Now, we all have hopes great and small – we buy a lottery ticket and hope to win or we hope our sports team wins the next game. In a more serious vein – we hope a loved one is cured of cancer, hope that we don’t lose a job or hope that a marriage is healed. But here’s the thing, in the definition above the key word is desire – we desire these things but we really have no idea if they will or will not come true. The key distinction that separates Christian hope from the rest of the world is a slightly altered definition; our hope is not merely a desire, Hope is – A confident expectation of or belief in fulfillment. This is an expectation born of knowledge, experience and reason.
One might wonder, “From where does this confidence come?” However, that question misses the mark. The correct question is, “From whom do we get this confidence?”
As Christians, we recognize that the One who fulfills these promises is Jesus Christ. Without Him, we simply would not experience the trust we have in God to answer our prayers, redeem our pain and restore our broken lives. For the above to be true, we must know that Jesus is real. We know He’s real because He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Jesus’ life is a historical fact and He is either who He said He was – or He isn’t. Logic, reason and evidence establishes that He is indeed the Son of God, the Risen Christ (see more – Truth). It is in Him that we Hope.
In fact, hope as given to us by Christ is one of His greatest gifts and is unique among the world’s great religions.The power and promise of God to heal and redeem us through Christ exists in no other spiritual realm. Buddhism is an atheistic religion that only offers some vague promise of nirvana after one extinguishes all desire. It is a contradictory philosophy with no ultimate salvation – to desire nirvana is to extinguish it at the same time. Hinduism provides no remedy or hope for salvation either – one must endure suffering with no promise of salvation because it is their karma – all suffering is deserved. This is contrary to the Christian promise of God’s grace – which He gives freely to all who seek Him (2 Peter 3:9). Islam provides no hope or salvation because everything is determined merely by the arbitrary will of Allah. According to Islamic tenets the only clear path to heaven is through the nihilism of martyrdom – certainly not an approach that leads to hopeful living. Can science or naturalism or atheism provide such hope? Certainly not! A promise cannot be fulfilled by an ideology, a scientific law, a myth or a lie – ultimately, a promise can only be fulfilled by a person – and in this case, that person is Jesus Christ.
Another key part our definition of Christian Hope from above is the last word of our definition – fulfillment. We must recognize that fulfillment does not mean that God grants us our every wish – we probably won’t win the lottery and might not win that crucial game, be healed, saved from hardship or restored in the manner we expect. Because we trust in Him, we allow that God may have other plans for our earthly life and on this side of Heaven we may never see those things that occupy our most fervent hopes, dreams and thoughts. We accept the fact that our ultimate suffering and fear may not be redeemed until we are in Heaven with Jesus and God. In fact, we must sometimes suffer for the Glory of God (John 9:3)
Now, I realize that it may seem to be small comfort to the one who is in the midst of a great trial and indeed, it can seem almost selfish and self-serving to even think that God is using our suffering to somehow shower Himself with glory. And in purely human terms, you would be exactly right. But God is not human, not mere man. God is God and suffering for His glory may seem selfish until you view it in this light: In Heaven, God’s glory will shine brightest on those who glorify Him most, and that reflection will bathe the suffering with such perfect glory and light that all of Heaven will celebrate! As such – our hopes will be perfectly fulfilled by God through Christ in Heaven. Every tortured cell of suffering we have endured in our humanity on earth will be healed, redeemed and restored with Them in heaven. For the believer – all worldly suffering, regret and pain will disappear in an instant as they are vanquished by our redemption in Christ. I am convinced that the only evidence of our scars will be the shine from the glory heaped upon us by God in His Kingdom.
Christian hope brings to life a key passage in the bible that tells us to live with joy in the midst of our trials (James 1:2). That hope is vital to living with joy at all times in our life. Yes, God answers prayer and sometimes brings to fruition our most fervent hopes, whether through miracles or other means. Other times we must wait – confident of the redemption that is our destiny.
Christian hope – Jesus is the means, God brings the fulfillment. Together – we receive their joy!
(Hope keeps me going every day – no matter what my challenges may be. And as I’ve documented in my book, Angels in the Fire – I’ve had plenty. If you are facing hard times – if you need assurance that God still ministers through His angels today – it is my prayer that Angels in the Fire provides the hope and encouragement you need.)