When we look at hope, we need to first of all realize that there are two aspects to hope as it is both a gift and a command. The first aspect has to do with the reality of what God has done for us and in us. It is centered in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and is tied in with His promise that He will come again and take us to the place He has prepared for us.
HOPE IS A GIFT
We see clearly that hope is a gift when we read:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and GIVEN us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace. . . (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
Paul put it this way: God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) This hope is in us; we didn’t do anything to get it there other than to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
To Timothy, Paul said that Christ Jesus actually IS our hope (1 Timothy 1:1). And he told Titus that our hope of eternal life is because “God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2). That’s why Christians are
“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good words“ (Titus 2:13-14).
He told the Thessalonians that he was excited about and looking forward to the realization of his hope that they would be with him when Jesus returned.
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
Our hope in Christ is because “the kindness and the love of God our Savior” has “justified (us) by His grace (so that) “we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4, 7).
The gift of hope gives us assurance (Hebrews 6:11) and is, in fact, an anchor for us.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19).
This gift of hope that is inextricably linked to the resurrection of Jesus was given to us when we were born again.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).
Because hope is linked so inextricably to the resurrection of Jesus and His promise of eternity, that is why Paul could say that there is only “one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:3). When we’re born again, we all have the same calling which is to live for Him, die in Him and spend eternity with Him.
HOPE IS A COMMAND
The second aspect of hope is that hope is a command.
In Romans 12:9-21 we’re given a whole list of commands such as don’t let your love be hypocritical, be kind, work hard, be patient and hospitable, etc. In the middle of these admonitions it says that we’re to be “rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:12).
Peter, the apostle who, at one time lost all hope and denied his Lord, had quite a bit to say about hope. Consider these passages:
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and REST YOUR HOPE fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).
Notice here that he doesn’t just tell us to have hope but that we’re to rest our hope and how we do that is by resting our hope on the grace of God and what He’s done for us. To fulfill this command we have to center ourselves on Jesus. Peter explained this further when he talked a few verses further down about how God “raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, SO THAT your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21).
But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8). This is important. We’re to put on the hope of salvation as a helmet to protect our mind.
We are also commanded to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Notice here that Peter doesn’t say we’re supposed to be able to defend our doctrine or our particular denomination. When people attack those things, we might as well let them slide because those things aren’t where our hope is – at least it better not be! What we’re to defend is why we have hope in a world gone mad and without hope. Our hope is all tied up in the resurrection of Jesus and His promises to us.
John explains our hope a little differently and gives us a reason to hang onto our hope. Listen to this:
Everyone who has this hope in Him (Jesus) purifies himself just as He is pure (1 John 3:3). Wow! That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Our lives literally clean up as we focus on Him! Talk about a reason to have hope!
CHARACTERISTICS OF HOPE
Of course it’s only as God gives us hope that He is able to then command us to hope. Why would God give us hope as a gift and also command us to have hope? To answer this question, we need to look at some characteristics of hope.
Ephesians 2:12 makes us face the reality that before we became a Christian we had no hope and were without God in the world.
Then there is this wonderful promise:
Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who HOPE in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine (Psalm 33:18-19).
Then we find this interesting passage:
We were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance (Romans 8:24-25). That sounds a lot like Hebrews 11:1 doesn’t it?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
HOPE IS LINKED TO FAITH
Faith in what? In eternity with God. That God won’t abandon us even for a minute. That God cares.
That “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the mountains be removed”(Psalm 46:1-2).
“That we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
“That He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).
We see in these verses that our faith (and therefore our hope) is anchored in eternity but it is also for the here and now. The Hebrews 11:1 scripture lets us know that faith is a tangible substance. It’s for here and now. After all, faith won’t be needed in heaven because everything in heaven will be sight.
I once read the story about an apartment building that was built overlooking Lake Ontario somewhere in the Toronto, Canada area. After the shell of the building was built a problem arose between the builder and the local government so construction was stopped. People’s initial reaction to the unfinished building and the dispute was, “Oh, they’ll finish it eventually. It can’t just stand there unfinished forever.” But, as years went by, because neither the builders nor the politicians would budge, the reaction to the building traveled a downward path. It became an oddity, then a joke, then an eyesore. Eventually the builders lost hope and the whole project was abandoned and the building was bulldozed. It began with promise but didn’t come to reality, to completion. It’s the same way with Christian faith. Without hope, which is our confidence in God and what He says, our faith collapses just as surely as that building did. Hope does away with frustration and gives birth to patience and perseverance.
That’s why 1 Corinthians 13:13 puts hope in between faith and love.
"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Faith gets us into Christ. Love is what will be fulfilled in eternity. Hope is what links the beginning from the end. That’s how Paul was able to say that his hope for the Corinthians was steadfast (2 Corinthians 1:7) “because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.”
Suffering. That’s a subject that we don’t like to talk about, much less experience. Sometimes, the Bible calls suffering tribulation. So read now one of my personal, most-used passages.
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:1-5).
We start here with faith which gives us peace with God because of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of Him we can stand and rejoice. Rejoice in what? In hope! Hope in the glory of God – that’s our eternal salvation. But wait! There’s more! Because of His work plus our faith and hope, we can actually glory in our trouble, in our tribulation! Say what?! How can we do that? Paul explains. There is a progression that happens automatically. When we have trouble; when we’re “tribulating,” we learn perseverance. We gotta have perseverance to get through the tribulation. When we face our troubles with perseverance, the result is character. Good character. Godly character. Haven't you noticed that people who have godly character have had their share of troubles? But they’ve triumphed over the troubles and they are the most hope-filled people on the planet. And this passage tells us that the resulting hope DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. Why? How is that possible? Because the love of God was poured out in their hearts and that is what you see. That’s what you feel when you’re around them. This alone is worth hoping for.
When I discovered these verses, I’d just come through some really hard, difficult times. It was a time when I actually lost hope for anything better in this life. I was still looking toward heaven but I had no hope whatsoever that my life circumstances would ever change. And they looked pretty bleak. I describe that time as hanging onto God by my fingernails – and I had short fingernails. But then there came an even darker time when I knew that I was still standing in faith only because He was hanging onto me. When things began to look up a little, hope began to return. Then I “found” these verses. When I realized what they said, I prayed, “God, next time I begin tribulatin’, would You please remind me of Romans 5 so I can grab ahold of the hope?” I knew instinctively that hope is like the passing gear on a car. Let’s say you’re driving along in your car and everything is just fine. Then something happens and you realize you need to speed up quickly. You stomp on the gas and your car goes into “passing gear.” What it actually does is, it drops into a lower gear which produces a greater torque on the engine and you get a burst of speed. That’s what hope does. Hope is that “lower gear” of faith that enables us to finish the race. To get through the tribulation and come out with character and a testimony.
This is why Paul encouraged us when he wrote, “he who plows should plow in hope; (in passing gear), and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope” (1 Corinthians 9:10).
This is also why David’s spirit gave his soul a talking to when he was discouraged.
"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? HOPE in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance (Psalm 42:5). David repeated this same thing in Psalm 42:11 and 43:5. In other words, as we go through life, we will probably have to “talk to” ourselves more than once to keep our hope alive and our spirits up.
Jeremiah spoke in a similar way when he was weeping an lamenting.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul. “Therefore I hope in Him!” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should HOPE and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord (Lamentations 3:24-26),
This is why we want to study and learn scripture. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).
Paul told the Corinthians that because he had such hope, he was able to be bold of speech (2 Corinthians 3:12). That’s how he was able to always have an answer to give to anyone who asked him what he was doing and what he was all about.
RESULTS OF HOPE
To the Romans, Paul said he was “judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers“ (Acts 16:6) and that it was because of the hope of Israel that he was bound with a chain (Acts 28:20). But a little later on he reiterated the story of Abraham “who contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken.” He talked some more about Abraham, then concluded that what had been written about Abraham was not just for his benefit, “but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:17-25). But let’s not stop reading there. Let’s go on and see what he said next because it’s rather exciting.
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and REJOICE IN HOPE OF THE GLORY OF GOD” (Romans 5:1-2).
The HOPE of the righteous will be gladness, but the expectation (hope) of the wicked will perish (Proverbs 11:28).
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). When the desire or what we’re hoping for comes to pass, we no longer need to hope but until then, we can get heart-sick. That’s why hope is not only a gift, it is a command. Sometimes, we must encourage ourselves in the Lord as David did when he talked to his soul and told it to hope in the Lord. We must continually focus on the resurrected and soon-coming King to keep the hope that God has given us alive. God Himself said:
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose HOPE is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor cease from yielding fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8),
PRAYERS OF BLESSING
"That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you MAY KNOW WHAT IS THE HOPE OF HIS CALLING, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come" (Ephesians 1:17-21).
You see that in this prayer of blessing Paul ties up everything we’ve talked about in this lesson. So now we conclude by praying this prayer:
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).