The Real Meaning of Hope
The hope that I’m talking about is not the kind of hope that most people think of when they hear the word, hope. The hope we have in Christ is not a feeling of hopefulness, or a sort of wishful optimism about the future. Contrary to the way the word is used today, Christian hope is actually a concrete thing.
When we talk about hope, we are making reference to a true statement about the way the world is that will impact people’s lives. “Hope” here is pointing towards what Christ has done and how that impacts the lives and futures of the people who trust in him. In other words, because of what Christ has done, the future is different, and because we know that, it makes a difference now.
Again, this is not a reference to a future that is filled with chance - maybe things will go well, but maybe not. Christian hope is the opposite. The end is certain. We know how the story ends, even if we don’t know how we're going to get there. Because Christ has risen from the dead, we know that death is not the end, we know that the effects of the Fall have been reversed, and we know that we can now be renewed. The dark part of the story that we have been living in for so long has finally come to its conclusion, and while we haven’t made it out of the woods yet, we know that we will. Someone who has gone through the woods and made it out the other side has come back to bring us out, too.
Because we know how the story ends, we have hope. Therefore, as people of hope, we should act like we know things turn out right in the end, because we know that they do. When we are fearful or worried, we are not living as people of hope. Even though things will almost certainly be difficult and sometimes painful now, the end has already been written. Therefore, because of this concrete “hope,” this certain future based on what Christ has done, it is possible for us to have a legitimate “feeling of hopefulness” now - not based on wishful thinking, but on a trust in the future based on the work of Christ.
Furthermore, because of this hope, the Christian is able to have genuine faith and should express real love. Jesus made a lot of statements during his life including some that said he would rise from the dead. Given that he actually pulled that one off (which isn’t easy, unless you are who he is), we know that he has the ability to follow through on his promises. It is actually possible to trust Christ (trust = faith), because we know he has the ability to do what he says he will do.
Beyond that though, we know that he actually wants to follow through on his promises. Often we wonder when we pray whether God actually wants to help us. Most Christians, I think, know that He can, but we wonder sometimes whether He really wants to help us (especially when our prayers go unanswered). But, if we remember what happened before Jesus rose from the dead (his crucifixion), then we will know that he is willing to go through quite a lot for us (crucifixion is literally death by torture. It is also the source of the word “excruciating,” which means “out of the cross”). When we don’t get an answer to our prayers, it is not because God is unable or unwilling to answer. It means that there is another reason, and we should have faith that he knows the best path forward for us. We should trust the one who both cares for us and who can and will deliver on his promises.
Furthermore, because of everything that has been done for us and will be done for us, we should express real love towards all other people (yes, that means all). Jesus acted selflessly on our behalf, and now tells us to do the same towards others. Our job is to show the same love towards other people that was first shown towards us.
All of this is possible, because Jesus died on a cross and rose again from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is the climax of the story of God and man, the event that changes the future destiny of all mankind, and the source of our hope. Everything else builds on this one event.