March 17th, 2016

The Meaning of Hope

cross37There are few words today that are in more desperate need of a clear definition than that of the word “hope”. Not only do we need to understand what real hope is, we also need to understand what the hope of the cross of Christ gives us is not.

What Hope is Not

Too often hope is relegated to the level of wishful thinking, a positive approach, or mere optimism. We hear hope used in ways like these: “I sure hope the economy will turn around soon.” “Here’s hoping that Brazil will win the World Cup.” “My doctor hopes that they will get all the cancer.”

These kinds of statements show the concerns of someone’s heart. Even though this kind of hope isn’t wrong, it isn’t the hope that the Bible talks about and truly isn’t the hope of the cross of Christ.

Hope that is reduced to the level of wishes and dreams can be like soap bubbles that look beautiful to the eye but disappear at the slightest touch. As King Solomon said: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12)

Dreams tantalize us and appeal to our heart’s desire. But if there is nothing concrete about them they guarantee our disappointment and heartache.

Hope must have genuine substance and it must have a firm foundation.

So then, what is real hope?

What Hope Is

Even the definition in the dictionary say that hope should be more substantial than mere wishful thinking. One dictionary defines hope as “a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.”

Hope can be an expectation and anticipation that rests in what we believe. This means that for a child of God, hope can be as strong as what we have learned about God’s goodness and faithfulness. Just as important, it can show the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives.

This is the kind of hope that Paul holds out in his letter to the Romans. One of the Bible’s most comprehensive statements on hope is Paul’s crowning comment on the subject in Romans 15. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

This reveals two significant reasons why hope is such a priority. First, Gd is “the God of hope.” Our joyful expectation isn’t without foundation. Hope’s foundation is not a theory or a philosophy, it is a person. Paul wants us to embrace hope as a reality rooted in God himself, not as something we have to work up in our own strength.

Second, Paul wants us to “abound in hope”. As God’s children, we have been given His Spirit and the powerful hope that comes from Him from the cross.

Hope needs to be a vital characteristic of the follower of Jesus because God is the foundation of hope and because He has given us His Spirit. Genuine hope is one of the greatest distinguishing characteristics between believers and those who do not know Christ. Writing to the Christians in Ephesus, Paul reminded them what life was like before they received the salvation of the cross of Christ. “You were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)

The last phrase is crucial. They had “no hope” because they were “without God in the world”. Those who put their faith in God are the glad possessors of hope. That makes all the difference in how we live. Our challenge is to live in awareness of that hope.

True hope is not the equivalent of whistling through graveyards and “hoping” everything will turn out. True hope is dynamic and powerful because it considers the circumstances of life realistically and then confidently rests in the promises and character of God.

Reflection

How often do you forget the true meaning of hope?

Prayer

Lord, your cross gave us the truest example of love and hope. Help us to never forget this and bring us to the realization of it’s reality in this world. Teach us to better help others understand the true meaning of hope.

Amen

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