These three things remain: faith, hope, and love.
A couple months ago, a friend mentioned to me that she didn’t want me to get my hopes up about a particular situation. I knew what she meant – she didn’t want me to be disappointed, and theoretically, if you keep your expectations low, if/when something doesn’t work out, you’re less disappointed because you weren’t expecting much, anyway.
But, at the time, it made me really mad. For one thing, I thought it assumed that things weren’t going to work out. But, regardless, what’s wrong with being hopeful, I thought? Even if I were disappointed, was it better to go through life not hoping? If it didn’t work out, I was going to be disappointed, anyway. Wouldn’t it be better to make the waiting period pleasant by being optimistic?
Thus began my study of hope.
As I started thinking about it, I couldn’t remember having ever heard a sermon preached on hope. Sure, it’s often used as a synonym for faith or trust or belief. But, if the Bible lists it with faith and love as being one of the three most important things, I thought it deserved its own exploration.
Well, what would a Bible study be without a definition of the word? So, according to Merriam-Webster, hope is to cherish a desire with anticipation. It is to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment; to expect with confidence. (There’s one other definition, but I’ll come back to it later.)
These dictionary definitions coincide with an article by J. Hampton Keathley III on Bible.org (I don’t know who he is, but I believe in giving proper credit). According to this article, hope in Scripture is “a strong and confident expectation.” Joyce Meyer calls it the “happy and confident anticipation of good” (from her book, Get Your Hopes Up!).
Bible studies also include statistics. Like, in the King James Version, the word “hope” appears 130 times. That’s a lot for a word that is generally treated as slightly above wishful thinking.
But, what exactly am I supposed to hope for? Or in? Does the Bible only mean we are to hope in Jesus and for salvation and eternal life in heaven?
I don’t think so.
Of course, we are to hope in God; He is the source of all that is good, and the reason we can hope. But, I don’t think God only wants us to have an other-worldly hope. I think hope is very relevant to our daily, earthly lives, and as I began to study, I became more convinced of this.
Throughout the Bible, there are many examples of people who hoped for things on earth – many in the face of impossible odds. Joseph in the Old Testament surely hoped he would get out of prison, even though his best opportunity, when the cupbearer was released, came and went and he was seemingly forgotten. Hannah hoped for a child, despite years of being barren, and her hope led her to beg God so passionately, the priest thought she was drunk. In the New Testament, Simeon hoped that God’s promise that he would see the Messiah before he died would actually happen.
My favorite example of hoping for God’s intervention on earth is Shaddrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace. Their hope was that God would spare their lives and rescue them – against all odds. But, they go on to say, EVEN IF He does not, we will still praise Him (my paraphrase).
While all of these people based their hope in God, they were also hoping for their current circumstances to turn out in a certain way. Their hope was that they would, as Psalm 27:13 says, see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
So, what are you hoping for in the land of the living? Over the next couple of days, I’m going to talk more about what I’ve learned about hope, but I want to encourage you now to keep your hopes up, after all. Believe that God is working on your behalf. He loves you, He wants the best for you, and He is faithful. Name those things that you are hoping for – those things that you might be afraid to even mention because they are so dear to your heart (I mean, name them to yourself, although I certainly welcome anything you’d like to share). And let’s work together to find hope in our circumstances, because of God’s goodness.
(Part 1 of a 3-part series)