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The Power of Hope

Hope

by Dennis Pollock

Hope has gotten a bad name in the last forty years or so, in most Christian circles. We speak glowingly of faith, talk frequently of love, but utterly neglect hope. And while the inspired apostle does indeed declare love to be the greatest virtue, he by no means disparages the value of hope.

Some see hope as the wimpier cousin of faith. Hope is for the weak-kneed, nervous, fearful believers; faith is for the strong and courageous ones. If you need hope it is a clear sign that your faith is lacking. Such is far from the truth. Faith and hope are not antagonists; they are friends! They are not mutually exclusive; they are mutually reinforcing.

The Bible represents hope in the most positive of terms. It is to be a significant component in the life of every believer, and it has a powerful, positive effect upon all who possess it. Indeed, without strong, Christ-centered, Bible-based hope, none of us would or could stand. A hopeless Christian is a contradiction in terms.  

Biblical Hope 

According to the Bible, hope is a joyful look into the future. It deals with things yet to come. Notice how the idea of rejoicing is joined to the concept of hope: 

  1. through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2).
  2. rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer… (Romans 12:12)
  3.  but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end (Hebrews 3:6). 


How does faith differ from hope? At first glance they seem to be almost the same. Both relate to good things God has for us in the future, things which we believe will occur. Yet there is a difference. When God promised Abraham a child to be his heir, the Bible tells us:

Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3).

Abraham is the Biblical father of faith. God says, “You may look old, feel old, and act old, but you are going to start a family in your old age. In a year’s time you will be a dad!” Abraham starts figuring out where they are going to put the little newcomer. He believes God, and that faith is somehow tied to a state of imputed righteousness.

Faith takes God at His word! When God speaks, faith always says, “Amen, Lord. Let it be to me according to Your word.” It is the accountant writing down the precise amount of funds coming in, or the historian who records the facts exactly as they happen. It is the soul of man recognizing the faithfulness and verity of his Creator, and planning his life around the sure fulfillment of God’s promises long before they come to pass. Faith states, “It must be; God has declared it!”

So where does hope fit in? While faith is the calm, dispassionate acceptance of the promise of God, hope is the joyful delight in contemplating the desire fulfilled. Faith says, “It must be,” but hope says, “And I can’t wait until it gets here!” Faith accepts the promise, but hope delights in it.

Here is a poor little boy that has never had anything but old, rusty bikes in his young life. He is constantly taunted and teased by his classmates for riding his pathetic hand-me-down bikes. His dad, feeling sorry for his son, promises him that this Christmas he will scrimp and save and finally get him a brand new bicycle. The boy, trusting his dad fully, takes it as a matter of fact that he will, in fact, receive the bike for Christmas. But knowing he is getting the bike is not enough. The boy snoops around the house constantly, looking for evidence of his present. Finally he finds it, hidden under a blanket in the garage.

boy with bikeThroughout the month of December he constantly sneaks into the garage to sneak a peak at the bike that will soon be his. While he never doubted he would get it, it is such a pleasure to gaze upon it, and daydream of when he will finally be able to ride it. Even in his bed at night, he spends his final minutes before falling asleep imagining the pride and joy he will have in riding that new bike in front of his classmates. And while he still rides his old, rusty bike to school every morning, somehow he doesn’t mind it so much now. He has seen his future and it is very bright. He can afford to ride that old bike until Christmas. He knows what lies ahead.

Thus we see the power of hope. The boy’s faith took hold as soon as his dad told him he would get the bike, but hope kicked in as he daydreamed about the bike, and gave him the stamina to joyfully endure his remaining weeks with the old bike. Faith told him the bike was his - hope inspired him with the dream of wonderful things ahead.

We can see that hope is no small thing. Hope feeds the soul and stirs our emotions in a very positive way. If hope could be formulated into a pill, we’d all be taking it. No price would seem too high to have a heart bursting with hope. While it always looks to the future, it is a powerful medicine for the present. More inspiring than any drug, hope banishes dark clouds, laughs at difficulties, and provides spiritual energy that fits us for effective service.

 Perseverance during great difficulties is hope’s specialty. Paul writes, “But if we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:25).

When Hope is Absent

What are the results of a life without divine hope? Here are two tragic consequences that are frequently associated with such a life: 

1. Depression and despair. We were made to live in continual expectation of good things. God is the source of all good, and those who live in relationship with Him will continually see a never-ending stream of good coming forth from the Father. The expectation of these good things is a hope that anchors the soul; it makes us unshakeable. “I shall not be moved” is the theme song of the hopeful.

It is impossible to be joyful if you live with no future. If we live only for the future we become idle dreamers, but if we live only in the present, we are depressed and uninspired.  We are eternal beings; it is below our dignity as sons and daughters of God to live focused only upon the temporary and the finite. To look at “the things that are not seen” (1 Corinthians 4:18) is to focus our gaze beyond our present earthly existence. C. S. Lewis noted the relationship between hope and effective service: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Margaux Hemingway was a model and an actress. She was physically gorgeous, and seemed to have the life any young woman would want. But as the years went by, she struggled with an eating disorder and epilepsy, her movies were mostly flops, and her younger sister surpassed her in fame and success. In July of 1996 Margaux died of an apparent suicide by an overdose of a sedative. She was the fifth person in her family to commit suicide. Her grandfather, Ernest Hemingway, was the most famous, who ended his life by putting a shotgun to his head. Five suicides - five who surrendered to the fatal thought: “It will never get any better.” They had no hope. 

2. Moral laxity. When hope is absent, morality always suffers. Do you remember when you had the misfortune to be on the losing side of a softball blowout? Most of us do not make it through childhood without suffering such a fate. You begin the game with great anticipation, but after the first inning the score is 13 to 1, and you’re losing. You tell yourself that you’ll be able to turn things around the next inning, but at the end of the second inning the score is 29 to 2! A horrible reality begins to set in. With crystal clarity, you now realize that you have absolutely no chance at all of winning the game. But you still have five more innings to play.

What happens? Your play suffers. With no hope of winning whatsoever, you begin to get silly. You toss your glove in the air. You joke around far more than usual. You no longer concentrate on the game, for in your mind you have lost it already. You may go ahead and play out the final innings, but your heart is not in it. Who wants to put out all their energy into an effort that is doomed from the start?

Of course, we got over the game fairly quickly. By the time we got home from school, our minds were already on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or our baseball card collection, or the girl next door. Life moved on.

As adults, it’s not so easy. Our world is filled with millions of men and women who have decided that they are already losers in the game of life. They may “play out the game” or they may decide to end it prematurely, but in their mind there is no possible chance of winning. They lose at marriage, they lose in child-raising, they lose at their jobs, they lose in their finances – they lose at life. And having decided that they have already lost, they are not particularly careful to live a strict moral life. Why seek purity when you’re a loser? Why passionately pursue holiness when you fail at everything else? With their hope dissolved they live out their careless, depressed lives in quiet desperation - without God and without hope. 

Source of Hope

HopeBiblical hope is of God.  The Scriptures affirm that God Himself is the author of our hope.

  1. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God...  (Psalms 146:5).
  2. the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope… (1 Timothy 1:1).
  3. Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit  (Romans 15:13). 


It is not merely that God gives us hope; He is our hope! His very presence, His powerful stirrings of the soul, the reality of His personal dealings in our life produce a hope that burns brightly within us. To experience God is to have the most optimistic thoughts about the future. God is the essence of all that is beautiful and good, and He is our ultimate destiny. We are headed for an eternity with the One in whom there is no sadness, no disappointment, and no depression.

Our lives may be filled with terrible pressures and difficulties at present, but our future is bright indeed. Now every Christian knows this intellectually, but only those who enjoy God’s presence daily can know it from the heart. The Holy Spirit continually confirms to our spirits that “it is well with my soul.” We know this, not because we have heard it in a sermon, or even read it in the Bible, but because God Himself has given us His Spirit as a guarantee of good things to come. He truly is our Comforter.

To have God is to have hope; to be without God is to be without hope. Paul writes, “at that time you were without Christ … having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

Jesus Christ came to be our hope and to give us hope. Through His cross and resurrection He has reconciled us to the God who loves us, and having been reconciled our future is as bright as the noonday sun. But our hope is not just in the fact that we will be happy in the afterlife – the Holy Spirit continually gives us encouragement that God is working in our present situations here on earth. In our darkest night God whispers that the dawn is coming. “I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalms 27:13).

When we look at the misery and pain in our world it would be easy to feel hopeless. Yet God’s promise of hope not only applies to individual believers but to the very planet itself. We are told that all of nature groans and labors with birth pangs waiting to be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Our world will not continue forever as it is now. Christ has promised to return and to make all things right. For this reason Paul writes, “Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…”

What an amazing salvation Jesus has provided for us! Because of Him we can have hope for this life and hope for the life to come.

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