Biblical Christianity is full of hope.
But not in the sense of “wishful thinking” or “positive karma” or a “pie-in-the-sky” or “head-in-the-clouds.” As a matter of fact, J.I. Packer calls optimism “wish without warrant.” A person who is merely optimistic, simply by nature of their humanity, is completely in the dark about what tomorrow will bring. A doggedly optimistic person may never live to see good things actually transpire – though he or she may persistently hope for those good things. Garden-variety hope is intrinsically uninformed and illusive.
In stark contrast, Christian hope is a confident trust in the promises of God. That’s a very different kind of hope, because it’s rooted in something that’s already settled: the absolute truthfulness of God. All the promises that God has made are as good as done. Christian hope is anchored in God Himself, in His impeccable nature and character.
Our hope in Christ’s promise of eternal life, for example, is simply our faith (confident trust) that Jesus meant what He said (John 14:1-3): “Where I am, there you may be also.” Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross on our behalf, we who are in Christ are already citizens of heaven. (That makes us just visitors here, in a wonderfully exhilarating and liberating kind of way.)
Christian hope is more than a likelihood or a possibility. Much more. We are God’s adopted children. We have a promised inheritance. Guaranteed. Done. We are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17). We know from that same passage that the path of life along which our Lord has promised to guide us will include some suffering, but we also know that sorrow will not ultimately win the day. This is the amazement of walking with God! “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten … You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you” (Joel 2:25-26).
God is sovereign, and God is good to us. You and I blow it on a regular basis, but God’s magnificent plan not only gets us back on track, but manages to teach us lessons of eternal value as we’re rescued (again and again) by grace. He is good.
Why do I tell you these things? Because these are the kinds of reminders that I need on a regular basis. Otherwise I get stuck in a rut, or settled into make-myself-happy mode, or just generally bummed out by the world’s troubles (everything from violence in Syria to layoffs at USEC).
But when I remember who my God is – and what He’s done for me in Christ – I’m vividly reminded that I can trust Him for the rest. So can you.
There is a line in the Anglican burial service when the body of the believer is returned to the earth “in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul said it like this (First Corinthians 15:55): “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Now that’s real hope. Hope that can smile through tears because Jesus lives. Hope because our real life is found in Him.
Go for hope! Real hope. Not some artificial substitute that kind of smells like hope. Because nothing really fits in hope’s place except hope.
Beloved church family, I know there’s a lot of bad news out there. Many of you fear the future because you see our national strength declining, our cultural morals spiraling downward, and our youth bailing out on the church. But I want to remind you that there is hope because there is God. Peter Marshall, former chaplain to the U.S. Senate, once warned: “The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration.” But even if the people around us choose chaos, compromise, and disintegration, we have abiding hope in Jesus Christ. And don’t forget – we’re just coming off the evening preaching series from Jonah – the Lord was more than able to turn around the very wicked nation of Nineveh in short order.
So hope to you! You and I are drinking from the saucer, because our cup has run over.
“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).