Hope, the Neglected Believers' Dynamic

by J. W. Jepson

Faith and love are powerful virtues, basic qualities of the Christian life. First Corinthians 13:13 speaks of "faith, hope, love, these three." Paul wrote: "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope" (1 Thess. 1:3).

Faith and love challenge and move people. Volumes have been written about them, and ministers frequently expound on them from the pulpit and in the classroom.

But what about the third member of the big three-hope? Have you read anything or heard any sermons lately on hope? It, too, is an essential dynamic in the life of the believer, and the Bible contains a full development of this mighty truth. Yet for some reason we tend to neglect her. We do not usually see her standing in her proper place alongside her two sisters.

Perhaps the major reason is the deterioration of the word "hope" in the English language. In modern usage hope carries a connotation of uncertainty. When we say, "I hope so," we mean we are not sure. But that idea is the opposite of the meaning of the word in the Bible. The biblical doctrine of hope is the anticipation of the certainty of ultimate triumph in Christ. It is a certainty in itself and therefore in us.

Hope is future; faith is present. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1). Hope is knowing where we are going; faith is what keeps us going; love is the path that leads us there. All three work together. Each needs the other two. And love leads the way, bearing, believing, hoping, enduring all things (see 1 Cor. 13:7).

Hope is keeping the ultimate victory in view. It would be like viewing the film of a game in advance of the game itself, seeing yourself playing with all your heart, and winning. You would go into that game charged up to give it your best because you know you are sure to win.

The big difference, of course, is that the believer's hope is not based on self-effort or on circumstances. These can be disappointing. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick," says Proverbs 13:12. As Christians our hope rests in God alone. "And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee" (Ps. 39:7).

We have been begotten to a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3,21), and this hope is not limited or voided by circumstances. Abraham "against hope believed in hope" (Rom. 4:18).

This hope is detailed for us in the Scriptures. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). It is by the grace of God for He has "given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace" (2 Thess. 2:16).

Now just what is included in hope's broad embrace? First of all, salvation. We are admonished in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 to put on "for a helmet, the hope of salvation." This is the certainty that in Christ we shall stand righteous before Him in that day.

Our hope includes the return of Christ and the resurrection of our bodies. It is true that "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Cor. 15:19); nevertheless, we are "looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).

This hope also includes the redemption of the whole creation from the curse (Rom. 8:18-25). Colin Brown said that hope "feels solidarity with the whole creation." Although hope is invisible, we are saved by (or in) it, and with perseverance we eagerly wait for it (vv. 24,25).

Ours is the hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7). We rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:2). This hope "maketh not ashamed" (v. 5)-that is, it does not disappoint. The great mystery of God is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:26,27).

Because our hope in Christ is steadfast, we have an unshaken hope regarding the church. Paul assured the Corinthian church, which was experiencing internal problems, "Our hope of you is steadfast" (2 Cor. 1:7). And to the Thessalonian believers he declared triumphantly, "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?"

(1 Thess. 2:19). Yes, in spite of everything the Church is going to triumph. Hallelujah!

With this glorious hope dwelling in us, how should we live in this present world? The believer's hope produces patient, steadfast, disciplined, confident living. This is not idle living, however. Rather, the glorious certainties of the Christian hope motivate us to the utmost diligence. They set us in motion, as we read in Hebrews 6:11-20. Our hope gives us boldness in witnessing. Paul declared, "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech" (2 Cor. 3:12). And we are admonished in 1 Peter 3:15 to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you."

A central focus of our hope is the assurance that we shall be conformed to the image of Christ. "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:3).

Hope is an anchor for the soul (Heb. 6:19). Hope keeps us on a steady course. Therefore we must never allow ourselves to be "moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Col. 1:23). Because we are His "house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast" (Heb. 3:6, niv), "let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:23, niv).

The Christian hope is not a private, isolated hope. Each believer in Christ is united with all other believers in its certainties. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling" (Eph. 4:4). No wonder Paul prayed that God would grant to the church "…that ye may know what is the hope of his calling" (Eph. 1:18).

God wants to fill us "with all joy and peace in believing," so that we shall "abound in hope" in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13). Therefore we are to be "rejoicing in hope" (Rom. 12:12).

We who are in Christ are not to sorrow, as those do who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13), though at one time we, too, "were without Christ...having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12).

First published in The Pentecostal Evangel, Jan. 22, 1989 copyright © 1997 by J. W. Jepson.
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