It’s the end of the year. We have made it. Congratulations to us.
How was 2017 for you? Some of us have suffered disappointments. Twelve months ago we may have looked forward to great things happening, but they didn’t. Instead perhaps we saw relatives get ill. Or we broke our new year’s resolutions within weeks.
What will 2018 be like, we wonder. Will the good outweigh the evil? Will love be victorious against hate? We can’t rely on anything in this wicked world.
A farmer’s horse ran away. His flame of hope flickered and dimmed. His horse came back with some wild horses. His flickering flame of hope grew brighter. Then the farmer’s son attempted to tame one of the wild horses, and fell off and broke his leg. Hope dimmed. Such bad luck.
Not long after, the army marched into his village and conscripted every able-bodied youth. The farmer’s son had a broken leg, so they left him. And so it goes for many of us. We ride through life on a roller-coaster of dashed hopes and good fortune, often confused which is which.
We are created to have hope. When the doctor says there is no hope, he means you will die. Hope is part of what we are. We are created to have an appetite. We need to eat. If we don’t eat, we die. If we don’t have hope, we also die. It says in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Just because God gave you an appetite it doesn’t mean you should eat everything you see. Stay away from the forbidden fruit, and the poisonous mushrooms. It isn’t healthy or good for you to only eat pizza, doughnuts and soda at every meal.
So too with hope. We must hope, but it matters how we hope.
We plan a picnic and we say, I hope it’s sunny tomorrow. What kind of hope is that? You are putting your hope in the weather? We may say, I hope I win $10 million in the lottery this week. What kind of hope is that? It’s a hope built on fantasy. I hope I get a new job. I hope my children pass their exams. I hope that North Korea doesn’t start a war. Are these the kinds of hope that the Bible describes as being healthy? These are worldly hopes. With these hopes we are putting our trust in employers, our children’s study ability, and North Korea’s leaders.
Because of my hope to see her again, I am able to endure separation from my beautiful wife.
There is a greater hope we have. It’s a hope embedded within our nature, part of who God made us. It is a hope for a love that is more than any love we have known.
We have a hope for a world without war and pain. We have a hope for peace and harmony. We have these hopes because God made us to have these hopes. He made us to have these hopes because he wants to fulfil our hopes. He made food to satisfy the appetites he gave us. He made us to hope in things that are real.
If you hope for victory in battle and put your hope in a horse, you are a fool. “Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you.” (Psalm 33:17)
We naturally long for and hope for love that is beyond what we experience in our mundane lives, for something beyond us.
In 2018 we aren’t going to put our hope in employers, children, parents, animals, politicians or weather. What then do we put our hope in?
What do we put our hope in for 2018? We put our hope in Jesus! Matthew says of Jesus that “his name will be the hope of all the world.” Isn’t that amazing.
“He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.” (Matthew 12:19)
I have to confess that there are times when I find this really hard. It’s a big struggle not to put hope in all kinds of other things. I hope my daughter finds happiness. I hope my son finds a new job. I hope my parents stay healthy. I think we should examine our hopes, and determine what we are putting our hope in.
One way some people try to deal with this is by not hoping, but that’s impossible. God hasn’t given us that option. So then we hope for a better future when we die. We endure now for the hope that awaits us.
The New Testament gives us hope in the goodness of God’s creation. For example, in Revelation 12:15 the creation is on God’s side in the battle against evil. “The dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river…”
We have hope that evil is being defeated. Evil is real. Evil is substantial. But the hope is in Jesus that evil is overcome. We have hope in God’s redemption. God created a good creation. Evil has no place in God’s creation, and God knows how to get rid of evil through Jesus.
So Jesus is the hope of the world. He is the hope for justice, and he is the hope for goodness.
We have a living hope. Jesus is not dead, he is alive. We have hope in our relationship with Jesus that he will save us.
Hope in 2018 not for what the world can give, but for what God is able to give now. Hope for a better relationship with Jesus, for you and others. So I don’t have any particular hope for my father to live until 100. That would be meaningless.
My hope is for him to experience a living relationship with Jesus that is real today and continues beyond death.
Our hope is not for tomorrow. Our hope is for today. The kingdom of heaven is here now. Jesus can be your Lord at this very moment, not when you die.
Our hope for ourselves and others is that we can be like Jesus. We can be like him in his resurrection, and like him in his suffering. We can be like him in being victorious over death.
We can be reborn as new people today. What a great and realistic hope we have when we put all our hope in Jesus.
Let’s not hope for happiness or prosperity in 2018. Let’s not hope for success and health in the new year. Let’s seek the true hope of the world. However we live, we live by faith. The deepest longings of our hearts point us to the reality we find in the story of Jesus. Faith fuels hope, but hope also fuels faith. As Hebrews 11 makes very clear, hope and faith are very closely tied together, the one enlivening the other. Without faith we cannot soar in hope, but without hope faith will limp home. The Holy Spirit guarantees our hope. He unites us to Christ, gives us spiritual eyes to see God’s excellence and the truth of his promises, and dwells in us to produce hope, faith, and love towards God in our hearts.
This is my prayer for you in 2018, the prayer of Paul in Romans 15:13 – “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
This should be our hope. To be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. To be transformed into the image of God. All the trails and tribulations that await us next year will be unable to overcome us or steal our hope, because our hope is in Jesus who has defeated the enemy.