To have hope is to have a future. The late Christopher Reeve was close to the mark when he said, Once you choose hope, anything is possible. (If he had Christ in mind when he spoke those words, then he was right on the mark!).
To have Christ is to have hope. Peter reminds his readers they have been born again into a living hope (1:3), while the Hebrew writer would have his audience think about how it anchors their soul (6:19), and challenges them to hold unswervingly to their hope (10:23). Paul simply speaks to Timothy about Christ Jesus our hope (1 Timothy 1:1).
Christians have hope—they have a future! That’s good news and we’ll take all of that we can get, but we must be careful not to narrow the biblical proclamation of hope to some remote time in the distant future. The hope Jesus brought has as much to do with the here and now as it has to do with the future. In fact, a hope that doesn’t profoundly affect us in this life, is one that probably won’t get us to the next life.
It’s here that I think many of us struggle in regard to hope. To us, hope is like a retirement plan we anticipate taking effect at some time in the far off future. It’s nice, we look forward to it, but we really don’t think about it much, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the life we’re living right now. We think of it as hope deferred. It still means that we have a future, it just means that our future has nothing to do with our life right now.
We couldn’t be more wrong.
You cannot have the kind of future God promises us without it affecting your present. More to the point, the same God who secured our future is with us right now. Therefore, our future should blend into our present and empower it.
A young person sets their sights on buying a car. They get a job. They do a lot of things on that job they normally wouldn’t do otherwise. Why? They are connecting their future (having a car), to their present (working to earn money). A young lady receives a proposal and a ring. Although the wedding date is months in the future, it affects her and the groom-to-be immediately and it will continue to do so every day until they say, “I do.” Why? They have blended their future (getting married), with their present (preparing to get married). Multiply the illustrations. We make a real mistake when we compartmentalize our present from our future. They belong together. This is why Paul speaks of being “joyful in hope,” (Romans 12:12). Our hope brings us joy and our joy brings us strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
I think this also explains why the lives of Christians in the first century were more wrapped up in the return of Jesus than ours are today. It’s not (as some have suggested), that they were given bad information. They lived this way because they did a much better job of connecting their future to their present than we do today.
Their hope was as alive as their Lord. May ours be as well.