We have two options for where we place our hope: the God who created the world or things in that world. But hope in God is not natural for humans. The hope that we come by easier is hope in earthly things. We hope that our retirement account is enough, our spouse makes us happy, or our job makes us content. In the same way, we hope that the doctor has good news, the plane takes off and lands safely, or that our children grow up to be responsible adults. However, there is a difference between our hope in these earthly things and when we hope in God.
When our hope is in things on earth, we aren’t certain that the outcomes will happen the way that we want. The stock market may fall. A spouse may disappoint you in your marriage. The company you work for may go bankrupt. There is uncertainty with these things because each thing is outside of our control. But hope in God provides a different way to hope with certainty that the outcome is assured.
The common usages of the word hope
In a message about hope, theologian John Piper says there are three ways that humans commonly use the word hope:
- A desire for something good in the future
- The thing in the future that we desire
- The basis or reason for thinking that our desire may indeed be fulfilled
When we say that we hope something good happens, or that we hope that something will happen, or that something is our only hope of a good occurrence, what we are really saying is that we aren’t sure if it will happen or not. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with using the word hope in this way, but biblical hope has a different perspective.
As Piper goes on to say, “… biblical hope is not just a desire for something good in the future, but rather, biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.”
The confidence of hope in God
Hope in God is more than a cross-your-fingers, we’ll-see-what-happens, close-your-eyes-and-wait kind of hope. It is reliable. You can count on it. We see this expressed in God’s word through passages such as Romans 5:1-5 (NIV).
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Our boast is in the hope of the glory of God. How often do you boast in something that you place your hope in on earth? While you might be excited to tell someone about a successful investment, a new relationship that is just beginning, or a new job opportunity, you ultimately aren’t sure about the outcome of any of these things. In the end, you might look foolish. That’s not how it is with God. There is a wholly unique certainty when you hope in God. And the Apostle Paul quite literally says that this “hope does not put us to shame.”
Through God’s love and sacrifice of his son Jesus for our sins, we have full assurance of hope (Hebrews 6:9-12 NASB). And we know that we can hope in God’s unfailing love (Psalm 147:11). If God did not spare his own Son but gave him up as an atonement for our sins, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?
Paul David Tripp shares, in the August 1 passage from his book New Morning Mercies, how hope in God is a hope that is assured.
“When you hope in the Lord, you not only hope in the One who created and controls the universe, but also in the One who is glorious in grace and abounding in love. Now, that’s hope that is well placed and will never disappoint.”
God is a rock-solid foundation for hope that can never be shaken.
How hope and faith are connected
In focusing on Hebrews 6:9-12 and the statement of “full assurance of hope,” Piper makes the connection between hope and faith. He suggests that hope is inextricably linked and necessary for biblical faith.
“Hope is that part of faith that focuses on the future. In biblical terms, when faith is directed to the future, you can call it hope. But faith can focus on the past and the present too, so faith is the larger term.”
We read an almost literal definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) that links faith and hope.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Piper summarizes the idea of this verse by saying that wherever there is full assurance of hope, faith is also there. But faith goes beyond believing in what is unseen. Hebrews 11:3 talks about how faith allows us to understand that God is the creator of the world. So, faith looks both forward and backward. In that sense, faith encompasses hope, but it’s more than hope. When we look to the future with faith, that’s where we have hope. “Hope is faith in the future tense,” says Piper.
A singular hope in Christ
So, what are we placing our hope in when we put our hope in God? For Christians, there is a hope that we will rise from the dead just like Christ did in his resurrection. This identity in Christ changes everything. That’s why we set our hope on the grace to be brought to us when Jesus Christ is revealed when he comes again (1 Peter 1:13). We press on and hold unswervingly to the hope we profess because we know that God is faithful in his promises (Hebrews 10:23).
While we strive for this singular hope every day. It’s easy to lose focus and get distracted by things that pull our hope in other directions. We attach our security, sense of peace, and rest to something every day, says Paul David Tripp. That’s why it’s so critical to examine not how much hope you have but what holds your hope because that will shape the decisions that you make.
Our life is full of disappointments due to misplaced hope. The things that we place our hope in on this earth will inevitably fall short of what we want. But we serve a God whose faithfulness never ends. So, when you feel like giving up — don’t. When you feel like your hope has run out, it hasn’t. And when you are looking for hope in a hopeless place, look to God.