What is hope?
We mention hope a lot in almost every context known to man, but have you ever stopped and thought what we mean when we use the word?
What do we mean when we say ‘hope’?
When we use hope, we say things like “I hope everything works out for you,” or “I hope I can get this,” or even – sometimes – “I hope this person suffers/gets what’s coming to him/something fierce.”
When you use the word hope, do you say it in the expectation that it will actually happen? I know that, were I to say ‘yes’ to that question, I would be a liar. Too often we are scared to actually hope for anything, especially anything from God; we are scared that, were we to put the hopes the bible proclaims to the test, it would not come to pass the way we wanted it to do.
Or not at all.
Some of us are too scared to trust that God will fulfil the hopes He declares in His bible, yet all of us who call ourselves Christian will say we believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.
Funnily enough, that is a hope too.
How many times have we said the word ‘hope’ but meant the word ‘wish’? Is it cowardice or realism that stops us from hoping in the sense we all know it means; to believe with a quiet certainty that it will happen. No ifs, no buts, it just will.
Granted, as stated above, some of the things we hope for clearly aren’t all that great or good; I am obviously not saying that people should believe with a quiet certainty that someone suffers! (Considering the purpose of this set of blogs about Romans 8, that would be a cruel irony.)
This is where the bible comes in; hopes not grounded on anything tangible will always be just idle fantasies, mere flashes of thought, and not all of it beneficial.
But if hope is grounded in something firm, something substantial – God’s very words, for instance – then we can have a confidence that our hope will not only be good, but will come to pass. Hope is realistic, because it is based upon the promises of God. Some will scoff at that, saying that God can neither be proven to exist or shown to act in the world. But those of us believe – I hope! – know differently; we not only know God, but have a relationship with Him.
As I have gotten to know Him, I quickly realised just how big, wide, deep… infinite …He is, how unfathomable, how mysterious, how divine He is.
It didn’t take me long to intellectually realise He could do anything but, over the years, my heart has also become convinced of that very great, very powerful truth; He can do anything, and taking Him on His word is the most obvious option to take. If He gives us something to hope in, then it is a hope we can stand firmly on.
When it comes to the bible and hope, hope is not some idealistic concept that would-be-nice-to-happen-but-probably wont. Jesus is not our ‘wished’ for saviour, nor is Paul talking in the passages we’re looking at here at the ‘wish’ the world has been longing for.
Hope for those in the bible is a certainty; for the men and women of God whose lives are recorded in the bible, the hopes they believed in were expected to come to pass.
And the crazy thing? They did.
They looked at God’s words, His promises, and figured out what we can hope for in Him.
And. They. Came. To. Pass.
It seems apparent Paul came up against the same problem of people mistaking hope and wish to be the same word even two thousand years ago. In verse 18 of Romans 8 Paul spoke of the hope for the future to hold onto in our hard times, in 19 to 22 he spoke of the universe’s very longing – even hoping – for that promised future to come.
Here, in this passage, he speaks directly of us and our own groaning but – and the point I am getting at – he gets down to what hope really is;
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are 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 8:23-25 (ESV)
For in this hope – this unseen, intangible, unprovable, certain and assured hope – We. Are. Saved.
Paul here tell us that we ourselves long for the day God has promised when – as an earlier verse in Romans 8 declared – the sons of God would be revealed.
Adoption as sons, redemption of our bodies…these are cool things, but they are not the hope we trust in, but the outcome of our hope.
I believe the whole bible is about Jesus, and this passage is no different. Our hope is what Jesus has done for us; the bible declares in several places (like here, here and here) that His death on the cross and rising again on the third day defeated both death and sin, paving the way to have a restored relationship with God.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
And you know the most telling part of it? It is unseen; no one alive today saw Christ die and rise again, which means we have to hope – that quiet, faithful certainty – that God is not lying, and we have not been deceived. In this hope, we have been saved.
So what does this mean for us here, now, in the 21st century? What use can we practically apply this too?
If you are a Christian – and even if you aren’t but are interested! – here is what I suggest to you, for this week; get your bible, get a notebook, get a pen and read. Read through your bible and find the promises of God and write them down. There is much we can hope for, and much we can get excited about.
May you come to trust more and more the God who is the same today as He was when He revealed Himself to Abraham, and the same who will come to reclaim His creation one day. And may you begin to hope even more in the promises of God, both for this life and the next.
- Part 2 (Well, Part 3 if I’m Honest!) So what is eternal security then? (onwardswearychristian.wordpress.com)
- Songs In the Night – An Article Response Part 1 (onwardswearychristian.wordpress.com)
- ‘Lord! Lord! Why have you forsaken me!’ (onwardswearychristian.wordpress.com)
- Sunday Sermon: What Kind of A God Do You Have Faith In? (jimkane.wordpress.com)