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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

A Living Hope

This word hope is used a lot in our language. We might ask our children, “What do you hope for Christmas?” A counselor might ask, “What do you hope to receive out of this relationship?” Our boss might ask us, “What do we hope to achieve during our tenure?” We use it interchangeably with “wish”, “want” or “expect.” We use it so often that the word hope doesn’t mean all that much to us.

The New Testament use of the Greek word hope, elpis, has a much richer and deeper meaning derived from the Old Testament. In the New Testament, there is not a neutral understanding of hope. Hope is the hope of good and the opposite of hope is fear. There is expectation in hope and hope is naturally directed towards God. When man is in trouble and hopes that God will deliver and help him. Hope requires trust. (TDNT #1679, Bultmann Vol 1-6, 9)

Ultimately, we are encouraged to put our hope in God, our faith and trust that he will deliver us. As the psalmist writes: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. (Psalm 46:1)

The culmination of this hope and trust in God’s deliverance was found in the hope of the coming Messiah. The messiah was to be the anointed one, of the line of David. He was to come and deliver Israel and bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. He was to be Emmanuel – God with us.

Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the virgin is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

He was the hope of the nations:

17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. 21 In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:17–21)

The world tells us to put our hope and trust in our government, economy, technology, education, achievements, and humanity. The Bible however warns us from putting our trust in the false hopes and idols of the world. (Psalm 52:7, Job 31:24, Hab. 2:18) It saddened me to see the long lines of people waiting to get into the retail stores on Thanksgiving, a day which is supposed to be set aside for family and giving thanks. Lines of worshipers bowing down at the temple of consumerism, buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have. I wanted to cry out like Charlie Brown, “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?” It is easy to find ourselves putting our trust in false hopes.

You know that you are trusting a false hope if it promises to solve all of your problems. God on the other hand does not promise to solve all of our problems. He does not promise that you will never suffer again in this life. In fact, Scripture often tells us that we will have to endure trials and suffering in our faith. Jesus, God himself faced ridicule, suffering, and crucifixion on our behalf. God does not promise an easy life. What God does promise is that he will be beside us through our struggles. He gives us hope for the future.

Secondly, you know that you are trusting a false hope if your hope does not rely upon God. If God is not a part of the equation, then you are trusting a false hope. Who are you looking to ultimately deliver you: technology, achievements, family, or the government? These are not bad things in themselves, but they will not save you apart from God. Without God as a part of the equation, these will ultimately fail.

Third, it is a false hope if it does not involve relationship. When we look into our greatest hopes and desires, we see a need for relationship. Things and ideas cannot provide a relationship. God continually calls us into relationship with him. He sent his Son in order to be in relationship with us. All true hope comes from our need of relationship.

Peter in his first epistle (1 Peter 1:3-9) tells us that in Jesus Christ we have been given a living hope, not a dead or false hope, but a living hope. This is what God offers to us. In the catacombs of Rome where early Christians were buried, they have found various early Christian symbols. One of the first Christian symbols of hope was the anchor. This makes sense because Jesus’ first disciples were fisherman: Peter and Andrew and James and John who obviously used anchors within their occupations. Also, Jesus taught and performed many miracles around or on the Sea of Galilee, but the symbol goes beyond these references. It was a symbol that Jesus is our living anchor. The early Christians when facing persecution and suffering knew that Jesus was the one, they could rely upon to see them through the storms of life. Jesus is the one that we can trust in our lives. He is our living hope.

“The Chapel of the Four Chaplains.” On February 3, 1943, en-route to Greenland, the US Army Transport Dorchester, carrying approximately 900 men was torpedoed by the German submarine U-223 off Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. The torpedo knocked out the Dorchester’​s electrical system, leaving the ship dark. Panic set in among the men on board, many of them trapped below decks. Four chaplains, two Protestant, one Catholic, and one Jewish, sought to calm the men and organize an orderly evacuation of the ship, and helped guide wounded men to safety. As life jackets were passed out to the men, the supply ran out before each man had one. The chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them to others. They helped as many men as they could into lifeboats. According to survivor reports, the four chaplains then linked arms and began saying prayers and singing hymns while they went down with the ship. As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets. —Grady Clark, survivor

As this ship went down, destroyed by the weapons of war, these chaplains relied upon their anchor to see them through. They knew that their ultimate hope lay in God and because of their sacrifice, they were able to save others from drowning. So where are you in danger of drowning? What is it that seems like an overwhelming sea of despair? Do you feel adrift in a sea of hopelessness? What is your anchor? Do you have a living hope?

This first candle represents a living hope because a living hope begins with Christmas, with a little child in a manger, a vulnerable, helpless little baby conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to Mary and Joseph. It is here that hope began and hope like a snowball grows. This small child grew in stature and wisdom and hope grew. He amazed others with his teachings and hope grew. He performed miraculous signs and wonders and hope grew. He gathered the broken and lost and hope grew. He suffered and sacrificed himself upon a cross and hope grew. On the third day, he was raised from the dead, appeared before the disciples, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father and hope grew eternal. And one day, he shall come again to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. This is our living hope.

So, friends, put your hope in the living hope of God, Jesus Christ. Let us not put our trust and faith in the dying hopes of the world, for they are shadows that will only disappoint. In this manger, we celebrate the birth of our hope. As the Christmas carol tells us:

O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant;Oh, come ye O come ye to Bethlehem; come and behold him born the King of angels; O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

Let us come to Christ and live in hope.


Hope in the Dark – Craig Groeschel

Become a Better You – Joel Olsten

Hope for the Thinking Christian – Stephen D. Reese

Light in the Darkness – Peter Sills

The Christian Hope – Brian Hebblethwaite

Surprised by Hope – Tom Wright

Hope in Times of Fear – Timothy Keller

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