Christian hope differs from hope as we use it in everyday language. The type of hope we normally speak of is wishful thinking or fantasy. Christian hope is distinct insofar as it is confident a better future awaits. Christian hope transforms our lives as we set our sights on this better future, live our lives so that we may obtain it, recognize that our lives all unfold in different ways, and realize the path forward will have obstacles. God is faithful, and so we believe Christian hope is not in vain.
Pain is one of the reasons why we search for meaning and purpose in life. We all suffer from time to time (or, in some cases, all the time). An untimely death, an unexpected illness, a particularly malevolent co-worker, or a terrible accident strikes and suddenly our perception of life is crushed by reality. We think, “life wasn’t supposed to be this way.” We wonder why we have it so hard when others seemingly have it so easy. Our sense of justice and fairness is violated. Why me? Why now? Why, God, why?
I’m a Kansas City Royals baseball fan which means I have watched a lot of bad baseball for the past 25 years. Like many of my fellow KC seam-heads, I thoroughly enjoyed their return to relevance in 2014-17. What made the Royals’ championship in 2015 especially satisfying was their emphasis on tried and true baseball principles — speed and defense — combined with exploiting a facet of the game undervalued by the market: an outstanding bullpen. The Royals reminded an industry dominated by saber-metrics that there are multiple ways to reach the same goal.
At the core of Christianity resides three key elements — faith, hope, and love — and all three elements share a common trait: they motivate one to act. James teaches us to live out our faith through works. John challenges us to love with deeds, not just words. And like its brethren, true hope compels one to seize a better future through action.
Over the past couple of decades, neuroscientists inadvertently discovered something fascinating — our brains naturally default to thinking about the future. They happened upon this little gem through the use of control groups who were instructed in various MRI studies to “think about nothing.” As researchers learned, our minds quickly drift from nothing to something, and the something we drift toward is thoughts of the future.
One of the more interesting books I read this last year was Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others. The author, Shane Lopez, was one of the lead researchers in the area of hope before his untimely death in 2016. Though Dr. Lopez takes a secular approach to the topic, I found a great deal of overlap between his conclusions and how the Bible presents hope. The empirical evidence along with revealed knowledge suggests we are “hard-wired” to be hopeful.
As I look back over all the sermons I heard while growing up. I cannot remember a single sermon emphasizing the fact that we can have confidence in our salvation. On the other hand I remember many sermons telling me all of the ways that I can lose my salvation! I read passages like I Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says; “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Paul here is telling us that he had to discipline his body to ensure he did not lose his salvation!