Imagine sitting at the first game of the season for your favorite basketball team. You hope they will have a good run. They haven’t played together before—it’s a new coach, mostly new players, old gym. You don’t know anything about the opposing team. But you are hopeful for a win. What kind of hope is this? It is longing, waiting with expectation, maybe even pained as it watches the score tick up and the clock count down. No one knows how this game ends. But the fans still hope.
This is the type of hope often described in the Old Testament. Everyone was longing for a savior, longing for redemption. Psalm 71:4-5 says, “Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.” This hope evokes a sense of suffering because freedom from suffering is not real to them yet. They are still waiting to be rescued eternally. The word “hope” is sometimes likened to a cord binding them to God’s promises. The Lord was with them, yes, but the Savior had not yet come. Hope was like a tether, keeping them from falling away in a fallen world while they waited.
So now imagine it’s the end of the basketball season. Your team handily won every single game. There is not one loss on record—there hasn’t even been a close game. You sit to watch the last tip-off of the season, knowing the opponent hasn’t ever come close to winning a game. As in the first game, you are still hopeful for a win. But now your hope has a different air about it—this win hasn’t happened yet, but since every other game has produced one, there is a confidence and a faith that your team will absolutely reign victorious. You don’t enter in with nail-biting and apprehension but with an assurance of faith that you are cheering for the champions. This is a joy-filled hope.
Hope in Christ is never misplaced hope.
This is also the way the word “hope” is used almost exclusively in the New Testament. The difference? Jesus had come. Jesus had died. Jesus had risen from the dead. He was alive again, conqueror of death, saver of souls, redeemer of the damned bringing hope for the hopeless, strength for the weak, freedom for the oppressed and healing for the diseased.
After God in the flesh walked the earth, hope looked different for the people of God. Every Christ-follower knew who would reign victorious for all eternity—Jesus would. And His followers hoped unabashedly, fearlessly, joyfully, for the day when He would come again and bring His perfect kingdom to restore a broken world. As Christians, we can hope with joy, even in the midst of suffering, because we already know how this whole thing ends. Jesus wins. It is finished.
Our assurance of salvation in Christ Jesus is surer than the outcome of a basketball game. We’ve learned, recently, how fleeting sports are in this world. We’ve experienced, maybe, how misplaced hope can leave us fearful or anxious or weary. Hope in Christ is never misplaced hope.
I realize that knowing the end doesn’t make hard circumstances easy. Some days, my hope looks more like the Old Testament variety where I’m clinging to God, waiting desperately for an outcome I’ve never seen. Other days, the assurance of all Jesus did for me is so real, I joyfully anticipate life eternal in the kingdom of God. Whatever my lot, I have to hold on to this big Hope.
But there are littler hopes, too. Many hope to one day leave their home and go to the movies or to dinner. We hope that our loved ones won’t become infected and suffer. We hope for a test, a vaccine, or a cure. We hope for a job, for enough groceries, to keep a roof over our heads. It is certainly not wrong to hope for these things, but remember—these are the things over which we have no earthly assurance. Hope in the things of the world can come with angst and stress. We simply don’t know when this pandemic will end or what we will suffer.
God asks us to step back and look at our circumstances from a different point of view. Instead of hoping in doctors, politicians, and employers, God is asking us to trust HIM. What we don’t know, He does. We have every assurance of His care and love. The hope we have by the sacrifice and salvation of Jesus Christ comes with a joyful expectancy that we will be okay in the end, and we rest trusting God for whatever the end of this looks like for each one of us. He is our refuge. And He will never leave us. And He is preparing a place for us to dwell eternally that nothing on this fallen earth can ever touch.
This pandemic cannot overpower God or the plans He has for us.
Fellow Christian, our hope transcends what our flesh can see—it reflects what our spirits know in Christ. It is no longer simply a tether to a Savior, but also a tether to an eternity with Him.
We can hope in God like a basketball fan cheering on a winning team. But with even more confidence. A Christian’s hope should look different from the rest of the world’s because God’s nature, presence, and kingdom are not dictated by the state of the world. God’s promises are true. His word never changes. He knows everything. He is for us.
So let us continue in prayer and boldly ask God about those things we can’t control—politicians, medical professionals, invisible germs, the suffering poor and unemployed, the children… Let’s set our hearts on prayer and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
But also, hold on to a joyful hope in Christ, friend, and let’s rest in the promise of God’s love and salvation. And share that hope. There is joy, peace, and freedom to be found in what He says is true.
“If we are God’s children, that means we are His heirs along with the Anointed, set to inherit everything that is His. If we share His sufferings, we know that we will ultimately share in His glory. Now I’m sure of this: the sufferings we endure now are not even worth comparing to the glory that is coming and will be revealed in us. For all of creation is waiting, yearning for the time when the children of God will be revealed. You see, all of creation has collapsed into emptiness, not by its own choosing, but by God’s. Still He placed within it a deep and abiding hope that creation would one day be liberated from its slavery to corruption and experience the glorious freedom of the children of God.” -Romans 8:17-21
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” –Psalm 145:18