This past Sunday was Easter, a day for us to celebrate Hope. Yet our society seems to be marked by a lack of, or maybe just misdirected, hope. Hope is foundational to what it means to be a Christian, yet many of us fail to spread and inspire hope in the lives of those around us. We hope that we get that promotion, or that our favorite sports team wins this weekend. We hope that we pass a test we never studied for, or that the bully at school finally gets what he deserves.
We water down and taint hope and then try to pass it off as the full product it started as.
Hope is a beautiful and scary mix of desire and anticipation. It derives from our desires and thus exposes who we are and what we want. To discover someone’s hope is to discover a sliver of that person’s core.
Hope is an important part of humanity, we were created to hope and to dream. In fact, a lack of hope is a symptom of depression. When we lose our ability to hope, our will and joy to live begins to break down.
One of the scary things about hope is that we can use its power to break those around us. Hope is a fuel that keeps people moving forward, but some people replace that fuel with a false hope that can clog and destroy the engine, the person, that it is meant to power.
Whether provided purposely or ignorantly, false hopes can go a long way in ruining lives. Leading someone on when you know what they hope for will never happen trains that person to experience hope with a bitter taste. It trains them to doubt and fear hope. It teaches them that what you hope for will not come true.
Other people learn to hope for the wrong things. They direct their hope towards bringing others down and raising themselves up. Their selfish hopes encourage them to cut down those around them. They turn the blessing of hope into a curse for everyone but themselves.
Others seem to hope in something real for the right reasons, but end up putting their hope in the wrong things. In areas where they should be trusting God by placing their hope in Him, they wind up placing their hope in themselves or other humans. They forget, or ignore, the fact that God is the creator and ruler of all thing. That God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” (Matthew 5:45b). God is the one that provides for all of us, whether we believe someone deserves it or not.
The hope and blessings of God are not for us to choose who receives it, they are for us to spread to all.
Although improperly using hope can cause a lot of harm, the proper use of hope is foundational to our faith.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
The writer of Hebrews intertwines faith and hope in a way that cannot be separated. You cannot have faith without hope because faith is being confident that what you hope for will come to be.
But what is it we should hope for?
1 Peter 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter throws out a lot of information here so lets break it down a little. Our hope comes through the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is the reason for our hope. This is part of the reason Paul says “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Without the resurrection of Jesus, we have no hope that God will, or can, resurrect us. “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,'” (1 Corinthians 15:32). If the dead are not raised, then nothing in this life has consequences for you after your death and you should do what you can to make your life better with no regards for anything, or anyone, else. For when you are dead, you’re dead, and that’s it.
But Jesus was raised and this provides the hope that we too will be raised. Our resurrection, or new birth through Jesus, gives us access to an eternal inheritance that will never dull. Thus, we live in a way that shows we believe this hope, our resurrection into God’s eternal inheritance, will be fulfilled. This is a life of faith.
This living hope provides us purpose. We have a goal to live into. We have somewhere to end up. We are not just here, twiddling our thumbs, until we die and are no more. We are here, working with God to build his kingdom, and bringing more people into it.
This hope also provides us a reason to keep moving forward. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes death and pain and sorrows surround us and threaten to drown us. Sometimes we lose sight of the sun. But, like Paul, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,” (Romans 8:18).
When our sufferings seem so great that they dwarf everything else in our lives, they are nothing compared to the glory that we hope to inherit from God, through Christ. This is not a wish that we tossed a penny in a fountain for. This is a hope that we believe in with all our life. For we know one day we find ourselves next to “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life…And the leaves of the tree are for the healing for the healing of the nations…There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever,” (Revelation 22:1b-2a, 2c, 5).
That is a hope I live into. That is a hope that I can, that I want to, spread to everyone I meet.
Comment with any thoughts, ideas, or questions! I would love to hear what you think!