With start of the New Year in 2009, this time last year, the U.S. was inundated with the slogan “Hope and Change” that had been carried throughout the presidential election into the New Year. Without moving into a political tangent, I want to merely point out that the hope that was bandied around last year was a man-made slogan designed to generate hope in something or someone that simply has no guarantee, no promise of delivering on that hope. Regardless of your political views, hope can never be placed in man, government, ideals, or ourselves. When hope is misdirected into one or more of these fallible objects it will inevitably fail and lead to disappointment or feelings of hopelessness. This past weekend, CNN released a poll entitled: Americans Less Hopeful About Future. Results showed that in 1999, 85% of Americans were hopeful about their personal future while 68% were hopeful about the future of the world. The new polling data shows that the number is now significantly reduced to 69% who are hopeful about their own future and 51% who are hopeful about the future of the world. Unfortunately this poll does not divulge information about where or what the hope of those interviewed lies in, but rest assured it is not placed in the hope that the Word of God speaks of.
The Bible speaks explicitly about a true hope in which we are to rest. The psalmist defines where our hope is to be directed in Psalm 39:7 ESV, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Again in Psalm 71:5 ESV we read, “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.” We begin to see that our hope should be in God, but what exactly does that mean? Let’s look to the Psalms once more to read, “I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments.” Psalm 119:166 ESV Keep in mind here that the salvation mentioned is not that which comes at the moment of justification by placing your faith in Jesus. Instead this is a salvation hoped for, in other words, a future salvation from the wrath of God, at judgment, given to all those who have been justified. This fits perfectly with our definition of hope being a confident expectation of future blessings to be received from God. (Grudem, Systematic Theology)
So far we’ve learned hope is placed in God for something He will provide, namely salvation from His own wrath. The Apostle Paul, in his Roman epistle gives us more insight into this hope and just how it is obtained. “Through him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2 ESV This passage starts to put the pieces together of just what this hope is. If we break down this verse into a logical order of events we can see that ‘by grace through faith in Jesus we can rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ The glory of God Paul refers to here is speaking of future glory when all believers will be united with God in heaven, essentially equivalent to the “salvation hoped for” we read of in Psalm. This is the full picture of salvation just as we read in the familiar passage from Ephesians 2:8 ESV, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Hope then becomes tied to our faith in Jesus, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 ESV Trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and have faith in Him and in that faith is the assurance for those things in which you hope, namely salvation and rejoicing in the presence of God’s glory. How then can you not be 100% hopeful for your personal future? The world around us might ebb and flow like tides of the sea, but it matters not, as long as your hope is in Jesus.
Let’s not be deceived and expect this hope to come easily or without its own shares of ups and downs. If we get lured into this mindset, our hope would fade just like those mentioned in the poll earlier. This hope isn’t merely a fleeting emotion or a wavering feeling, it’s a hope obtained by grace through faith that’s promised and secured by Jesus Christ. I Timothy 1:1 ESV says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” This hope in Christ is one by which we are redeemed, by which we are saved, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25 ESV This reaffirms what we learned about our hope for glory resting in Jesus, yet we now see it requires patience.
Not only does hope necessitate patience, but Romans 5:3-4 ESV tells us that when things get tough, hope is the outcome of our trials and tribulations, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Think of this passage like the process of baking a cake. God has provided all of the ingredients for your faith, the batter. When that faith is tested, placed in the fire, it rises and becomes authenticated, or to continue with our analogy, true cake. Once this faith is pulled from the oven, a nice layer of icing or hope is placed all around it.
Hope requires faith, patience, endurance, character, yet it does not disappoint like the hope placed in man because it is a product of love, “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5 ESV It simply cannot disappoint or shame us because the love of God has been poured into our hearts when we trust in Christ. As Christians we should “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” that is secured by faith in “Christ Jesus our hope” which “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out” by the Holy Spirit in our hearts providing the assurance on which our hope rests.
With the beginning of 2010 and a new decade, hope should be inspired by a fresh start, a chance to make this year better than the last, an opportunity to begin this year with hope placed in something that cannot fail. Do you need someone to place your hope in? Are you one of those polled who’s hope has decreased? Or has your hope become even stronger knowing that with each day we get closer to rejoicing in the glory of God? Hope can only rest in the God of Salvation and His Son Jesus Christ, all others will fade away and disappoint.
Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Romans 15:13 ESV May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
All our hope is in you God.