By Larry R. DeVore
HOPE! a word bright with promise! When one has hope, he is buoyant, filled with anticipation and cheerful prospects for the future. A person only has to consider the opposite of hope (hopelessness and despair) to realize how important hope is in his life. Think about this: a family member has been involved in a serious accident. He was taken to the hospital and rushed into surgery. Hours later the doctor comes out to speak to the family. All this time of waiting, the family has been praying and hoping for the best. But the doctor sadly speaks saying he has done all he can do; the injuries were too severe. There is no hope for his recovery! The hope that had sustained the family during the time of waiting is now replaced with grief, sorrow, and broken-hearted despair! How sad to have no hope with regard to earthly matters and physical life.
Now consider spiritual matters, and what the Bible says about hope for the person who believes in and obeys the will of God. Sometimes Christians use the word “hope” in such a way that it has a wavering, uncertain sound. “I hope I’m a Christian.” “I hope I can live the Christian life.” The Scriptures seldom use the word hope in this way. In Acts
24:26, Felix “hoped” Paul might offer him a bribe. He was disappointed. We cannot place hope in uncertainty.
W. E. Vine defines hope as “favorable and confident expectation,” also “the happy anticipation of good” (Vine, 562). The dictionary defines hope as, “to desire with expectation of fulfillment.”
True Bible hope then is not only something we “desire” to have, but also something that we can expect to come to pass (be fulfilled). In the New Testament, the word “hope” is found 66 times. They are translated from the Greek words elpizo (verb form) and elpis (noun form). The word “hope” is found three times in the gospels, ten times in the book of Acts, and 53 times in the epistles. It is the apostle Paul who uses the word most often in his writings and develops its meaning for us in the gospel age.
What is the Basis of the Christian’s Hope?
Our hope is first of all relational. The Psalmist said, “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption” (Ps.130:7, NIV). The Christian’s hope is wrapped up in what Jesus has done for us on Calvary. Jesus shed his blood on the cross that we might have the hope of everlasting life, a hope that cannot be shared by those who are yet outside of Christ. Those who are not Christians have “no hope” and are “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). However, the Christian is looking forward “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Tit. 1:2). Because the Christian has faith in Christ and has been baptized into Christ, he sustains a relationship to God as his child. He is a member of the body of Christ. By this sonship, every Christian, by the Word of God, has “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
What is the Source of Our Hope?
You cannot pick up hope at the corner grocery. Neither is it available across town at the mega-mall. It comes from God himself. “Now may the God of all hope fill you with joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13). Our Savior is also involved in the Christian’s hope. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1). God’s word also has a part in this. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope” (Ps. 130:5). “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).
The Practical Value of Hope
Hope gives the Christian assurance. “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end” (Heb. 6:11). The Christian is assured by God that if he will live a faithful Christian life then God will keep his part of the agreement, the promise of eternal life (1 John 2:25).
Hope will anchor the soul. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” (Heb. 6:19). The metaphor of the anchor only occurs here in the New Testament. A ship firmly anchored is safe from drifting. Its position is sure. Hope is the anchoring force to keep the Christian from drifting. The person with a living hope has a steadying anchor for his life. The storms and trials of life will not blow him “off course” so long as he remains firmly anchored to Christ.
Hope will motivate one to live a pure life. “And every- one who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). The apostle Paul wrote, “keep yourself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22). Again Paul wrote, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). The Christian with a living hope will exert every effort to clean up his life and remove sin from it, that he may be pure and acceptable in God’s sight.
Hope will cause the Christian to rejoice. “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing stedfastly in prayers” (Rom. 12:12). Living in a sin-filled world and seeing the sins of modern man reflected in the daily news- papers and television news gives us little to rejoice about. But the Christian can rejoice precisely because his hope is not in any of the things of this world, but in Christ, “through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2, emphasis added, lrd).
And finally, hope saves. “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?” (Rom. 8:24). Now, we are no more saved by “hope only” than we are saved by “faith only.” We would not ascribe any more to the concept of hope than the Scriptures teach. But let us not undervalue the importance of hope to the Christian. We will never be disappointed by living a faithful Christian life firmly anchored in hope! “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).