In any language I love this word, hope. Hope reminds me that what is now, or what was in the past, does not have to be in the future. Hope means that things can change, the world can change, people can change. For me hope forms a central part of the gospel message. In Christ I have hope that I can – will! – be transformed. Because of Jesus Christ I have hope that this world has been and is being renewed and redeemed. My hope is not in myself or my ability. My hope is not in the ability of people to overcome all the problems of this world. My hope is in Jesus Christ. But because of my hope in him, I have hope for this world, for myself, and for the people of this world.
Hope does not deny the reality of the problems around us. Hope does not put on rose-colored glasses and pretend that everything's great. Nor does hope look backward to some prior golden age, wishing hopefully that we could return to that previous time. No, hope looks ahead with, well with hope, that this world and the people in it will be restored to what they were created to be. Hope does not give in to despair.
As I said earlier, I believe that hope forms a central part of the gospel message. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have hope not because of anything we have done or can do, but because of what has already been done for us. When I read the Bible, I see this message of hope popping up all over, God reminding God's people that God will save them, redeem them, transform their situation – even if that situation is a result of their own sinful choices. God is a God of hope. Too often this message gets drowned out in a pessimism that focuses on the problems and the perceived increase in godlessness in our world. We can become so busy telling people how bad it is (or how bad they are) that we forget the hope that we have. And this hope is not just for a future day when we will all escape from this hopeless place. No, the hope we have is for this world and this life as well as the life after this one. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that we are to be pitied more than all people if we have hope only for the future life. I think that the same could be said in reverse: we are also to be pitied if we hold on to hope only for the life after this life. God's power is at work in and through us here and now to bring about transformation, to work out God's redemption and renewal of humanity and this world, until the day when it culminates in the new heaven and new earth.
I am reminded of a very old Michael W. Smith song in which he sang:
When things get bad
and you can't stand to look
It's time to read
To the end of the book.
Have we forgotten how the story ends? We shouldn't, because if we do we lose sight of hope. Our hope is sustained by what Jesus has already done and by the assurances of Scripture of what God has yet to do. God's work, while complete in Christ, is at the same time not yet completely fulfilled. We know how the story ends, but the end has not yet come. Between now and then, we can choose to focus on the problems of this sinful world, or we can look in hope at what God has promised to do and choose to join in that work. Personally, I prefer to focus on hope. Pessimism and despair sink the spirit, but hope floats.