One of the three dimensional teachings of the Apostle (Paul) is the subject of HOPE. The other dimensions are FAITH and LOVE. FAITH is the introduction to the gospel; the knowledge of the finished work at Calvary and as Christians, our salvation is predicated on the fact that Jesus resurrected from the dead and ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. So Paul commanded us to preach this Word of FAITH so that the Holy Spirit can convict the hearers giving them a chance to make Jesus the Lord of their lives, because without FAITH, it would be impossible to please God. This means FAITH is not a subjective force that gets material things from God when people need it. It is the Gospel that Paul was not ashamed of, the Gospel that makes God’s power available to save the unsaved.
The second dimension in the presentation of the Apostle is the issue of LOVE. Our love towards the Father is demonstrated when we have LOVE one for another. The Bible encourages us to LOVE our neighbors the same way we would love ourselves. In other words, the same way I want to put myself first is the same way I should put my neighbor before considering myself. Jesus said, by this shall all men know that we are His disciples, when we have love for one another; for love is not self, it is the consideration of others before we think about ourselves. If we take a gaze into the world we are in today, there is so much selfishness and self-centeredness. Almost no one cares about his or her neighbor (friends, brothers, sisters, family et al) because we live in a world of SELF.
Before we touch on the subject of HOPE, we ought to know that the Epistles of the Apostle were predicated on these three topics and depending on what the problem was, he already has a solution in one of the afore mentioned topics. For example the problem in the Corinthian Church was LOVE; they had no issues with FAITH in God and the Gospel but their problem was strictly based on the fact that they refused to LOVE one another, so the topic of HOPE was left till later in the Epistles. He told them that, because of the state they were in and still in need of help, that between FAITH, LOVE and HOPE, which is the greatest, it would be LOVE for one another, which has a resultant effect of translation vertically towards God. You cannot LOVE God until you show LOVE towards your fellow brethren.
To the Church at Thessalonica, the Apostle addressed them saying, “Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special”. They did not have issues in believing the finished work at Calvary (FAITH), their problem was not LOVE, so he taught them on the topic of HOPE. This is what we are going to discuss in this homily.
HOPE is elpis in the Greek mythology, which means when translated to the English language gives a judgment of confident expectation. It gives a sense of desire and then having what it takes to bringing about an expectation of the realities of the desires. Whatever it is that you expect that will fulfill those desires is what we call HOPE. In other words, it is what you expect and are persuaded will satisfy your longings and deepest desires. Everyone appears to have one way of accomplishing or realizing his or her desires/needs/aspirations/cravings and it is then summed up as HOPE.
You find two people in the same job under the same environment and condition; under the same employer, earning different salaries with identical circumstances, however their expressions about the future (belief) becomes radically different and this is because of their differences in HOPE. Each of them is able to see a future because of the goals they have set. Unavoidably, we are HOPE-oriented creatures, we look forward to a future and that future brings a kind of readjustment to our cognizance (our minds), no matter how good or bad the present is. In other words, whatever you think your future is will fundamentally affect your present. Take away HOPE, then humanity would be filled with various disaster and despair; there would be no reason to live. I read somewhere that the Pandora’s box is a large jar carried by Pandora that unleashed many evils on mankind – ills, toils, sicknesses et al. It was great relief when Pandora went back to the jar and let out HOPE.
We live in a society where HOPE has become a cultural and psychological problem because we live in a society where selfishness, self-centeredness is the order of the day: Me, Myself and I is the slogan, everyone is about themselves and almost no one cares about the society as a whole. The culture has dictated to us that what matters is our happiness, that is, having a happy fulfilled life, realizing yourself and what you want to be has been the mantra especially in this twentieth century and this is completely different from what gives the societal value that we have always craved for. The society is larger and bigger than anyone; it transcends ME, higher than ME, its got to be something we can live for that builds together a common culture separate from SELF. If we have to look at this life deeply, we would realize how discontent we as a people will be because nothing satisfies our deepest desires, our hopes eventually will fail us. Our deepest desires are insatiable; they are inconsolable, indelible because NOTHING SATISFIES but we live in denial refusing to admit the level of our discontentment. A writer once said, “But in contentment I still feel the need for imperishable bliss”, this is because OUR DESIRES ARE DEEPER THAN WE THINK.
There are people who believe that, what will make them happy is out there, somewhere represented by things – money, wife, cars, gold, success, achievement, to mention a few. All they do is to device ways at which these goals can be accomplished. There are older people who never got to achieving their goals and they have come to terms with the fact that they might never achieve them but live under the illusion that they could have been happy and for the rest of their lives they live in bitterness and rancor wanting to change this and that in the society.
There are also people who achieve their goals and just when they get the things, there is another void and the happiness disappears into thin air. They want more is the reason for their emptiness and they never get round to finding this happiness they have craved for. They tend to try and advice people who are trying to achieve like them but never succeed because their experience is now becoming a philosophy for them.
The instances described above are what we call false HOPE, which is predicated entirely around one fantasy or the other. Hopefulness is different from optimism in that hope is an emotional state while optimism is a conclusion reached through a methodical thought pattern that leads to a positive attitude. However, we can have the happiness we desire when our HOPES are channeled in the right direction.
If you love anything more than you love God, then your love is said to be out of order. This is where our problems emanated from; we are somehow attached to so many things (marriage, children, achievements, success and so on) outside God. When we have hope in God, we are not saying that we hope God will give us good things making our lives happier BUT that God is in fact our HOPE. Job said, “What is my strength, that I should hope”. He also said, “My days are swifter than a weavers shuttle and spent without hope.” Jeremiah puts it better when he said, “Blessed is the man who puts his trust in God, and whose hope, the Lord is.”
The one who has God as their HOPE will have a firm assurance through the witness of the Holy Spirit, that Christ has promised a better world to those who are His. This HOPE therefore should sustain us through the trials of faith, human tragedies or difficulties that may otherwise seem overwhelming. It is the anchor of our soul and as Paul again put it, Jesus is the HOPE of glory; this HOPE will not disappoint.
C S Lewis said, “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”