Christians live in hope and the world we live in is our waiting room. By definition, a waiting room is never the final destination. It is never the place we want to be. This world can be uncomfortable and painful, and Christian life has seasons of tribulation. Temptation, frustration, trials and persecution are par for the course. Yet Christian life can also be very pleasant; fellowship in Christ and spiritual encouragement are uplifting and joyous. Still, this world is not the final destination, there is something better that we yet hope for. There is something that is worth waiting for.
Our life has a goal, just as all creation has a goal, and God sent his Son to redeem us from our sins to restore us and fulfil that goal. Paul evokes how we long for that goal in Romans 8:23. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Our future hope is invested in our eternal relationship with God the Father through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and adoption in the name of the Son.
Without that hope there is no point to being a Christian. It is what lies beyond this life that is the ultimate motivation for faith in Christ.
In the Bible hope is certainty. It is not wishful thinking or holding on to a dream like a talent show contestant. It is not reasonable speculation or an educated guess like the weather report. It is simply what is to come, like the rising dawn that follows the dark of night.
We can be sure of our hope because of the covenantal nature of God’s word. When God speaks, he speaks words which can no less be undone than the words he spoke to create the world. “He spoke and it came to be,” says Psalm 33:9, and so, verse 11, “all the plans of the Lord stand firm forever.” All of God’s covenants are fulfilled in Christ and thus sealed and guaranteed to be brought to final completion.
We can also be sure of our hope because of Christ’s resurrection. Our Christian lives are completely united with his life, so, as Paul says, “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” Colossians 3:3. Thus, as he says in Romans 6:5, “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his,” and though the physical reality of that is yet to come, come it will!
It is important to realise what we have already been blessed with in Christ, and thus to distinguish what we still yet hope for. Or to put it more simply, to separate the ‘already’ from the ‘not yet’. Things like forgiveness of sins, praying to the Father, fellowship in Christ and gifts of the Spirit have come already. But things like freedom from sinful desires, sickness and death have not come yet.
Getting this distinction right makes a big difference in our expectations. If we believe that we have more ‘already’ and less ‘not yet’, our expectations will be higher. We will perhaps expect more miracles and healing to happen. Or we will expect less suffering and opposition. If we believe that less is ‘already’ and more is ‘not yet’, our expectations will be lower. We may feel that we are not fully forgiven, and that we have to pay penance for certain kinds of sin. Or we may feel that the church building is where God dwells, and that he is not in us by the Holy Spirit.
Hope gives us comfort when we are suffering, hope gives us perspective when we are frustrated, hope gives us strength when we are overwhelmed and hope gives us the best reason to keep going in faithful loving service to our saviour. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” Romans 8:18.