We use the word hope all the time. “I hope they bring the good donuts to work today.” “I hope I don’t hit traffic on the way home.” “I hope my team wins.” “I hope a disease wipes onions off the face of the planet.” I hope. What we really mean is “I wish.” We hope our candidate will win the political campaign and fix all the problems of the world. We don’t really hope, we wish. And, if we’re being honest, our “hopes” aren’t all that high. In fact, the Millennial generation is the first since WWII to think that their kids’ future will be worse than theirs. Our “hopes” aren’t high, if we have any “hope” at all.
But hope is a major theme of the New Testament writers. It was so important that Paul put it as one of the three most important aspects of following Christ, “Faith, HOPE and Love.” In fact, the author of Hebrews calls our hope a better hope:
“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 6:18-19 NIV)
We are the people of a better hope.
But are we? That word is used 48 times in the Acts – 1 John. Why isn’t the word hope used in the gospels? Because it was present. Hope was among us. The one people had been hoping for was here on earth.
The hope of the people of the Old Covenant was based on a future event. They were waiting for the Messiah to come who would make all things right. Until that time, they had to go through the rituals of the old covenant. They had to be constantly reminded of their sin and guilt. They had every reason to believe God’s promises because they had seem him be faithful.
Related Post: Faith and Experience
But then Jesus comes, and at least while he’s here it seems that what people had hoped for had finally come. Until He didn’t live up to their expectations.
What happened? Well, they had their own expectations of a Messiah. He was to come, overthrow the Roman government and reestablish the rule of God. But Jesus wasn’t doing any of that. They knew He was the Messiah, He just wasn’t the Messiah they wanted. So they crucified Him.
If hope is such a crucial part of our faith, why does it seem so many Christians are without it?
I would propose three reasons. 1.) We don’t know what it is. 2.) We base our hope on God’s ability to meet our expectations & 3.) We have forgotten how He has always been faithful.
1.) What is hope?
Last Christmas, I wanted to help our church grasp the concepts of Advent in a deeper way. (“The Christmas Set Up” is available on Amazon.) I decided to write a fictional story about a guy named Jack who wanted to give his friends something better: Love, joy, peace and hope. The older, wiser guy (Wyatt) that helps him on his journey defined hope this way to Jack:
“Focusing the present and the future through the lens of God’s faithfulness in the past.”
This is a more scriptural definition of hope than our cultural definition of “wishing” for a better future. John Piper says: ““Biblical hope not only desires something good for the future — it expects it to happen.” For the Christian hope is a certainty. And, even though we are still waiting for parts of the story to be fulfilled, our hope is actually built on something that has already happened – the death, resurrection & ascension of Jesus. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John. 3:2-3 NIV)
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.” (Hebrews 6:19-20a NIV)
We have a confident (not wishy washy) hope because it’s based on what Jesus has already done.
2.) Where is our hope?
Christians are looking for God to meet their expectations. We expect God to give us what we want, the way and when we want it. And when God doesn’t, we lose faith in Him. We make God to be a genie in a bottle with the expectation that He will give us unlimited wishes to use at our leisure. Then if God dares to address any of the many concessions we have made to life in modern times, we call God an insecure oppressive dictator. We demand God meet our expectations while at the same time rejecting all of his expectations of us.
But what if hope is only possible when we’re living according to God’s ways? What if we can only experience legitimate hope when our hope is in Christ and we purify ourselves just like Christ is pure?
3.) What has God done?
Revelation 6:4 talks about a future day, when a rider will come and take peace from the earth so that people will kill each other. That probably feels like it came out of left field. Well, this passage makes it clear that God is constantly at work in the world today and that there are things we take for granted that God is actively doing at all times. It may not feel like God’s peace is here, but it is. People are just choosing not to pay attention to it. And there will be a day when God removes it, and all hell will really break loose.
We tend to think that, because things are going the way we want, God isn’t doing anything in our lives. But, there will come a day when we will be able to look back and see all the millions of ways God was faithful to us when we didn’t have a clue. Jesus said: ““My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17 NIV) And Paul tells us “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
Our world needs hope now more than ever. And we are the people of a better hope.
If we only knew everything God has done in our lives, we would never spend another day wishing. We would be absolutely confident in our faith.
What if we lived with the absolute certainty that God is at work, that He has a plan and that it is our privilege to serve at the pleasure of the king? Instead of putting our hopes in the pleasures of this life and the hollow promises this world tries to sell us, what if we put our hope in the absolute truth that there is a day coming when we will see him? When we see Him we will change to be just like Him. What if we started focusing our present and future through the lens of God’s faithfulness in the past? Can you imagine how that would change your life? Can you imagine how it would change the lives of those closest to you?