Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Hopefulness

Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:

Hopefulness

 

Richard Hollerman

Do you have trouble pulling yourself out of sadness and depression?  Are you constantly gloomy and focus all of your attention on the negative aspects of life?  Are you overwhelmed by the conflicts and wars, the natural disasters, the sins of society, and the sad state of the religious world?  Do you feel negative about your own life and feel hopeless about the future?  If you are a child of God, you have many reasons to be hopeful about your future with God even when the world around you is chaotic and under God’s righteous judgment.

Often in our common language, we use “hope” to express a degree of doubt.  People say, “I hope it will not rain today.”  Or they may say, “I hope I don’t get a cold with all of this sickness at work.”  Both Herod (Luke 23:8) and Felix (Acts 24:26) had vain hopes.  In contrast, in the Bible “hope focuses attention of God and fills us with eager expectation.  No one who learns to hope in a biblical way will ever be overcome by disappointment but will be filled with patience, encouragement, and enthusiasm.”[i] 

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew terms miqweh, taqwah, or yahal are used of a hope that is focused on God.  “And now, Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in You” (Psalm 39:7).  The psalmist utters this hopeful statement: “As for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more” (71:14).  David cried out, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD” (31:24).  Richards says, “In a most basic way, then, ‘hope’ is a relational term.  It is a great affirmation of trust in God, not because the believer knows what is ahead, but because God is known as wholly trustworthy.”[ii]

As we turn to the New Testament, hope is another leading theme.  The Greek words are elpizo, the verb, and elpis, the noun.  Most of the 85 times these terms are found are in the letters or epistles.  The “God of hope” (Romans 15:13) is the foundation of our hope, with the object of our hope becoming prominent (cf. 1 Peter 1:21). 

The Christian hopes for the coming resurrection from the dead.  Paul stood before the Jewish council and affirmed, “I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” (Acts 23:5). 

Standing before Felix, Paul said that he had “a hope in God” that “there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (24:15).  Because of our hope in the resurrection, “we will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The pagans did not believe in a resurrection of the body (Acts 17:32), nor did the Sadducees (23:8), just as many contemporary people also reject the truth that believers will experience a resurrection and receive a glorified body.  The Christian is different, for just as Christ Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12-20), “so also in Christ all will be made alive” (v. 22).

Our hope is focused on Christ Jesus who “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).  And now, we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).  God has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  Our “blessed hope” is Christ and His appearing, but this is connected to other related elements of this hope.  We have “the hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2; 3:7). 

We have a “hope of righteousness”—complete conformity to God and His righteous nature (Galatians 5:5).  We also have a “hope of salvation”—the final salvation that comes when Christ returns (1 Thessalonians 5:8).  Because Christ is in us, we have a “hope of glory”—we hope of Christ’s glory and we will likewise be glorified (Colossians 1:27; cf. 3:4).  It is no wonder that the Hebrew writer refers to hope as “an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” (6:19).

Our hope in Christ results in a transformed perspective.  Since Jesus died, was resurrected, and will return for faithful believers, “we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).  We await the pure Christ, and this leads us to live pure lives ourselves. 

Peter also makes this connection.  Because we look in faith to the fulfillment of God’s promise of a new heavens and a new earth, Peter can say, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found in Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:13-14).  The point is that our hope encourages holiness and faithfulness to the coming Christ.  Hope also stimulates endurance in the faith, a “steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). 

Do we want to rejoice?  Paul urges us to be “rejoicing in hope”—a hope that rejoices the heart and transforms our life (Romans 12:12).  All of this shows that hope should be prominent in our life—a hope that is “good” (2 Thessalonians 2:16), and “living” (1 Peter 1:3), and “blessed” (Titus 2:13).  While we can’t leave a world of strife, sorrow, pain, and death, we can have hope for a better Day—the coming of Christ’s glorious kingdom and the “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

 



[i] Richards, Expository Dictionary, p. 343.

[ii] Richards, Ibid.

 

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