It seems to me that there are two kinds of hope. The first is a natural or human hope. This is based on statistical likelihood or probability. This kind of hope is sometimes based on past experiences, or what we wish is going to happen. You see this demonstrated by the people who sacrifice time and money on a slim chance of success queuing for Lotto tickets. This kind of hope is usually fragile and fleeting, or is a course of action that represents our last hope (in times of desperation).
Then there is supernatural hope, “a better hope… by which we draw near to God” (Hebrews 7:19) This kind of hope is contagious, strong, and lasting and is passed on to other generations. This is the hope that is placed in the Word of God, and is evidenced in the life of Jesus.
Natural hope views things based on human limitations and past experience. It is based on our perspective of things, what we choose to look at and our attitude. It is limited by the words that come out of our mouth. Natural hope can quickly become ‘hope less’, as it is based on our limitations. The book of Job is revealing in that hope appears more in this book than in any other book, despite the tragedies that it contains. It is a book that reveals what Job put his hope in, and how God changed his perspective.
Supernatural hope is based on God’s promises and his limitless power. Christians are living proof that God’s hope can bring miracles. Mark 4:36-41 describes the story of Jesus in the boat in a storm with the disciples. The disciples viewed the storm from past experience and were terrified. Jesus looked at the storm from a supernatural perspective, and three words, “Peace, be still”, changed everything. We need to believe in a God who can make a way when there seems like there is no way; who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, who is the creator of the heavens and the earth. Nothing is impossible for our God who can change our reality in an instant.
Hope is like a muscle. When it is used, it becomes stronger. If it is not regularly used, it atrophies. Remarkably, just prior to Christmas the death rate drops, but after Christmas it rises again. There is something about Christmas that instils hope. That something is the coming of the Saviour, and this still creates celebration and generosity in many parts of the world more than 2000 years later.
It is a sad indictment that Australia is a world leader in male suicide in the 18-25 year old bracket. The answer for our nation is not another law, but that people’s hearts are changed. The Bible says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
So how do we build hope into our lives?
Fill our minds with hope friendly things (Philippians 4:8,9): Find out what the word of God says about us, and believe that rather than what others might have said. Watch the right things (rather than horror movies); meditate on the right things (not your horoscope); don’t trust what a fortune cookie tells us. This is not a prophesy, just a biscuit.
Build bridges that hope can cross: Build bridges where the traffic is welcome. Hope is contagious, but so is cynicism and negativity.
Speak words of hope: Faith comes by hearing the word of God. The preacher that we listen to the most is yourself. We tolerate a lot more about we say about ourselves than we would tolerate from others. Part of the Australian ethos is that we see people who say good things about themselves as ‘big-headed’. This is Australian culture – it is not Kingdom culture.
Make our troubles a door of hope: Even hopeless situations can become a testimony for what God can do and become joy. Forgiveness and redemption are like that – and these are things that God specializes in. Christmas plays a pivotal part in that story.