Hope is dangerous. I posted about that earlier in the month, and it’s true. We have to be so careful where our hope comes from. But what I failed to ask is a basic question that I don’t think people really think about: what is hope?
Everybody talks about hope. Everybody wants hope, especially those people who have lost it. But what is it? Where do you find it? How do you hold on to it? Is it some ethereal concept just floating around in the void? Or is it a concrete choice that you make every day?
Today’s verses are Romans 8:24-25.
We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
Whenever I think about hope and trying to understand what it is and where it comes from, this is one of the passages I go to. The other passage is Hebrews 11:1.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Maybe Hebrews 11:1 is more about faith than hope, but it just demonstrates that hope and faith are inseparable. Hope is part of a process. You don’t just wake up one morning and have hope in a general sense. Hope isn’t general. I mean, you can be a generally positive person. But generic hope isn’t really hope; hope is specific. And hope always comes from faith.
If you want to have hope, first you have to have faith in something.
The passage out of Romans refers to “this hope” that we received. The hope Paul is talking about is the promise that God made that we would be adopted as God’s children and given new bodies. That is a promise God gave all those who choose to put their faith in Christ, but that promise has yet to be fulfilled. So we’re waiting for the day when it happens. We are hoping for that day, hoping to see the promise kept, hoping to get to be with God.
Scripture says it better than I can. If you already have it, you don’t have to hope for it.
It’s like kids opening presents on Christmas morning. They’ve told their parents what they want, and they’ve had to wait for a month, every day seeing the number of presents beneath the tree increasing. Until finally on Christmas Day, they get to open their presents and see what their parents have given them. Once they open their presents, they don’t have to have hope anymore; they know.
What part does faith play, though? Scripture says faith is confidence that what we hope for will happen. So hope stems from faith. If you don’t have faith, you can’t have hope.
Going back to the Christmas analogy, if a child doesn’t have faith in his or her parents, they aren’t going to look forward to receiving anything from them for Christmas. So why should they get excited about presents under a tree? Why should they get excited about Christmas at all? They don’t have any faith, so there’s no reason to hope. And if there’s no reason to hope, there’s no reason to participate at all.
Faith is the foundation of everything, but hope is the result of faith. If you choose to put your faith in someone (or even in a purpose or a way of life), you choose to trust that person. Usually that person has made a promise and you are trusting that person to keep his word. And because you trust that person, because you have chosen to have faith in that person, you have hope.
So just as you have to be careful where your hope comes from, you have to be careful who you put your faith in. Because who you put your faith in will determine how resilient your hope is.
Who do you trust to change your life? Who do you trust to repair your relationships? Who do you trust to put the pieces of the American economy back together? Who do you trust your children to? Who do you trust your future to?
If you trust another person, you need to prepare yourself for disappointment. Because people will let you down. Whether it’s Oprah or Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz or any other television show personality who claims to have all the answers, none of them can claim a level of perfection above you. Maybe they have been trained, maybe they have some life experience, but no truth they preach on television is their original discovery. The same is true with our country’s leaders. No presidential candidate is going to solve all our problems. I don’t care if you’re conservative or liberal.
Faith should be in someone who isn’t going to let you down. Faith needs to be in someone who can actually keep the promises he makes. Why else would you trust him?
If you have faith, your heart will change. And I’m not talking about the fair-weather faith that only runs to God when trouble is brewing. I’m talking about real faith, where you believe and you trust even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense to anyone else. If you trust God, your life is going to show it. How? Because you’ll have hope.
And hope is truly dangerous, dangerous in a way I didn’t post about last week. People who have hope are frightening because they are unstoppable. And I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some unstoppable Christians. And even though the world doesn’t want them, the world needs them now more than ever.