We are now in Olympic season and I have been thinking about how each of the Olympic athletes must have travelled to Rio full of hope. Scripture is full of verses about our hope as Christians: they can be seen as the very fuel of our faith. John Piper has described hope as being “faith in the future tense”.
At a recent Bible study my husband challenged us to look afresh at biblical hope and how it is rooted in truths about God. Participants considered their own hopes and the things that perhaps they were beginning to lose hope for, alongside relevant Scripture.
It challenged me to explore hope more closely myself. I hope that, as you look through the verses I’ve included below, you will be refreshed and revitalised by the lifegiving knowledge that we have a hope beyond all earthly hopes, which God our Father Himself has called us to.
Jesus is our ultimate hope: “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3).
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Our hope is not built on anything that we can achieve for ourselves, or on our bank balance or health – it is based on Jesus alone. What He achieved for us through His sacrifice was something we could never do for ourselves: He put us in right standing before a holy God, and also gave us a share in His inheritance. We so have so much to look forward to, as we wait in the “now and the not yet” period of the kingdom, and it is all thanks to Jesus.
We can cling to hope whatever our circumstances: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 6:23).
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
God’s nature is unchangeable – as are His promises. We can rest assured that His purposes will come to pass, even when all around us is turmoil and we are feeling confused by what we are going through. It is that secure knowledge of our future hope that can anchor our lives even when all around us is a raging storm. It is interesting to reflect on the fact that a boat’s anchor isn’t really needed in calm seas – how often do we forget about ours when things are going well?
But let’s be honest – there are times when thoughts about hope are simply beyond us because we are totally overwhelmed and frustrated by our circumstances. It is in those moments that it is vital to remember that God works through our testing times, our waiting times, the times when we are forced to give up on things we thought we were supposed to be doing. He works when are suffering physically or are being treated unfairly by someone around us. Clinging to the fact that God is doing something through the hard times, moulding us to be more like Jesus, can help us to understand why He doesn’t always deliver us from them when we ask Him to.
We can learn a lot from biblical characters such as Hannah, who went through disappointment and suffering and yet still chose to trust God in the midst of it all (1 Samuel 1–2).
Hope is found in worship: “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1). “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word” (Psalm 119:114).
David, the writer of so many of the psalms, was such a worshipper. His heart was so full of honesty and authenticity – he never shied away from telling God how much he was struggling – and yet he always turned to worship. Take Psalm 57: David was being pursued by men who wanted to take his life and throughout the psalm we see a juxtaposition between the situation that David finds himself in and the truth about who God is. David declares who he has faith in, and where his hope lies, while still being realistic about what is going on in his life. He also speaks to his soul, telling it to “awake”, and goes on to worship God in the final three verses.
As we worship, we open our hearts up to being able to receive God’s perspective on our surroundings and circumstances – and hope can awaken in our hearts.
God reveals His hope to the world through the Church: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called” (Ephesians 4:4). “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
God’s message of hope is open to everyone who chooses to believe, which means churches are going to be full of people that are very different from us. How do we learn not just to live with them, but to appreciate those who may have different viewpoints and giftings from us? We need to ensure our focus is right: we, totally undeserving sinners, were offered unmerited favour by our God, through Jesus Christ, so we can look at others through the eyes of humility and love. By exuding that future hope, no matter what our circumstances (and possibly personal differences), the Church can reveal God’s hope to the world.
Since childhood I have been taught that the Church is God’s plan A for reaching the world – and that He has no plan B. Bill Hybels is well known for coining the phrase, “The local church is the hope of the world.” I find this quote from CS Lewis real food for thought: “The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply, a waste of time.”
Hope renews our strength. Isaiah 40:10–31 reminds us of God’s awesome power, His sovereignty but also His great care for those who look to Him. This is an amazing promise for those of us who place our hope in Him: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (30–31).