When we find our lives crashing down around us, how do we develop the kind of hope that gives us the strength not to give up, not to give in, and not blame God?
Is it possible to get an eternal perspective about our situation to the point where we actually have joy in the midst of our suffering?
The answer is in asking ourselves a very simple, yet profound question: What is my hope rooted in?
The kind of hope I’m referring to isn’t the kind that says, “I hope it doesn’t rain,” or “I hope the 49ers win,” or “I hope I get a good job,” or “I hope someday I get married.” In our culture, we use the word “hope” more like wishful thinking.
In contrast, the Biblical word for “hope” means an absolute certainty that you can bank on something or someone that will never change. For example, Christ’s return is the hope that we have. Heaven is our hope. And God’s promises are our steadfast hope.
Having this kind of hope that sustains us is both a skill and an act of faith.
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The Apostle Paul had hope like this in the midst of a terrible situation. While arrested in Rome, he writes to the church in Philippi. He confesses that he doesn’t know if he’s going to be found innocent and released, or if he is going to be found guilty and executed.
Paul’s future is uncertain and his circumstances appear very grim. Yet, he has joy!
Here’s what he says:
“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. (Philippians 1:18-21)
What was it that allowed Paul to have this amazing joy and hope? He gives two reasons:
- He was certain that he would be delivered.
Paul doesn’t think his deliverance is going to be necessarily out of his circumstances. He is basically saying, “I believe in this deliverance. I believe because of your prayers. I believe God is in control and is going to come through. And I have a laser-like focus on the promises and the goodness of God’s character, so I have a hope.”
- The source of his joy is unshakable.
We either live our lives like a little cork tossed around on the waves of circumstances or we live our lives with hope that there is a heaven, there are promises of God, and that He will sustain us.
Paul says, “For me, to live is Christ” (temporal perspective) “…and to die is gain” (eternal perspective). For Paul, there’s two platforms from which we approach life: the platform of time and the platform of eternity. Paul approached life from the latter.
He was torn between wanting to continue living or wanting to die. He knew if he lived, he would continue serving the Lord. And if he died, he knew he would be with the Lord for eternity.
Paul had the kind of hope that was rooted in Christ and in His promises.
Where is your hope rooted?
To find out, ask yourself a few questions: When you’re frustrated and angry, is your hope in having a perfect life, marriage or job? Is your hope in upward mobility? Is your hope in what school your kids get in or how they are doing in their grades? Is your hope in your body and how you look?
Or, is your hope in the all-knowing, all-powerful, good God who so demonstrated His love that He died in your place and rose from the dead?
Learn more about the power of hope in Chip’s series, I Choose Joy. In it, you’ll learn how to live above your circumstances, weather the worst storms, and experience true joy.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip