For many people the word “hope” is not something that has much certainty to it. Well-known idioms like “hoping against hope” simply mean, “to hope with little reason or justification.” Thus when the Bible talks about hope some people immediately conclude it is advocating some form of wishful thinking or behavior, like betting on the lottery when everyone knows full well that the odds are a million to one against winning. But isn”t this what the Bible means when it encourages us to have “hope” in the Lord? In fact, it is just the opposite. The Biblical definition of “hope” is “confident expectation.” Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that may at the present appear unclear and unknown. The foundation of Biblical hope resides in God”s commitment to keep his word. After Adam and Eve”s tragic fall in the beginning, God reinstalled hope in their hearts by promising he would bring about a way of restoration (Gen 3:15). He renewed that promise with Abraham and his descendants, and true to his word he set in motion the means of that restoration in the life of Christ. He calls upon us now to walk in the footsteps of our spiritual forbears trusting that he will never break his promise!
- Romans 8:24-25
- Hebrews 6:13-19
- Hebrews 11:1,7
Questions for Discussion:
- Contrast the use of the word “hope” in the following passages: 2 John 12; 3 John 14; Ps 33:17; Heb 6:13-19; Titus 3:7; 1 Peter 13; Ps 39:7, 42:5, 119:81. How is the word used in each of the passages? What makes the meaning of the word different? Of the different ways “hope” is used, which one is closest to the way you generally use the word?
- What stories in the Bible are “hope” stories for you? Why?
- The American Heritage Dictionary describes the word “stranded” as “to bring into or leave in a difficult or helpless position.” If you were stranded somewhere with little hope of rescue or help, and could have only one of the books in the Bible with you, which book would you choose and why?
- The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle describes the elderly as those who “live by memory rather than by hope, for what is left to them of life is but little, compared to the long past.” 1 Do you agree with Aristotle? Is hope something that diminishes with age? How would you respond to him, if you could?
- For many people, a terminal diagnosis signals the death of hope. When hope dies, what is left? For this reason, some have claimed that the death of hope is greater than the death of flesh. How would you go about restoring hope to someone who has lost all reason to hope, whether physically or spiritually?
1 Aristotle. Rhetoric II.13. Translated by W. Rhys Roberts.