Hope, like faith and love, is one of the abiding graces in the Christian life: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (I Cor 13: 13). Hope has reference to that which is unseen. Believing that God will keep His promises, one who hopes waits with earnest expectation and patience, for the realisation of the things hoped for. This truth is reiterated by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom 8: 24-25).
William Burkitt elaborates on verses 24-25: “’Tis an expectation of good things promised but not enjoyed; vision and fruition put an end to hope; none hopes for that he already enjoys. Hope is conversant about things unseen as well as faith: Faith is the evidence of things not seen, and hope is the expectation of those things: The object of hope is a future good, a possible good, a promised good, a good promised by God, and believed by us” (William Burkitt’s Expository Notes).
Let us consider two aspects of the Christian’s hope:
o A blessed hope
God’s Word promises that all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will receive eternal life and a glorious inheritance in heaven (Jn 3: 16; 14: 1-3). This blessed hope of eternal glory encourages Christians to live a life of faith and to love their brethren: “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, 5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Col 1: 3-4).
This hope also “keeps him alive, quickens him, supports him, and conducts him to Heaven. Hope invigorates and spirits up the soul to action, to patience, to fortitude, and perseverance to the end” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).
o “A lively hope”
Writing to the suffering believers who were persecuted for the faith, the apostle Peter encouraged them to look to their future inheritance in heaven which would be safely kept for them: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Pet 1: 3-5). ‘
Peter reminded them that they possessed “a lively hope” which was founded upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The word “lively” means “living”. Theirs was not a speculative or vain hope but one that was active, vibrant and powerful. Their Saviour’s resurrection was a pledge that they, too, would rise with Him (I Cor 15: 20-23).
Rather than despair over their hardships, these suffering Christians should look with earnest expectation at their promised glorious inheritance which God would preserve in heaven for them. While they were called to suffer for the Gospel’s sake, the “lively hope” they possessed should cheer and comfort their hearts, and encourage them to persevere in their faith.
What other qualities of “hope” can we glean from Holy Scripture?
Hope sustains the soul in the midst of trials
Hope keeps the suffering saint steadfast in faith as he clings to God’s promises. David the psalmist was one such afflicted soul. As he faced life’s adversities, he could confidently declare: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4: 7-8).
Psalm 4 is purported to be written by David. Most commentators believed it was a difficult time for David because of the rebellion of his son, Absalom. Having committed himself to the Lord, David was sure that the God would attend to his cry for help because he had lived an upright life: “But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him” (v 3). It was his hope in our gracious and faithful God that sustained the psalmist in his time of need.
As we face life’s trials, let us not put away the comforts that God has provided for us. It is our duty to trust in His never-failing character and look with hope to Him “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas 1: 17). (… to be continued)