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~ Hope Is Power ~

        In another Reflection (Glory Be), we considered what "glory" truly is as described biblically. Another word of power weakened by secular usage is "hope." It joins prayer in the category of "last resorts" in the minds of many: "All left to do now is just hope and pray." The "hope" of "I hope I can get through this" is not the "hope" of the Bible.

        Along with prayer, hope is one of the great powers in Scriptures. The three great powers, listed at the end of 1 Corinthians 13, includes hope. Perhaps because it is sandwiched between faith, the very basis of salvation, and the greatest of the three, love, hope has become a dwarf in our eyes…something to hang onto when faith weakens and love feels distant.

        We once reflected on the poor translation of the famous Isaiah 40:31: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…" In common experience, waiting often feels like it drains your strength. The Psalms frequently express great impatience with waiting…"How long, O Lord, how long? Can I praise you from the grave? Why have you hidden your face? Arise, O Lord, and help!"  "Patience" is a derivative of the Latin verb "patior," which means "to suffer." As we have observed in many Weekly Reflections, redemptive or Godly suffering is necessary for sanctification and divine intimacy. But what renews our strength and makes us "mount up with wings as eagles" is hope. This is the hope that comes from God as a grace: "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him" (Psalm 62:5, NIV).

        In the Messianic prophecy of Zechariah, we are told to "return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you" (Zechariah 9:12, NIV). Being prisoners of hope is a good thing, for we are joyfully prisoners of Christ. And "Christ in you [is] the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27b, NIV). Faith and hope are interwoven, for "faith is the substance of things hoped for" or is confident expectation, and "convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see" (Hebrews 11:1).

        Now we begin to see the biblical meaning of hope shine. St. Paul rightly reminds us that the power of hope flashes out of the invisible, since we need not hope for what can be seen. However, it isn't about a fragile wish  that what is not visible is indeed really there, a "maybe it is, maybe it isn't" kind of hoping, or "que sera, sera" and I hope it will be what I hope it will be.
        When you are drifting on a boat with a flooded motor heading for the shoals, your hope becomes the anchor. Once set on the sea floor, the anchor isn't visible but it's a sure thing. "We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf" (Hebrews 6:18b-20a, NIV). So biblical hope is firm, it's secure, it's a certainty, it even moves with life, entering the inner sanctuary of the Holy of Holies. Hope, indeed, is power!

        "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23, NIV). Hope is held like a treasured possession that we show (profess) to others. Paul writes that work is powered by faith and prompted by love, but our endurance in it is inspired by hope in Christ (1Thessalonians 1:3). That circles back to Isaiah's proclamation that hope in the Lord renews strength. Hope is not a matter of wishful thinking. Hope is as certain and anchoring as the faithfulness of God. Hope, indeed, is power!

        Biblical hope is not secular optimism. The sunny optimist tells the despairing, hurting person, "Hey, things will get better tomorrow. The sun is still shining above the storm clouds." The person smiles in polite response, but often thinks, "Maybe things will get worse tomorrow." Based on optimism, hope is a shallow wishfulness that may feel good for a little while, but it isn't the anchor securely set in the unwavering
faithfulness of God.

        Biblical hope is what we stand upon when stepping out in faith. We plant vegetable seeds at springtime in the confident hope filled expectation they will grow to produce food. If they don't, we are surprised and look for the reason. Without hope we wouldn't even bother planting in the first place. Like an anchor, hope lies deep. It is a firm stronghold, not a fragile longing in which we agonize over the outcome in uncertainty. It is the anticipated good that comes from all things "to those who love God."

        Secular hope narrows our focus to single longing on which we base our happiness. Spiritual hope opens the kingdom doors wide, revealing possibilities never even dreamed, enabling us to enter its inner sanctuary with awesome wonder, joy and anticipation of incarnated promise. In the sanctuary with hope as our power, we soar with wings of eagles. Secular hope leaves us pouting and chewing on our fingernails in the outer courtyard, too weary and afraid to enter the sanctuary. Spiritual hope is not the deferred hope that "makes the heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12). Spiritual hope is incarnational, alive! "In his [God's] great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope" (1 Peter 1:3b, NIV). It is a mercy, a grace, a gift of life from the Father - A power, not a fragile construct of human optimism!

        To reinforce the consciousness of the reality of this hope living within us, we are instructed to examine the reasons for it and to always be prepared to share them with others (1 Peter 3:15). Peter writes that people will notice the power of hope in us and may even ask us about it. This Reflection, itself, does just what 1 Peter 3:15 mandates.

        Unlike faith and love, we can point to hope with reason. Agape or Godly love is irrational and unconditional. There is no "I love you because…"  Faith is manifested by visible "fruit." James challenges, "My brothers and sisters, what good does it do if someone claims to have faith but doesn't do any good things?…Faith by itself is dead…" (James 2:14a,17, GW). But hope is more elusive since it incarnates as endurance or strength and remains invisible since "we do not hope for what we can see" (Romans 8:24). That, plus a misunderstanding of what spiritual hope truly is, may be why we talk so much more about the power of faith and love than of hope. Yet the Scriptures so often link the three into one formidable triad of power. Take a look at Romans 5:2-5;  Galatians 5:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 1:4-5; Hebrews 6:10-12, 10:22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-8, 21-22.

        Living, vibrant hope is nothing less than Christ Himself. As His body and His brothers and sisters, we are the living hope of the destitute, afflicted, poor, and the social castaways. His Holy Spirit is the Witness and Sustainer of the hope within us, exploding its power out from the anchor securely set deep within our souls like an artesian well, breaking the surface with the victory dance of strength and invincibility that cannot be capped, for God, Himself, is the source of this hope. In concert with faith and love, hope sustains our strength and resolve under the greatest burdens even if the eyes of faith weaken in spiritual and emotional darkness.

        When God's ears and love seem distant, we pull on that securely set anchor of hope deep down and know God never left the inner sanctuary, and hope gives us the strength and confidence to walk in and embrace Him, our All.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services

Weekly Reflections © March 9, 2002

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