I was recently captivated by a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel, where an elderly widower was describing his current state of grief. He said, “Hope begins when you stand in the dark looking out at the light.”
This mans words of hope sprinkled over my own heart, splashing down my cheeks. I wiped the tears away, yet that word of hope remained in my heart.
Questions on the Word "Hope"
I’ve found that the simple four-letter word "hope" can be the perfect expression to add to an encouraging statement. Lately, it seems that the word "hope" is sprinkled into every conversation I encounter.
The hope of a good outcome on a test, the hope of healing for an illness, the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ; these are all ways that the word "hope" is included in daily discussion.
But I often wonder,
- Can the word hope mean less if I use it more?
- Likewise, can the word hope be overused, misused, or abused?
- Is there a difference between worldly hope and biblical hope?
Paul's View of Hope
The Apostle Paul knew a thing or two about hope. Among other things, including shipwrecks and a viper attack, he could have easily lost hope in fulfilling his mission.
In fact, in Romans 1, Paul writes that he had been prevented from visiting Rome many times. Instead of throwing his hands up and claiming that ‘adulting* was too hard’, he prayed that God’s will would open the way for him to come to the Roman people to further advance the Gospel.
*According to Meriam-Webster, "To adult is to behave like an adult, to do the things that adults regularly have to do. This includes things like having a job and living independently, sure, but also such mundanities as taking clothes to the dry cleaners (and remembering to pick them up), making and keeping dental appointments, getting your car registered, doing yardwork."
Paul wasn’t sitting around waiting for God to work; he was planning. He knew his purpose and he was actively waiting on God’s timing, while pursuing God’s will with an expectant hope.
Growing in Your Hope
Once Paul reached Rome, he was bound by house arrest and chained to a palace guard, yet he continued to minister to those who came to him.
Similar to Paul, we can all relate to the ‘real-ness’ this life can bring: the sting of harsh criticisms, the adversity of tensions in culture, and the bitterness of closed doors.
So how can we respond with that same expectant hope that Paul had?
A friend of mine recently asked, with caring eyes, “How are you?”
“Well that is a loaded question,” I responded. I went on to explain that lately I had been feeling like the popular children’s bop bag toy, where you punch the clown in the nose and though it briefly falls to the ground, it quickly pops back up again, awaiting the next strike.
Not only did Paul keep getting up after each trial that he faced, he also shared in the book of Romans how our struggles can refine who we are called to be.
“…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4
Sounds easy, right?
In a fallen world, we are not equipped on our own to turn a heap of a mess into a momentous pile of hope.
How am I to refine the jabs and punches being thrown at me, get back up again and again, and turn myself into a person of character who can bring hope to others?
This is an impossible feat to accomplish on my own. But as we know from Matthew 19:26, ”…With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Paul’s hope was definitely not from a worldly perspective. What gave him this sustainable, long-lasting expectant hope? We discover his source as we continue reading. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
What then, is the difference between worldly hope and biblical hope?
John Piper, founder and leader of desiringgod.org, wrote, “…biblical hope is not just a desire for something good in the future, but rather, biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.”
Mr. Piper also wrote, “Biblical hope not only desires for something good for the future; it expects it to happen. And it not only expects it to happen; it is confident that it will happen. There is a moral certainty that the good we expect and desire will be done.”
He lastly summed the idea of biblical hope with this statement, “Hope is rooted in the faithfulness of God.”
...So Have Hope!!
As Christians, we can have this confident expectation of hope, even while we are waiting, even when we are in the midst of a trial.
Romans 15:4 states that, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
Combining a life filled with suffering to acquire perseverance, which results in character building; we also are given the endurance taught in the Bible. This ultimately gives us the hope we need to further advance the Gospel.
So if you are feeling like the world is handling you like that old bop bag, be encouraged that you are given the gift of biblical hope. God’s will was with Paul then and it is with you today.