Our Hope-Filled Future

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It is no coincidence that the Bible ends with Revelation, a book that looks toward Christ’s and the Christian’s final victory in heaven, on earth, and in the new heaven and the new earth. The Christian hope is explained, inflamed, and sustained by God’s Word.

The Benefits of Christian Hope

Hope has lots of friends. It never lives alone. It comes with a happy company of other blessings and benefits. For example:

Hope Moves You Forward

The more you hope, the less you will reminisce. The more you long for the future, the less you will yearn for the past. Hope deletes regrets and underlines expectations. It diminishes drag and increases momentum.

Hope Energizes the Present

It is worth living today because tomorrow, the eternal tomorrow is so much brighter. What’s doomsday for most is coronation day for us. What most dread as the end of time, we desire as the beginning of eternity. But our present-energizing hope is not just looking to the ultimate solutions in the eternal tomorrow. Our hope in God also calls us to look for temporary solutions in much nearer tomorrows. By that I mean that the Christian should have hope that God will help humanity solve many of this World’s problems, just as He has in the past. Although the economist Julian Simon’s survey of world history does not credit God’s role, he does demonstrate that though society has serious short-term problems, we almost always find some kind of long-term solution. He wrote:

Almost every economic and social change or trend points in the positive direction, as long as we view the matter over a reasonably long period of time. That is, all aspects of material human welfare are improving in the aggregate.

Our problem is that we often see only the short-term problems but not the long-term solutions, which makes us more pessimistic than is warranted. I can’t for the life of me understand why so many preachers harangue their congregations with all the worst statistics while rarely mentioning any positive ones that show improvements in many areas. It is not only a prejudicial and damaging misrepresentation of God’s work in God’s world; it is also a huge demotivator and demoralizer. Cultivation of fear and anxiety may produce short-term attention and immediate responses, but over the long-term, it disillusions and discourages.

Hope Lightens Darkness

Hope does not deny or remove the reality of dark and painful providences. It shines a bright light into these valleys, however, and points to the sunrise at the end of them. But we don’t need to wait until heaven for hope to pay off. There are emotional, spiritual, and even physical benefits in the here and now.  Using new brain imagery techniques, scientists “are uncovering a host of biological mechanisms that can turn a thought, belief, or desire into an agent of change in cells, tissues, and organs. They are learning that much of human perception is based not on information flowing into the brain from the outside world but what the brain, based on previous experience, expects to happen next.”

To put it simply, expecting an event can bring as much benefit as the event itself. How much joy we are missing by not exercising hope!

Hope Increases Faith

Faith fuels hope, but hope also fuels faith.

As Hebrews 11 makes clear, hope and faith are very closely tied together, the one enlivening the other. Without faith, we cannot soar in hope, but without hope, faith will limp home. The greatest believers are the greatest hopers and vice versa.

Hope Is Infectious

Just as we can drag others down by our recriminations and moping, so we can inspire and motivate through our inspirational hoping. It not only encourages other sagging Christians, but it also affects depressed unbelievers who cannot help but ask a reason for the hope they see in us.

Hope Is Healing

When I counsel depressed people and their caregivers, one of the first things I do is try to give them hope. By definition, depression is a sense of hopelessness: things cannot and will not get better. That’s why I want to give them the hope that in the vast majority of cases, they will get better, there is a way out, and there are things that they can do to help themselves in their felt helplessness. That hope itself is a huge step toward healing. Dr. Hermann Nabi’s research found that pessimism can undermine even our physical health. He found that a “low level of pessimism had a robust association with reduced incidence stroke.” The Mayo Clinic website links high levels of negativity and pessimism with increases in mortality, depression, stress, and heart disease.

Of course, pessimism is sometimes warranted and even healthy for us; we ignore warning signs at our peril. But many of us would get closer to health and balanced realism with less pessimism and greater optimism.

Hope Is Practical

Hope does not mean we just sit and wait for utopia to appear. Not at all! Hope motivates action. Research into optimism has found that “optimists set more goals (and more difficult goals) than pessimists, and put more effort into attaining those goals, stay more engages in the face of difficulty, and rise above obstacles more easily.”

When we hope for better days for the church, we serve the church. When we hope for the conversion of our children, 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 avidly.

Hope produces action.

Hope Purifies

Whatever persecution we experience in this world, the day is coming when we will not be just called sons of God, we will be like the Son of God. This inspires and motivates us to persevere to the end and to persevere in holiness:

Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. – 1 John 3:3

Hope Broadens the Mind

Unlike negative emotions that tend to narrow people’s outlook, potential, and possibilities, a positive emotion like hope broadens people’s minds and especially the range of possible actions they can conceive of in any particular situation. Hope makes people more receptive to ideals and more creative about producing their own. Scientists have found that students infused with a positive emotion such as hope literally see more; their peripheral vision is wider and sharper.

Hope Stabilizes in the Storm

Researchers have discovered that optimists “cope better in high stress situations and are better in high stress situations and are better able to maintain high levels of well-being during times of hardship.” Optimistic people seem to experience less pain and stress than their pessimistic peers and also tend to gain and grow more from trials.

There are forty-five drawoings of anchors in one of the Christian catacombs, the caves and tunnels where Christians hid during the Roman persecutions. Hope was their anchor during those terrible, dark storms. Like the anchor, hope grabs what is out of sight.

The cable of faith casts out the anchor of hope and lays hold of the steadfast rock of God’s promises.

Hope Is Realistic

Norman Vincent Peale’s idea of hope is founded on a denial of reality. In The Power of Positive Thinking, he wrote,

Expect the best at all times. Never think of the worst. Drop it out of your thought, relegate it. Let there be no thought in your mind that the worst will happen. Avoid entertaining the concept of the worst, for whatever you take into your mind can grow there. Therefore take the best into your mind and only that. Nurture it, concentrate on it, emphasize it, visualize it, prayer-ize it, surround it with faith. Make it your obsession. Expect the best, and spiritually creative mind power aided by God power will produce the best.

This is more like self-hypnotism than hope in God. Christian hope sees reality, faces it, feels it, accepts it, and yet rises above it on the wings of faith. The worst things do happen regardless of what we deny with our minds. Peale has no help for those who face real suffering and sorrow in their lives. But in his most extensive treatment of Christian hope, the apostle Paul describes the blessed duet of groaning in pain and soaring with hope.

Hope Defends

Paul also depicts hope as a defensive helmet that must not be taken off and laid aside until the battle is over. That image points us to the main area of vulnerability and danger – the mind or thoughts. That’s the key area in building up hope.

Hope defends our minds by helping us to hope, but biblical hope also protects by shielding us from unrealistic expectations.

To put it bluntly, Christian hope is not the same as the American dream.

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Excerpted with permission from The Happy Christian by David Murray, copyright Thomas Nelson 2015.

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Your Turn

Hope is truly an anchor for our souls despite our circumstances. Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

 

Dr. David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and recently also became Pastor of the Free Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. He was ordained to the ministry in 1995 and pastored two churches in Scotland for 12 years. He is the author of Christians get depressed too and How Sermons Work and regularly speaks at conferences in North American and beyond. David his wife Shona have five children.

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