During the last presidential campaign, the word "hope" was used as part of a slick and savvy campaign slogan. Seeing the response to it, it is obvious that the candidate struck the heart strings of many people.
There is no doubt people need hope! The word could be seen on all types of media, from bumper stickers, to yard signs, to TV commercials. To me, the more it was used, the more it was "run into the ground" and lost its meaning. Personally, as a pastor who sees the lives of other people, who sees his community's need for the basics of food, clothing, shelter, diapers, paying the light bill, and who has prayed with those who are jobless and about to lose their house or car, it was apparent that the way the word was used last year had no bearing upon people's lives today.
Those I encounter, no matter how they voted, are not overly hopeful with this world. Politicians have not descended upon this community seeking to know how they can meet the needs of the average citizen. As I began to consider "hope" being used as a campaign slogan, some truths became clear. The word hope is not a meaningless word, but in order for it to have meaning, it must be grounded in something that is consistent, steadfast, unchanging, powerful, and eternal.
Hope must be based in the truth that the object of that hope has the ability to bring the promises to bear. The object of hope, then, must have the ability to make promises and keep them for all time. In reality, I find that most people do not have hope, they have wishful thinking. "I hope I win the lottery," is a great example. This, earth-bound emotion falls far short of what true hope is, and reveals that the person doesn't really expect these things to happen, but is simply relying upon a feeling to anesthetize his or her current reality.
So, it seems clear that no earthly source can provide true hope? Now, I have been inspired by many people from all walks of life. But I think this is where people get things a little confused. Inspiration is not the same as hope. Inspiration can move people, but most of the effects are temporary. Hope, however, when it is centered upon the right object, will never disappoint and produces eternal hopefulness!
Romans 5:5 assures us: " ... And hope does not disappoint ..." Also, "True hope, moreover, produces purity (1 John 3:3), patience (Rom. 8:25), fulfillment (Rom. 5:4-5), joy (Rom. 12:12) and stability (Col. 1:23)."
The Apostle Paul states in Romans 5:3-4: "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope ..."
You need to ask yourself, "Do I have true hope?" and "Where can I put my hope and never be disappointed?" Is it your fellow man, your government leaders, your job, the Georgia Lotto or yourself? So, what should the object of your hope be? Before I answer, we need to know about the nature of hope. The nature of hope is based in love. Real hope will be accompanied by the sense that every aspect of your life is truly cared for, that you are loved and that nothing can change that love.
Well, Paul tells us that the nature of hope is that God has poured out his love on us, so the object of hope must be God. Now, this hope is available to everyone, but not active in every person, hence the great number of people who demonstrated how much they needed hope last year.
Paul continues by saying, "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." This tells us that only those who, "have been declared righteous by faith" and who "have peace with God through [the] Lord Jesus Christ" and who have "obtained access by faith into his grace" can "rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."
It is only through Jesus Christ that man can have lasting hope.
You may have been temporarily inspired last year, but be honest with yourself. Are you still hopeful, in the face of all your life's despair and uncertainties? Are those who made promises able to console your heart and mind concerning your greatest fears, in the midst of the difficulties you are facing right now?
Could you go to the White House today, gain access to the President and make your need known? No! But, you can go above him and have complete access, through Jesus Christ, to the living, eternal God, any time, day or night, and attain his promises.
In this world, we have no certainty for our lives. Eeverything could be taken away in an instant. God's eternal truths and eternal promises offer the only true surety for our future.
Our God is a God of integrity, and endless resources, and has a never-ending future.
Rev. Todd Dionne is pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Jonesboro.