Hope is one of the defining characteristics of the Christian life. It is not worldly wishful thinking but conviction that what God has promised will be fulfilled. Hope takes God at his Word. Christian hope is also future oriented. For example, in the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul explains, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24-25). Although we have not yet entered the heavenly realm, we know it exists, that it awaits us. Our Lord has promised us the kingdom, given us the guarantee of his Spirit, and is preparing us for glory.
In a choir, a selfish voice creates dissonance. A submitted voice enjoys consonance. If you can hear one voice above the others, a choir sings not as one voice but a dissonant two. But when every individual submits to one another together, a choir produces the beauty of harmony in one voice. Likewise in Christ’s church, who is composed of many yet sings as one, we submit to one another resulting in harmony, living, singing forth, to the glory of One. May we as Christ’s church, as one voice, sing forth beautiful praise to the One who not only gives us life but also lives that we may glorify him forever.
Modern Evangelicals have seemingly accomplished a miracle (Or, maybe it’s a magic trick?), something foreign to Scripture yet readily embraced: the churchless Christian. Emphasizing our desires over God’s design and our pleasure over pleasing him, we have relegated the cherished assembly of the Beloved into a consumer’s option. This not to say that God is forgotten. But with the reign of easy-believism, the individual is all-important, and the authority of the self stands sovereign. In his commentary on Romans, James Boice (writing in 1995) observes, “It strikes me…that today the problem is our individualism, which I would define as hyperpersonalized religion. It is the religion of ‘Jesus and me only.’” Boice goes onto label this phenomenon a form of narcissism, warning, “you cannot have ‘one body in Christ’ if everyone is creating a private little a la carte religion for himself.”
The Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness” (8:26). The subject is the Holy Spirit, who as the “Helper” whom Christ promised and sent (John 14:16), helps us. The inspired implication is we need the help. But if “we have been justified by faith” and at “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1), and if there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), and if we are children and “heirs of God” (Rom. 8:17), what help do we really need? Should we believe as we often act, or pray the cowboy prayer, “Give us rain and a little luck, God, and we’ll do the rest”?
We hope then for what we do not (yet) see, which rests on the bedrock of certainty that “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2). Indeed, “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). From dust to glory is our destiny, a hope-filled truth to which we look with patient fortitude. For, we know who promised, who delivered, and who sustains us, and he is our hope and salvation.
The list of problems facing humanity is myriad. Our very existence has been and continues to be perilous, as we seem bent on self-destruction. Yet, there is one root problem that is the cause of all other problems and common to everyone, the same for those who have gone before us and those who will follow: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Christian hope reorients our focus. We focus not on who we were but who we are in Christ. We focus not on trying to merit God’s favor but rest in his grace, desiring to please him in love. We focus not on temporal circumstances or our momentary afflictions but on God’s glory revealed through us as we are conformed more and more to the image of his Son. We focus not on what the world loves but on God’s love poured into our hearts. And so, we do not fear tomorrow but have hope for today.
But the faith that God gave Abraham did not falter, as it never will, but grew: “[Abraham] did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do” (Rom. 4:20-21 NET). Therefore, “In hope [Abraham] believed against hope.” Though his circumstances shouted hopelessness, Abraham had hope, not because he looked to himself and his faithfulness but because he looked to the One who promised.
The crowds are no different today. The worldly-minded either wants its best life here and now or a secret rapture to get out as fast as possible. Jesus delivers neither, but offers Himself the ransom for many, high and lifted for our redemption to His glory.
The point in this: There are some things fulfilled in Scripture to which we look, believe, and find hope. There are other things promised but not yet fulfilled to which we also look, believe, and find hope.