By Submitted Article on July 4, 2020.
Faith, love, hope
Last of three parts
Jacob M. Van Zyl
A cross, heart and anchor are the icons for faith, love and hope, respectively. Hebrews 6:19 describes hope as an anchor.
The anchor and its chain secure a ship to the seabed, keeping its bow toward the wind and oncoming waves. Therefore, ships do not anchor in deep sea but in bays where the anchor can reach the ground. Likewise, hope anchors us to God and enable us to survive the storms of life.
Just as faith and love can be directed toward wrong things, so hope can be fixed on the wrong and become false hope. If someone covers skin cancer with plaster in the hope it will go away, it is false hope.
Hope can be active or passive, positive or negative, biblical or worldly, realistic or unrealistic, and healing or poisoning.
Believers of the Old Testament fixed their hope on God (Ps. 42:5, 130:7, 146:5). In his omniscience, he knew all about them; in his omnipotence, nothing was impossible for him; in his omnipresence, he could reach them anywhere; and in his grace and love he provided despite their failures.
New Testament believers focused their hope on Christ (Eph. 1:12, Col. 1:27, 1 Tim. 1:1). His atoning sacrifice bought their forgiveness and reconciliation with God. As a result, they can now look forward with hope to Christ’s return and the resurrection of their bodies (Acts 23:6, 24:15, Titus 1:2, 2:13).
Some early Christians thought the return of Christ was so imminent that they stopped working (2 Thess. 3:6-15). Why plant a tree or tend a garden if it will soon be burned up? Paul urged them to exchange their passive hope for active hope. The Antichrist will come before Christ does. Until that happens, the return of Christ is postponed.
However, Paul encouraged them to keep their hope for Christ’s return alive. He will come unexpectedly but not secretly. His arrival will be announced by a loud call and trumpet sound (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Christ will bring the souls of deceased believers with him and resurrect their bodies. Living believers will be changed in the blink of an eye (1 Cor. 15:51-52). Christians can mourn in real hope, not like worldly people who have no hope.
Christians do not hope for bad things but for good things for all people – even that their enemies will come to see the light and be saved.
Although God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and infinite in love, Christians are realistic in their hope. They know that an amputated leg will not grow back; a prosthesis is an option.
Because of their hope for Christ’s return and the renewal of all things (Act 3:21-22), Christians radiate hopefulness in all circumstances and do not poison minds with despair (Matt. 5:13-16).
Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.