“Hope.” It’s a word with so much potential. But what is hope, in the biblical sense? Bible writers used the word “hope” in ways that seem to be much different from our contemporary usage. Our current culture usually defines hope in vague ways in order to help people find some sort of optimistic feeling. For example, if someone is hungry then he may say, “I hope I get to eat a steak for dinner!” If someone is lonely then she may say, “I hope to find a good friend.” Hope today, in cultural terms, is more of a shot in the dark at the moving target of happiness more than it is anything else.
Hope is neither vague nor pointless in the Bible. In fact, biblical hope has two main characteristics.
Characteristic One: Biblical hope is rooted in a Person, not a thing. God desires for our hope to be placed in him rather than in our trying to secure an intangible happiness. So, when we are in a bad spot, why not reach out to connect personally with God rather than getting in a pattern of hoping that something better comes along?
When Jesus was on the cross, one of the men being crucified nearby put his hope in Jesus to rescue him from the sting of death. The other crucified man put his hope in the game of chance, ridiculing both the other man and Jesus for their seemingly pointless naivete. Yet, it was to the truly hopeful man that Jesus said, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
Characteristic Two: Biblical hope anticipates God’s victory and peace, regardless of circumstances. So many people today base their hope on circumstances. It is a grave miscalculation to think that if we get circumstances to line up just right then we will truly be happy and have an unbreakable hope and optimism. Jesus taught, “It rains on the just and the unjust.” This is a saying which means that everybody, no matter how good or bad they are, will deal with all sorts of ups and downs in life. It is impossible to get all the right circumstances lined up to achieve happiness. We must have an unbending, unshakable anticipation that Jesus will bring us through the storms and celebrate with us on the mountaintops.
In our next series of messages, Pastor Michael and I will be talking much about hope! The times in which we live may be causing you some anxiety and fear. Some of you may even be feeling hopeless. But there is good news! God has a word for us in times of anxiety and fear. The word is HOPE.