When Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus started recording the history of the first century AD, he wrote, “I am entering upon the history of a period rich in disaster, gloomy with wars, rent with seditions.” He went on to write of the devastation of the era: war, murder, adultery, hate, terror, betrayal. Concerning politicians, he wrote: “Virtue was the surest way to ruin.”
From then until now, those words have been descriptive of every generation. As Ecclesiastes informs us: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9).
But societal corruption is impotent to destroy hope. Hope is the vaccine that inoculates us against the virus of despair. It puts us beyond the reach of those who would subjugate us with abuse of position and power. Consider that at the very time of which Tacitus wrote, the apostle Paul was reaching out to Christians, saying, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope . . .” (Rom 15:13).
Christian hope is not wishful thinking or rah-rah optimism. When Paul and Timothy “put [their] hope in the living God” (1 Tm 4:10), it wasn’t a mindless pipe dream about a bright future that might or might not happen, but a certainty that God would see them through.
Biblical hope (elpis) is the “expectation of what is sure.” “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb 11:1).
As noted by Tacitus, Christianity entered the world at a time of terrible turmoil. But Christians found hope of victory over circumstances, as we do today.
Our hope is secure, for we are assured that nothing can come between us and the love of God. “Neither the present nor the future, nor any powers . . . nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38–39).
Last night I turned the final page of an on-the-edge-of-your-seat novel. The finale had me slapping my forehead and saying, “Of course—I don’t know why I didn’t see that coming.” That’s the way of a good novel—it holds you in suspense until the last page, then hits you with a surprise ending.
Only God knows the end of our story. We stumble through a life of unexpected turns and trials. Sometimes we can see nothing good in what’s happening in the “right now”—and we’re fuzzy about how it will end. But Christian hope assures us that the end of our story will be “Game won!”
God is bigger than our circumstances, however difficult they may seem. He hasn’t abandoned us to negotiate them alone. “We put our hope in the Lord; He is our help and our shield” (Ps 33:20).
Here is the way Paul transitioned from the here-and-now to the there-and-then. “Our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. . . . So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever” (2 Cor 4:17–18).
Our hope goes far beyond successfully navigating the challenges of this present life. It rests “on the hope of eternal life” (Ti 1:1–2). We “wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Ti 2:13).
In his goodbye to his disciples, Jesus said, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later. . . . I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (Jn 13:36; 14:3).
Let Paul’s confident hope rub off on you: “I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return” (2 Tm 1:12). “The prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return” (2 Tm 4:8).
Hope is our anchor, firm and secure (Heb 6:19).