Would you agree the word “hope” has an enormous range of meanings? It can suggest anything from wishful thinking to an expectation that has a great degree of certainty. For example, one might say, “I hope that my friend in India will be able to come and visit me some day”. There is no question of the sincere desire that you might have, but the likelihood that it will happen is extremely small. If you said, on the other hand, “I’m hoping to go to my granddaughter’s graduation next month. I have the plane tickets and the hotel reservations”, the probability that the trip will happen is extremely high, nearly 100 percent. However, in our human experience, there are very few things that are totally certain and sure. There is always a question mark of one size or another.
When the idea of hope, which is an essential virtue of the Christian life, is expressed in the Bible, however, it has a dimension of certainty because it is based on the character and word of God. When one finds hope in Christ, His promises will always become a reality. It was the hope Abraham had in His God that gave him the strength to believe, against all human odds, that God would keep His promises – Romans 4: 18 – 22. It was the hope David had in God which made Him confident in times of weakness and failure. Paul’s hope in the risen Christ energized and empowered him to look beyond his present trials and troubles to the future inheritance that would be his someday. It is the “living hope” found only in Jesus that can do the same things for us today. Without a doubt, it is hope with an exclamation point.
As you think about these Biblical examples, you might be wondering whether it was their faith or their hope that made the difference. What actually is the relationship between hope and faith? In John Piper’s sermon, “What is Hope?” he explains it this way: “Whenever faith in God looks to the future, it can be called hope. And whenever hope rests on the Word of God, it can be called faith.” You may also be asking which one of these comes first – faith or hope? Under certain circumstances it is your faith, your trust in God and His promises, that increases your hopefulness. At other times it your hope, the confident expectation that God will always keep His Word, that builds and strengthens your faith. As Paul explains at the end of his great chapter on love, there are three things that are eternal – faith, hope and love.
As you reflect and focus on the word HOPE in the New Testament through this study, our prayer is that you will allow “the God of hope to fill you with all joy and peace as you trust (have faith) in Him, so that you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” – Romans 15: 13.