Monday, October 22, 2007

No Longer Disappointed By Hope

Some things aren’t the way that they were meant to be. A colossal understatement, no doubt. One such “thing” is the way that promises are meant to go hand in hand with hope. If all were right in the world, then hope would always have certainty in promises that were made. Every promise would be fulfilled. But that’s not the world in which we live. It’s evident all around us that we live in a world of broken promises. Children grow up in a world of broken promises, broken families. Many children and adults also have grown accustomed to having promises broken. Few relationships can escape this pattern of broken promises and disappointment. Sometimes it’s our own failing for not keeping a promise made; sometimes it’s not intentional. None of us are superhuman, after all—none of us could keep every promise we make.

With so many broken promises, there are so many people who have grown accustomed to being disappointed by hope. Hope often becomes a letdown. Sadly many lives have been jaded by hope, rather than lifted up from despair. With so many broken promises, we live in a world that doesn’t know real hope. A world that doesn’t understand what Christian hope is. To those who have all-to-often been disappointed by hope, the word hope becomes equated with “wishful thinking” or “unfulfilled desires” or “pie in the sky.” Just listen to some of the music on rock stations and pop music today, to hear the cynicism about even things like family and love.

But when we turn to the Bible, we learn a whole different theology of hope. When we study God’s words (and this is what theology means), then we find the hope that the Bible speaks of, is of a whole different character than the world knows. If you just searched the Bible for the word “hope,” you would find that it does refer to times when even believers feel like all hope is gone. Psalm 9:18, for example, says, “For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.” There are times when the poor and needy certainly seem to have lost all hope. There are times when we are cast down in our soul, but yet still hope in the promise of God (Psalm 43:5).

But the hope we do find in Scripture is not like the wishful thinking or unfulfilled wishes of the world—no, hope in the Bible is founded on the sure and certain promises of God. Promises that never are broken. The apostle Paul recognizes the sufferings and hardships that we will face in life, and how difficult they are to bear. But he makes the most remarkable claim, that we can actually rejoice in our sufferings! How is that possible? “Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5). Hope does not disappoint us! This is certainly not the fleeting hopes and failing promises of the world that he is talking about! Paul tells us that the reason that we can take courage in our sufferings—the reason that we can rejoice in our sufferings, is because they produce character and hope within us.

But as we’ve already shown, hope is only as good as the one who makes and who keeps the promise. Exactly! Our hope is unshakeable, because our hope is in One who cannot fail in keeping His promises. Hope does still wait for its fulfillment, as we also

who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:23-25).

Christian hope does teach us patience, as we await the fulfillment of the redemption of our bodies, but our hope is not an uncertain, doubting thing. Rather it is a sure and certain hope that trusts in the promises granted to us by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the gift of His Holy Spirit is His “deposit” or guarantee that He will keep His promises (2 Cor. 5:5)! So as we live our lives each new day, in suffering or in health, we can truly say that we are no longer disappointed by hope, for we know the One in whom our promises are fulfilled!