The title I have given to this blog is “Hope Rediscovered” because for me that is the journey that I have been on this past 9 months in particular. Its been a journey (and one which we are still walking) that has been motivated by the notion of hope. When you start thinking about something like hope you soon start to see hope everywhere but what really is hope?
In today’s secularised world defining the nature of hope has not been at all easy. Many definitions abound and it is clear that the way we use this world in everyday usage is very different to how the Bible uses this word. Vines Bible Dictionary defines hope as a “favourable and confident expectation” and says that it is to do with the unseen and the future. It also says that hope describes (a) the happy anticipation of good (most frequently), (b) the ground upon which “hope” is based and (c) the object upon which the “hope” is fixed. So straight away we can see that Scripture uses the idea of hope from a number of different angles. Below are three quotes which also take a stab at a definition:
“Hope is the present enjoyment of a future blessing. It brings the future into the present…Hope is the peaceful anticipation gained through a relationship with somebody who is trustworthy.” Hunt
“Hope is knowing that God will do exactly what He has promised in His way. It’s the patient, disciplined and confident waiting for and expecting the fulfilment of all God’s promises in His timing.” Missler
“Hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will.” Piper
What I have been learning about hope is that when all is stripped away, Jesus Christ is our only hope both for today and for the future. This hope is not ‘wishful thinking’ but a confident and expectant trust in Jesus Christ and especially in His promises. Indeed in Romans 15:13 Paul refers to the ‘God of Hope’ implying that God is both the source and definition of Hope in much the same way that God is also the source of other attributes such as light, truth, love and holiness.
While hope is rooted in our expectation of the future there is also an everyday reality impacts upon us in the here and now. We may cling with all that we have to our hope for eternity and yet be feeling somewhat hopeless here in the present. If Hope is primarily based upon the promises of God we must recognise that God’s promises are grounded both in the future and in the present. God wants us to hope in Him here and now. This hope is “an anchor for the soul” (Hebrews 6) our mooring that holds us firm and secure. Yet we’re also told that this anchor “enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain”; hope is what connects us with the presence of God. This picture is of an anchor that is “firm and secure” but which is connected to the unseen reality, to the world to come.
Nancy Missler in her book “Hope against Hope”, writes that “Hope does not depend upon what a man possesses or upon what he may be able to do for himself or even upon what any other human being may do for him. Hope’s fulfilment rests only upon God, His promises for the future and how that individual appropriates these”
It is a tremendous encouragement to think that Hope depends on God and not on us. Indeed some days I have really been able to identify with what someone once said, “You don’t really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” If Hope does not depend on us then what really matters is the character of Him in whom we Hope. Is He trustworthy? Will He be faithful? While I would certainly not say that trusting God is in any way easy (especially when the going is tough), I am convinced that we need to trust Him. When all is stripped away He is all that we have!
You see when we normally talk about hope we are at best talking about things we wish to happen; the things we desire to see come about. It is so easy to fall into the trap of pinning our “hopes” on things which are temporary, health, work, relationships and so on. Yet when the Bible talks about hope it is talking about certainty. Its talking about a confident expectation and an eager anticipation that God will do as He has promised. We need to rediscover the fact that genuine Biblical hope is about the person of Jesus and His promises for now and eternity. Nothing else will do. Everything else will come and go.
Jesus is our hope. Could it be that we would come to a place where we can say with the Apostle Paul that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”? Could it be that we might reach a place where God is enough for us even amidst the pain?