I think a lot about hope. You could say it is the most defining word in my life. I run an organization called OneHope, and I coauthored a best-selling book with hope as a central value. My favorite quote is from St. Augustine, “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
What happens when no amount of anger or courage will seemingly change the reality of the present situation?
I wake up every morning with two vicious realities: people I deeply care for in Ukraine are facing a menacing and imminent evil and my stepmom is battling an aggressive cancer. No amount of vitriol on my part is changing these realities. War and cancer rage on, and I am powerless to stop either.
I have lived with an unfailing belief that is rooted in hope. I believe this because I have experienced its power, and I am convinced of it because I believe the Bible tells the story about the foundation of my hope, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 ESV). I have even become a student of the science of hope, believing it is more than an emotion, but it is an action with three elements: willpower (inspiration), strategy (goals) and management (short-term objectives).
Bible verses on hope
What happens, though, when no amount of science, theology, or experience can fix the reality of orphans trapped in a bomb shelter in enemy territory or a loved one whose insides are chemically on fire? All the hope verses that I have memorized then feel empty:
“If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25 ESV)
“Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” (2 Corinthians 3:12 ESV)
“We who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12 ESV)
I don’t feel bold, patient or glorious. I feel angry, frustrated and powerless. Then this verse comes from Paul’s account of the life of Abraham:
“He believed, hoping against hope, that he would become ‘the father of many nations,’ according to what was said….” (Romans 4:18 ESV)
Present and future reality
Hoping against hope? I’ve been to almost every one of the cities I see being bombed; I know people in these cities, and any small action I can do feels like nothing. I can’t heal my stepmom or do enough to take away my dad’s deep sadness.
Hoping against hope means never giving up even when the present reality seems impossible. This is the crux of the dilemma: our present reality and our ultimate hope.
Herein lies the ultimate paradox of Kingdom citizens: we live fully in the present and fully in the future. We operate fully in the seen and unseen realms. We live in this present age, but our citizenship transcends it.
Jesus displayed this distinction in everything He taught and how He lived, and so must we. We must be in the world but not of the world, fully engaged in temporary hope yet fully grounded in transcendent hope.
The writer of Hebrews offers these beautiful illustrations between the two hopes:
“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:32-40 ESV).
The essence of holistic ministry is doing everything to relieve the pain and agony in the present while ALWAYS preaching the eternal, never-dying hope of the Kingdom.
This hope is the hope against hope. In Jesus, there is salvation, resurrection and victory over sin, death, war and cancer. To the nonbeliever and to the believer in moments of pain, seeking for and providing earthly hope, this is offensive. This is why Jesus was so offensive. He didn’t provide the hope that a Messiah was expected to bring; He didn’t right all the wrongs, heal all the people and overthrow the unjust warlords of His time. It’s why He had to say to His disciples “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:6 ESV).
While working with all His energy for present hope, I am asked to live in the certainty of future hope.
I am given the foretaste of the future by the breaking in of God’s love on earth. Sitting with my stepmom, my wife holding her hand and praying, we felt the peace of God overwhelm us. I told a stupid joke, and through her pain she laughed. It was a respite, relief, a reminder of what is waiting, perhaps through a healing in the here and now, but a certainty, a hope against hope, that we as His children are destined to laugh and sing and dance through all eternity.
Rob Hoskins is the President of OneHope. Since taking leadership of OneHope in 2004 he has continued to advance the vision of God’s Word. Every Child. by partnering with local churches to help reach more than 1.7 BILLION children and youth worldwide with a contextualized presentation of God’s Word.
Read more by Rob Hoskins at goodnewsfl.org/author/rob-hoskins/