Here’s a simple question for you, What is hope? Where does it come from? These are very hard questions to answer really, because when you think about it, hope is the lifeblood of the human spirit and we cannot live without it. Hope is spiritual nourishment.
Have you ever run out of hope, feeling you have no hope? History tells me that back in the 14th century, people in Europe had given up hope. It was a terrible time, when cites were ravaged by the Black Death, widely believed to have been the bubonic plague. Over one-quarter of Europe’s population died, perhaps far more. We’ll never know! People of that time believed the plague was God’s wrath against humanity and that the end of the world was at hand. There were groups of people who flogged themselves to regain God’s mercy. Death was everywhere. People lost hope and resigned themselves to the impending apocalypse. And yet, centuries later, here the human race is, still alive.
Back in the 1960s, many people lived under the Cold War and the ever-present fear of a nuclear holocaust. Two great superpowers had drawn to a stalemate, each with their fingers on the trigger. Many people thought our world would be blown up—but we are still here. Yet sometimes we have a sense of fear for the future, and we feel everything is hopeless. Maybe you feel apprehension about your life and your future—you feel unsettled.
I know people who have an overwhelming sense of fear regarding the future. But the attitude above any other, that can change the way we face what’s ahead, is the attitude called hope. And I like what the Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’” (NIV).
Hope Is Not Wish
I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed with the word ‘hope’. The way we use it today has nothing to do with the way the Bible uses the word. When we use the word today, it’s sort of wimpy. We use it to mean little more than, I wish. The Bible doesn’t use the word hope as a synonym for wish. It’s much stronger than that. It’s a confidence. It’s not I hope so. Rather, it’s:
- I hope—so I have confidence.
- I hope—so I’m not afraid.
- I hope—so I can walk into the future.
That’s the kind of gift God wants to give us. Someone has said that this kind of hope—real hope—is like oxygen to the soul. You can’t live without it.
It’s not just being an optimist. A lot of people mistake hope and optimism. An optimist sees the glass as half-full and the pessimist sees the glass as half-empty. A person of hope sees that the glass is firmly held in the hand of God. This is good news for you if you are a pessimist. You feel like you can never be hopeful. Do you know what? You can be pessimistic and hopeful. You can recognise that even in a world where things aren’t perfect, God is still in control. He still holds things in his hands.
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Here’s a four-word definition of hope that I think may help: hope is when I realise that God is in control. They’re the four words. That’s what hope is. When I recognise God’s control over everything in life, it changes everything. When I realise that God’s plan will always prevail, I can have hope.
When I Have Hope
Now, what happens when we have hope? I see at least four practical results of a hope-filled life:
1. I can get started. What is it that gets you started in the morning when you get up? It’s interesting: You look at a car. It can be as shiny as you want on the outside. It can have the greatest engine. But if the battery’s flat, it’s not going anywhere.
Some of us are like that: we look real great on the outside; we’ve got some real power on the inside—but we just can’t seem to get started. That’s me first thing in the morning.
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) reminds us that
…those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not faint.
God’s hope helps you to get started.
(Read Living with Hope – Part 2)
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