Voice of the Church, thoughts on the meaning of hope

What do you hope for?

A new Government promotional video tells us, ‘Every vaccination gives us hope.’  Most of us hope that we will one day get to the other side of Covid and we won’t have to wear masks for the rest of our life!

We may also have personal hopes, for ourselves or for our families.  It is a word we frequently use, to refer to anything from the weather to world events.

But what does hope mean?  The dictionary says that it is a feeling of expectation or desire for a particular thing to happen, or ‘wanting something to happen or be the case’.

It is one of those words that has changed its meaning over time.  Originally, it meant ‘a feeling of trust or a confident expectation…’ and this is the meaning the Bible gives to the word hope.  In the New Testament, the word hope comes from the Greek word elpis, which means expectation, trust and confidence.  This gives it a much stronger meaning than its common use today and we can therefore say, ‘Jesus is our hope’ or ‘Our hope is in the Lord’.

The apostle Peter tells us that God has ‘given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ (1 Peter 1: 3).  We have this assured hope because Jesus’s resurrection is based on fact, not wishful thinking.  Biblical hope, therefore, is not a hope-so but a know-so.  It isn’t wishing for the best or waiting to see what happens but is based on solid, concrete evidence backed up by God’s faithfulness.  It is hope in a person rather than in a set of circumstances.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has shown us that we are not in control as we thought we were.  We are thankful for scientists who have developed vaccines and are working on drugs, but science does not have all the answers for this life and certainly not for the next one.  Having just faced the death of a loved one, I need to put my hope and confidence in the One who has all the answers to life and death, none other than God Himself.

In the book of Hebrews we read, ‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ (11:1).  Here, the two words ‘assurance’ and ‘evidence’ are linked to faith.  But it is important to put our faith in the right person, in the ‘living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.’ (1 Timothy 4:10).  Jesus Christ is our only sure hope.  He is the only one who has defeated death and offers the gift of eternal life.

Believers in Jesus have the most reason of any to be filled with hope.  We ‘wait for our blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ (Titus 2:13) and we are reminded that, ‘The God of hope (will) fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’ (Romans 15: 13).

In what do you hope?

Vera Peevor