Summary: Hope is described in the dictionary as a "feeling" that all will be well. But the hope found in the Bible is an "assurance" that all will be well.
This past Monday marked the one year anniversary of my Mom’s passing. She had some very unique sayings such as, “Raise the window down. You have your shirt ront-serd- outers. (wron side out).” Although a simple woman, she loved drama. She always had her ears perked to catch the latest scandal taking place in the family or the nursing home. A minor health issue usually meant her names were numbered. I would assure her that all would be well and her answer more than not would be “I hope so.” But the tone of her voice echoed her real feelings, “I don’t think so.”
These days that is what hope has come to mean for most of us. We hope for a better job but don’t really expect one. We hope for a pay increase but expect not to get one. We hope for a healing but expect to keep living in sickness. We hope for a lot of things but expect life to remain the same. The dictionary describes hope as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best” Then the example given to describe the word is “to give up hope.”
Part of the reason we struggle with hope is that we put our hope in the wrong things. Let’s look at two examples to see what I mean. First the rich farmer in Luke 12:16-20.
“Then he told them a story: ‘A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, “What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.” Then he said, “I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’”
‘But God said to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’”
This farmer put his hope in three aspects of his life. First he put his hope in his own abilities. He was a successful farmer because he had fertile land that produced fine crops. His knowledge of what to plant and when would have meant nothing if not for God providing him with fertile ground. Unfruitful soil would have left him barren. Yet we see no recognition of God’s goodness from this man.
We tend to put our hopes in our own abilities. We consider ourselves self-made men. Frederick Douglass, an African-American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman was quoted as saying “Self-made men […] are the men who owe little or nothing to birth, relationship, friendly surroundings; to wealth inherited or to early approved means of education; who are what they are, without the aid of any of the favoring conditions by which other men usually rise in the world and achieve great results.” No where in his speech was any credit given to God.
Our abilities are God given. Each of us has abilities that others do not have. For example, not everyone has the ability to be a public speaker. The thought of speaking before a crowd frightens them to silence. It is only through the power of God that we can overcome our fears and develop abilities to do those things we could not do in the past.
However, God also has the power to take away your abilities. Think of how you earn your income. Could an unfortunate accident strip your abilities to do your job? Could an unforeseen illness cause you to become disabled? What if a drought had hit the farmers land? He would do have been able to accumulate his wealth. This leads us to the second aspect of his life.
Secondly, he put his hope in his wealth. Let’s look back at vs. 17-18. “He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.’”
His wealth was abundant, so much so his storage facilities could not hold it. His portfolio had grown to the point he needed to reinvest it. Sure he could have helped the poor. Maybe he could have poured some of it into the local synagogue. But it was his wealth and his right to do with it what he wanted.
Again he failed to recognize God’s contribution to his wealth. The farmer said “my crops” and “all my wheat.” We have a tendency to do the same. It’s my checking account, my savings account, or my IRA. We fail to credit God for giving us the ability and abundance to pay our debts and hopefully save for lean years. We depend on the government to secure our finances. If anything, we should be learning that the government has become