Despair is all around us. We see it in countless broken lives and in the tragic suicide rate. We see it at the bottom of the caste system in India, in the rampant sex trafficking industry plaguing many nations, and in the masses of humanity suffering under the brutal reigns of godless, totalitarian regimes.
If we look closely we can see despair in less obvious places. We see it in the lonely face of the nursing home resident who never has a visitor. We see it in the worker who just got laid off and now fears losing his home as well. We see it in the wife battling infertility as yet another Mother’s Day magnifies her emptiness. We see it in the family members who have just been told by the medical specialist, “There’s nothing else we can do for him.”
Despair. Sometimes we can see it as we gaze into the mirror, but even in those challenging moments, we can maintain a healthy perspective because we know the Bible promises that hope is available. The concept of hope is woven throughout the Bible and is central to the gospel message.
Hope is based on the grace of God. Not our possessions, not our accomplishments, not our goodness, not our righteousness. We are offered cleansing from all unrighteousness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. By grace we are saved.
Hope is based on the Son of God. He is the one hope for forgiveness and for escaping the consequences of our sins. He is the way, the truth, and the life, the only way back to a right relationship with God (John 14:6). Salvation is found in no one else (Acts 4:12).
Hope is based on the faithfulness of God. The Lord God keeps his promises. After the first human sin in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve experienced guilt, fear, separation from God, and despair for the very first time. Yet even as God explained to them the consequences of their sin, he offered a word of hope for the ages.
In Genesis 3:15 God declared to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” This prophecy was a ray of hope amidst humanity’s very dark hour. God was promising to someday send a deliverer to confront and destroy the devil, dying in the process, to rescue us from sin and death.
Essentially, the remainder of the Bible records how God carried out the promise he made in that significant verse. There is hope! When God called Abraham in Genesis 12, explaining that through him God would bless all nations, he was saying, “There is hope!” When he declared in Isaiah 53 that the Messiah would bear our sins on himself, God was saying, “There is hope!”
When he foretold in Psalm 16 that the Messiah’s body would never see decay, he was announcing, “There is hope!” The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the ultimate declaration of victory and hope. No wonder the apostle Peter opened up his first epistle with these words of celebration: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
A Reason to Celebrate
It is a living hope; not shaken by the storms of life nor the reality of death. No wonder the angel invited the shepherds to celebrate and praise God as he announced the birth of Christ the Lord. It was good news of great joy for all the people.
A Reason to Hang On
When Jesus later ascended back to Heaven, two more angels proclaimed that he would someday return. No wonder the previously frightened apostles of Jesus left the Mt. of Olives with a courageous new resolve to share the gospel message with the whole world. There is hope!
Hope is what allowed the early Christians to greet one another by saying “Maranatha” (meaning “our Lord comes”). Some had family members who were being imprisoned and tortured, so that greeting gave them hope. Others lost their jobs or freedoms because of their faith, so that greeting brought them hope.
A Reason to Remain Mission Focused
Despair sees things as hopeless, assuming things will never get better. Hope envisions the power of God working in any situation. Hope celebrates possibility. Hope inspires service and mission. Hope sees a troubled society drifting from God and prompts us to be the salt and light that will transform our culture.
Hope sees a world that rejects absolute truth and prompts us to present God’s truth in a clear and uncompromising way. Hope sees people wandering about like sheep without a shepherd and reaches out with tender love. Hope sees people lost in sin and reaches out in the power of the gospel which is able to save them. Hope compels us to make a difference.
A Reason to Live with Anticipation
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope fully on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (1 Peter 1:13).
So, when we worship with other believers, let’s remember that Jesus is coming back. When the clouds of life seem thick and dark, let’s remember that Jesus is coming back. When it seems the devil and his angels have the upper hand, let’s remember that Jesus is coming back. When our body quits functioning as well as it once did, let’s remember that Jesus is coming back.
The Lord God is still on his throne, reigning absolutely supreme, and one day, in his time, he will intervene in history once more, sending back the risen Christ to redeem the world.
Maranatha! There is hope!
Tom Claibourne celebrates hope with his church family, the Bethlehem Church of Christ near Winchester, Ohio.