There are many ways to describe what it takes to be a devout Christian, but perhaps one of the most succinct answers is supplied by the apostle Paul, who wrote, “Now there remains faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
While Paul reminds us that the greatest of the three characteristics is Love, he does so to play-up the importance of Love, not to downplay the importance of faith and hope. Consider that without faith it is not just difficult, but downright impossible to be pleasing to God and one may understand just how grand love is ((cf. Hebrew 11:6).
However, while Faith certainly gets a lot of favorable press, and Love is certainly admired, fewer words are often spoken about just how vital Hope is in the Christian scheme of things.
The goal of the Scriptures, we are told, is to point the world to Hope. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4; NKJV) Now the Hope that is pointed to in the scriptures is not some nebulous, unspecified thing. Rather, it is quite a specific Hope, so that we read there is “one Hope of our calling” (Ephesians 4:4).
When the Bible talks about a Christian’s Hope, it is referring to concrete ideas and specific promises, which God, who cannot lie, promised to His children. (cf. Titus 1:2) Chief among these promises God has made is the promise of eternal life through Christ Jesus, and the resurrection of the dead. This is the Hope that anchors the Christian soul, an anchor sure and steadfast. (cf. Hebrews 6:18-19) Just as Jesus was risen from the dead, so too those who have put on Christ in baptism, dying to their old self, have the concrete Hope that they too will share in the resurrection (cf. Romans 6:3-5).
True Hope, likewise, is not without concrete consequences. Just as true Faith demands that a person act in accordance with their Faith, if that faith is to have value (cf. James 2:14-26), and just as true love demands that a person act in accordance with their professed love, with kindness (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-6), so too does true Hope make certain demands upon a person.
Christian Hope precludes worldly sorrow and worry (cf. Matthew 6:32-33; 1 Thessalonians 4:13). If we truly believe in the promises of God, we continue forward doggedly in our faith, certain that God will work things to our good, confident that the “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18; NKJV) It is this Hope that gives Christians the confidence that in all things, even peril and distress, they are more than conquerors in Christ. (cf. Romans 8:37)
Christian Hope encourages boldness in our speech and Christian confession. (2 Corinthians 3:12) Firstly, because, with worry precluded, we do not fear what man might do to us if we speak (cf. Matthew 10:27-28) Secondly because of the awesome nature of the message. We have the gift of eternal life, and it is promised to any and all who will obey the Gospel of Christ! If we are eager to share good news about such mundane matters as births, weddings, and sport-related-victories, should we not be much more excited to talk about the fact that we can be raised from the dead.
Christian Hope encourages faithfulness and self-sacrifice. Understanding what is offered, we should be willing to count all things loss for Christ, so that we might know Him, if by any means we might obtain to the resurrection of the dead (cf. Philippians 3:7-11). When the going gets tough, it is Hope that should keep us going, doggedly putting one spiritual foot in front of the other, in our service to the Lord.
Christians are to walk in faith, living loving lives … but those lives should also be lives of Hope and joyful optimism, trusting unwaveringly in the promises of God.
If you would know the Hope that Christ provides, the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.