Summary: Walking in hope means allowing our vision of the life to come to permeate our daily life here and now. How do we do this?
This morning, I’d like to continue looking at the topic of "hope" which we began last week. Let’s begin with the basics. Hope is a function of two things: First, it arises from the fact that we have desires, that we prefer some things over others. Otherwise, we would be completely indifferent to our circumstances. We would have no desire for things to turn out one way versus another; we simply wouldn’t care. But we do care, and so we hope for one outcome instead of another. And second, hope is a function of the fact that we cannot see the future; we don’t know how events are going to unfold. We don’t have hope about things that have already happened; we only have hope about things to come, or matters whose outcome is still unknown to us. If there were no uncertainty, there would be no hope, only knowledge. As the author of the letter to the Hebrews puts it, "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)
As for the word "hope," we use it to cover a very broad range of situations and emotions. For instance, you might say, "I hope it doesn’t rain today." Now, if you’re a farmer, and you need dry ground in order to get your tractors and machinery into the fields, that may be a very strong desire. Your livelihood depends on being able to harvest your crops. But for most of us, that would be a simply a wish for nice weather. On the other end of the spectrum, a married couple may be hoping for a child. Perhaps they’ve tried for years to conceive, with no success. Years of doctors, and tests, and disappointment. Anyone who has gone through that knows the intensity of that hope, that desire. It’s not trivial in the least. The point I’m making is that the word "hope" can express anything from a passing wish that lasts only a few moments, to a deep longing that lasts for years, or even a lifetime.
Now, in what I’ve said so far, there’s nothing distinctively Christian. You don’t have to be a follower of Christ to have hope. Everyone in the world, regardless of their religion or lack of it, has hopes, big and small. We all have wishes, and desires, and yearnings of various kinds. But what makes our hope a Christian hope is that it isn’t just a hope for something, but instead it’s a hope in someone. It’s more than just a wish; it’s an attitude of trust and reliance on God our Father, through His Son Jesus Christ. Our hope as Christians isn’t just that events will turn out a certain way; our hope is a settled confidence in the One who determines those events. Our hope is in the wisdom, and the power, and the love of God, the One who holds the future in his hands and turns it in any direction He pleases. That’s the difference. Hoping not just in an outcome, but in the One who controls all outcomes. Not just desiring a change in our circumstances, but placing our hope in the One who has the power to change those circumstances. Not just wishing for a blessing, but setting our hopes on the One from whom all blessings flow. A Christian hope is first and foremost a hope in God.
"No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame. . . Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. . . May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you." -- Psalm 25:3, 5, 21
"Through [Christ] you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." -- 1 Peter 1:21
Now, placing our hope in God doesn’t mean just looking to Him to get what we want. It’s not just saying, for instance, that "before I was trusting in doctors to heal my son, and now I’m trusting in God to heal him". Or that "before, I was trusting in my own skill and hard work to get a promotion, and now I’m trusting in God to provide it". That’s merely using God as a means to an end, using Him to bring about the result that we desire and we choose. If that’s the case, our hope really isn’t in Him; our hope is still in the outcome that we’re looking for; the outcome that we think will make us happy, and safe, and fulfilled. But placing our hope in God means trusting Him to do what’s right and best, even if it’s different than what we want or expect. Putting our hope in God means that we hold our desires and wishes with an open hand; it means that we entrust ourselves and our welfare into God’s hands to do with as He sees fit. Even if it means that the things we were wishing for never come to pass. Even if it means that the trials we were hoping to avoid come upon us after all.