We read in 1 Corinthians 13:13 where the apostle Paul stated that there are three important things in life, faith, hope and love. Of course, as he said, the greatest of these is love.
Of the three, hope is mentioned in God’s Word significantly less often than either faith or love. So how important is hope?
Hope is not wishful thinking, like hoping a rich relative will die and leave us a fortune. That is more correctly termed inappropriate desire rather than godly hope. But real hope is mentioned in Hebrews 11:1 in this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And this hope is extremely important to us.
In the book of Job, while he was suffering great affliction, Job felt he was without hope. He believed that God was destroying him for no reason. Yet even in his time of great despair, he realised that after his death, God would call him and he would answer, that God would desire the work of His hands (Job 14:14-15). This shows that even while he felt hopeless in his physical life, he knew there was hope for him in the resurrection.
In the book of Psalms, there are many mentions of hope by David and other writers—hope in God, in His mercy and judgements, in His Word and salvation. Their lives were based around that hope.
In the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, God states that the bones, representing the whole house of Israel, figuratively say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off.” And yet, God shows there was hope for them as He will open their graves and they will live, and He will also put His Spirit in them. He would also bring them into the land of Israel (Verses 11-14). Their hope was not lost even though that was their belief.
There are many other prophecies where God gives hope to the houses of Israel and Judah, to bring them back from their captivity to their former homeland. One specifically to the house of Judah during their time in captivity in Babylon is in Jeremiah 29:11-14. God thought to give the house of Judah a future and a hope and to bring them back to their own land.
The apostle Paul is an outstanding New Testament example of hope. At the beginning of his calling, God explained what his commission would be, but He also showed him, “how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). At the very beginning of his calling, Paul (he was then known as Saul) was made aware his life was not going to be easy.
Here are some instances of the trials and the reason Paul endured them. When he was standing before the council after declaring that he was going to preach to the Gentiles, his defence was, “concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” (Acts 23:6). Again, in Acts 24:15, Paul’s hope was in the resurrection of the dead.
In many of his epistles, he taught the resurrection of Christians to glory, the glory of God (Romans 5:2). He also taught that, “we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). See also Titus 1:2.
Paul gives a long discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Some were saying there is no resurrection. If this was true, then all who have died in Christ have perished. They have no hope. He goes on to say, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (Verse 19). Also he says, “If the dead do not rise, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’” (Verse 32).
He points out earlier in this chapter, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen. But since there had been hundreds of witnesses to Christ’s life after His resurrection, including Paul himself, then he knew the resurrection was indeed a fact.
This hope was what enabled Paul to be willing to go through all the sufferings he experienced. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 gives a listing of some of the things he suffered, finally leading up to his death as a faithful witness.
In what many believe to be his final epistle (his second letter to Timothy), he sums up his life in God’s service. He mentions many who had left the church (2 Timothy 1:15), and that, in the future, others would be turned aside to fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Because he knew he was soon to be put to death, he stated, “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
This was his belief, that his faith in God and Christ gave him his personal hope of eternal life. And this hope enabled him to carry out his part in the Work of God, no matter what trials and sufferings he experienced. He saw the wonderful reward that was awaiting him and others who also believed.
There are a number of other prophecies in God’s Word of many being offended and falling away from God’s Truth, especially at the end times. Because of this, we should follow the apostle Paul’s example of having unwavering hope that will enable us to continue to do our part in God’s Work, finish our race and achieve salvation and eternal life.
Hope is extremely important for us, for without it we could easily give up. But with it we can indeed endure to the end and receive our glorious resurrection.