Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Rom. 8:24 Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
I once heard someone say “Where there is life, there is hope.” I guess the validity of this statement depends on what kind of life we are talking about, and what our definition of life is. Jesus Christ IS life, so yes, where He is, there is always hope. On the other hand, life without Christ offers little to no hope at all.....not in this life, and certainly not in any life to come.
Life can be filled with pain and struggle – but it can also be filled with beauty. When we are going through trials that seem to overwhelm us, we lose sight of that beauty – but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. It is there, whether we see it or not. I think the same thing can be said of hope.
I speak of hope today because it is something that I have been desperately clinging to lately. I know that my hope is in Christ, but even so, we all know that at any time, life can take a series of twists and turns that can leave us despondent, directionless, and confused. Times are hard for many people, and trying to create order out of chaos is, quite frankly, exhausting and discouraging. Nothing in this life is guaranteed, and for most people life is not easy.
Even so, I know that I MUST cling....WE MUST CLING...to our hope that is in Christ. There are so many things in this life that we cling to – family, friends, money, jobs, etc....anything that will give us security, I suppose. There is nothing inherently wrong with these things, but it becomes wrong when we start clinging to these things and putting more security in them than in the Lord.
In my own life, I have found it very difficult to cling to anything, really. I was always very, very insecure. Growing up, I really didn’t have much to cling to. The only family that I really had was my mother. I barely knew my father, and had no brothers or sisters. I had no real sense of family, and at 14, I realized that even what little family you have can be taken away, when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and hospitalized. By the time I was 22, she was gone. Indeed, nothing is sure in this life – not even the ones that we hold dear. I learned to distance myself, and had real issues with intimacy and trust throughout my life. I guess you could say the only one I would cling to was myself. I became very withdrawn, and never would trust anyone enough to open up to them.
The things that we put our security in are those things that we cling to – like a child clings to his security blanket. The things that we cling to are the things that we put our hope in. The Bible tells us that we are to put our hope in the Lord. This kind of hope is not the kind of wishful thinking that we usually associate with hope, but a confident expectation.
John 20:29 Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed
Unseen hope – hope in the middle of circumstances that otherwise seem hopeless. Clinging to that hope when everything around us tells us that we have every reason to despair, lose faith, and give up. Clinging to that hope with everything we have and persevering, relying ONLY on the word of God and His character – because we have nothing else TO rely on.
There comes a time when those things that we have put our security in – the tangible, visible things in our lives – leaves us or fails us. Even our own families can fail us. Anything or anyone can fail us at any given time -- the people we trusted, the company that we have been so faithful to. Job was a righteous man who literally lost everything – his friends, and even his own wife, failed him. It can happen to anyone.
For those of us who consider ourselves independent and self-sufficient, it is especially difficult when we realize that we cannot even rely on ourselves. It is so easy to make mistakes and foolish decisions, and sometimes those mistakes cost us the things that mean the most to us. They can cost us everything if we let them. Indeed, we cannot rely on anything or anyone but the Lord. He truly is our blessed hope.
1 Cor. 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.
In Mark 10:15, Jesus said to His disciples: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” In other words, we are to receive the kingdom of God by faith. One of the most beautiful aspects of a child’s love for his/her parents is child’s complete and unwavering faith in the parents. Children instinctively trust their parents, and do not worry. The bond of love is so strong, and the children know so deeply that the parents love him/her, that faith just comes naturally out of it. There is a certain aspect of love to faith and hope – that is why love is the greatest.
Rom. 5:5 Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit literally saturates our hearts with the love of God – God’s love for us, and our love for God – so that this hope is solidified in our hearts. It is this hope that we can cling to through our hardest and most painful trials – even when everything else is stripped away:
Rom. 5:4 Tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.
Tribulation and perseverance produce Godly character in us. We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Hope remains, even when things seem hopeless.
I think one of the most common misconceptions about hope is that most people associate it with a “feeling.” Hopelessness is a feeling, but hope is not primarily a feeling. This is not to say that a person cannot feel “hopeful,” but in Biblical terms, hope is not “a feeling of being hopeful.” It is a confident expectation that we can cling to, even when circumstances seem hopeless. This expectation exists because God is faithful to His word, and His promises NEVER fail. Hebrews 6:19 calls it an anchor of the soul. I like to think of it as a rock – something to lean on, when trials are pressing in on us, to hold us up and balance us.
When we are enamoured with trials, it is hard to see any glimmer of hope. Even so, hope unseen is still hope. I think it’s natural for us to cling to what is tangible. We grasp on to any glimmer of hope that we can perceive, and call it faith – but what if there is no hope at all, not even a glimmer?! What if every circumstance seems to be against us?! That is when we must look beyond our circumstances, and be confident in that unseen hope....a hope that exists outside our circumstances.