“But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.”
Psalms 71:14 (ESV)
You’ve seen those motivational posters right? They show a beautiful mountain or sunrise and word like “Attitude.” Underneath that, a quote: “A human being can alter his life by altering his attitude. (William James)”
I dislike those posters.
I hope you know what I mean. They just ring hollow. As if all difficulties can be resolved with a smug quip. The posters that really speak to me are the demotivational ones. They look the same, but their quotes capture the essence of life so much better.
I saw one the other day with a mountain and the word “Challenges” on it. Beneath it were the words, “I expected times like this—but I never thought they would be so long, so bad, and so frequent.”
Whatever hope is, it’s the opposite of despair, and that’s why we desperately need it.
That just feels right doesn’t it?
Which is why we want hope so badly. We probably can’t define hope, (please take a few seconds and try, I’ll bet you struggle), but we can define despair. Despair is a steel jawed bear trap. Despair is an endless tunnel with no light at the end. Whatever hope is, it’s the opposite of despair, and that’s why we desperately need it.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?”
Psalms 121:1 (ESV)
So, where does hope come from? Well, one thing I know for sure, hope doesn’t come from within. Show me someone who has mustered up his “hope,” and I’ll show you a wishful thinker. Another quote from a demotivational poster captures this truth: “In the battle between you and the world, bet on the world.” So true hope must come from the outside, and of course, that’s exactly what the Bible says.
So, where does hope come from? Well, one thing I know for sure, hope doesn’t come from within.
Let me show you. The greek word translated as “hope” in the most famous new testament passages, like 1 Corinthians 13:13 and Romans 5:4, is also used in Acts 16:19 just after Paul casts a demon out of a slave girl whose owners had been profiting from her divinations. We’re told “when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.”
Take a careful look at that verse. The word “hope” here means something more like: “confident expectation.” These slave owners were angry with Paul because he had ruined their livelihood. They were confidently expecting (hoping) to go right on making a profit from their slave and now suddenly all “hope” (expectation of profit) was gone. Here’s the lexical entry on the word from the Blue Letter Bible.
So, no, Christian hope is not wishful thinking. It’s a confident expectation that God will do what he has promised. Hope is grounded in the faithfulness of God himself. Hope is built on the realities of the past. God has always been true to his promises before, so we can confidently expect him to make good on them in the future.
Christian hope is a disposition, not a feeling. It’s an approach to life made possible by the faithfulness of God.
And what are his promises? That he will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). That he will prepare a place for us. That he will come again and take us with him (John 14:3). That we will rise again (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16). And so much more! And we “hope” for all of it. That means that we wait in confident expectation for it all, because we know that God, “who never lies,” promised it all to us (Titus 1:1-3).
Christian hope is a disposition, not a feeling. It’s an approach to life made possible by the faithfulness of God. It’s patience in the dry times because we see rain on the horizon, and it’s courage in dark times because we hear the thunder of God’s army marching to deliver us. Hope is a fortress built brick-by-brick as we remember the goodness and faithfulness of our Lord and Savior who has never failed to come to the rescue of his people.
So do you need hope? Then turn to God’s Word, the fountain of goodness, and drink deeply. Sing with David:
But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.
Psalms 71:14-21 (ESV)