We are so used to the word “hope”.
“I hope you know what I mean”,
“I hope the weather holds for our dinner outside”,
“I really hope things change in our country”.
We use the word casually, sometimes ignorantly or sometimes we just load the word with a lot of our emotions. The dictionary defines hope as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen”. Nothing wrong with that – many people (believers or non-believers) live with a natural optimism or with a positive expectation or wish. Optimism is usually a chosen attitude which should be commended but a positive outcome cannot be guaranteed or assured. So how is living with Godly hope different?
What is godly hope?
When unbelievers hope for something, they either have to make it happen themselves or rely on others, or just wait to see if circumstances will go their way. Their confidence of a good outcome is influenced by a variety of variables or natural limitations.
But as a believer in Jesus Christ, we have been upgraded to a different way of hoping in this world.
Biblical hope offers something more stable, more secure and significant than merely wishing for the best. The Greek meaning of the word hope in the context of Godly hope is “a confident assurance of something good”.
John Piper defines hope as: “Biblical hope not only desires something good for the future — it expects it to happen. And it not only expects it to happen — it is confident that it will happen”.
But why is a Christian’s way of hoping different to the way the world hopes?
To understand biblical hope, we need to understand these two elements of its definition:
- Why can we have a confident expectation?…and
- What it is that we can expect from God?
The why is answered by the who. Who is going to make the hope become a reality? Remember, when an unbeliever hopes for something good, they rely on either themselves, their skills or the provision of others or circumstances, etc.
The Bible explains that our hope should be in God, but it goes on to explain why we can have a confident expectation in God. Our ability to have a confident expectation (“hope”) in God is because of one significant event — Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Pet 1: 3, 21). It’s that simple. The Old Testament is full of prophecies about how God is going to rescue people back into relationship with Himself and that God was going to send a Saviour (His Son) to enable the reconciliation. So the fact that God fulfilled His promise by sending Jesus, who was to be crucified by people, but most importantly, then raised by God, shows God’s commitment and faithfulness to fulfil His promises.
So how does that link to hope? Hope is living with an expectation that God will do what He says. Because He has proven himself to be reliable in the past (Christ’s resurrection), He can be relied upon to deliver what He has promised about our future.
A believer’s ability to live with a confident hope is not linked to our own or somebody else’s ability, or circumstances to fulfil the hope. Our ability to live with confidence and therefore with hope is entirely linked to God’s nature – and that is to be faithful.
Therefore our expectation (our hope) about our future, can be confident because of who takes responsibility to fulfil our hope. The level of confidence with which you hope is linked to who you place your hope in.
Hebrews 10:23 — Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful
Godly hope does not doubt, because it’s rooted in the faithfulness of God. And this is why hope is a confident expectation, not just a wish or positive attitude.
Moving onto the “what” – what can we confidently expect from God?
Simply, that God will fulfil His promises about our future.
But here is the challenge for us. There are many things we would like to have, but they were not necessarily or specifically promised by God.
The Bible (God’s Word) does not promise us a promotion at work; it does not promise that we will get married; it does not promise that we will pass your exam or be selected for the programme of our dreams. It does not promise that we or our children won’t make bad choices. Off course, we can ask God for the promotion or the spouse or the passed exam, etc. But we are not guaranteed that He will give them to us because He did not specifically promise them.
So, when can we have a confident expectation and when do we surrender to God’s sovereign will for our lives?
We need to learn to identify what God has promised and align our prayers and expectations with these specific promises – because then we can confidently expect God to deliver on His Word. We start by changing the way we pray, for example, by changing our prayer from:
- “God please give me this promotion” to “God I know that you are going to work something good from this promotion application – thank you for being faithful to do good in my life”(Rom 8:28)
Good in this situation might be the promotion, but it also may not…but when we take our focus off the “promotion” as being the only “good result” and shift our expectation to seeing God’s goodness in whichever way He wants to work it, then we can be confident of a good outcome – promotion or not.
- A repeated prayer of “Lord, please help me find a spouse” changes into a confident declaration of hope: “Lord, although I desire an earthly partner, I rest knowing that nothing can separate me from your love for me, and your love is far superior to human love – help me experience your love today” (Rom 8:35-39).
- A hesitant prayer of “Jesus, please give me a sign that I may know what decision to make” transforms into a hope filled prayer of “Jesus, thank you that you will instruct me and teach me in the way I should go. I’m living with an expectation of your guidance today”(Ps 32:8)
- Instead of desperately praying and hoping our children do not lose their way, we pray confident prayers based on God’s promises, eg: “God, you promised that you will finish what you have started, therefore I know and thank you in advance for how you are working in my child and I trust you will continue your work in them today”(Phil 1:6). Our children might make bad decisions today, but God has not deserted them. He is working even though we might not see it yet. So we learn to trust and rest and confidently hope.
Biblical promises are not there to just be sent around on WhatsApp as beautifully crafted memes. Their purpose is to ignite hope. We base our decisions and attitudes on God’s promises. We focus our attention, our emotions on what He said He will do. Then those promises become weapons of warfare against despair, hopelessness or loneliness and fear.
Hope is the reservoir in our hearts where God’s promises are transformed into supernatural attitudes of faith. In the words of Spurgeon: “ Hope uplifts the soul,g inspires confidence and sustains courage.”
Let’s transform our world by living with godly hope. We can start by reminding ourse;ves of who God is and what He has already done:
But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope — Lamentations 3:21
Then we can preach to ourselves the truth of how faithful God is and that we choose every day to place our expectations on His faithfulness:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;” — Psalm 42:5
And then, be bold, like Abraham, who based on natural human standards, should not have had any hope (“against hope”) for him and Sarah to have an offspring and yet:
In hope he believed, against hope, that he should become the father of many nations — Hebrews 4:18
I had hoped that you would read till the end, and you did. Now may you find HOPE in God.
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