Growing in God: Growing in Hope part 2

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last article, we learned how important hope is – both the regular human hope in the midst of difficult circumstances, and the Christian hope in the resurrection and the eventual overturn of evil.  The Psalms are full of passages on hope, and advise many times for believers to hope in God.  This hope is not a wispy wish, but is something as strong as a rope on a life preserver. Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised.  It ties in with trust in God’s promises.   Hope doesn’t have a specific time-line, but it is future based, while faith believes more in the NOW.  Still, hope is an essential stepping stone to faith.

Hope is mentioned in the Bible 190 times. Some of those examples give us glimpses of hope as an anchor in stormy seas. One friend told me that she sees “hope as the anchor of the soul.”  Hope is also a stabilizer that gives courage, perseverance and in a sense, joy.  My friend Brenda shares that she believes hope is “that inner joy with motivation to expect that promised thing to manifest at any moment!”  This is after the occasional times of panic and weariness while we are waiting for resolution. Hope is like a reservoir of emotional strength, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Hope brings expectation in One who is bigger than ourselves.  After all, we are given a promise in Jeremiah 29 verse 11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  That hope includes restoration, healing and more.

Last week when I was writing on hope, I conducted a survey of my Facebook friends, asking them for their view of hope.  From folk musicians, I was given two great original folk songs about hope.  I played one of them by Eileen McGann, about looking up in hope, on one of  our Worcester Report shows on CWCP Radio.  And so, hope DOES cause us to lift up our heads, rather than look down and mourn. Hope reminds us that we have much to live for.  Not only do we have the future, but we have many gifts in the present – including friends, family, and so much more.

From non-Christians who doubt the existence of God, there was philosophical discussion about other faiths and philosophies, but not a personal view of hope.  The comment from one of them started with:  “Even though today, humanity experiences the best living conditions, greatest life expectancy, and easiest living with minimal pain and suffering in the history of mankind, life can still be unappealing to many people.  Indeed there are those (anti-natalists) who say life is not worth living at all and claim that it is immoral to bring children into the world.  Then he began to discuss religion as being a classic example of a coping mechanism. […] Hope is for those who struggle but lack the cognitive training for mindfulness. Those who don’t struggle may perhaps still hope to find a purpose in life.

When I mentioned that the current craze of superheroes also showed a strong measure of hope, I was given this answer:  Yes, fascination with superheroes is similar except people don’t think superheroes exist.  Well, it is true that the comic super-heroes may not exist, although try telling that to those who love to spend their lives in cosplay or in comic book conventions.   Do they have real hope, or are they happy to just bury their feelings and enjoy fantasy?  His wife shared that “hope can be (destructive) if it’s based on empty pipe dreams, but hope can also lead to meaningful actions that bring about the said hope. I’m thinking climate change if we as a species can pull our fingers out of our various orifices (including, but not limited to, our ears)!  This second view is on par with the folkie dream of a collective set of people coming together to make change.  This is a good thing to do in community for hope in our future generally.  However, it’s not the Christian concept of hope.   While this hope is supernaturally based, it’s also incredibly personal.   My friend Nano shared, “This winter I had a revelation of our Father God who just who enjoys me as his child so I can sing and dance with gratitude towards all He has done and all He will do. I remain open to new adventures while I pass through valleys of testing.  […]  Hope helps me rise above my circumstances knowing that I have a greater reward than anything the enemy tries to fling at me.”

Hope helps you to persevere, so your heart doesn’t get sick.  Two friends shared about not giving up.  One of them said, “Hope is never giving up.  Without hope, you have nothing.  Hope makes you move forward to the future.”  This was said by a lady who had persevered through incredibly hard times this past year, despite having a huge heart towards the downtrodden. She’s taking that hope with her this year, while walking the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.

Hope also is part of completely relying on God.  My regular prayer partner Diane shared of her hope, the same hope that has grown her into a very strong woman. She said, “through many experiences where I needed to depend on God completely, I have come to believe in His promises, I know He has a plan for my life and my role in life is to fulfill it. Every day, I look forward to making a difference in the lives of the people I meet, and in speaking up for good and not for evil.”  So in Diane’s example, hope inspires.   And another friend reminded me of the deepest hope of all – Christ in you, the hope of glory. The Apostle Paul wrote about the precious mystery we carry inside us – like treasure in clay pots. We are the clay – and Jesus living in us through the Holy Spirit is the hope of glory.  We are God’s plan to love the world and show them Jesus.  There is no plan B. We are messengers and ambassadors of hope.   The NLT version finishes Colossians 1 verse 27 by adding that because Christ lives IN us, “this gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”   So in a way, God can be superhero through us, but it is really God who is touching the hearts and situations.  We’re just the vessel.

We have many reasons to hope. Let’s reorient the reasons in a simple way so we have something to take home with us for later.   David Murray compiled ten ways in which Christian hope helps us in our walk with God.   Hope moves us forward.  “Christian hope is a realistic expectation of and joyful longing for future good, based on the reliable word of God. The more we long for the future, the less we will yearn for the past. Hope deletes regrets and underlines expectation.  It increases momentum towards the future.”

Hope energizes the present.  Hope makes life worth living right now, because tomorrow is so much brighter.  Murray says that “what’s doomsday for most, is coronation day for us.”  We need not fear death, because it’s not the end.  Hope lightens our darkness.  Hope doesn’t deny the reality of painful circumstances.  Yet, it does shine a brilliant light into these valleys.  It points to the light at the end of them.  The saying, “it’s always darkest before the dawn” is a hopeful statement that reminds us to persevere a little longer, rather than be sorrowfully impatient.

Hope increases faith.  I mentioned earlier the connection of hope and faith – that hope proceeds faith.  I still believe that, yet faith is not just the end result of hope.  We are to continue in hope.  Murray says that “Faith fuels hope, but hope also fuels faith. As Hebrews 11 makes very clear, hope and faith are very closely tied together.  Both enliven the other. Without faith we cannot soar in hope, but without hope, faith will limp home. The greatest believers are the greatest hopers.”

Hope is infectious. We can drag others down by our complaints and sadness.  Yet we can also inspire and motivate others through our inspiring hope. This attitude encourages other sagging Christians, and it also impacts depressed unbelievers who cannot but ask a reason for the hope they see in us.  Remember that people watch us through our suffering, and see how hope buoys us up. 1 Peter 3 verse 15 says, to “always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have.”  They need that hope too.

Hope brings healing.  When our friend Riana called me in the midst of my illness with the song “I raise a Hallelujah,”  she was used by God to bring me hope.  I didn’t understand at the time, for I saw it as a reminder that God is in control, even when I am not well.  It was a reminder that I had no reason to feel hopeless.  I would not always be sick.  Hope says, things will get better. There is a way out.  That hope is a step towards healing, and away from depression.

Hope is practical.  Hope isn’t passive.  We are not to just sit and wait for a perfect world to appear. No way. Hope motivates action. When we hope for better days for the church, we serve the church. When we hope for our children to come to faith in Jesus, we are motivated to share the Gospel with them. When we hope for God’s blessing on His Word, we listen to it much more intently. Hope produces action.

Hope purifies.  During our last broadcast, I spoke about many Christians and Jews going through intense persecution. Whatever persecution we experience in this world, the day is coming when we will be more like the Son of God. This is what inspires and motivates the apostle to persevere to the end and to persevere in holiness.  Paul talked about knowing Jesus in the fellowship of his sufferings – and this is exactly what purifies us when we keep an attitude of hope. We grow stronger, purer, and people can see more of Jesus in us, because of the hope we have.  The apostle John shared in 1 john 3:1-3 that “everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  Hope gives us the strength for the refiner’s fire.

Hope stabilizes us in the storm. David Murray shares that there “are sixty-six drawings of anchors in the [Roman] catacombs.” These are the caves and tunnels that persecuted Christians hid in during the Roman persecutions. Hope was their anchor during those dark and stormy days.  Hebrews 6 reminds us that “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and strong.”  The writer later shares in Hebrews 10:32-34 to the persecuted church of his time. “Remember those days in the past when you first learned the truth. You had a hard struggle with many sufferings, but you continued strong. 33 Sometimes you were hurt and persecuted before crowds of people. And sometimes you shared with those who were being treated that way. 34 You helped the prisoners. And you even had joy when all that you owned was taken from you. You were joyful because you knew that you had something better and more lasting.”

Like the anchor, hope grabs what is out of sight. One Puritan author uses a similar life preserver image: “The cable of faith casts out the anchor of hope and lays hold of the steadfast rock of God’s promises.”  So once again, faith and hope are connected, and as 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us, these two things are eternal, as is love.   John Piper believes that hope is actually an important component of faith, not just a stepping stone towards it.  He says, “faith can look back to [the beginning] as well as forward. So faith is the larger idea [or the container]. Faith includes hope, but is more than hope. You might put it this way: faith is our confidence in the word of God, and whenever that word points to the future, you can call our confidence in it hope. Hope is faith in the future tense.”

Speaking of storms, there is a connection between storms and our Cape of Good Hope near Cape Town.  Yes, it’s the south western tip of South Africa.  It’s not the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian oceans – that happens further east at Cape Agualas.  Originally this peninsula was named Cape of Storms by the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Dias.  But instead a Portuguese king renamed the Cape “Good Hope” because of the major optimism that this sea route gave to Europe.  It opened an easier way to India and the Far East.  This king proclaimed a blessing on the tip of Africa.  And may this blessing bring more than commerce, but rather what a blessing should give.

And finally, Hope defends us. Paul also depicts hope as a defensive helmet to be worn in spiritual battle.  This helmet must not be taken off and laid aside until after the battle is over. This is shown in Ephesians 6:17, which the Passion Translation shares in this way: “ Embrace the power of salvation’s full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies.”  Lies are the opposite of hope.  Lies point us to the area of greatest vulnerability and danger – our mind or thoughts. This is where Satan usually works to give us reasons to doubt and despair. And this is why we need to daily renew our minds by the power of hope.

So hope is far more powerful that we previously thought.  Let’s remember the ten take-aways that hope gives us.  Hope moves us forward, so we don’t get stuck in our wallowing.  Hope gives us the energy to move.  You CAN do this.  Let’s encourage each other with hope to move on.   Hope lightens our darkness, so we can see our way forward.  Hope increases the faith that we have.

Hope is contagious – and this is where community spirit comes in.  The folkies love this aspect of hope for a great song.  But it IS true.  Hope brings healing – especially to the heart.  Hope and depression do not mix.  Hope is practical.  It does not sit passively, but works for the better.  Hope purifies us in the struggle, and especially in persecution. Hope stabilizes us in the storm, so we become stronger. And hope defends us against lies that drag us to doubt and despair.  So we do have a hope and a future.  We need only ask God for it.  He’s had it for us all along.

Lord, thank you for the deep hope that you give us.  I ask that you pour that hope into us, so that it overflows our hearts. Strengthen us, sustain us, pull us out of the mucky mud of complaining and bitter hurts. Lift our heads in hope, so we can see a glimpse of that future hope, as well as the hope you put in our hearts.  Grow our hearts to contain more.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this message, visit our podcast page on Coppleswesterncape.ca, and scroll down to #50.  You’ll also see a video clip that I refer to in that Doctor Who episode.

Blessings,
Laurie-Ann Copple

I’m also continuing chemotherapy here in South Africa.  We return to Canada to resume treatment in April 2020.  If you feel led to learn about L-A’s story and or pitch in, you can visit our medical campaign page.  You can also send whatever amount you’d like to sow to our Paypal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

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