What Does Hope
One problem with reading the Bible is the fact that there is a large span of time between the moment it was written and time you read it.
Even the newest parts of the Bible are still a couple thousand years old. It was written at a different place, in a different culture and at a different time, so we shouldn’t be surprised when the words change a bit.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not questioning inspiration or suggesting the words are unreliable. All I’m saying is that words do take on varying shades of meaning over time. They don’t change entirely, but enough to need qualifying. Without qualification, you get the wrong message.
Not to worry. We know the ancient languages and the meanings of the words as they were used in the past. We also understand these words as they were used over time. We’re not in the dark, but to understand the difference we need to study the process. We call that study etymology. It’s a science.
The word Hope is a good example.
Bible writers used the word Hope often, but not always in the way we use it today. When they said the word Hope, they were sometimes referring to certainties. Not vagaries. Not maybes, but absolutes. When we use it today, we’re not so sure.
We hope our favorite team wins the championship or our investments accrue maximum growth or our holidays are blessed with perfect weather.
Each of these hopes is possible but none is guaranteed. Hope in this sense is more like a wish. A solid wish, but a wish nonetheless.
All the fans at a championship match are certain their team will win. Certain! They know it. They say it. They dress the part and act in ways that demonstrate their belief. But in spite of their confidence, the hopes of half are dashed.
That’s not hope. Not in the Bible sense.
Bible Hope means something quite different. It is more like expectation or anticipation. In fact, Expectation is how it is defined but in this case it is more than just “I really want this to happen!” expectation. This hope is more reliable than the weather. Unrealistic dreaming has no part.
Some of the things Believers hope for, like heaven, are certain because it is based on God’s promise. Getting to heaven isn’t one of several possibilities, most of which are bad. It is the expectation.
My hope of heaven is not the same as my hope for good weather on my day off. Heaven is a guarantee. Good weather is a wish.
The reason we call it a Hope is we haven’t been there yet.
Time Or Eternity
Regardless what you mean when you use the word Hope, though, it is never focused on the past. It’s always looking to the future, toward things that haven’t happened yet. If it’s already happened, you need hope no longer.
That practical observation isn’t always followed. Some people mistakenly waste time hoping (wishing) that past events were different, but that is obviously illogical. Fortunately, most people naturally understand that the past will not and cannot be changed and find a way to get over it and move forward. Those that don’t become delusional.
But, I digress.
All of that is to say hope is always aimed at the future, but this truth raises another important question. Which future?
Are we talking about the immediate future. The one we live in from day to day. The one that is measured by time. Or are we talking about the future that exceeds time. The one we call eternity.
The Bible addresses both but places more emphasis on one, eternity. In fact, the use of the word Hope is almost entirely tied to eternity. Not time. Not now. Not this life but the next!
Several verses illustrate this but Paul included both in one statement.
If in this life ONLY we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 1 Corinthians 15:19
Paul included temporal and eternal hope in that one verse, but obviously eternal hope is more important. Without the eternal, the temporal makes little difference.
Hope In This Life
But, hope in this life is important. We shouldn’t dismiss it. Also, there is a difference between hope in this life and the hope for the next. My eternal destiny is sealed primarily because it doesn’t depend on me. If it did, I would be hopeless.
Hoping for eternal life on my own merit is more useless than hoping to fly to the moon and back on my own power; no spacesuit, capsule, jet fuel, mission control or food packs. Hopeless!!
But the Hopes I entertain in this life do depend on me, at least to some degree. They are not guaranteed even when I do my part. We hope for the best, make an effort to achieve it but accept what comes.
When we maintain hope, we plan our lives, try to achieve the goals and learn from the experience. It’s a part of the learning process. In fact, based on what we learn, we make adjustments to plan and work better in the future.
The Most Important Attitude
Of the two Hopes, eternal and temporal, eternal is the most important. Without it there is little motivation to do anything other that be self absorbed.
But the certainty we have of eternal life, gives great meaning to hope in this life.
The things we hope for now can change the way we live in the present – making things better of course – and effect the next life. How great is that! Of all the attitudes you can maintain, Hopeful is right up there with the most important. Paul certainly thought it was important.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Never lose Hope!!