How do we have hope?
Last month I wrote about the gift of faith: faith to believe that Christ died for you. Yes, you. Christ died for each of us – not for billions, but for each one of us in particular. You and I have no power to save ourselves for eternal life. Only God, in Christ, in his infinite mercy, can do that for us. When you decide to believe this truth and put your will behind it, then hope begins to spring up in your spirit and in your heart and mind. If God is who he says he is, if he has made a way for me to eventually dwell with him forever in eternal happiness, then my hope is based on a solid foundation.
So often when we use the word hope, it is really a substitute for wishful thinking. “I hope the weather will be good tomorrow”; “I hope so and so will come to my graduation party; “I hope I can overcome this illness”; “I hope I get this job.” We are wishing that good things will happen, but we cannot guarantee that they will – we don’t have the power to make it so.
But when we talk about Christian hope, it is something very different. Christian hope stands on the promises of Jesus Christ, as stated for us in the Scriptures. He who is the source of all Truth will not lie to us. We call it hope because we have not seen the fulfillment of God’s promises. But it is not wishful thinking; it is fact: God became man, suffered and died for me that I might not die forever. The eternal penalty for my sins was cancelled by Christ’s death on the cross. As long as I personally repent, my sins will be forgiven.
Through baptism, I have been joined to God’s family. I am a son or daughter of the living God. That’s not just a pious saying; that is reality because of God’s love and mercy. I do not have to labor under hopelessness, discouragement, depression. I am genuinely a child of God; cared for by a Father who wants only the best for me.
He has given me his Spirit as the first pledge of my inheritance. Think of it, the Spirit who is the love between the Father and the Son, is given to weak, sinful me, to guide me into eternal union with the source of all love. The Spirit is the first pledge. Infinitely more will be mine when I receive the crown of life from him. This is truth – not fairy tales; not pious reflections, but truth. On what will you put your hope: the stock market, titles, positions, honors, bank accounts, friendships? God can and does allow us to have many gifts in this life, but that is not where the foundation of our faith and hope should reside. All the things we strive for will end; only God and his promises will prove true for all eternity. On what will you put your hope?
Scripture assures us: hope, based on Christ and his promises, will not disappoint. This is what God won for you in Christ. (See Romans 5:5) This is our hope.
Spiritual exercise for the month of June
Read the Scripture passage below out loud. Paul’s sentences are rather long. Don’t be deterred. Reading them out loud helps. I want you to apply these words to yourself.
Let the word of God, which is living and active, penetrate your fear, your doubt, your anger, even hopelessness. Ask for more faith; ask for the gift of hope and it will be given you.God’s word, God’s truth has power to change you if you let it.
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe ... And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked ... Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 1:15-2:10)