You don’t have to look far to find cause for worry today. As jobs disappear, as our retirement plans shrivel, anxiety is knitting brows everywhere. Including, at times, my own.
Part of our worry comes from the fact that most Americans aren’t used to it! We’ve had relatively little to worry about in life. Sure, these are hard times, but this is not the Great Depression. And while the nightly news gives us cause to bemoan the loss of moral absolutes in society, Christians have always found themselves—and will always find themselves—living in the midst of a depraved culture.
But no matter how dark a place or an age in time, God has never allowed the light of the Church to be extinguished. Plagues, persecutions, poverty—Christians have lived victoriously in the midst of it all.
How? They had something we’ve lost: a Christian ethic of hope.
Sadly, people have either trivialized or politicized the word hope . The American Heritage Dictionary defines hope as “the feeling that . . . events will turn out for the best.”
But a Christian hope isn’t a feeling. And it’s not wishful thinking. Hope comes from the certainty of God’s promises. These are promises like Romans 8:28—“God works in all things for the good of those who love him.” Promises like Acts 16:31—“Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Promises abound for us about future realities. God has promised believers that Christ will come again, will redeem our bodies, will make us holy, will let us share in His glory, and will give us eternal life. This isn’t simple optimism. And it isn’t hope pinned to a fallible human leader. This is a firm hope in the Creator.
When we don’t have a secure hope, we worry excessively about the future. But when our hope is secure, we are free to live in the fruits of hope.
John Piper has identified four fruits of Christian hope. First, Christian hope bears the fruit of true joy. Unlike happiness, joy is not dependent upon circumstances. Second, Christian hope produces sacrificial love. When we aren’t obsessing over self-preservation, we are free to give ourselves to others. Next, Christian hope yields boldness. The hopeful Christian is realistic about the reality of the world’s problems, but it is also certain of God’s ultimate victory.
That’s why Christian hope has produced bold men and women who’ve given their lives to missionary service, or heroes like William Wilberforce who’ve been willing to sacrifice career, property or popularity for Christ.
Finally, Christian hope bears the fruit of endurance. When setbacks come—and they do—Christians who have their eyes fixed firmly on God’s promises can continue in the good fight. They can press on because they know that their actions aren’t in vain. Christ will have the ultimate victory.
Sure, these are tough times. But when we grab hold of the hope we have in Christ, we will be able to live with the joy, the sacrificial love, the boldness, and the endurance we will need to face the challenges before us.