Many people have a difficult time distinguishing the differences between faith and hope. Their are several similarities and it’s not uncommon or wrong to use them synominously in some circumstances, but for the life of a believer, hope has a very distinct purpose and meaning.
A Common Understanding of Hope
Everyone hopes in something. You may be hoping that you get a job promotion, that your particular candidate gets nominated, that you’ll have a safe trip this holiday, that your favorite sports team will win in their field, and perhaps you’re hoping to fulfill your life’s dream. Hope is often a pleasant anticipation as we look to the future.
When the world thinks of hope, they understand that they can’t guarantee their desires, but they longingly dream for what they want to happen. In this way, hope is no better than wishful thinking.
Every notion of hope has an object and is therefore fixated on an fathomable idea. A man won’t hope in a promotion if he doesn’t feel that he deserves it. A person doesn’t gamble unless he thinks that there is a chance of winning; someone has to win. All of these perspectives are closely associated with our heart and mind in an effort to achieve our greatest desires.
Why is Hope Essential?
Like faith, if we want to please God, we must have hope.
“The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Psalm 147:11 esv
When we have placed our faith in God, we fear him. When we count his promises as true it directs our desires and affections to what God has set before us. This gives Psalm 36:4 perspective. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When we are better informed about God, and know his desires (Faith) then we can anticipate them in our life (Hope).
What is Hope?
While a common hope is simply wishful thinking, a biblical hope, informed by God’s word, is a confident expectation. There is a big difference when we look at hope this way, and it can be a little confusing. When your dreams are founded on absolute promises, you have no reason to doubt your future. This is what makes the Christians hope in God sturdy.
There is no guarantee in tomorrow. There is no way of knowing what a day will bring forth (Proverbs 27:1), but there are specific promises that are unaffected by our current situation. When we die, we will face the judgement. The believer has the hope of their salvation that when they face the judgment they will be pardoned, not by their own merit, but because they placed their faith in Jesus Christ. An unbeliever cannot claim the hope that they are followers of Christ and when they face the judgment they will only have their own merit, which isn’t enough to pardon their sins. As a result, they will be cast away.
Many people believe in God. They hope that they are good enough to get to heaven because God is loving. This is not an accurately informed hope. It is simply wishful thinking and therefore no better than what the world has to offer. When a believer is rightly informed and places their hope in the right place, they can have full assurance that they are going to heaven when they die. There does not need to be any doubt because the essence of salvation is built upon a promise from God.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 esv
All hope, in essence, is informed by knowledge. When a physicist runs a scientific test, they are hopeful that the results will be consistent with the data they have gathered. The believer has something better than science to base their hope on; the solid foundation of a biblical faith.
How Does the Bible Define Hope?
Like faith, hope has a unique distinction from the common usage. The Bible uses this word for several different meanings. Interestingly, the word hope shows up in Paul’s epistles and the poetic books more than anywhere else in Scripture. It’s definitely an abstract word with a wide breadth of meaning.
The Common Meaning is used quite often to refer to the specific desires of individuals. Paul, as well as several other New Testament authors, use this meaning to say that they are hopeful for health, prosperity, and desires to reunite. These are not guarantees, and we know, specifically from Paul’s life, that they didn’t always get what they wished for.
The Hope in Glory is the theological perspective that counts on the promises of Scripture. This hope, rightly informed is unshakable and firm. This hope is a present confidence in the promises for the future and can be divided in two parts.
The living hope is a present hope of salvation. This is the hope of the gospel and the hope of righteousness. This hope rest its confidence on the evidence from scripture that those who call on the LORD are saved.
The blessed hope is concerning our future as believers. It’s not enough to count on the promise that we are going to heaven when we die. That is important, but it’s not the final place. The Apostle Paul talks about the hope of the resurrection, which got him in trouble with his fellow pharisees, because we were not meant to stay dead or live in heaven forever. We look forward to the return of Christ, when God will establish His kingdom here on earth and we will reign with Him forever. This is the blessed hope (Titus 2:13).
How Do We Get Hope?
Life is not perfect. There are many struggles and troubles along the way. That is why our hope looks to the future. Everything in the believer’s life is designed to produce something. Hope is the product of God’s continued work in shaping the life of a believer.
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 esv
In essence, the struggles and trials in the life of a believer are carefully crafted by a loving God to direct us to hope in Him. Like the gift of faith, hope is a product of the gift of God’s involvement in our life.
This is what allowed the Apostle Paul to say that he gloried in his infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). There is something else a believer can hope in, that they will suffer (2 Timothy 3:12). Without suffering there is no endurance or character and, therefore, no hope. If life was perfect now, we would have nothing to look forward to.
What Do We Do With Hope?
When we are working out our faith on a daily basis, our hope is designed to be solid and secure. In this sense, hope is not something we exercise as much as it is something we constantly remind ourselves of.
I am greatly convinced that one of the reasons we struggle sharing our faith with unbelievers is because we do not do a very good job at preaching the Gospel to ourselves. The psalms reiterate the importance of hoping in God.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5 esv
When we have doubts about our salvation we ought to contemplate the promises of Scripture and place our confidence in God.
What better illustration of this than the life of Job. Surprisingly, Job talks more about hope than any of the prophets and the writers of the gospels combined. If there was anyone in a place to question the promises of God, it was Job. But listen to his own words.
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.” Job 13:15
It’s amazing how Job was able to trust God despite the fact that he had lost everything he cared about. Was a great demonstration of faith and a lesson for us to hope in God when things aren’t going the way we dreamed or imagined them.
A solid hope produces boldness.
“Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” 2 Corinthians 3:12
When you have lived through a few hardships in your life, you realize the value that they have for your character and you are not afraid of them anymore. It’s like the first time you jumped off the diving board. Your heart was pounding, your legs were wobbling, and your logic was telling you to turn around and walk back while your pride was reminding you that everyone was watching you. After jumping and realizing that it wasn’t scary, you gladly went back to do it a second time. When you hope in God, you can be bold to do His work because you know that it is good. Confidence in what God has done for you should produce a passion to share the gospel boldly. Even when it is hard and doesn’t seem to make sense, a rightly informed believer will count the commands of God above reason and act boldly to do what God has said is right.
An Artistic Analogy
If faith is like the root structure of the tree, then hope is like the tree trunk. The purpose of the trunk is to offer stability to the tree and to be a conductor of the nutrients to the fruit. This is a good depiction of hope’s function.
Your hope is meant to grow through the weather of life. To develop a think skin and stand firm for the glory of God. The deeper your faith becomes, the sturdier your hope will become.
I’ve found in my time in ministry that people who are weak spiritually usually have poor foundation of faith, but it plays itself out most destructively in their hope. When the storms in life come, they are not able to stand and effectively become stronger.
What about you? Do you have a sturdy hope? Are you going through trials? That’s good, they produce character. Is your hope in your salvation more of a wishful thought or do you have complete confidence in the work of Christ? Has your hope produced boldness to share your faith? How does your hope measure up?