“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:22).
Wendy and I were at Sam’s Club the other day, “and what, to my wondering eyes should appear?” Why, Christmas decorations of every kind. I thought there was a rule forbidding this until at least after Halloween. Oh, well. I’m happy to celebrate Christmas all year long.
And by the way, that is exactly what we do each and every Sunday as we gather together as Christ’s church to worship our Triune God. And not only Christmas, but Easter as well. You see, we don’t need one particular day to remember Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, etc. We have been given 52 of them to celebrate the goodness of God in sending his one and only Son.
But those Christmas aisles got me thinking. This coming Sunday we will begin a new series, “Being the Church,” in 1 Timothy. As Paul writes to Timothy to encourage him in his pastoral labors, he begins with what we all need to hear. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus OUR HOPE…” (emphasis added).
Every human being who has ever drawn a breath on earth needs hope. Without hope, we simply give up and die. But the hope that much of the world has will only carry them as far as their death beds. It has no power to break through the bars of death on into eternity. No, what we really need is a hope that endures.
And that hope can only come from God. The apostle Paul reminds us of this in his benediction to the Roman church. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
But how do we have this hope that comes from God? There is only one way. We are born in rebellion to God, and desperately need to be reconciled to him. As the passage above reminds us, it is because of the steadfast love of the Lord that brings us hope. And that hope of the OT saint took on flesh in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, as Paul says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoptions as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:4-7).
So we understand what Paul expresses to the Colossians: “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
Christ means hope—to the person out of work, to the struggling single mother, to the dying believer. Even if you’re just slogging your way through the disappointments of life, if you have Jesus, you have hope. And he is not a false hope, nor a childish fairy tale that we wish will have a happy ending. When Christ rose from the dead, that ended the argument. Period. Our hope in him is solid and it is real.
Hope has to do with trust and confidence. It is the resting of the human heart on God, with full trust that he will care for us and our salvation, and will give us all that he has promised. It is an eager expectation and anticipation of what is sure to come—an active, faith-infused waiting for God to fulfill that which he began by the power of the Holy Spirit:
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:23–25, ESV)
God wants us to live with hope and assurance that all his promises will come true for us and that our future is firmly and safely secure in his hand for our good. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).