“For in this hope we were saved.
But hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what they already have?
But if we hope for what we do not yet have,
we wait for it patiently.” — Romans 8:24-25
Our English language is full of oxymorons – jumbo shrimp, small crowd, honest thief, act naturally, growing smaller, bittersweet, Civil War, old news, working vacation, crash landing, exact estimate, etc., etc. Can you think of others? We utter these words and phrases without even thinking about their apparent contradiction.
One seeming oxymoron you hear at church from time to time is “certain hope”. The understanding of the word hope in our modern language is synonymous with wishful thinking — “I hope it doesn’t rain today”. “I hope my business does well this year.” “I hope my child behaves.” We typically use the word “hope” to express uncertainty, rather than certainty. So “certain hope” appears to be an oxymoron.
But the Bible uses the word “hope” differently than we do. In fact, it uses it with the opposite meaning of how we typically understand it.
Biblical hope is not just a desire for something good in the future, but rather, biblical hope is a confident expectation that it will happen. The Bible’s use of the word “hope” communicates certainty – not uncertainty. What makes Biblical hope so certain? It’s certain because God always keeps his promises – every time. St. Paul reminds us of this fact:
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so, through him, the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Biblical hope is not wishful thinking; it is sure and certain confidence. It is certain because this hope depends completely on God.
Our hope in God’s promise of forgiveness is certain. Our hope for a resurrection from the dead is certain. Our hope for our Savior’s return is certain. Our hope for an eternity in heaven is certain. Our hope for God’s daily presence in our earthly life is certain. These hopes are not wishful thinking. They are certain because God always keeps his promises. It’s not a matter IF God will fulfill his promises, but only a matter of when. As Paul says in the verses above, “we wait for it patiently”.
Biblical hope is a reservoir of strength in this life. When I am wronged, I look to this reservoir of hope to offer forgiveness instead of revenge. When I face hardship, I look to this reservoir of hope for peace, rather than despair. When I face temptation, I look to this reservoir of hope to overcome it, rather than give into it. When I experience sorrow, this reservoir of hope restores my joy.
There is certain hope in any situation you face in life because there is certain hope in God’s promises. With the psalmist we can exclaim, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
You have certain hope in God – in this life and in eternity. Live each day with a confident expectation that your God always keeps his promises.
Written by Staff Minister Brent Bitter