By Cos Davis
How we anticipate our future has a profound effect on our peace and the faithfulness with which we live out our days.
How we anticipate our future has a profound effect on our peace and the faithfulness with which we live out our days. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point.
- Mary Ann had been on edge for days as she anticipated her routine physical. Worry and negative thinking made her and everyone around her miserable. As usual, she came from her appointment with a good report. At some level, Mary Ann is convinced that worrying and fretting are necessary and even helpful in situations out of her control.
- Joe recently received discouraging news that the cancer he had been fighting for four years had reappeared and he would need more treatments. After dealing with the initial shock and disappointment, he resumed as much normalcy as possible, trusting God to work out His will in his circumstances.
Take an Honest Look
Let’s take time to examine our general approach to life. Are we, like Mary Ann, worrying and anxious, anticipating the future as a gathering storm? Or, like Joe, does hopeful anticipation reign, in spite of some very difficult circumstances?
The reality is that we have probably lived the majority of our earthly lives. Our time is limited. Our sense of finiteness and approaching death should cause us to transfer our future hope in Christ to our present day attitudes and actions.
Hopeful anticipation is a healthful and realistic way to view the future. It may be time for a change in thinking or perspective about the future.
Hopeful anticipation is a healthful and realistic way to view the future.
WHAT IS OUR HOPEFUL ANTICIPATION?
The words hope and anticipation are very appropriate for the believer in Christ. To anticipate is to think about something in the future. For Christians, anticipation should be hopeful, based on the death, resurrection, and return of our Lord. To be hopeful means to live with the attitude that God is sovereign and He will fulfill His promises.
So, what is our hopeful anticipation? Paul refers to it in Philippians 3:20-4:1 by reminding us of the following:
- We are only temporary citizens of the earth; our true citizenship is in heaven.
- We eagerly await Christ’s return from heaven when He will bring everything under His control.
- He will transform our earthly bodies into glorious ones.
With this view of life and our thinking firmly grounded in these scriptural truths, each of us can face the remainder of our life and whatever challenges it brings with hopeful anticipation.
ENEMIES OF OUR HOPE
Remaining hopeful and living in hopeful anticipation has its challenges. Hopeful anticipation does not ignore reality. Our world is a dangerous place. There are enemies of peace who want to destroy our way of life. Natural disasters seem to abound. We, our family members, and friends, face personal health issues. Problems come into our lives in all manner of shapes and sizes. If we are not careful, we can lose the sense of joy and hope which is our rightful heritage in Christ. Being mindful of the enemies of our hope will enable us to face discouragement and setbacks in positive ways.
First, we must recognize that our hope has an adversary. There is no question that the enemy will use every opportunity to discourage us and try to convince us that our present troubles and trials are clear evidence that God is uncaring. Satan is the enemy of your hope. He is expert at deception and lies about the character of God. 1 Peter 5:8 warns: “Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” His desire is to steal your hope and take away your joy in Christ.
Second, we must recognize that we can be our own enemy of our hope. Sometimes the enemy need only to sit back and watch us destroy our own hope by the way we interpret the troubles we face. We may be so accustomed to things going well in life that the slightest test may unsettle our faith. We tend to see suffering and trials in ways totally contrary to that reflected in the writings of James, Paul, and Peter. These men were so sure that God was sovereign that they made the seemingly preposterous assertion that God would use our problems to shape our character and form us into the likeness of Christ. Problems will come to each of us; only as we accept our trials and commit ourselves to God’s purpose will we be able to maintain our hopeful approach to life.
HOW OUR HOPE INFLUENCES TODAY
Our sense of hopeful anticipation has at least three tremendously positive influences on the way we live.
First, there is a focus on the eternal point of view rather than simply the here and now. There is a quality of the big picture which gives a larger perspective to what is happening. While pain, suffering, and grief cannot be denied, our hurt and loss can be seen in the context of faith and hope. While we may not see the details of the bigger picture, we can be certain the God who loves us knows what He is about and will work all things together for good (Rom. 8:28).
Second, our hopeful anticipation turns anxiety and worry into positive attitudes. Let’s face it, habits of worry and anxiety do nothing to address our problems. They are dishonoring to God and rob us of our peace and joy. Living in the hope of our future with Christ replaces negative attitudes with positive ones. Again, this is not some “Pollyanna” denial of reality but a solid, grounded approach to living in the real world with the confidence that God can make something good out of every problem.
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4).
Third, there is an inspiration to work to bring hope to others by addressing their needs in the name of Christ. People of hope do not forget people around them need the Lord also. While we cannot address every need, we can do what we can. We have children and grandchildren to pray for and encourage. We can send a card or letter to encourage a soldier or friend. We can offer the wisdom of our experience to a younger woman or man.
In our world of uncertainty, confusion, and change, we can live with confidence by claiming and living by our hope in Christ. While future events may be uncertain, one thing is not. God is ultimately in charge, and He will see us through. So, live fully and confidently with the hopeful anticipation which is the rightful possession to all who call Jesus, Savior and Lord.
Cos Davis is a retired licensed clinical pastoral therapist, living in Franklin, Tenn. He is married to Cecelia. They have two children and four grandchildren.
This article first appeared in the March, 2012 issue of Mature Living. Subscribe