Main Text: 1 Peter 1:1-12
Hope is an essential ingredient of living for human beings. What is hope and why is it so important?
The dictionary defines hope in the context of a noun and a verb. As a noun, it is defined as, ‘a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen’. As a verb, it is defined as, wanting something to happen’.
In general, hope is a feeling based on the probability that something may or may not happen. We feel a certain way in the expectation that something may happen. In the game of football, fans of both teams hope that their team would win a match or competition. These fans base their hope on the current form of the team, past meetings between both teams and other factors which they feel would give them the victory.
A gambler hopes to win each time he bets his money. He knows that there is a high risk of losing but he hopes that he would be lucky. When he wins, he hopes he would win a lot more by betting his wins until such a time when he runs out of money.
Those who are ill go to the hospital in the hope that they would find a cure for their illness. They meet doctors who hope that their patients would be cured when they prescribe a course of treatment which they believe should provide healing to their patients.
There are two elements of hope. The feeling and the expectation. Feelings are vague and temporal. They change when factors affecting something hoped for, changes. The Psalmist confirms this in Chapter 13:12, ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when a desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life’.
The object of expectation is also another aspect that is temporary and vague. We hope for things which may or may not happen.
Importance of Hope
If the integral elements of hope is vague and cannot be relied upon, why is hope so important?
Hope is a very important element of human existence because it is one of the factors that drive people towards their goals.
As long as the hope of something is present, people tend to act with a sense of purpose towards that goal. If any of the perceived factors necessary for the attainment of that goal changes form, then hope begins to waver and ultimately leads to a loss of hope.
Hope and Optimism
Hope is different from optimism. While hope is the desire or expectation that something may happen, optimism is a feeling that something will happen in spite of all indications that it may not. Optimism says everything will be alright in spite of the reality around.
Hope accepts the reality and the failings of the human heart and goes head to head with doubt and fear because of the capacity of the human heart that simply refuses to give up.
Hope and Faith
Often, hope and faith are used interchangeably but they are actually different. I have learnt that it is possible to have hope and not have faith and vice versa. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
What is this substance? It is the essential part that brings into reality what we are ‘hoping’ for. The essential part is our belief in God based on His promise. Hope is what activates faith. Having one without the other makes for miserable living.
Why Do People Lose Hope ?
People lose hope for various reasons. The disciples lost hope in Jesus because what they perceived was going to happen, did not happen. They had seen the miracles, signs and wonders. They had watched Him put to shame the debates of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes.
The icing on the cake was when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. They looked at the people hailing Jesus and crying ‘Hosanna in the Highest, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9)
All they were waiting for, hoping for, was the sign to commence a revolution against Rome and the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel. How they must have been ecstatic, imagining what role they would play in the new Kingdom!
Not long afterwards, their hopes were dashed. There was not going to be a new Kingdom after all. Jesus had been crucified. They did not even stay around long enough to watch Him die. They lost hope; they despaired and no longer looked ahead to a certain future. They did not understand that Jesus was not talking about a temporal Kingdom, His kingdom was not of this earth, it was not a temporary one. It is an eternal kingdom!
People lose hope for different reasons. Loss of a loved one, loss of job, things not working out as expected, sudden change in one’s circumstances.
What People Do When They Lose Hope
When people lose hope they become carless about living. Some become callous and uncaring. Others see nothing good about living. In extreme cases, loss of hope leads to depression and when not tackled, often leads to suicide.
Why is Hope Important for a Christian?
Before we consider why a Christian should have hope, we need to consider the difference between the dictionary meaning of hope and Biblical hope.
Like natural Hope, biblical hope starts with a desire based on an expectation. That expectation however, is based not on earthly ephemeral reasons but on the sure promises of God as written in His word.
Romans 15:4 - For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
Ephesians 2:12 - 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.
Natural hope is based on any desire, which could be constructive or destructive. Biblical hope on the other hand is positive and in addition, has the approval of God, giving us the drive to be fruitful and productive.
Natural hope rises and falls based on changing circumstances. One minute, we are full of hope, joyful and happy, the next minute the situation reverses and we lose hope and despair.
Life without Christ is transient hope at best. It is a life that is bedevilled changing fortunes. Full of hope today and dashed hope tomorrow. Hope built on natural desire is like building a house on sandy foundation.
The Gospel Brings Endless Hope
Before the birth of Jesus, the world was in a state of hopelessness. Kingdoms rose and fell, people lived and died. Israel as a nation had lost its glory because of its disobedience to God and was at the time of Jesus’s birth under the domination of Rome. How is one supposed to have hope in such circumstance?
When Jesus came into the picture, hope was rekindled in the hearts of the people who believed in Him. They knew that this was not the transient hope they have been used to. This was the real thing. That was why the disciples were not afraid to die. Paul said, ‘For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain ( Phillipians 1:21)
In 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, Paul while writing about the importance of love, expressed in conclusion, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love…” (1 Cor 13:13)
We were once sinners, hoping in things that we were not sure of. We hoped that we would get that job, get that promotion, make enough money to pay our bills, get treatment for that nagging pain, raise our children right…the list goes on and on. As we hope, nagging doubts assail us as we remember past hopes dashed. Somehow we decide to put the past behind us and dare to hope again until the next time our hope is dashed.
When Jesus came into our lives. Hope took on a new meaning. Our future has been secured in Christ! We no longer had doubts about the future because we realize that we can stand upon God’s promises.
As we grow more in the Lord, we begin to realize that there are other benefits of being His child. We can trust Him for healing because we know He has promised to heal us. Hope when stirred, creates faith and faith when activated enables us to do things we never thought we could. As our faith increases, Hope is kept alive and continues to live in us. In other words, we have endless hope!
I am always amazed when I read Psalm 138:2 “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (All of his attributes)
Biblical hope is secure and steady. God’s word is an anchor for the soul. It has given hope to man for thousands of years and still gives hope today.
Steve Popoola is the editor of Biblepraise Newsletter and the founder of the Biblepraise Fellowship Online at http://www.biblepraise.org. He lives in Kent, United Kingdom, where he works as an IT Professional. He currently serves as a Worship Leader as well as Home Group Leader in his local church and on occasion, speaks at invited events. He can be reached through His email address, firstname.lastname@example.org