Have you ever said, “I hope so?” And if so, what did you mean?
Typically, the word hope carries the connotation of wishing, desiring or expecting, without any degree of certainty of obtaining that which is hoped for.
The ancient world was rather hopeless. For example, the Romans with all of the grandeur of their empire and multitude of gods and household spirits, had no hope for the future.
Common epitaphs on gravestones were, “My child — gone forever,” “Always lost” and “Lost forever.” One common inscription was, “I was not, I became, I am not, I care not.”
Christians, sometimes losing their lives through persecution for their faith, were buried discreetly in the catacombs under the great city of Rome. Among the epitaphs found in their burial sites are, “Weep not, my child; death is not eternal,” “Thou livest in the glory of God, and in the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” “Thou livest in the Lord Jesus,” and “Agape, thou shalt live forever.”
One writer, observing the early church, was impressed with this positive optimism and wrote, “If any righteous person of their number passes away from the world, they rejoice and give thanks to God; and when a child is born to any one of them, they praise God; and again if it chances to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins.”
This stark contrast found in the ancient world should come as no surprise. In the Bible, both the Hebrew and Greek words translated “hope” imply certainty and confident expectation. Hope, in New Testament teaching, stresses the invisible and the future, dealing with things that can’t be seen or that haven’t yet been received. This keeps the Christian moving forward, knowing that this life is really about getting ready for the next one.
Hope is powerful. Its absence results in despair. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick …” On the positive side, hope is listed as one of the three enduring virtues (along with love and faith) in 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Colossians 1:27 says that belief in Christ is “the hope of glory.” And 1 Thessalonians 4:13 explains that hope has huge implications for those going through grief. It is the difference between saying “Goodbye” or “See you later.”
“Faith in the eternal God offers a hope that despair cannot diminish. Hope brings an optimism that pessimism can’t eclipse. It builds a confidence that adversities cannot weaken. It instils a pleasure that pain cannot destroy; hope in the eternal God.” — Virgil Hurley
Do you believe in and accept the biblical approach to the powerful virtue of hope?
I hope so!
Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.