One of the most important theological concepts that we read of in Scripture is that of hope. The Scriptures contain the word, hope, 180 times. One simply cannot understand the Christian faith without understanding what the Bible means when it talks of hope. In our culture today we use the word, hope, very differently from the way it is used in the Bible. When we speak of hope we usually refer to something that we desire to have happen or that we wish to receive but of which the ultimate outcome is uncertain. For example, we might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain this weekend.” In saying this, we’re expressing the desire for a sunny day but are acknowledging that it may rain. A child may say, “I hope I get a new bike for Christmas.” In other words, she’s expressing the desire for a new bike while acknowledging she may not receive it. When we speak of hope there’s always an element of uncertainty attached to it.
When the Scriptures speak of hope, however, something very different is being talked about. Christian hope refers to something that we’re anticipating, that we haven’t received yet, but the certainty of which is never in doubt. For the Christian, our ultimate hope is in God, Himself. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God . . .” (1 Timothy 6:17a). Again, Paul told Timothy, “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God . . . “ (1 Timothy 4:10a). Paul prayed that the Roman Christians would “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13b). And he prayed that “the God of hope” would fill [them] with all joy and peace” (Romans 15:13a).
What does it mean, then, for the Christian to hope in God? It means simply that we are waiting expectantly for God to fulfill all His promises to us, especially the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus. Now, in one sense, we have eternal life from the moment we turn in faith to Jesus Christ. In another sense, however, this hope will not be fulfilled until we see God in Heaven. Until then we wait in hope for God to fulfill His promise. Now, we’re waiting because we have not yet received this promise in full. For the Christian, however, the outcome is never in doubt. There is no question that we shall receive the fulfillment of God’s promise; the only question is when.
It is possible, however, for a Christian to lose hope. When we’re struggling with family issues or financial difficulties or emotional challenges like depression it is easy to lose hope. We become like the rocky soil Jesus describes in Matthew 5 where the plants have no root. When the troubles and worries of life beset us we lose our hope in God.
So, what is it that will help us grow a strong root system so that our hope in God remains sure? The roots of hope are found in gratitude. When we nurture within ourselves a spirit of gratitude, a spirit of thanksgiving, we will become thankful people. And thankful people are hope-filled people. It is impossible to be thankful and hopeless at the same time. By its very nature, thanksgiving produces hope. As the Psalmist wrote: “I will give you thanks forever, O God, for what you have done. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good” (Psalm 52:9).
Let us, then, be known as a people of hope and let’s grow a strong root system of hope within us through the great, good gift of gratitude. Have a happy and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.