A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
“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.” – Romans 15:13 (NIV)
The biblical book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul, a Jewish man of Greek culture and Roman citizenship. He was smart and erudite. He claims to have been educated in the school of Gamaliel, which was an academic prep school of Jewish law for Pharisees.
We know that he was ardent, passionate and persuasive with more than a dash of sociopathy. We know this because of his pursuit and persecution of early Christians. But then he met the risen Jesus Christ on Damascus road. Over the course of time, he gained the confidence of the burgeoning group of Christians and became the most prolific of the Christian evangelists.
As he matured in his experience with his new friend Jesus Christ, he became less legalistic and more filled with grace, peace, joy and hope. This became his legacy for the church. As I have matured, I too have moved away from legalism and the accusatory, holier than thou, mindset that it incites. Thank you, God!
Now, I understand the intent of true spirituality and how we grow in grace. This verse actually articulates a method or pathway to spiritual effectiveness and power. Clearly, the first step is the acceptance of the implicit foundation of faith that there is a God who is personally concerned with your life and how you impact the world around you.
Because all behavior is based on foundational beliefs, we act upon our belief in God, hoping that the faith is not in vain. As we exercise our hope, we develop confidence. Because we have accumulated positive experiences, we become assured of the presence, guidance, and affirmations of God.
Armed with the confidence of God’s presence and the confidence that it gives, fear and timidity are minimized and peace is magnified and projected. The foundation of fear is a sense of insufficiency. I do not have the strength, confidence or acumen to meet my immediate challenge. But, when you have the confidence that God will not put upon you more than we can bear, we look for that supernatural infusion that meets the need, or the way of dignified escape.
We should not become arrogant, but we should be confident that the welded relationship with God is unbreakable. With that, we stand with internal peace that radiates from us to those around us. To this peace comes the awareness of joy. We can notice the beauty around us, smell the scents of flowers, hear the chirping of the birds in the trees and see artwork in the clouds. This peace is notable. I think of Daniel’s influence in Babylon, even and maybe especially while in the lion’s den.
A few years ago, I became friends with an Arabian Sheikh. He was a member of the Court of the King of Bahrain. He invited me to his home and sent a chauffeur to pick me up. After we chatted for an hour, he had his personal chef bring us some tea and snacks. As it turns out, we appreciated the same snacks. Before our meeting adjourned, he told me that he had a friend that I had to meet, then he stepped out of the room.
After a few moments, I heard a dog barking and running down the hallway to the parlor where I was sitting alone. I hoped that it would not be a big, dangerous dog. It was a Springer Spaniel. He bounded across the cavernous room and I spoke to him and put my hand near the floor. He slid to a stop on the marble floor, right at my hand and rolled over for me to rub his chest. The Sheikh came into the room and was startled. He called his wife to come and see the dog contentedly allowing me to pet him.
The Sheikh said to me, “If he likes you that much, I must do the same. You will always be welcomed in our home.” He then introduced me to his wife. I think that the dog ratified to the Sheikh that I was a godly man of peace and joy. When your life is moving up the pathway of peace, the world and all therein recognize it. That is the overflow that Paul mentions in the next phrase. Some may accept and revel in your hope, peace and joy. Others may challenge you. If they do, stay planted in your faith and experience. Look for the overflow of joy!
I have often said that “if the fulfillment of your dreams does not require the miraculous intervention of God, it is too small.” I think this may have been what the apostle Paul meant when he used the phrase “overflow with hope.”
Every morning when God wakes you to start a new day, I advise you to do this: Check your hope, peace and joy. Open your spirit so that what God has given to you can flow into the life experience of others.
Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.
He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.