Defining Hope

This coming Saturday morning I’m going to be preaching on hope to the homeless in downtown Houston. So I thought I’d do a few articles on hope this week. I don’t do topical sermons often unless that topic comes from an exposition of a particular passage.

When I do preach topical sermons the first thing I always do is seek to obtain a biblical definition of that topic. For example: What is hope according to the Bible? Does the Bible define hope the same way we do? I always want to know if our idea/definition of that particular topic line up with the Bible’s.

I like to see how my perceptions of certain things differ from the Bible’s. When I find the differences and make adjustments to my life and thinking accordingly it’s always a rewarding experience. So how doea the Bible define hope? What does the Bible’s definition look like in comparison to ours? How can we benefit from knowing the differences?

For us, we usually use the word hope in kind of a 50/50 chance. I hope my package gets here this week means it might or it might not arrive this week but it sure would be nice if it does. I hope I’m not late for work. Translation: I might or might not be late for work but it sure would be nice if I’m not. You get the point. The word hope is always used by us to refer to something that is a gamble but we want to go a certain way.

Not so in the Bible. All of my Greek study tools define hope in the New Testament as a word that means or refers to a confident expectation. But not even that phrase, confident expectation, really gets the point across to us in our modern English speaking minds. Because we can say we have a confident expectation in something and it still have the connotations of something that is a gamble.

A confident expectation may be less of a gamble to us than a hope. It may bring to mind images of things that are more sure than the 50/50 gamble we equate with hope. Maybe something that’s more like a 70/30 chance or 80/20. But a still a gamble nonetheless.

Hope in the Bible, as a confident expectation, is always something that is a 100% gaurantee. Hope in the Bible leaves nothing to chance. It is never a gamble but a gaurantee. When the word hope is used in the Bible it is always in reference to 100% confidence that the expectation which the hope refers to will be met.

A practical example from the use of this word in Acts does well to illustrate this.

“But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities,” (Acts 16:19)

In this story in Acts 16 there is a slave girl possessed by a demon which enables her to predict the future. Her masters used her to make money via fortune telling for others. Paul casts the demon out of her. Therefore, she could no longer predict the future. Thus, her masters could no longer make money off of her.

When it says here in verse 19 that “her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone” it’s not referring to a 50/50 chance. It’s not saying they saw that they might not make any more money off of her. They knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they would no longer be able to profit from the girl. The demon was gone, she couldn’t predict the future anymore, 100% gaurantee they would no longer profit from her.

Thus, whenever the Bible talks about the hope we have in Christ it is talking about something that is a 100% gaurantee which we can count on beyond a shadow of a doubt. And that, my friends, is real hope. Not a 50/50 chance. Not a maybe we can count on Christ, maybe we can’t but it sure would be nice if we could.

Not a 70/30 or 80/20 gamble. A 100% garaunteed confidence that the expectation we have in Christ is a sure thing. I pray you will think about this next time you see the word hope in the Bible.

Joseph Sterling

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Questions for reflection:

1. When you think of hope do you picture something that is a 50/50 gamble or a 100% gaurantee?
2. When you read of the hope we have in Christ do you believe with all your heart that it is an expectation that we can have 100% confidence in?
3. What are some of your favorite Bible verses on hope? If you can’t think of any right away look some up, pick one, and take some tine to memorize it thia week.