The Nature, Role
Importance of Hope
Part 2 The Role and importance of hope
A conference address
Hebrews 11:1 says: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". That verse defines two grounds for faith. One of them is historical and one relates to the future ‑ "things hoped for" relates to the future while "evidence of things not seen" relates to the historical. Regarding the "evidence of things not seen", our faith is based on the evidence around us that testifies to their truth. One example is creation as stated in verse 3: "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear". The "things" that created the worlds is not visible to our naked eyes - none of us saw God create the earth and fashion it for our habitation, but the evidence that He did so is all around us. Psalms 19:1 says: "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork". Electric lights have tended to decrease our awareness and appreciation of the glory of the heavens because we can use artificial lights to illuminate our path and this may cause us to lose sight of the glory of the firmament above us. Viewing the heavens makes one feel subordinate to a superior creator. Although we did not see Him make the heavens their evidence is that they were made by Someone far superior to us. The evidence is that they were made by a power that we cannot see. Observing the heavens leads us to have faith in a creator.
The glory of God is also manifested in the earth as well as in the heavens. Romans 1:20 says: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse". The manifestation or evidence of God's creative power is clearly seen in the earth around us - the heavens declare the glory of God and they are a wonderful testimony, but so also do the things on the earth. The invisible things of Him (His eternal power and Godhead) are clearly seen by observing His earthly creation. This power is apparent in farm animals as the mothers automatically care for their off-spring, without any training from their forbears - to observe such things provides compelling evidence that there is a creator, a mastermind behind all of these natural (magical) instincts. These observations instil in us faith in God. Truly "the evidence of things not seen" is one foundation for our faith.
The other foundation of our faith is "the substance of things hoped for". This foundation of our faith relates to things yet future. Strong's Concordance defines 'substance' as 'essence' or 'assurance' and the Diaglott uses the word 'conviction'. So faith may be understood as "the conviction of things hoped for". This is a very powerful definition when it is combined with a consideration of the importance of faith. 1 John 5:4 says: "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith". Inserting the Diaglott definition of faith into the verse gives "this is the victory that overcometh the world even our conviction of things hoped for". Hope is a crucial part of the Christian's armour in his endeavour to overcome the world. And "overcoming" is what the Christian pilgrimage is all about. In Revelation, the message to every church concludes with a promise to them that overcome (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17). It is the conviction of things hoped for that helps us to overcome the world. Could hope be more important?
Another aspect of the role of hope is that it distinguishes wholesome doctrine. There are many agencies in the world today that preach proper Christian conduct. However some of them do not preach any hope for the future. Their preaching exhorts consideration of their neighbours, living harmoniously and doing good to all men. They are meritorious aspirations but they do not preach any hope. Some mainstream churches regard the first six chapters of Genesis as a myth. They dismiss them. However not only do they dismiss the first six chapters of Genesis but they dismiss the promises of God also. Are there any today who dismiss the Biblical account of creation and yet preach the promise of the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness? Generally those who dismiss creation have lost their conviction of the promises of God. So a second aspect of the role of our hope is to enable us to distinguish who is preaching the whole gospel - those who believe in the promises of God - and those who do not. The challenges to our faith that we get today are more easily dispensed with if we realise that there are those who have faith in the promises of God and those who do not. Let us not let our hope waver.
The third and last role of our hope is expressed in 1 John 3:1-3: "Behold what manner of love the father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. Therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew him not. Beloved now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be but we know that, when he shall appear we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure."
Our hope is a great source of motivation for us to keep on in the narrow way - "to purify ourselves". Jesus was helped in His ministry by the hope set before Him. Hebrews 12:2 says "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God". He didn't have that joy when He was on earth. When on earth He was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief". (Isaiah.53:3) The joy was ahead of him; it was still future. But it was that prospect that enabled him to endure the cross and despise the shame, and consequently "He is (now) set down at the right hand of God". The thought of His reward was a source of motivation for Jesus and so it surely can be for us also.
Further, in 1 Corinthians 9:24 the apostle Paul says: "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain." In temporal pursuits all competitors run to come first and receive the prize. No one runs with the thought of coming second. Verse 25 tells us that the hope of the reward is a great help to us in our pursuit of our spiritual reward: "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible". How precious is the thought of an incorruptible crown, one that will never decay or fade away. This hope was Paul's motivation also (verse 26): "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly, so fight I, not as one that beateth the air, but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by some means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway". Paul was unashamedly running for the prize, and he used the thought of the reward to exhort the Corinthians to run diligently for the prize also. And at the end of his course he was able to say: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing". (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
So let us all pray that "the God of hope (will) fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit"