When our 2 1/2 year old grandson Jude comes over to our house, he usually has one activity on his mind: playing trains.
Thus, when Jude hangs with us, we have a lot of Thomas the Tank Engine cars and track spread all about the house.
And we have three battery-powered engines that Jude assigns to each of us. He gets the shiny black engine named Diesel. Sara gets the sky blue Thomas. And I get bright orange James. That’s James on the right.
Last week Jude came over to the house, once again with his head full of plans for playing trains, but it just so happened I was going to be home later that night due to a conference.
Sara told him that there may be a chance I would come home before he had to leave, so he picked up James and held him in his grip the entire night. That glimmer of hope was all he needed.
In fact, Jude was so determined to have James at the ready when I arrived, he tried to take him into his bath.
When I did come in through the front door, Jude, who had been settling down with Sara on the couch, hopped up, ran to me, handed me James, and declared, “Here you go!”
How’s that for perseverance!
All evening long he made sure that, no matter what time I came home, I would have my train.
This little scene reminded me of the fact that a significant part of the Christian life is the presence and practice of hope.
We are a people who look ahead to the arrival of future events:
- The return of Christ
- The eradication of sin
- The escape from our earthly bodies which suffer from disease and aging
- The glory of heaven
- Here’s a big one: finally being shown how all the crazy and confusing situations we endured actually worked together for good (check out Romans 8:28)
The challenging part about hope is that we long for something we can’t yet see.
Paul, seeking to encourage believers, wrote about the Christian’s hope in the book of Romans:
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25 ESV)
Hope leans hard on patience. Without patience, we really can’t call it hope. It’s more like desperate angst.
In hope, we fix our gaze on Jesus and His promises. In turn, we will seek to tune out any distractions that would keep us from an attitude of perseverance.
That’s kind of what Paul was saying when he wrote of his unwavering commitment to all that God had in store for him:
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s sense of hope was so strong forgot the things of the past and fully put his focus (to the point of pressing and straining) toward what he viewed to be a prize: God’s call on his life through Jesus.
Of hope, R.C. Sproul said:
Hope is called the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19), because it gives stability to the Christian life. But hope is not simply a ‘wish’ (I wish that such-and-such would take place); rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.
Simply put, a mindset of hopefulness will typically give fruit to the actions of patience and perseverance. In other words, right thinking produces helpful behavior.
Jude clung to a train with the confident hope that I would make it home in time to play with him.
The Christian clings with confidence to the promises of the Word. And the evidence of the hope shows up in how the live.
We might use another word for this thing called hope: faith.
The writer of Hebrews wrote of faith and hope being intertwined:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)
That’s what makes it challenging, isn’t it? We can’t quite see the very thing we’re looking to embrace.
Here’s a final thought regarding hope: some people look toward the future with more hope on their minds than others.
For some life has dished out it’s fair (or unfair?) share of pain and disappointments.
In these cases, the hope of a better future is always close at hand.
Quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, certainly one who anticipates better things in the life to come, offered this reflection on the value and power of hope:
“The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrows currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.”