Introduction

What keeps you going even when you don’t feel like going on any further?  What keeps you fighting for something even when you hate where you are?  What gives you the energy to stay on the path even though you’d rather take a different path?  Hope.

Life creates a need for hope because of poverty, calamity, despair, and the human potential to do all kinds of evil.  You may wonder why a nation or people would suffer while they work for a better life when that better life is merely something that they hope for.

Hope is interesting because it is something that is not tangible but is nonetheless very real.  For example, Christians have hope in future life (the resurrection) because of the faith that we have in Christ.  Hope energizes us and gives us a reason to fight for a better day.

There are some who believe that to live by hope is to live an illusion since there is no basis for hope to them.  They believe that there is no reason for us to   The wars of the 20th century dispelled the modern view that the world would get better by human progress and activities.  Those and current wars show us that the world is not getting better, but are getting worse.

Hope is very influential in our lives.  Hope for a better day, good children, a better job, or a better marriage, for example, compels us to work for those things respectively.  We would have nothing to look forward to without hope.  The Christian has an advantage that we have hope that no one else has.  We have hope in God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christians believe that there will indeed be a better day.  However, that better day will not come because of our efforts, but because of what God will do.  This hope compels us to overcome the issues of life now as we look forward to life everlasting.

Hope also has a bad wrap when combined with the teachings of the church.  Some have criticized the church because the church taught people that whatever happened is God’s will and that there is nothing we can do about it.  This implies that there is no point in taking action to make things better.

In “Human, All Too Human,” philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had this to say about hope:

Hope. Pandora brought the jar with the evils and opened it. It was the gods’ gift to man, on the outside a beautiful, enticing gift, called the “lucky jar.” Then all the evils, those lively, winged beings, flew out of it. Since that time, they roam around and do harm to men by day and night. One single evil had not yet slipped out of the jar. As Zeus had wished, Pandora slammed the top down and it remained inside. So now man has the lucky jar in his house forever and thinks the world of the treasure. It is at his service; he reaches for it when he fancies it. For he does not know that that jar which Pandora brought was the jar of evils, and he takes the remaining evil for the greatest worldly good–it is hope, for Zeus did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment.

In other words, hope is considered negative because it causes a person to endure more evils than he or she probably would want to endure without hope.

However, people still have hope for a better world, a better life, and a better future and they demonstrate that hope by activities conducive to those ends.  Even those who believe that God’s will is going to happen also believe that we have a part to play in that will and therefore in making things better.

Let’s talk about hope but from a Christian perspective.  Let’s see what hope really is and how it can influence our lives to indeed make things better.

 

Lesson

First, let’s discuss what hope is.

  • Hope is an expectation or belief in the fulfillment of something desired.
  • Hope is to be assured of something that is not seen and still in the future (See Hebrews 11:1, Romans 8:24)
  • It is called the anchor of the soul by Paul (Hebrews 6:18-19)

Consider Hebrews 11:1.

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) — {1} Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Notice the relationship between hope and faith.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for.  Without hope then faith would be a moot point and have no purpose or foundation.

Hope means that we confidently expect our desires to come true.  However, to a Christian hope has to be more than that, which we will discuss shortly.  We try to realize our own hope for a better life through a plethora of activities only to find that our best activities are not enough.

There are therefore two types of hope that I would like to bring to your attention.  The first is called human hope and the second is called biblical hope.  Human hope is based on human activities and bible hope is based on God.  Biblical hope is to have confidence in what God will do in the future.

 

Human Hope

Human hope is based on human activities as we said previously.  For example, a person who has hope for a better world will do things that are conducive to that goal.  He or she will advocate anticrime initiatives and do what he or she can do to end poverty for example.  However, with all of these types of activities that have occurred in the past and continue today, we are faced with the conclusion that they are not enough.

There are other types of human hope that are more selfish than what I have described above.  Sometimes humans hope for a better life for themselves.  However, it is easy to see that such hope will not make anything better.  This type of hope could lead to greed, selfishness, and lack of concern for others because the only thing we are concerned about is our own happiness and our own dreams.

Wishful thinking is another type of human hope.  We could call this passive hope whereas what we described above could be called active hope.  Passive hope or wishful thinking is simply someone that would like to have a better world but does nothing to reach that goal.  This type of hope is merely wishful thinking and produces nothing in terms of reaching what is wished.  Hope on the other hand implies that we do something to obtain what is hoped for.

 

Biblical (Christian) Hope

Biblical hope is to have confidence in what God will do in the future.  Of course, this means that we have to have a positive view of God because merely having the confidence of what God will do in the future does not mean that it is a good thing.  However, we know that God loves and that he does care for us and we can, therefore, assume that the future has good things waiting for us.

We have to make a distinction here because a Christian can both have biblical hope and human hope.  The human hope is driven by human activities and the biblical hope is driven by faith in God.  Therefore, biblical or Christian hope comes from God and this hope is founded on the resurrection of Jesus Christ (See 1 Corinthians 15:12-28, Acts 24:15, 1 Peter 1:3).  This is very important to the Christian faith.

Without the resurrection, there could be no true hope.  Because Jesus was raised from the dead we have the hope of a future life with him for all eternity.  We should also note that hope is not merely for this world else we would be miserable (See 1 Corinthians 15:19).  Christian or biblical hope is for the future—a future of eternity with the Lord God.

 

Effects of Hope

We saw earlier that Friedrich Nietzsche considered hope to be a bad thing.  It caused people to suffer more than if they had not had hope.  There is some truth to this in that people do suffer more because of hope.  However, that suffering is not because of a god’s desire to inflict more pain on us, but rather to reach the goal of a better day even if that better day is for someone else.

Hope enables people to fight for what is right because they believe that they are contributing to the goal of a better day in that regard.  Martin Luther King hoped for a day when all people are equal.  He died fighting for that hope.  Hope here is like the goal or the destination that we desire to achieve or reach.

A student hopes to get a good grade and a good job after graduating from school.  The student hopes to graduate and can perhaps picture herself working at a nice job with good pay and having a good life because of it. However, that hope alone will not get her good grades and a good job with a happy life.  She will have to study and study hard so that she would get good grades, graduate, and get a good job.

Therefore, hope causes us to work.  We work to achieve the things that we hope for and we do understand that God’s purpose will happen.  We believe that we are part of God’s plan to enact his will on the earth and we, therefore, take action to accomplish a particular goal.  Hope keeps us going.  Hope keeps us moving forward to reach the goal.

There is one aspect of hope that I’d like to share and it is one that we must keep in mind when dealing with people.  The bible says…

Proverbs 13:12 (NKJV) — {12} Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

The delay in the fulfillment of a desire has negative effects on our soul.  This is important because it will help us deal with the things that we hope for, but are not realized in a timely manner.  However, when the desire is fulfilled then it is like a tree of life to us.  We come alive.  It has happened and we are fulfilled in that.

Hope will help us get through the calamities of life even unto death (Proverbs 14:32).

Proverbs 14:32 (NKJV) — {32} The wicked is banished in his wickedness, But the righteous has a refuge in his death.

Hope does not guarantee safety or prosperity.  Our hope basically keeps us going in the direction of the particular desire.  In regards to Christianity, this means that we strive to experience the resurrection of the body and eternal life with the Lord.

The effect of this is not to make our current life meaningless, but rather to give us the strength to endure the things that arise in this life.  We are able to endure more because of the hope that we have.  Amen.

 

Christian Hope
By William R. Cunningham
April 29, 2007