Like most people, I start the new year with a great deal of hope. Personally, I hope my oldest daughter gets into college somewhere…anywhere (Just kidding, Flannery. You will!). Globally, we hope that conflict with North Korea can be avoided. Nationally, we hope the new tax code will stimulate economic growth while enabling us to provide for those who live at risk in our society. Culturally, (and I know I’m speaking for all of us) we hope the third season of Stranger Things isn’t a complete train wreck.
But when we use the word “hope” we often cross our fingers and knock on wood:
- “I hope the economy continues to grow this year.
- “I hope the President knows what he’s doing.”
- “I hope it snows tonight so I don’t have to take that test.”
Our hoping is sometimes indistinguishable from wishful thinking.
The biblical definition of hope is more concrete.
- Hope is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb 6:19)
- Hope is “stored up for you in heaven (Col. 1:5)
- Zechariah says all those who long for Messiah are “prisoners of hope” (Zech 9:12)
- Hope in the Bible is certainty in a future reality. It is a steadfast confidence that God will do exactly what God has promised to do. Christians celebrate the new year in Advent, not January, because our hope rests in the coming of Jesus, the one who was promised in ages past and now fulfills our deepest longings.
As we begin this new year, consider what you’ve set your hopes on. Are you hoping for a new job? A smaller waist? A new relationship? Better behaved children (or spouse)? These may be fine desires, and God may grant them to you, but you must distinguish them from what God has explicitly promised. So often we put our highest hopes in things that God has never promised and we get angry when we don’t get them. So let me encourage you to take some time and reflect on those things that God has actually promised to accomplish in Jesus. Put your hope in the forgiveness of sins, in the reconciliation of enemies, in the restoration of broken things, in people coming to faith, in the growth of the church—and expect to see them. Be certain that when God promises salvation he is already making it happen in the lives of individuals, families, cities and the entire world. 2018 is going to be a great year—and that’s a promise.