Written by: Brian Hess
About a month or two ago the Lord began speaking to me about hope. What He was showing me was just how much the word “hope” has been misused and misdefined by our culture. So I began thinking about how the word “hope” is used today, and once I compared the cultural definition that we’ve given it to the biblical definition that it’s meant to have I suddenly became so aware of the fact that we have completely stripped the word “hope” from the power that it is supposed to have in our lives. I truly believe that God is wanting to restore proper hope to the body of Christ, but in order for that to happen we need to have an understanding of what hope is.
If you look up the Greek word for hope in the New Testament you’ll find the word “elpis” — which can be literally translated to mean hope, trust, confidence, and expectation. By biblical standards our hope is meant to look like a confident expectation of goodness. It’s meant to be an expectation of good because God is good. We’re unable to fully comprehend just how good He is and how much He loves us, but because He is perfect in His faithfulness, we can be confident and we can expect Him to be good all the time.
If you pay attention to the way we all (including you) use the word “hope,” it’s almost never as an expression of expectation. Rather, we’ve redefined the word “hope” to simply be used as an expression of wishful thinking. I’ll give you a few examples…
“I hope it doesn’t rain today!”
“I hope I get a good report from the doctor!”
“I hope God has good things for me in my future!”
These statements are not inherently wrong, it’s the belief and mindset behind them that will determine if they’re wrong. When an “I hope” statement is rooted in wishful thinking there’s an underlying doubt and uncertainty about what it is you’re wanting to see happen. Hope is, in fact, meant to be an expression of desire — but it is not meant to stop there. It is meant to be an expression of desire with an expectation attached to it.
If you want to know whether or not you’re properly using the word “hope,” consider whether or not you can replace the words “I hope” with the words “I’m looking forward to.” There’s a big difference between saying “I hope God has good things for me in my future” and “I’m looking forward to the good things that God has for me in my future” due to the way we’ve culturally and internally redefined hope. Saying “I’m looking forward to” reestablishes our sense of confidence and expectation.
Here’s another way to look at it — Hope looks like trust. I think that the process of restoring hope begins with allowing ourselves to trust God. I think Christians have a tendency to think that they trust in God because they trust Him with their death, but I wonder how many of them trust Him with their life? I thought I trusted God, but one day He asked me and my wife to do something. He asked us to give away a large amount of money, and I was confronted by this one question — Can I trust God more than I trust my money? I realized that trusting God looks like being willing to let go of something. But if there’s something that I’m unwilling to let go of, do I really trust Him? For example, if I can’t give my money away when He asks me to, then the bottom line is that I trust my money more than I trust Him. And if I don’t trust Him, how can I hope in Him? Hope is, after all, confidence, expectation, and trust that God is good.
It took me about 6 months to get to the place where I could both give the money away and have peace about it. In the end it was actually a joy for me and Katie to be able to financially bless another person on that level. Afterwards the Lord revealed yet another aspect of trusting in Him that I needed to partner with. What He showed me is that, while hope looks like trust, trust looks like submitting to His lordship. The reason He had to make this distinction was because the trust that I had in Him was based on what I believed He would do for me in the future. While I’m still holding on to the promises of God and what I believe He wants to do for me in the future, that’s actually not supposed to be the foundation of my trust in Him. I need to be able to trust Him not because of what I think He’ll do for me in the future, but out of gratitude for what He’s already done for me in the past. I had developed the mindset that because I had given a certain amount of money away that He owed me something in return.
It’s important that Christians everywhere understand this next point. God does not owe us anything. At the end of my life I would like to be able to say that I gave Him everything out of gratitude for the cross. The cross has to be enough for me. If the cross isn’t enough, then I’ll always believe that God owes me something else. He doesn’t.
This can be a tricky line to walk, because I don’t want the belief that “God doesn’t owe me anything” to turn into the belief that “God doesn’t want to bless me” . That simply isn’t true. I’m not saying God isn’t a God of extravagance and blessing. He’s a good God who loves to give good gifts. But in the interest of restoring Hope to the body of Christ, we need to understand that our hope needs to be placed in the person before the promise. Our hope needs to be put in Jesus Christ, regardless of whether or not our circumstances always look the way we would like them to. Because of the cross, Jesus is eternally worthy of our submission to His lordship.
I know that there are many people who are comfortable with Jesus being their savior. But I wonder how many of those people are also comfortable with Jesus being their Lord? I want to challenge you to press in on this topic of hope and consider a few things:
1. How do you use the word “hope” in casual conversation? In your mind, does hope represent wishful thinking or confident expectation? If it looks more like wishful thinking, I wonder how that line of thinking affects your relationship with God and what you expect of Him?
2. Are you currently facing any circumstances or situations that feel hopeless? If so, I believe that God is wanting to restore that hope to you, but you have a part to play. Proverbs 13:12 says that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” — if you’re feeling hopeless, take some time to ask the Father if there are any areas of your life in which you haven’t been able to trust Him? God is a God of hope (Romans 15:13), and He doesn’t believe in hopeless situations.
Like what you’ve read, or looking for more information, posts or connection? Give Brian a follow on instagram at @hestipher