Webster’s Dictionary defines hope as “a feeling that what is wanted is likely to happen; desire accompanied by expectation.” From a biblical perspective, hope should be based upon confidence in God.
If a person does not believe that God exists and that there will be a resurrection and eternal life spent either in the presence of God or with Satan, he (or she) may think there is no compelling reason to live a moral life rather than a life of self-gratification, if there are no eternal consequences. For many of these people, their thinking is probably somewhat similar to the following: “I might as well eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow I may die, and after that, there will be nothing; I will simply cease to exist.” Thus, they do not have genuine eternal hope and, perhaps, not even superficial temporal hope.
Such people could benefit from giving serious consideration to our other articles under the category entitled Basic Issues Regarding Eternal Life, particularly “What Is the Purpose of Human Life?” and “Does It Really Matter What You Believe?”, which can be accessed by clicking on these titles.
In contrast, the resurrection of Jesus Christ after His death on a cross provides Christians with the basis for believing that they, like Jesus, will be resurrected from their physical death and have eternal bliss in the presence of God. However, hope for Christians need not be based on only their future resurrection, but also on the expectation that God will be with them while they are still living on earth (i.e., while they still have a mortal body).
On page 195 of his book entitled The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says, “Our hope in difficult times is not based on positive thinking, wishful thinking, or natural optimism. It is a certainty based on the truths that God is in complete control of our universe and that he loves us.”
The Adult Learner Guide for winter 2010-2011 states that people “need a believable hope about the present and the future,” and goes on to declare,
From the biblical perspective, hope is the confident expectation that God is good, trustworthy, and in total control. Sometimes, however, a believer’s hope in God gets tested. . . . [F]or God’s people, renewed hope is as close as a prayer, whatever the circumstances may be.
One of the questions raised by the last statement is: Who are God’s people? In this regard, First Peter 2:9-10, which was written to both Jewish and gentile Christians, states,
You are a chosen generation [Note: A number of other translations use the term “people” or “race,” instead of “generation.”], a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His [i.e., God’s] own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, unless indicated otherwise.]
Christians are God’s people. People who are not Christians are unable to have the same degree of hope as those who are Christians, because they do not have assurance of eternal salvation. However, they can have the same degree of hope by trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior. [For a discussion of how to be assured of having eternal salvation, click on “What Must a Person Do to Be Assured of Salvation?”]
Even some Christians may be living a life that demonstrates a deficiency of hope, at least with regard to their current life. If Christians do not have sufficient trust in God with regard to their life while they are still on earth, they can get bogged down in despair about difficult circumstances with which they need to deal, despite trusting in God for their eternal salvation.
We offer the following scriptures for all Christians, but especially for those who are not as hopeful as they would like to be:
Psalm 31:24: Be of good courage, and He [the Lord] shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
Psalm 38:15: For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.
Psalm 42:5a: Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God. . . .
Psalm 71:5a: You are my hope, O Lord God. . . .
Psalm 71:14: I will hope continually, and will praise You [God] yet more and more.
Psalm 146:5: Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.
Jeremiah 17:7: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.
Acts 24 15a: I [the Apostle Paul] have hope in God. . . .
Romans 15:4: [W]hatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:13: [M]ay the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Colossians 1:5a: [The Apostle Paul mentions] the hope which is laid up for you in heaven. . . .
Colossians 1:23b: [The Apostle Paul refers to] the hope of the gospel. . . .
1 Thessalonians 5:8: [L]et us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. [Note: The phrase “us who are of the day” almost certainly refers to Christians.]
Titus 1:2: [The Apostle Paul mentions] hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. . . .
Hebrews 6:18b-19a: [The Apostle Paul refers to] the hope set before us. This hope we [Christians] have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. . . .
1 Peter 1:3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 3:15: [S]anctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. . . .
The hope that Christians have is based on their belief that, as a result of their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, they will have both a more purposeful life while they are on earth and a wonderful eternal existence with God after their life on earth has ended.
In this regard, consider John 10:10b, in which Jesus Christ declares, “I have come that they [those who are saved as a result of having trusted in Him for eternal salvation] may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
It is not our intention to treat lightly the difficulties that many Christians have in maintaining their hope for their current life while they are experiencing adverse circumstances. Instead, we want to make it clear that, even in very difficult situations, Christians can have legitimate hope for their current life, because God is with His followers all the time and He can bring good results out of adverse circumstances. The life of Paul after his conversion is an example of how a person can maintain hope despite all types of adversities, which are summarized by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:23b-27.
[For scripture passages pertaining specifically to encouragement in dealing primarily with difficult situations, click on “Encouragement Provided by the Bible.”]