Most of the time, our meaning of hope is not much more than wishful thinking. We say things like, “I hope we have a White Christmas.” “I hope the Texas Rangers win the World Series.” “I hope the Dallas Cowboys can win at least one meaningful game someday.” “I hope I got an “A” on my semester exam.” In more serious matters we say, “I hope our national leaders can agree on a budget.” We say things like “I hope I get a new job.” “I hope my child or grandchild will recover.” We have wishful thinking for lots of things. What are you hoping for?
We sometimes think of hope like Jiminy Cricket, “when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires, will come to you.” In our world, hope is nothing more than a wish for something good to happen.
Often times, however, the realities of life and death and evil in this world dash our hopes and dreams. As Fantine cries out in, Les Misérables,
Fantine from Les Misérables
But the tigers come at night,
With their voices soft as thunder,
As they tear your hope apart,
And they turn your dream to shame.
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living,
So different now from what it seemed.
Now life has killed the dream
Of course, as people, we need to have hope—it what keeps us going. Present hurts and future uncertainties create the constant need for hope. Worldwide poverty, hunger, disease, fiscal cliffs, family conflicts, global terrorism, mass murders, and pervasive evil creates a longing for something better. Historically, people have looked to the future with a mixture of longing and fear. Today, many of us are fearful of the coming year. Countless people have concluded that there is no reasonable basis for hope—therefore, “to hope” is to live with an illusion. This viewpoint is partially correct; Scripture tells us that those who do not have God in their lives do not have hope (Eph. 2:12; 1 Thess. 4:13).
Biblical hope is so much more than wishful dreams of human desires – Biblical hope is an expected result based on God’s divine character and promises. More specifically, biblical hope is the confident expectation of what God has done for us in the past that guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future. The heart of Christian hope is that God, and God alone, is our unshakable rock that cannot be moved. As our Rock, He is the only One who provides ultimate security.
The psalmist David says “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my Rock and my Salvation, my Stronghold; I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2).
Mt. Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee in Israel
Rather than looking to other people or leaders or technology or government for encouragement and security, David looks to God alone for these needs. He did this because he had discovered that God Himself was responsible for his deliverance. And the prophet Isaiah, “Trust in the Lord forever, because in Yah, the Lord, is an everlasting rock!” (Isaiah 26:4). In this world of insecurities, we have a God who is our security, our confidence, our Rock – even when life seems to have killed the dream we have dreamed (Deut. 32:4, 15, 18; Psalm 14:6, 18:2, 61:3; 73:28; 91:9). As Pastor Tony Evans says, “sometimes God lets you hit rock bottom so that you will know that He is the Rock at the bottom.”
We have an unshakable hope because of Christ’s birth. A significant aspect of OT hope was Israel’s expectation of a Messiah, that is, an anointed ruler from David’s line. This expectation grew out of the promise that God would establish the throne of David forever (2 Sam. 7:14). The Messiah would be God’s agent to restore Israel’s glory and rule the world in peace and righteousness. For the most part, however, David’s successors were disappointments. The direction of the nation was away from the ideal. So, God’s people looked to the future for a Son of David who would fulfill the divine promise. That’s why the angelic proclamation to lowly shepherds gave them such great hope: “Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.” (Luke 2:11) Jesus was the Hope of Israel, the Hope of the nations.
We have an unshakable hope because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Christ is the object and ground of our hope because He is the Messiah who has brought salvation by His life, death, and resurrection. Jesus frequently reminded His disciples, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day.” (Luke 24:46).
At the heart of our hope, the core of our confident expectation, is the resurrection of Jesus. Paul wrote that it was “God who raises the dead” in whom “we have placed our hope” (2 Cor. 1:9–10). Furthermore, “we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone” (1 Tim. 4:10). Paul is certain that Christian hope points to the future, “If we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world” (1 Cor. 15:19).
But our hope is for more than just this life – we have a living Hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead: “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)
The significance of Christ’s resurrection is not only that it points to His victory over death, but it also extends that victory to those who are His: “Christ was raised first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will be raised” (1 Cor. 15:23).
We have an unshakable hope because of Christ’s return. While the New Testament affirms the sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work in the past, it also looks forward to His return in the future to complete God’s purpose. Indeed, the major emphasis on hope centers on the second coming of Christ. The “blessed hope” of the church is nothing less than “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
We have an unshakable hope in Christ Himself. As believers in Christ, the Bible tells us that He is “our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1), and identified as “Christ in you – the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Jesus is the hope living in us, He is the Rock in whom we trust (1 Pet. 2:4–7). “We have this hope—like a sure and firm anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:19). And yet, the Apostle Paul says, about the hope we have in God: “hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? (Rom 8:24) Our Living Hope – confident expectation in God – comes only by faith in Him (Hebrews 11:1).
Given the assurance of hope in Christ, we can live today with confidence and face tomorrow with courage. We can also meet trials, and even nightmares, triumphantly because we know “that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope” (Rom. 5:3–4). Such perseverance is not passive resignation; it is the confident endurance in the face of opposition. God’s unshakable hope amounts to a qualitative difference from ordinary, wishful thinking.
Bilbo Bagins from the Hobbit
One of my favorite tales is JRR Tolkien’s, The Hobbit. And although many wince at the violence and despicable creatures depicted, in many ways the story of Middle Earth is a story about how to live with hope in the face of overwhelming darkness and impending doom. As one who is too often tempted to despair, I need to drink deeply the true lessons of hope this story teaches that reflect Scripture’s hope. Our living hope springs from God Himself rather than our own narrow interests of living self-centered lives of pleasure and comfort. God uses ordinary people to accomplish extra-ordinary things as we put our hope in His unshakable promises and presence.
What are you hoping for? Regardless of your dreams, I pray that you will cling to the unshakable hope of God Himself through His promises and presence.
Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.