I have not done a word-by-word analysis. I have not counted the occurrences. I have not spent the time necessary to validate the following statement, but, it occurs to me that the simple word “hope” must appear a couple of hundred times in the Bible.
The Reason for Our Hope
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)
Before we can be ready to give an explanation for our hope, the first task would be to define the word. The Oxford Dictionary defines hope as “A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.”
The New International Version of the Bible provides another version of this “He said it, and I believe it.” Psalm 119:114 “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” And in Psalm 33:17, we are reminded that hope can be easily misplaced, “A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.”
Paul carries this a bit further in Romans when he states in 8:24, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees?” This would become analogous to sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee at 8:15 AM, having showered, and saying, “I hope I get up before 8:30 this morning.” If it has already happened, or if you can objectively see it, it is no longer an act of hope.
Hanging On, Praying Expectantly
When, in conversation, I use the word “hope”, I most often add that, to me, it is an acronym and means “Hanging On, Praying Expectantly”. This acronym is in compliance with the Oxford Dictionary definition of “A feeling of desire for a particular thing to happen.” This acronym also applies to Abraham in that, he believed in God in spite of the biology involved.
The most difficult thing for us to do may be the ability to hang on while maintaining an air of expectation about what may happen next. The world is ganging up on you, bills are overdue, kids are sick, the car needs massive repair work, your job appears to be at risk, the dog, the cat and your wife are all expecting, how are you supposed to stay upbeat, positive and pray in the face of all this?
We may wish to consider that “hope” could be regarded as a voluntary muscle which can be exercised, strengthened, and conditioned for use when the world is a bit distressing. How?
Strengthen your faith – look at all of God’s previously fulfilled promises and the adversity many of the people of the Bible had to overcome to be able to “Hang On while Praying Expectantly”.
Trust God’s timing. He will always answer a prayer, His response may simply be ‘Yes’, it may be more difficult to understand if His answer is ‘No’, but the response which requires that we continue to hold on and pray is when He says, ‘Wait, I have a better idea.’
Submit yourself to God, that is, get out of the way and let Him do His job. Fr Mychal Judge, a chaplain for the NYFD and the first certified fatality of 9-11, had a short prayer he used under most circumstances: “Lord, take me where You want me to go, Let me meet who You want me to meet, Tell me what You want me to say, And keep me out of Your way.” This prayer kept Fr Judge in the mindset of serving, not being, god.
MOST IMPORTANTLY – Thank God today, every day, without fail. If you consider it, the word GRATITUDE is essentially a contraction of the words GREAT and ATTITUDE. If you carry an attitude of gratitude and thank God for His many blessings each day, it becomes much easier to see when He acts in your life.
Remember In the Dark What He Said In The Light
It becomes critical that we exercise our ‘HOPE’ muscles in order to recognize, respond or react appropriately. Well before Candidate Trump used the phrase “Drain the swamp”, there was a poster which was popular in the 70’s which reminded people that when you were up to your butt in alligators, it was difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.
By keeping our ‘HOPE’ muscles ready, it becomes much easier to take a moment, look around, and remember in this, our temporary darkness, what He told us in the light.
We must, as 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope”. To always be ready, we must have prepared our ‘HOPE’ muscles, we must have put ourselves in the right spot with God and we must always say ‘Thank you’.
When things go right, look up and say ‘Thank you’, when things go badly, look up and say ‘Thank you. Help me to use this to grow in my faith, hope and love.’