A key challenge we face as Christians is that when we speak of hope, we must mean something by it. Scripture clearly tells us that faith without works is dead. If we aren’t authentically living out our faith, the Bible is really hard for us to digest. Why? Because it says that those who claim faith but don’t walk it out are liars.
Faith without Works
The challenge in our faith is that we must mean something by it. And for us to mean something by it, God’s promises must be true. Faith has to have an object. Faith itself is not the object. We have to have faith in something, and that something is the living God and the very promises he declares. This is Biblical hope.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 NASB)
In Dallas Willard’s work, The Divine Conspiracy, he shared an amazing story of a pastor who was meeting with one of his parishioners when the parishioner slipped up and cursed. After an awkward silence and a bit of timidity on both parts, the parishioner said, “Oh, it’s all right, pastor. I cuss a little, you pray a little, but neither of us means anything by it.”
Why is this such a shocking statement? Because of the truth we just looked at. The challenge in our faith is that we must mean something by it. What’s the point in praying if we don’t believe God is hearing? What’s the point in living out his statutes and his ways if we don’t truly believe his kingdom has come? What does it matter if we don’t really believe the Resurrection message?
If we do believe these things, shouldn’t it affect everything in our life? Yes! Faith should produce works. Faith should lead us to something bigger. But in order to mean something by our faith, our faith must be resting on something. For us to really believe what we say we believe, God’s promises must be true. This is Biblical hope.Faith has to have an object. #Faith itself is not the object. We have to have faith in something. That 'something' is #Jesus. Click To Tweet
When we understand Biblical hope, it demands something deep from us—faith and trust. Let’s return to Romans, “Therefore, having been justified by faith.” The Apostle Paul wrote that we are justified by faith, but he also knew and taught that it isn’t faith alone. Faith must rest in something. We rest in the gift of God, this is Biblical hope. God has given us something to trust in.
Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exalt in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NASB)
Faith has to rest in something, to trust in something. Faith is like sitting in a chair. Faith is trust that the chair will hold you. Faith is trust, and that is all.
When we have faith, when we trust God, we simply rest (sit down) in God. This is what Biblical faith looks like. But we need to more fully understand what the chair really is. It is the person of Jesus Christ, but it is also every piece of hope that Jesus has declared. We can have faith. We can be justified by faith. But without the chair, faith is useless. We can’t be justified without something in which we can rest. This is justification by faith.Faith has to rest in something, to trust in something. Faith is like sitting in a chair. Faith is trust that the chair will hold you. #Faith is trust, and that is all. Click To Tweet
Is Hope Just Wishful Thinking?
The NIV is the only English translation that stresses the definite article before ‘hope’. It stresses the thought that ‘the hope’ is concrete. The hope is an absolute. We live in a day where hope has become wishful thinking. We say things like, “I hope that that’s true” or “I hope this is a promise for me” or even “I hope that’s what God wants for me.” This is not Biblical hope.
We might as well say, “I wish God’s salvation is real.” This is simply hedging our bets. What we are really saying is that we think there’s a greater chance that God is real than not. This is like seeing the chair that God has given us but never getting in it. If we don’t believe it will hold us then we can’t rest in it. Hope is not wishful thinking.
Look at what Paul wrote next: “We exalt in the hope of the glory of God.” Paul wrote two chapters earlier that we all have sinned and fallen short of this glory. We have missed the mark, falling short of the glory for which we were created. Because of this, God is not glorified in the world. At times, he is even mocked because of our behavior. Could our continued propensity to miss the mark have to do with our misunderstanding of hope?Some people's hope in God is simply a matter of hedging their bets. This is not true #hope. Click To Tweet
If hope is real, and not wishful thinking, then it is an absolute and we must live it. We are called to the glory of God, to reflect the glory of God as image bearers. This is how we bring glory to God. God has not left us to try to hit the mark alone. He has made us capable through his Spirit who lives within us.
Sadly, what happens for most of us is that we trudge through each day, just figuring out how to make it to tomorrow. This is not profound or powerful living. This is not a life lived in hope. Scripture bears out this out when it tells us that all of creation was subjected to futility against its will. Why? Because of our inability to live as true image bearers. Scripture also tells us that creation is longing. But longing for what? For the image bearers to be revealed. Our hope is also creation’s hope, that we rule and reign over creation as image bearers of God who correctly reflect his glory into the world.
What if we don’t truly trust and believe in this hope? What if we don’t believe in bringing glory to God? Then we will continue saying, “I believe this chair will hold me but I’m not going to sit in it” or “I believe what God says is true but I’m not going to rest in it.” The reality is that this attitude is not faith. This attitude doesn’t really believe that hope is absolute. And without being able to fully rest in this hope, we will not walk it out. We will be like the parishioner who said, “I cuss a little and you pray a little, but neither of us means anything by it.”Our hope is also creation’s hope, that we will rule & reign over creation as image bearers of God who correctly reflect his glory into the world. Click To Tweet
Don’t miss the next post where we will explore how our faulty understanding of hope will keep us from being able to exalt in tribulation. Then we’ll plant our feet on the path of true faith and hope. How have you experienced an inability to fully rest in God’s promises? Do you have advice for those who haven’t yet sat down in the chair? I’d love to hear your story. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.