Many think of hope as being “pie in the sky”—escapist wishful thinking that’s disconnected from the hard realities of life today. Christians can be critiqued as Pollyannaish dreamers who are so heavenly minded they’re of no earthly good. This viewpoint, however, betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of hope.
Hope is a revolution, a powerful presence that breaks in from the future and transforms today.
Hope is a revolution, a powerful presence that breaks in from the future and transforms today. Jesus’ arrival has brought God’s destiny for humanity crashing into now—an explosion of life into a world marked by death. It changes everything.
Let’s explore how the hope of the gospel opens our horizons, lifts our gaze to the coming of a better world, and mobilizes us as agents in its service today.
Built to Last
God Himself is our hope. The biblical authors describe Him as “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13), who has come in Christ to bring us “a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) and to dwell within us as “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Our confidence is grounded not in our ability to get our act together and fix the world, but in God’s unflinching commitment and promise to restore all things.
This means our hope is secure. We often use the word to express uncertainty: I hope it doesn’t rain today! This means we expect a downpour, but we don’t want it to happen. So hope, in this case, is really just wishful thinking.
When God is your hope, however, it works in reverse. You’re on solid ground because He will be faithful. We can be confident because “hope does not disappoint,” as Paul puts it, “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). God’s presence within us confirms His promises to us.
Our Creator, rather than our circumstances, is the basis for reinvigorating our morale. When troubled times hit, the psalmist would repeat the refrain “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him” (Psalm 42:5; Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5). In his old age, King David looked back on his life and cried out, “You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth” (Psalm 71:5 NIV).
Hard times will hit, and when they do, we’re invited like Israel to “hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption” (Psalm 130:7). God’s commitment to you is like concrete: You can build your life on it.
A Shaping Force
If your hope is set on getting fit, you’ll join that gym and exercise more regularly. If you’re dreaming about going on a tropical vacation, you’ll cut back on eating out or buying new clothes in order to save up. If you’re pursuing a romantic relationship, you might start dressing differently, investing in some cologne, and hanging out in places where you stand a better chance of meeting a partner. In other words, your vision for the future forms you in the present.
Similarly, when our hope is set on God’s coming kingdom, it makes us a peculiar kind of people. We become ambassadors of reconciliation in the midst of a divided, war-torn world—servants who live sacrificially even when surrounded by a self-centered society. In a culture marked by death, Jesus makes us agents of life and sneak previews of His coming attraction: the holy city ruled at the center by the Lamb once slain (Revelation 22:3).
When our hope is set on God’s coming kingdom, we become ambassadors of reconciliation in the midst of a divided, war-torn world.
This can set you at odds with the status quo. When Paul gets dragged into court, he boldly declares before the leaders of his people, “I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” (Acts 23:6). The apostle announces, “I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers … For this hope, O King, I am being accused” (Acts 26:6-7).
Jesus’ hope is revolutionary, forming us as a countercultural community in the midst of the passing age.
Hope for the Hopeless
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18 KJV). Without hope, our lives go downhill. We lose sight of God’s future, and the present becomes dull. If Christ has not been raised, Paul tells us, “we are of all men most to be pitied,” for we’re basing our lives upon a hope that’s false. We might as well just eat, drink, and be merry, “for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:19; 1 Corinthians 15:32). If there is no future beyond the grave, just live for the now, ’cause now is all we’ve got.
For many today, now is all they’ve got. Ours is a #YOLO (you only live once) culture, so we feel the need to cram as much as we can into every moment. This makes us live in #FOMO (fear of missing out), worried we might not be getting every experience we can before we drop.
If there is no future beyond the grave, just live for the now, ’cause now is all we’ve got.
The result? We become narcissistic, consumed with engineering our best life, acquiring happiness, and sucking what we can out of people to fill our hunger. But seeking to fill ourselves will often, ironically, leave us empty inside, and we wind up cynical and convinced there’s nothing more. All that’s left is a bleak outlook on life and eyes vacant of hope.
When you lift your gaze, however, to “the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:5), it ignites a power within you. You understand “the hope of His calling” and comprehend “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). Yes, God will one day bring heaven to earth, but we can live now in light of His inheritance that’s coming.
In an arresting image, Zechariah refers to God’s faithful as “prisoners of hope.” We’re constrained to live rightly, our lives aligned with the goodness of His coming kingdom. God summons us, when despair beckons all around, to “return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double” (Zech. 9:12 ESV). God’s hope is a fortress in which we find ourselves surrounded by an unshakeable confidence in His coming to set things right. This means no matter what we’re facing, God is able to “make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (Hos. 2:15 NIV), where He walks us through the most difficult places and circumstances to ultimately bring us into the life we were made for. We can live faithfully, no matter what surrounds us, “for we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness” (Gal. 5:5).
Christmas is the birth of hope: “There shall come the root of Jesse, and He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, in Him shall the Gentiles hope” (Rom 15:12; Isa. 11:10). Jesus is this hope for the nations; He is hope for us. We’re invited to fix our attention on our life-giving King, who has come for our salvation. And when we look into the humble manger, we discover the One who, no matter what we may be facing, is able to fill us “with all joy and peace in believing, so that [we] will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
The King has come. The King is coming. Our hope is secure.
Illustration by Adam Cruft