I’ve been reflecting on hope for a while. I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t understood the subject very well.
In our culture – and our churches are part of this – we make statements like, “Oh, I hope John’s operation goes well.” We use “hope” as a synonym for “wish”, and when we do, we reveal that our concept of hope is relatively powerless. Our actions and our unguarded words reveal that we consider hope to be little (if any) more than random chance.
Since I’m going to shoot that perspective down, I might as well do it directly: this thinking is heretical, it reveals lazy thinking, and it’s insulting to the God who loves me enough to die for me.
I’m certain that our insulting heresy is not (normally) an intentional choice; we believe poorly because we haven’t learned any better. We’ve let our secular culture do too much of our thinking for us instead of letting the Spirit of God teach us.
Hope Does Not Disappoint.
First of all, whatever hope really is, it is not about disappointment. It’s not about the longings of my heart (or yours) being disregarded, crushed or ignored.
Hope is built on the love of God, not the roll of the dice. Because the love of God has been poured out in my heart through the Holy Spirit, therefore hope does not disappoint. Two observations:
· This is a done deal: the love of God has already been poured out, the Holy Spirit has already been given. I am not waiting for God to do something, nor is He waiting for me to do something, for hope to become secure. It’s based on things that have actually happened.
· This is likely proportional: If I don’t know the love of God, then I am likely to have difficulty knowing the hope that does not disappoint. To the degree that my life is entwined with the Holy Spirit who was given to me, to that same degree I am able to know this powerful and reliable hope.
In fact, Biblical hope does not rely on chance and it does not rely on me. It relies on God. It doesn’t even rely on God’s power or his will: it relies on who He is. “God is love” (1 John ) and it is His love – His very identity – that is the assurance that hope does not disappoint.
Hope Involves the Unseen
Hope is all about promises that we have not yet received. If we have the thing promised, then hope is meaningless. But if we have a promise that we have not yet received, then that’s a good place to employ hope.
More specifically, if it’s been promised by God, then we can rely on it, we can be confident that although we don’t see it now – and we may not even see the first clue that it’s even possible – yet because I are recipients of God’s love poured out in my heart, I can have confidence that hope will not disappoint.
Hope is a Fight
What does the verse say? “…with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” The Greek word for perseverance involves fight, a determined persistence in the face of obstacles. There are some animals that when they bite, their jaw locks into place, and letting go is not an option for them until the fight is over. If you kill the animal, the jaw remains locked in place.
So we wait with perseverance. But we also wait eagerly.
I have a friend who has four kids, and on Christmas morning, he doesn’t let them leave their room until the parents give the call, “Merry Christmas Kids!” Before that moment, the parents are wrapping the last of the presents, tucking the last toy into a stocking, while the kids are nearly beside themselves with anticipation. When the call finally comes, there are four pajama-clad blurs down the hallway and woe be unto anyone or anything that stands in the way. That's how we wait.
If you have ever tried to persuade a child that Christmas has been cancelled this year (and I’ve tried), you’ll get an earful. If you persist (and it was a mistake), then you’ll get an idea of what “…with perseverance we wait eagerly” actually means. That's how we wait.
That’s what our hope is to be like. Even though it’s not here yet, nevertheless we cannot be persuaded that it is not coming, and we are excited beyond measure for the arrival of that for which we hope.
Hope Has an Object
We hold on to hope, not as an end in itself. We don’t hope in hope, we hope in God. We have Hope because it is God Himself that has given us hope as He has already given us His love and His Holy Spirit.
There is a weakness, a vulnerability, in the subject of hope, and that’s why the object of our hope is so important. Because we have confused “hope” with “wish”, it’s not impossible – not even difficult – to confuse our wishes with hope.
I know people who (generally unintentionally) use hope to attempt to manipulate God. Because they want a thing, therefore they build this expectation of epic proportions, and they tell themselves (and anyone else who will listen) that God is obligated to provide this thing for them because if He doesn’t, He’ll be letting them down. And using this argument, they wait for the perfect wife, the ideal husband, the perfect ministry to be dropped into their laps.
I am not saying that God has not made promises to these brothers and sisters. I’m saying that God promised salvation (sozo) and eternal life, and that we can and must hold onto those promises, knowing (not wishing) that while we may not see them in their fullness yet, nevertheless, we will inhabit that place, and our confidence those truths is as secure as the truth that God loves us, that God has given His Holy Spirit to us.
I live today knowing that I will inherit all that God has promised to me. I can bank on that, regardless of what my circumstances tell me. More than that, I will.
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