Sunday, November 11, 2007


Romans 15v13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 24v18-25
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
2 Corinthians 3v11-12
And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
Colossians 1v27
Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Hebrews 11v1
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
I've always been suspicious of the word 'hope' in the New Testament. There are many instances of it as well as those I quote above. Its such an uncertain word. It is quite possible to hope for something that never happens. I had hoped to get certain grades in my finals as an undergrad, but didn't quite get them. I got a 2(ii) degree not the 2(i) that I had hoped for. Hope is not certainty.

And yet hope is a word that is hard to avoid in the New Testament. Paul, Peter, the writer to the Hebrews - all of them speak of the Christian life as being a life of hope.

Not assurance.

No guarantees.

No certainty.


I have always tried to ignore that. I convinced myself (and many preachers backed up this belief) that a great many things in the Christian life were certain. But now that I am scrutinising my beliefs I find that many things I once took to be assured, guaranteed, promised or certain are actually nothing of the kind. They're just my hopes. Of course, many of those things are not wrong to hope for, but they might be misplaced hopes. They might not happen.

Look at some of the 'hope' verses in the NT. Here are some of the hopes:
  • We hope that creation will be liberated from bondage & decay (Romans 24)
  • We hope for the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23v6)
  • We hope for salvation (1 Thess 5v8)
  • We hope to be adopted sons of God (Romans 24)
  • We hope for future glory (Colossians 1v27)
  • We hope for eternal life (Titus - various verses)
I have heard preachers assure me that all these things are guaranteed. But that's not what the New Testament says!

But enough negativity. I don't say all this because I've lost hope. Quite the opposite. I now see the value of hope.

Without hope we have nothing to drive us on. Without hope we will not strive to be better. Without hope we will not pray as we should. Without hope we will not come back to God in worship. Without hope we cannot get any of the things that aren't assured. With hope we might.

Faith is being sure of what we hope for (Heb 11v1). In other words, faith is living your life as if the things you hope for were assured. If we hope for good and honourable things, such faith produces good fruit - even if the hopes are never realised. If we hope that our friends will be saved, we will take the gospel to them. Some will be saved. Others will not. But if we don't have the hope we won't speak to any of them. No assurances, but living by hope/faith produces results.

But what of the other things? Salvation? Eternal life? Future glory? What if they come to nothing? Well, I hope that they don't. But maybe I'm wrong. However, I can see no benefit to living as if you believed them to be false and immense benefits in living as if you believe them to be true.

And now the big one. Jesus said "I am the way the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father but by me" - I hope that is true. But nothing, outwith the pages of the bible, actually guarantees that. Yet I hope. I live in hope. If I am right, I gain everything. If I am wrong, I lose nothing.

There are an awful lot of unknowns in the Christian life that people fill in with hope. When will Christ come again? No idea. But I have hopes... What will 'heaven' be like? No idea. But I have hopes... and so on. Chances are I will be wrong on some of my hopes. But I still lose nothing.

I have finally accepted hope as a good thing. I hope you do too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hope is a future we want, and perhaps strive towards. It in itself says nothing of certanty, we can have a hope that we are uncertain of, and one we are certain of. From Romans 24: "the glory that will be revealed in us" note the _will_! We have a hope that is greater than anyone else could dare to hope for, so we can be bold. What are the grounds for Pauls confidence? What makes him more certain in the hope he has? The possible contains the certain, the only requirements of hope are that it's good and that it is not yet here.