How’s your hope quotient?
It’s no secret that we’ve come through one of the most challenging and turbulent years in my lifetime (and I’ve been around for a while!). We’ve lived through a toxic stew of a worldwide pandemic (complete with illness, death, shutdowns, and shut-ins), a venomous election (complete with alleged fraud and deceit), destructive riots in our cities (including an attack on our capitol building), and much more. Advocates of “Cancel Culture,” not content to have won the election, want to wipe out every memory of and opportunity for those they disagree with on social media and even in the employment market. We’ve been hit with demonic spirits of isolation, poverty, infirmity, and just plain meanness.
And it’s obvious we aren’t through the storm yet. We face an even more hostile mutation of the virus. The new president is reversing many of the actions of the former president to the approval of half the nation and the disapproval of the other half. The election isn’t settled in the minds of millions, even as Congress launches a vindictive impeachment. The anarchists have decided they don’t support the new administration any more than they did the previous administration and so continue to riot, harming people and destroying property. Isolation, loneliness, depression, and suicide are killing and harming almost as many people as the virus itself.
Things don’t look good for America. At least when we look with our natural eyes.
Where’s Your Hope?
So here’s my question. Where is your hope? Where is your focus? How have you chosen to live in such a time as this?
As Christians, we are aliens and strangers in this place and citizens of another Kingdom (Heb. 11:13) but frankly, many of us act as if this is all there is. As if our eternal destinies depend on what we determine is a successful resolution of the current crisis. Regardless of side, we get caught up in the emotions of the world. We buy the lies of the media. We’re as fearful as those who don’t know Jesus. We’re tossed to and fro not only by the waves of emotion and by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14), but also by every Tweet, every news cycle, every bad report.
I would suggest, my brothers and sisters, that this should not be!
Yes, we care about our nation and the people we love. There’s nothing wrong with that. But friends, we need to care from a place of maturity. And we need to care from a place of hope.
What is Hope?
So what is hope. Many think it’s just wishful thinking so they’re disappointed when what they “hope” for doesn’t happen. That’s when emotions get tossed about. And that’s where maturity comes in. The Apostle Paul calls upon the ekklesia and leadership to disciple people to maturity so they can operate from a stable place rather than an emotional place. He says in Ephesians 4,
It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (Eph. 4:11-14)
Not Wishful Thinking
So what about hope? Biblical hope is not wishful thinking. Rather, it is the firm foundation upon which we can stand. It is the anchor of our soul, which is the seat of our emotions. The author of Hebrews says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19). I love that image. It’s like we’re in a boat in a stormy sea, but our anchor holds us safe and secure.
But is that realistic? I think it is. And so does the Apostle Paul. In Acts 23:6-26:15 we see that Paul’s hope is solid enough to sustain him in and through several trials before the Sanhedrin and Roman officials. Rather than buckling to their intense cancel culture, he has hope—a joyful and confident expectation—in the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. In other words, he knows that the outcome isn’t up to him, but up to God, who will deal justly with all sides. Paul doesn’t have to figure it out because he knows God’s got it. And that hope holds him steady.
Let’s face it. This isn’t how Paul expected his life to turn out. He was on the professional track. He had credentials. He was on his way to being “somebody.” But God interrupted those plans, and for the rest of his life, Paul experienced one trial after another. And not just legal trials. He was the cause of riots and shipwrecks. In 2 Corinthians 4 he says,
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:7-9).
Abraham as an Example
Paul was able to keep his head up and carry on with ministry because he had hope. He also tells us about Abraham, who is honored for his hope. Remember Abraham? God called him out of his country of Ur to a land he had never seen. God promised to end his wife’s barrenness and give Abraham countless descendants and endless land. It sounded like a good deal. But 25 years later, Abraham and Sarah were still waiting for the fulfillment of that promise. Paul tells us they continued to believe in
…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:17-22, emphasis mine).
We want our promise to make sense. We want the outcome, both personally and nationally, that we want. We want to know the end from the beginning. Yep, we want to be God. But we aren’t.
So we’re left with two options. We either allow ourselves to be tossed about on every wave of emotion or we learn to hope. We either drown in a sea of emotions or we decide we will allow hope to be our anchor.
How Do We Get This Hope?
So how do we get hope? Paul, the voice of experience, tells us in Romans 5,
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Rom. 5:1-5, emphasis mine).
Yep, we get hope through suffering well. Are you doing that now? Are you allowing the anchor to hold you while you wait out the storm? A storm that has no end in sight? Is your anchor holding even when you don’t see your preferred outcome?
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Rom. 8:24-25).
So what’s the key? It’s hope. So hold fast to your anchor. Let it stabilize your emotions, your actions, and your words. Stand firm, knowing that He who knows the end from the beginning has everything in control.
I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please (Isaiah 46:10).
He’s got this! And because He’s got this, you’ve got this. That’s hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:13).