Hope can be defined as the desire for something good and the expectation of receiving it. Jesus Christ is the only genuine source of hope, because He alone knows what is best and also has the sovereignty and power to secure its fulfillment. In contrast, other hopes are grounded on the shifting sands of circumstances beyond our control.
We all have expectations for the future, but these often pertain only to earthly life. Christ promises us the “living hope” of an imperishable inheritance in heaven. Everyday desires will fade away, but our eternal heavenly home is our ultimate security and anchor when life’s storms are severe.
However, heaven can seem far away when pain is present and there’s no relief in sight. So how do we endure trials right now? One way is through hope, which anticipates a change of circumstances for the better.
But what about when our situation isn’t improving—then, what’s the Lord doing that’s “better”? Peter tells us He is refining our faith, which will result in praise and glory when Jesus returns. This proves more valuable than gold or even relief from our distress. What a paradox! The difficulties that cause us to lose hope are the very tools God uses to increase our faith and hope in Him.
Christ promises us hope not only for eternity but also for this life. Those times that God does not deliver us from difficulty, we can be sure He is doing a greater work within us. When we finally reach our eternal home, we’ll recognize the immeasurable value of the faith He produced in us as we kept our hope in Him.
~ Andy Stanley
“The Holy Spirit has exhorted the faithful to continue clapping their hands for joy until the advent of the promised Redeemer,” wrote John Calvin in a comment on Psalm 47:12. Paul would heartily concur! Writing from a prison cell from which he had no certain knowledge of escaping other than to his execution, joy is what came to mind. Joy is what the epistle to the Philippians is all about. So much is Philippians about joy that George B. Duncan once referred to it as “the life of continual rejoicing.” The opposite of joy is misery, and miserable is something we are not meant to be. The Reformers caught the centrality of joy in the affections of Christians when they insisted that our chief goal in life is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (WSC, Q. 1).
Christians are tempted, of course, to be discouraged and depressed by the force of overwhelming circumstances. But in such circumstances, we must tell ourselves that we have no right to feel the way we do! Paul, who knew what it was to be in prison, to be beaten and spat upon, to be cold shouldered and ignored, commands us to rejoice, despite what we may feel: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).