As I approach Christmas and think about the birth of Christ, it is natural to reflect on what Jesus Christ means to those of us who have placed our faith in him. My mind gravitates toward the gospel of Christ, the sheer weight of just thinking about forgiveness and reconciliation to God through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is utterly breathtaking. A starting point to begin grasping the shocking beauty of the gospel is to examine the characteristics of hope, joy, peace, and love. These characteristics are simple enough to define from a secular standpoint but anyone with a biblical worldview will quickly recognize that the secular definitions of these words are, at best, superficial or incomplete.
Consider Merriam-Webster’s definition of hope, “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” In our vernacular usage of the word “hope” this timid definition is adequate but in an orthodox Christian usage it makes little sense. God’s promises are hardly uncertain or unreliable—God’s word is the standard of true reliability, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple…” (Psalm 19:7). God’s word is true because it is from God, as the psalmist writes, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Psalm 119:160). We embrace absolute unshakeable confidence in God’s promises because as he has said, “I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’… I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it” (Isa 46:9-11). Biblical hope is beyond simply desiring an outcome; Biblical hope is anticipating a sure outcome.
Our confidence in the hope provided in God is not based on optimism or wishful thinking but rather in the person making the promises who has incontrovertibly demonstrated his steadfast faithfulness. The context and timing of God’s promises are also strikingly relevant to our present timing and context. For example, many of God’s promises are presented in the most arduous of times. When periods of time were great, the people would trade the one true and living God for idols and embrace a range of sinful behavior. God would eventually bring wrath and within the drama of judgment, the prophets of God would provide hope in what we now recognize as promises of the Christ.
Consider the events surrounding the prophet Jeremiah. The situation was most dire: famine had ravaged the land, the Babylonian army was on the brink of sacking Jerusalem, the leaders in Judah had placed their hope in their false prophets and in an inadequate military alliance with Egypt. Yet, in the midst of this terror and the sinful rebellion of Judah, God speaks through Jeremiah a future message of hope—“God raising up for David a righteous branch… (Jer 23:5) I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD… (Jer 24:7) I will make with them an everlasting covenant… (Jer 32:40).” Throughout the calamity, God provides a forward-looking message of hope which would be secured through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
However, the people of God were too preoccupied pursuing their own ambitions than to desire or anticipate the promised Christ. In many parallels, some in the current church are also too preoccupied pursuing their own ambitions than to desire or anticipate the promised return of Christ. Thankfully, our godly hopes are not contingent on our situation, ability, or readiness; God’s purposes and activities faithfully move forward. I am reminded that God’s promises and actions most certainly shine brightest against a background of calamity. It is why fireworks are expended against a dark night sky so the illumination can be most appreciated.
We too can have confidence in the promises of God, despite present circumstances or situations, God has consistently proven faithful and reliable. Knowing God’s faithfulness should give us the confidence of David in Psalm 3:5-8, “I lay down and slept; I woke again for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!”
I am reminded that our hope ought not be in our wealth, credit score, career, doctors, education, government, military, or technology—Our great hope is in the one that said, “let there be light” and the nothingness ignited into illumination. Our great hope is personal as he called men such as Abraham and Moses for his purpose. Our great hope is in the one who saved Israel through the Red Sea; made bitter water sweet and sent nourishment from the heavens. Our great hope commands the vast armies of heaven—Let the words of Elisha ring in your ears, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them…” Our great hope is the one true and living God—the God who stepped into his creation to save those who place their faith in the gift of the gospel.
Our great hope is knowing that our sins are forgiven in Christ and that we are his adopted son and daughters through his one and unique Son; our great hope is Jesus Christ because against the dark backdrop of this world—the great hope that is Christ shines brighter than ever and he is our great hope, soon to return. May we all pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”