We don’t pay as much attention to hope as to faith and love. I even heard a faith preacher disparage hope. He said it’s wrong to hope instead of believe. But Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. How can we believe without hoping? How can we have real faith without real hope?
Part of the problem is that the technical vocabulary of Christianity seems so simple. If you see “polyphosphazenes” and you’re not a chemist, you know only know it’s technical jargon. You won’t misuse that word, if you ever try to use it at all.
But what about love? Popular songs have long reduced it to something romantic, sensual, and sentimental. It’s nothing more than “wuv,” with nothing in common with the fierceness and power of biblical love.
Hope has suffered the same way. People will buy a lottery ticket and hope they win. And they have one chance in how many millions?
Some sort of desperate longing, unrealistic fantasy, or even a casual wish pass for hope. When I watch football, I hope my team wins. If they’re behind 14 points in the final minutes, it’s hard to keep hoping.
The hope we most often express lasts only as long as circumstances will allow. Biblical hope has to be something different
No way can an impotent old man have a child from a post-menopausal woman. Unless, of course, God promised.
When Abraham was 75, God told him to leave Ur, a bustling and politically important city, and move to, well Abraham would know when he got there. In return for turning his back on his home, God promised to make him a great nation.
Years later, God repeated the promise. Abraham pointed out that he was still childless. But when God asked him to look at the stars and promised him uncountable progeny, Abraham believed him. And that’s why he counts as a righteous man.
When Abraham was 99, God came and made the same promise, but this time he said Abraham and Sarah would hold their baby boy the following year. And they did.
As Romans 4:18 puts it, Abraham hoped against hope. That is, when sense knowledge provided no grounds for hope, when reason screamed that God’s promise would surely fail, Abraham stubbornly hoped. And in that last year, Sarah did, too. They expressed their hope not as longing for some kind of fantasy, but as confident expectation that God is faithful.
The prophet Jeremiah long warned the people and leadership of the kingdom of Judah to return to the Lord. If they refused, they faced ruin.
Just as he said, Babylon lay siege to Jerusalem and destroyed it. In one of his poems after that disaster, Jeremiah wrote
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lordhas laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace. (Lamentations 3:19-30, NIV)
Jeremiah had predicted that captivity would last for 70 years. He knew he would never live to see Jerusalem repopulated and rebuilt. Yet he continued to hope, and to lean on that hope. God had brought long-promised calamity. God would bring long-promised restoration at the proper time.
Some New Testament thoughts on hope
As Peter wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Paul’s great prayer for anyone who reads Ephesians asks for wisdom and understanding of, among other things, our hope:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:17-21)
In 1 Corinthians 13:13, he wrote that faith, hope, and love remain. That is, they’ll outlive our earthly life. In 15:19, he added, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Recent quotations on hope
Finally, here are two beautiful quotes I found from the great English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
- Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened.
- Hope itself is like a star – not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.
I hope you’ll look up more scriptures on hope after reading this, and come back to this site regularly. That’s ordinary hope.
God has an extraordinary plan for your life and mine, even if it seems in shambles now. He will ultimately deal severely with sin so that all who look to him can live with him in newness of life unshadowed by sin. That’s biblical hope. Make it your own.
Light after darkness. Some rights reserved by JD|Photography
Abraham’s Departure. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons
Destruction of Jerusalem. Public domain from Wiki Gallery
Faith, hope, love. Some rights reserved by a God’s Child