What do you know about hope? Hope is a word that is likely as tossed around as much as any word in the dictionary. So what does it mean to have hope and why is it important? How do we toss this word around?
I hope we have a nice day outside today so we can get out and enjoy it.
I hope I don’t get the Coronavirus.
I hope my kids grow up to make something of their lives.
I hope I live to a ripe old age.
I hope there aren’t too many people at Costco.
And on it goes…
In fact, nobody can live consistently without hope, for that individual realizes how absurd life is and they end it for themselves.
But what power does our hope hold in any of that? Especially if God doesn’t exist, isn’t all of this just a matter of dumb luck? Yikes, what a worldview! A worldview where everything around you was just luck! Incredible to try to consistently live that way. In fact, to be a committed atheist, someone who posits God doesn’t exist, hope is meaningless. It’s absurd. There is no hope in anything. Now fortunately many people who hold this worldview, and philosophers like Russell, Sartre, and Nietzsche were a few; can’t live consistently within this worldview. In fact, nobody can live consistently without hope, for that individual realizes how absurd life is and they end it for themselves. Suicide is their only option. So what is an unbeliever’s hope anchored to? Perhaps you could tell me what is more ridiculous, an atheist believing in hope that has no anchor, or a Christian whose hope is actually anchored in a historical figure who was for His followers the ultimate source of hope? Which takes more faith? Which seems more reasonable?
Hope for an atheist reminds me a lot of how popular it is today to “send good thoughts” or “energy” in times of trouble, instead of prayers. So many times I hear people say “you are in my thoughts” or “I am sending good (or positive energy) thoughts your way”, or “thank you for the nice thoughts” (which in some ways I’m not sure how a committed naturalist/atheist could really think their thoughts matter for anything, for their thoughts would be, by definition non-material right?). I’m pretty sure I’m as human as the next person and I know my thoughts haven’t effected change in anybody’s life. They are powerless from that standpoint. So what’s the point, to save face, to say something nice, be pastoral? Is it really more absurd to believe there is potentially a higher power than yourself that can effect change in a person’s life, or help people in time of trouble, a being who can provide comfort and hope?
I’ve heard more than once from unbelievers that religious people (whatever that means) need to believe in something to have hope. Well yes, I think that is most definitely the case!!! If you don’t believe in anything greater than yourself, what value does hope have? It’s just a temporal comfort as you go through a world where your life is ultimately insignificant and ends at the grave. All your efforts, your love, your compassion, all the positive things you’ve done in life, matter for nothing. And it gets worse, because if there is no God then all of the “bad” people really aren’t bad. The serial killer, rapist, and dictator are just acting socially unfashionable, only bad within the subjective lens of that particular society. So all of their acts, while maybe getting punished in this life, really have no bearing ultimately if hope isn’t rooted in a God that exists. What else does that mean? It means that on par, without hope rooted in a source like God, your life was just as morally absurd and without warrant as theirs! Incredible to think of, unless hope truly has ultimate relevancy and is truly meaningful.
Hope is very peculiar to our species
Hope seems to be peculiar to our species of humanity. What is it we are truly hoping for and what is it anchored in? Let’s be clear, hope anchored in anything but God is meaningless, for if God doesn’t exist, there is no hope. You can reference the Dawkins quote from my previous sections here if you’d like. Hope is not a kite in the wind, and it’s not something ethereal that we cannot grasp. It is rooted in truth, but only if a person cares to look. If you wish to continue in ignorance then hope will always be a comforting word, yet completely void of any meaning or power. Sure, you may still go on using the word hope, but you might as well just switch to the even more popular “it is what it is” (what a profound saying!). A life without hope is true apathy.
Now many people and people of faiths, not just Christians, are believers of hope. What the Christian can take comfort in is that the hope we rest in is based on somebody who actually walked on our planet, and not just an idea or genie in a bottle. This hope is anchored in the person Jesus of Nazareth, or as the rest of the world would come to know Him, Jesus the Christ. Let’s take a look at a few passages in the Bible that provide a believer firm ground for anchoring hope in Jesus.
In Romans 8:24-25 Paul writes “(F)or 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.” (KJV) In this passage Paul is speaking about hope because Chris had already came, proclaimed his salvation mystery to humanity, suffered and died on the cross, and then rose again. Christ wasn’t physically walking around on Earth when Paul wrote this, but the evidence of his being the ultimate source of hope gave Paul confidence in this specific teaching.
1 Pet 1:3 says “(B)lessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (KJV)
This verse makes it very clear that prior to Jesus, there was no hope. In fact hope is not even mentioned in the Gospels except once by Jesus in Luke, when instructing the meaning of the beatitudes. There was no hope while Jesus was here because He was here! Now His death and resurrection is what makes the whole rest of the New Testament full of hope, because He promised the penalty of ours sin would be taken away, He would return for the final judgment at the end of human history, and that believers in Him would enjoy an everlasting fellowship with God. Before this occurred there was ongoing anticipation of a Messiah, a definite hope, but many Jews would misinterpret this hope in a worldly sense as the coming of the installment of the old Davidic Kingdom, not a Messiah who would suffer and die for the sins of the world. Jesus’ death and resurrection mean all of your iniquities, all of your sins, past, present, and future, no longer carried the condemnation of spiritual death, despite you being guilty of them. The sentence has been paid on the cross by Jesus. So yes, hope is very real, hope in Jesus IS the only crutch for believers to lean on, hope anchored in Jesus is the only true hope that has any ultimate meaning.
Paul goes on to say in Colossians 1:26-27, “(E)ven the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”. (KJV)
In the opening line of the first letter to his co-worker Timothy, Paul states he is “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Savior, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;”. (1 Tim 1:1(KJV))
Hebrews 5:18-19 “(T)hat by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;”. (KJV)
So our hope is clearly in Christ, as an anchor of the soul and the letter to Titus reminds us what that hope is for. Titus 1:2 “(I)n hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” And later in chapter 3:7 “(T)hat being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (KJV) This passage is incredible. It means that before time as we know it began, God promised to deliver to His creation hope, and not a hope for a sunny day, but hope for eternal life!
So what does this all mean? What it means for everyone, not just the Christian, is the only true hope out there resides in the salvific work of Jesus Christ. Hope is not rooted in man, an idea, a philosophy, but the Savior of the World. So what does that mean for the person who is not a Christian? After all, these passages from scripture probably carry little weight because one would argue they were written long ago and are not relevant (sheesh, think about the things I write now. I wonder if I won’t be relevant years from now because I’m old!). Many people believe the Bible to be nothing more than an archaic book of stories. Okay, so let’s put the Bible aside for a moment; it seems the skeptic would really have to take a hard look at their life and figure out what their hope is ultimately grounded in? Like we said before, if they make claims that God does not exist, then there really is no hope, not eternally anyway, so what good is hope temporally if it only matters relevantly; gaining another day? And perhaps even more importantly, how can one live a consistent worldview with hope that isn’t anchored in God?
People have to live with hope or they wouldn’t keep living.
That’s a tough hurdle to overcome when faced honestly. Does that mean an atheist or agnostic can’t have hope? Absolutely not! For as we’ve previously stated many do and live lives with hope every day, helping their fellow man and working for a better tomorrow. But if there is no God and all ends in the grave, then what’s the point? People do really NEED hope or they wouldn’t keep living. So wouldn’t it make sense to really pin down what it is you anchor your hope in? What do you teach your kids about hope? Do you make up a bedtime story or does your story have deep theological roots?
Hope is just one reason why the Christian worldview makes sense to so many people; because of the reasonableness of it. The Christian doesn’t have hope to hedge a bet to gain eternal life. The eternal life part is just a bonus for having hope. After all, even the unbeliever inherits eternal life (although some may not call it life), it just looks quite a bit different than the believer. The Christian has hope because they know when they die they will be in communion with their Creator because they have accepted His gift of salvation through Jesus. They have hope in what Christ did because life can’t make sense to them to hope in something that doesn’t have ultimate relevancy, something that hasn’t answered mankind’s moral condition, something that hasn’t designed this world so perfectly for us to even sit and ponder this thought.
Remind yourself that if you were immortal there would be no reason for hope.
It is my prayer that if you are reading this you are discerning in your life what hope means to you. Is it just relevant to your brief time here on Earth? Then what’s the point? What is your hope anchored in? What are you striving for? Remind yourself that if you were immortal there would be no reason for hope. You will pass from this Earth some day and that is the only reason hope is relevant, for there has to be meaning behind your existence. I pray that you will open your heart to at least hear about what Jesus has said and done for you. It is my prayer that you can rest in hope that is anchored to the soul.