What is Hope? - Part 1
Updated: Oct 17, 2021
Think about it. What is hope? Hope can be defined very simply as - the belief that the future state of something will be an improved version of the current reality. While I often find it helpful to know the definition of a word, it just doesn't seem like any one particular definition of the word "hope" is truly able to paint an all-encompassing definition of the word hope. Maybe hope is too complex to be defined in one particular way...or maybe hope just has too many different contexts to hold one single definition...or maybe we just aren't meant to put hope in a box. I believe the presence of hope within us is one of the most powerful assets we can have! Let's look at one aspect of hope as a man named Paul once wrote about.
In Romans 5, Paul is writing about experiencing peace that comes when a person gets right with God and the impending hope that that eventually brings. Starting in verse 3 he writes,
"...we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering
produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been
poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit..."
Now don't think Paul's crazy here. He isn't telling us to be joyful, or glory BECAUSE we are facing trials. He's telling us we can be joyful DURING the trials we face because it's in facing adverse situations or trials that we develop perseverance. It's never a bad thing to develop perseverance, is it? I mean, as parents, one of the things we want to teach our kids is how to persevere through difficulties as they grow older and more mature. This is important for their growth...and the same is true for us.
It's in facing trials in life that we develop greater levels of perseverance, and in developing greater levels of perseverance our character is further developed. Having a strong character is vital to being successful! Having character means we are able to keep healthy relationships with people in tact while also accomplishing difficult tasks, all while facing trials. To sum it up, having character means we're able to keep it together while pushing forward in to success.
Having a strong character means we don't let life fall apart when the road gets tough. Notice I didn't say IF the road gets tough but WHEN the road gets tough. We all must navigate our way through tough roads at times. But when we have embraced these truths Paul outlined here for us, we're able to press onward in to hope.
Once again, facing trials develops perseverance, and this develops our ability to keep things together while pressing onward, our character. Now hope. Hope sets our gaze forward rather than backward. We look forward toward our eternal life that Jesus made available to us through our salvation in him. Our salvation isn't just about receiving a one-way ticket to heaven rather than hell when we die. That may be the start of it all, but our salvation involves so much more than our destination.
Salvation also involves our lifelong journey of becoming more like Jesus in action & in attitude. Trials develop perseverance, and perseverance develops character, and our maturing character involves hope that turns our attention forward to what God is creating in us...which is Christlikeness. As Christians, we want to be like Jesus Christ in action & attitude. That's a core tenet of the Christian faith.
So we come back to our initial question - what is hope?
In an effort to avoid placing a single definition on hope, one aspect of this powerful asset is our ability to look forward and get a glimpse of what God is doing in us to make us more like Jesus. This won't necessarily make the trials we're facing any easier, but having a clear perspective of what the trials we're facing are helping to develop in our life is an important part of our growth toward Christlikeness.
In a season where the enemy often tries to simply wear us down so we'll give up and throw in the white towel of surrender, having hope can give us the strength we need to remain engaged in whatever trial we're facing. We don't have to conquer every trial today...we just have to stay engaged with the trial today.
Stay engaged friends. Be encouraged friends. Embrace hope friends.