We Have Such a Hope

by Scarlett Stough

If you were granted the fulfillment of three (and only three) requests from God, what three things would you ask him to grant? Would you settle for a good job, health, or world peace? Maybe your life is so stressful your first request would be to spend the rest of your life in solitude on a tropical island filled with eatable plants and seafood for the catching. Or, maybe, you would be happy to have a gas tank that never needed refilling. Would you ask for your investments to rebound and make you a billionaire?

None of those requests are particularly evil. Would having some or all of them give anyone the security and contentment we all desire? A man named Job had it all, but when he lost his family, his livelihood, and his health, he also lost something else. He asked:

What strength do I have, that I should still hope?

What prospects, that I should be patient? Job 6:11

Job’s friends Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad thought they had the answer. Eliphaz thought that Job wasn’t pious enough or righteous enough to be given God’s blessings. (Job 4:6) Bildad implied that Job was being cursed because he had forgotten God and was living a godless life. (Job 8:13) Zophar expressed the same ideas saying that hope lies in devotion to God and putting away sin and evil. (Job 11:13-20) These theories sound familiar, don’t they?

Don’t we Christians, especially those of us in wealthier nations, have the same ideas about the source of our hope? Too often, we put our hope in our own piety and good behavior so that God will prevent us from having any troubles. It is true we suffer consequences from our wrongdoing, but our hope does not lie in getting it right all the time.

When we do all we think is required of us to ensure God’s favor and our life falls apart anyway, what happens to our hope? Don’t we feel much like Job did--God is Sovereign, therefore, it’s all his fault? In his pain and grief, he complained:

At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again and its new shoots will not fail….But as a mountain erodes and crumbles and as a rock is removed from its place, as water wears away stones and torrents wash away the soil, so you [God] destroy man’s hope….Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?….He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree. Job 14:7, 18-19; 17:15; 19:10

Haven’t you felt the same way at times? I know I have. But Job had a change of heart after he listened to what God had to say. His hope was restored, because he put his hope in the right place. (Job 42:1-17)

What is hope?

In today’s English, we tend to use the word “hope” as a synonym for “wish,” but “hope” has a stronger meaning. Both the word from the Hebrew Scriptures and the word from the Greek text in the New Testament translated into the English word “hope” means “to anticipate, usually with pleasure.” It is used to describe a “favorable and confident expectation, a forward look with assurance.”* Hope as used in the Bible is more like good, old-fashioned optimism, but an optimism that is based on the solid foundation of God’s promises.

The hope God offers is not wishing on a star or a plaintive longing for something out of reach. The hope a Christian has is a confident anticipation and expectation while we wait for God’s timing in keeping his promises. (Hebrews 6:7-26) Hope based on God’s promises is like a ship’s anchor, holding us firmly and securely in the life God has given us when we accepted Jesus as our God, our Lord, our Savior, our High Priest, our older brother and our friend. Hope keeps us on the way to eternal life. We endure because we have hope.

Back to the original question: What three things would you ask God to grant you? The Apostle Paul said the three greatest of the spiritual gifts that God gives his children are faith, hope and love. (I Corinthians 13:13) These gifts are given to every Christian who has received the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we forget how valuable and how available these gifts are to us.

We, like all of Creation, do groan with pain and longing as we wait and hope “for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” We are reminded to wait patiently and pray because “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” and “intercedes for the saints [that is all Christians] in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:18-27)

Faith and love spring out of hope. They don’t exist apart from each other. (Colossians 1:3-6) Hope gives us courage to face and to endure our difficulties with patience. (II Corinthians 3:12)

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 15:13

*Reference: The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Copyright 2001 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: Where Then is My Hope?
 
Volume 8 Issue 4 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review

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