This is the freedom to realize our desires. Of course, circumstances get in the way, so complete freedom to realize our desires would necessitate the removal of all external obstacles. God often is conceived as one such obstacle.
  2. Self-determination. This is the freedom that comes with having personal power to decide what we do and become. It is freedom to be masters of ourselves.
  3. Self-perfection. This is the ability to will the good perfectly---to live free from all compulsion that is contrary to self-defined good.
Adler combined these three into one concept of freedom with this statement:
A man is free who has in himself the ability or power whereby he can make what he does his own action and what he achieves his own property. (p. 94)
This view of freedom, which is widely held in our modern world, sets us up for competition, including competition with God. Highfield comments:
If I insist on being the absolute cause of my existence, desires and actions, how can I acknowledge that I am God's creature, preserved by his power, obligated by his law and in need of his grace? Would not such ambitions imply a limit to my natural freedom, if not its complete annihilation? (pp. 95-6) 

The desire for dignity

Closely related to the modern idea of freedom is its conception of human dignity. "A being's dignity increases or declines with their level of independence" (p. 96). Independence (autonomy) is thus key here, serving as it does as the ground of the modern sense of human dignity.

According to this view, any idea of a "transcendent ground" of human dignity is anathema. Therefore human dignity must be decoupled (actually or functionally) from any idea of God, to that primacy can be given to human autonomy and self-determination. The modern view thus comes down to equating dignity with control---particularly control over the external world, asserting for ourselves, a "godlike independence" (p. 100). But as Highfield notes, this approach ultimately backfires:
In viewing ourselves as potentially infinite [without external limits] we doom ourselves to perpetual restlessness and insatiable ambition. However high we climb, infinite heights will tower above us. Our true worth will always be in doubt, and in our wounded pride we will proclaim our lofty status even more assertively to avoid despair. Humanity so defined cannot love God; it can only envy and resent God. (p. 100)


This is the unfortunate, unhappy state in which many (most?) moderns find themselves---defining the self apart from its relationships both with other humans and with God who created us for relationship. In seeking a self-determined (me-centered) independent identity, moderns are left adrift without an anchored identity, trying to fill the resultant void by consuming all sorts of things---a strategy doomed to futility, for no finite thing is able to satisfy infinite (insatiable) desire (p. 100).

Paul's prayer for the Christians in Rome seems highly relevant on this point, and so we conclude with his words:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)