Hope is a psychological need. You need it, I need it, everybody needs hope in order to stay sane.
When someone has no hope at all, they are faced with a few options. They either try to escape the reality of their situation, or they look for somewhere to place their hope.
For the first group of people all sorts of escape routes are on offer. Drugs, denial, sex, overworking and suicide are all methods of escape but none of these are actual solutions to hopelessness. In fact most things people use as a form of escape from trouble lead to even more trouble!
The second group of people are those who seek something to look forward to. A wedding date, Christmas, recovering from an illness, having children, a birthday, children starting school, promotion at work, the children leaving home, retirement, having grandchildren are all examples of things people focus on in the future to give them hope. And lots of people achieve these things. But so many of these lucky ones who get what they hope for are still worried, anxious, or just left feeling empty.
But not everyone is so lucky. Some of us don’t even get what we hoped for! But actually, at a basic level of survival, false hope is still hope. Sometimes I’ve hoped for something that has not come true. Long term that can lead to big disappointments but short term at least it was something to look forward to! It kept me focused and motivated for a time.
But we need a better hope than that. False hope is just not enough!
Thousands of years ago, King Solomon recognised this. He said
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Now if you’ve been in church for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard that Christians mean something different when they use the word hope. It certainly seems that where the word appears in the New Testament it means something more than a shallow, simple wishing for something that may or may not happen.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13 Paul sets hope up alongside faith and love. Although love is the greatest, faith, hope and love are eternal!
In contrast, when the New Testament was written, the secular ancient world did not regard hope as a virtue at all. In fact they saw it as a temporary illusion.
Imagine that! Think of something you are hoping for right now. Now tell yourself it’s a temporary illusion! So the ‘pagans’ Paul encountered were seen to have no hope:
Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
The same is true today.
You might not call yourself a pagan but if you are without God, you are without hope!
You might be concerned about who will be your nation’s next leader. And if you are without God you are without hope.
You might be concerned about wars or rumours of wars. And if you are without God you are without hope.
Some people live in fear of terrorists or tornadoes. And without God these people have no hope.
But with God there is always hope. Look at that verse again. Christian, you are not ‘separate from Christ’! You are ‘in Christ’ and Christ is in you! You have an amazing hope. Now look at this verse:
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
See the difference between the person who has Christ in them and the person who is separate from Christ?
The difference is hope.
And this hope is so unlike any hope the world has to offer, it almost requires a separate word.
We’re so used to the ‘normal’, world’s understanding of ‘hope’ that the word does not do justice to the hope we have in Christ.
In fact the hope we have goes far beyond the limits of time and space, life and the grave.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13
That’s why the last few Christian funerals I’ve been to have been celebrations. Not just celebrating the life that was and the memories that remain, but celebrating the life that still is and resurrection to come!
If you want that hope, here’s what you need to do:
1. Give your life to Jesus.
If you’ve not given your life to Jesus, do that now. Say this simple but powerful prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for dying on the cross so that I could be forgiven for all the wrong things I have done and be set free. Please come into my life and make me new. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer for the first time, tell someone and find a Bible-based church where you can grow in your faith!
2. Daily put your trust in him.
I do this by praying and reading the bible as well as other uplifting books, podcasts, etc.
May I repeat the word, daily? I will anyway. Daily.
Jesus taught his disciples to ask for daily bread. If you only eat every other day or twice a week you will not be as strong as someone on a daily healthy diet. You will start looking elsewhere for sustenance and snacking on rubbish.
It’s the same with spiritual things.
At time of writing, I’m working on reading and memorising Psalm 91.
I’m doing this by personalising it. I’m not changing what the Bible says, just re-wording it so it easily applies to me:
Find somewhere safe to read it out aloud every day. Start to put your hope in him!
Psalm 91 personalised
I live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all.
God is my refuge and a fortress around me. I am trusting in him.
He will save me from every trap and from any disease.
He covers me with his wings and I find safety. His faithfulness is my shield creating a barricade around me.
I will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.
I will not fear any deadly disease that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys in the daytime.
A thousand may fall at my side, ten thousand at my right hand, but evil will not come near me.
I will see how the wicked are punished but will not share it.
Because I have said, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and have made God Most High my dwelling, no harm will overtake me; no disaster will come near my house.
He orders his angels to protect me wherever I go. They will steady me with their hands to keep me from stumbling against the rocks on the trail. I can safely meet a lion or step on poisonous snakes and even trample them beneath my feet!
The Lord says, “Because he loves me, I will rescue him, I will make him great because he trusts in my name. When he calls on me, I will answer; I will be with him in trouble and rescue him and honour him. I will satisfy him with a long and fulfilled life and show him my salvation.”
So what about you? Where do you find your hope? What do you do to remind yourself of the hope you have? Feel free to comment below.