Let Hope In, Session 3: Holding Out Hope

holdingouthope

by Jennifer McCaman

No one understands hope like a college student. Every time you read a chemistry book till 5 a.m., pay your tuition, or work a double shift only to be rewarded by your minimum-wage paycheck, you’re forced to remind yourself that this is not for the rest of your life. You’re hoping for something more. Your hope isn’t a passive, “I sure hope one day things will be different.” Your hope is active— a daily decision to wake up, go to class, go to work, study, eat cheap pizza, and go to sleep. That hope propels you to make the sacrifices you need to make to realize your future, even though it might seem like a long way off now.

More Than a Feeling

In a feelings-frenzy world, it’s easy to think of hope as a warm fuzzy when life is going well. But our hope is founded in more than emotions. Spiritually, we have a kind of hope the world doesn’t understand. In 1 Timothy 1:1, Paul says “our hope” is in the Person of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews calls our hope a “sure and firm anchor of the soul,” keeping us steady even in the storm of unpredictable feelings (6:19). When we choose to follow Christ, we have hope that affects every area of our lives, even our grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

The world’s hope looks a little different. The world places hope in money, relationships, careers, fame, and pleasure. People without Christ might “hope” for a better life, but theirs is a passive, wishful-thinking kind of hope — a watered-down version of the real thing. I’m sure you know people chasing this kind of hope. You probably have a friend or roommate hoping for the American dream: a big house, fat bank account, new car, and the perfect family. The hopes of the world will always fail. But in Christ, it’s the opposite. Our hope cannot fail, even in the hardest times.

Make a Statement

In 2 Kings we see a man who lived his hope in front of an entire kingdom. King Hezekiah became ruler of Judah when he was 25 years old. Unlike his ancestors, he placed all his hope in God. Scripture says, “He held fast to the LORD and did not turn from following Him (18:6).” Though the powerful kingdom of Assyria destroyed other nations, Hezekiah refused to bow. He got rid of idols and wholeheartedly followed the Lord.

We see from Hezekiah that true hope in God always results in action. Despite an enemy army that vastly outnumbered Judah, Hezekiah refused to bow. His hope probably looked ridiculous to outside nations.

When you place your hope in Christ, your life will rarely make sense to non-believers. While our hope plays out in many ways, your hope could be something as simple as waking up early on Sunday to go to church even when you don’t want to or refusing to cheat on that difficult final exam even if it means failing the class. Or placing your hope in Christ could mean waiting until you’re married to have sex because you know God has more in store for you. Our hope looks foolish to those who don’t know Christ, but trusting in Him is actually the greatest wisdom anyone could have (see 1 Corinthians 1:21-25).

The hopes of the world will always fail. But in Christ, it’s the opposite. Our hope cannot fail, even in the hardest times.

Always a Hater

When the Assyrian king heard about Hezekiah’s refusal to surrender, he sent an army led by Rabshakeh to taunt the people of Judah into submission. His mission wasn’t to physically destroy them, but to break their hope.

Why is it sometimes easier to hurt physically than lose hope? When an enemy succeeds in stealing our hope, he or she knows the battle is already won. Rabshakeh threatened and bribed, but his tactics were met by a very loud silence. Hezekiah’s hope was contagious, and his people refused to be broken.

In America, we rarely face physical threats, but we’re all familiar with the taunts of the Evil One. Maybe they sound like, “God won’t come through for you.” “You’ll never be good enough.” “Is your God even listening?” “Will He ever answer your prayer?” “How can you have hope in such a hopeless world?” Regardless of the taunts you may receive, it’s imperative that you continue to place your future hope in Christ’s hands.

Confidence in Crisis Mode

The first thing Hezekiah did when his hope faced a crisis was go before the Lord — He went to the temple (19:1). In verse 14 we see that Hezekiah took his enemy’s letter and “spread it out before the LORD.” When our hope feels threatened, the safest place to run is to God. He alone knows our battles: the relational, intellectual, and emotional ones. He knows how to restore us. Along with seeking God personally, Hezekiah went straight to the prophet Isaiah — God’s voice to His people. Often the counsel of spiritual friends and mentors can encourage us. Scripture is another great power source for hope. Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait for the LORD; I wait, and put my hope in His word.”

Not Just a Pipe Dream

God honored King Hezekiah’s request to save Judah. In fact, He sent an angel to kill 185 thousand Assyrian troops overnight (2 Kings 19:35). The nations got the message loud and clear: The Lord alone is God and He will fight for His people.

Our victory is a little different because it started in the past. Jesus defeated the Enemy forever on the cross. Nothing can come between us and God — not even death. Our hope is in Him — that He will finish what He started, that He will come again, and that this world is not our home.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

On the surface, the world is a pretty hopeless place. Disease, natural disasters, divorce, poverty, and a multitude of other catastrophes serve as constant reminders that this world has no hope by itself. But in Christ, we have the power to hope for more than this world has to offer. Like Hezekiah’s hope, your anticipation of the future won’t always make sense to you, but it will stand out. And it will be contagious. Romans 15:13 reminds us that hope isn’t passive; it’s powerful: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” That kind of hope will change the way you live and cause the world to take notice.

Jennifer McCaman is a freelance writer and student-ministry wife from Smyrna, Tenn. She just returned from a mission trip to Brazil where she witnessed beautiful, hope-saturated believers living in devastating poverty, pouring their whole lives out for the gospel.

4 verses that build hope

  1. “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
  2. “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).
  3. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
  4. “But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes— it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, The Message).

 

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