Defining Hope by the Dozen
1. Hope is a foundation of Christianity.
Ephesians 4:4 - Hope is not just cross your fingers, wishful thinking! In fact, hope is included in the foundational “ones” of Christianity: One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all. In this passage, Paul elevates hope as what initially calls us to follow Jesus.
1 Corinthians 13:13 - Paul also includes hope in the “big three” of his famous teaching on love: “Faith, hope, and love…but the greatest of these is love.”
1 Thessalonians 5:8 - “Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on” and hope is an essential part of this armor! When the bible utilizes the metaphor of spiritual armor, we’re commanded to wear “the helmet of the hope of salvation” as essential protection for our head on the battlefield.
2. Hope is the wellspring of faith and love.
The “big three” of faith, hope, and love work in concert in many supernatural ways. Colossians 1:5 teaches us that one of the supernatural ways they work together is that “faith and love spring from hope”. In other words, God sets up the “big three” in such a way that hope is the source of faith and love. When you’re running low on faith or love, check the source because hope is where it all starts. That’s because…
3. Jesus is the ultimate hope.
All of our hopes and dreams for this lifetime may not come true, but if you’re a Christian, this you can know for sure: Jesus is the ultimate hope that will never disappoint you! If you hope in Jesus, you have the guaranteed hope of salvation, resurrection, and eternal life (Romans 8:24). Additionally, 2 Corinthians 1:20 reinforces this fact when it states that “all of God’s promises are answered ‘yes’ in Jesus”!
The gift of the Holy Spirit inside us provides a constant source (or reminder) of our ultimate hope in Jesus via God’s outpouring of love for us (Romans 5:5). Jesus is the ultimate hope that will never put us to shame and he will never, ever let us down. This is vital to remember because…
4. Hope is synonymous with vulnerability.
There’s no getting around it: hope places you in a vulnerable position. It’s risky. There are no guarantees what you hope for will come true (except the ultimate hope in Jesus). As stated in Hope Makes You Sick, when you hope for God to act in specific, powerful ways, when make those hopes known to others, and when you take decisive action built on those hopes, you’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable position.
The sworn enemy of vulnerability is shame. Instinctively, we don’t want to look or feel vulnerable. That’s why too many of us are stuck, play it safe, and live boring Christian lives. We can reject the vulnerability that comes with hope because potential shame and fear of failure. Shame is one of Satan’s greatest schemes in crippling Christians and stealing our hope. Satan is lying to us! According to Romans 5:5, there is no shame in hopes grounded in the promises of God.
5. Hope expresses doubt.
There are no guarantees something will happen just because you hope for it. True hope faces the facts. The facts often demand that our only hope for a situation to change is placing our faith in divine intervention. Or perhaps better said, you’re ‘faithing the facts’. Romans 4 describes Abraham 'faithing the facts’ as he hoped for a son. According to facts, the evidence actually screams to Abraham to give up hope!!!
Romans 4:19 - “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” Abraham says [in my own words]: “This is a bad situation. This does not look promising. My body is as good as dead. My wife’s reproductive system is dead, too. Our sex life is not exactly thriving at our age. I have my doubts based on the facts, but we hope against hope for a son.”
In order to have hope, you must identify what you don’t have. You simply cannot hope for something you already have or hope for something you are pretending to have. Like Abraham, true hope faces the facts and expresses doubt.
6. The creation groans with hope.
In Romans 8:19-24, Paul personifies creation as if it could think and experience life as a human being does. Metaphorical or not, all creation eagerly awaits Jesus to return to earth and make all things new. The plants, animals, and stars groan in hope to be set free from the corruption of this fallen world and obtain the same freedom and glory promised to the children of God.
Imagine the life of a flower. It grows, it fights to live, and becomes a gorgeous flower. The flower struggles to hang on to its beauty, but after a short time it fades, shrivels, and dies. Then the process starts all over again. In its frustration, the creation hopes for a new day when this seemingly endless cycle of futility is over. In the same way for humans…
7. Suffering must co-exist with hope.
We also groan in this current “tent body” until we receive our “palace body” or immortal resurrection body (2 Corinthians 5:2-5). As the teacher writes (or groans?) multiple times in Ecclesiastes, “Meaningless. Meaningless. Everything is utterly meaningless.” Hope means we deeply desire something much better than this world has to offer. If you and I do not suffer, hope has no reason to exist. In hope, human beings groan together with all of creation and eagerly await a final end to the suffering caused by the curse of sin. For Christians, we view our current suffering through the lens of hope that Jesus saves us from death, adopts us, and will give us a new, redeemed body for eternal life in heaven. That’s the ultimate hope. In the meantime, we wait and experience suffering because…
8. Hope will make you sick.
Proverbial wisdom from God (Proverbs 13:12) warns that hope involves a waiting game for our hearts that nauseates us. That’s why becoming hopeless is such a potential pitfall for all of us. For more on the sickness of hope and what to do while you wait, please see Hope Makes You Sick or the podcast, While We Wait.
9. A mature Christian is a hopeful Christian.
Now that’s often counter-intuitive. As we age, the tendency is to grow cynical and lose hope but God’s Word tells us the opposite. In Romans 5:4, hope comes as a result of suffering, perseverance, and the character (maturity) formed in the crucible of trials. The good news is we don’t endure suffering just to grow gray hair, lose our hair, or only to survive and live another day. Instead, battled-tested character produces hope.
There’s a good chance the people you know who possess noble character are those who permeate the most hope. The mature Christian can bring hope to any conversation or any situation, inside and outside the church. Those who typically are the most idealistic, creative, and prayerful in their relationship with God — these are the mature Christians.
10. Hope is spiritual and supernatural.
Sometimes hope can get a bad wrap. In my experience, it sounds more spiritually macho to say, “I have faith we will baptize 10 students this semester term” rather than say, “I hope we will baptize 10 students this semester term.” What do you think? Does the hope statement sound light, insecure, and wishy-washy compared to the faith statement? It shouldn’t. Hope is a pillar of Christianity and is deeply spiritual.
Romans 8:23, 27 - The Holy Spirit works within us to give us hope in our suffering. When we become heartsick from waiting, the words we need to pray to God can become too profound for us. We often cannot find the words so the Spirit works to give us hope in our prayers. In our weakness, the Spirit helps us when we begin to feel hopeless and simply do not know what to pray. We see this in the prayer life of the prophet Jeremiah, including his groans and cries to God in Jeremiah 32.
11. We hope for what we cannot see.
Romans 8:24b - “…hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Ephesians 3:20 — God gives us the license to dream! We serve an imaginative God who invites you to walk with him and share your hopes with him. God invites you to partner with him in finding creative ways to fulfill your hopes and dreams. Hoping with God for the unseen: this is one of the most exciting parts of building our relationship with God.
12. Christians are hopeless in heaven.
It sounds crazy, but it’s true and provides immense joy for anxious and troubled souls like me. Hope is one of the “big three” of 1 Corinthians 13, but hope does have an expiration date. When Jesus returns, faith will become sight, hope becomes reality, and only love remains. Christians will literally be hopeless in heaven! Our best days as Christians are right in front of us!