“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
Hope is one of the most powerful sustaining forces of life. You can take a person’s freedom and lock them up, you can take away their health and their finances, but if their hope remains they will be able to endure it. When hope crumbles, however, people crumble.
Many people are losing hope today in the world. They look at conditions in society; they look at global upheaval and despair. They look at their personal circumstances – and all they see is hopelessness. Questions seem to go unanswered and needs go unmet while the physical and emotional turmoil relentlessly continue. This may be your life today. And maybe somewhere along the way you have lost hope. Someone has said, “We need more than highs, we need hope” – and that is exactly right. If we go after highs (the quick and temporary fixes) we end up with disappointment because we always need a bigger high (and another “bandaid”) next time. But if hope is sustaining us, we can endure.
What is Hope?
We often use the word in a very weak kind of way. We say things like, “I hope the weather will be fine for my outing” or “I hope I get that promotion”, or “I hope you’ll be feeling better soon” – but this is merely wishful thinking. The hope that is revealed in the Bible is much stronger than that. In the Old Testament there are lots of Hebrew words for hope, but there are two main ones that keep recurring. The first one means “expectation and longing for” and the second means “trust, waiting for, and patience”. In the New Testament there is one main Greek word for hope and it means “excited, pleasurable anticipation”. Biblical hope is a confident and patient expectation of that which is good. The definition brings both confidence and patience together. If you are confident, then you will endure until you receive the thing you are hoping for. The hope expressed in the Bible is not based upon some personal fantasy or desire – rather, the hope that is from the Spirit of God is based on the revelation of God’s promises to his people. And God invites us to hear what He has promised!
Hope has to do with the future, but it fills us with confidence in the present and inspires a patient endurance as we wait for what has been promised. This is what the apostle Paul was speaking of in Romans 8:23-25 – “And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as His children, including the new bodies He has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. For if you already have something, you don’t need to hope for it, but if we look forward to something we don’t have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently.” Hope understands the difficulties of this world that produce groaning, but it focuses its attention on the Lord and His faithful work.
You may already be familiar with the story of Job in the Bible. He may very well be the “poster child” for all things that pertain to the sufferings and losses of life. He certainly had his struggles as he sought to believe and trust God. What he says in chapter 14 is fascinating: “If a tree is cut down, there is hope that it will sprout again and grow new branches. Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays, at the scent of water it may bud and sprout again like a new seedling” (verses 7-9).
Some of you this very moment may feel like a cut-down tree. It’s all over. All the plans and dreams of a lifetime have fallen like a huge tree made ready for the mill. And now you feel like a lifeless stump, left with nothing. Do you hear what Job is affirming? Even in the midst of his sufferings, God gave him precious insight to see that there is still room for hope. So take hope, friend – who knows what kind of “new life” the Lord will cause to sprout out of your stump. Open your heart to the work of the Holy Spirit who wishes to show you Jesus – and let Him show you how hope can be recovered and renewed.
Asaph (one of the human writers of the Psalms) struggled with connecting the dots and putting things together. The overall theme of his struggle in Psalm 73 may not be yours – but my guess is that many of the details would fit. Among other things, he wrestled with the unsettling appearances of why other’s lives seemed less hurtful and hard than his. And he confesses that this internal upheaval had almost caused his foot to slip (v.2). But along the way, Asaph’s thought processes are changed – and he tells us what made the difference. “Then I came into the sanctuary of God” (v.17). He had to be connected again to a firm spiritual foundation – and he knew where to find it.
We can learn from this. Renewing hope is found in establishing (or re-establishing) the right connections. May I offer a few suggestions as to what “coming into the sanctuary” would look like?
- Connect with the living God (through the Lord Jesus Christ). If you have never placed your trust in Jesus, you will find information on our website on how you can begin a new relationship with God, even today. If you are a believer, but your relationship with God has been strained or remote – remember that He has not moved and He loves you. With open arms He invites you back (Luke 15:11-24).
- Connect with the Bible. The Lord has already shared with us His mind and heart. It is found in the finished revelation of the Bible. He uses this powerful instrument to reach into our own minds and hearts. It is in the Bible where we find a renewed sense of spiritual equilibrium. In the back of a Michael’s Ministry “Here’s Hope” Bible you can find a number of helps that can get you started.
- Connect with a local church. This is a very important component as well. We need to be in the fellowship of believers who will love and embrace us – especially when we are going through difficulties. Find a church that teaches the Bible for what it says, and then seeks to apply it to daily living. If you need assistance, we would love to help.
I’d like to close this with a simple story that I hope will communicate an important truth.
A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was and the boy responded, “18 to nothing–we’re behind.” “Wow,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet you’re pretty discouraged right now.” “Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”
** No matter how desperate our circumstances and discouraged we are in our hearts – maybe we would do well to assume that the situation hasn’t changed because God “just hasn’t gotten up to bat yet!”
“For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like You, who works for those who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4)