Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

April 03, 2004

Notes on Biblical Hope (2)

Well, I haven't had much opportunity to write this week. So be it. If God has been teaching me anything at all lately it's that I need to have a teachable attitude, and I suppose that is at least in part with reference to this quest I have set out upon to write a book about encouragement.

Now, this may seem somewhat counter-intuitive. To write a book is, in some sense, to claim the authority of a teacher or master. And yet I will readily admit that I want to write about this subject precisely because I need to learn and understand, rather than because I need to teach. God is saying, Be teachable. Accept instruction. Allow yourself to be molded by this experience. Do not claim the rank of teacher, but of disciple. Learn from me.

So that is going to be my attitude. My project just now is focusing on the subject of hope. I am really just in the "receiving phase" of the process, and want to simply process my thoughts by jotting them down quickly. If anyone else finds them interesting, that's a bonus.

Essentially, I want to think about hope's benefit in the present. I guess that's one way to put it anyway. In other words, I know that my hope, which is the expectation of a promised inheritance in heaven, has everything to do with my future, but I want to understand what it has to do with my here-and-now. The sweet by-and-by is just not enough for me. I know people who are enduring some real trauma and heartache, and if the best I can tell them is, someday all your trouble will be o'er, well, it really doesn't help much, does it?

But David calls God an ever present help. Not only that--I mean, not only is that true about God--but we must believe it's true. That's what hope is. Believing that God is who he says he is, and will do what he say he will do.

So then, hope is an attitude. That is, it is not determined entirely by the circumstances of the moment. I keep thinking about Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. As long as she had hope, her nerve, her courage and resourcefulness, knew no bounds. On the other hand, when her hoped flagged, so did her will. The Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow were all transformed from paralysis and gloomy despair when Dorothy brought them reason to believe that better was possible.

So we, like they, must have a reason for hope, and that of course is the Cross of Christ. The Word of God provides, for us, the basis of the hope that is in us.

But again, all this sort of beats around the bush. I know that the Cross is our anchor of hope, and I know that Heaven represents, in a word, all the very sum and substance of that hope, but there remains this time between, which Paul calls this world. Well, one thing we will simply have to do is endure. Endurance, steadfastness, patience. Holding on through thick and thin. Not giving way or giving in or giving up, but believing and believing and believing, straight through the storm.

Yes, yes, but is that all? Just hanging on to our thin strands of hope for fear that letting go would be far worse? Or is Biblical hope about more than this? Is it about power? Is it, in fact, about victory now?

Well, we know that the promises of God have both a now and also a not yet character. Check out blogger Mark D. Roberts for a long and brilliant series of posts on this very subject. Or perhaps you'd like to read the pret' near definitive book by George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom.

The point is, the Kingdom of God in its now aspect is a manifest reality, not simply an attitude. How is it manifested? In power over sin, in spiritual gifts, at times in signs and wonders. For our purposes let us simply say, in a hope that does not disappoint, but provides for our needs, our "help," here and now.

As David said, "I would have lost heart unless I believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13


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