Posted by: Mike Willoughby | March 23, 2011

Hope is a Strategy! (Part 1)

Last week in the final article in the Roller Coaster Series, I ran through several dictionary definitions for “hope” in an effort to get a handle on the meaning of the promise from Romans 3:5.  After spinning through the common dictionary definitions, I came to the conclusion that none of the explanations fit the concept of biblical hope that Paul promises “will never disappoint.”  Most of the definitions seemed to describe a feeling or an emotion that comes from within me.  I believe those definitions describe a wish and not to hope.  Even the theological explanation defined hope as a desire or a search that may or may not be fulfilled.  Feelings, emotions, desires and searches do not strike me as the certainty “that never disappoints” about which Paul wrote.  I want the promise that Paul offered and I don’t think wishful thinking and reaching out in the darkness will get it for me.

The reason that I feel compelled to figure this out is that I know I have the hope that will never disappoint and Peter wrote in I Peter 3:15 that I need to be able to explain the source of the hope that I have.

…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

How can I explain the reason for my hope if I can’t really even explain or define the concept of hope?  If hope really is just a feeling, an emotion or even a search, does it really matter what the reason may be for my feeling?  My feelings can be very unpredictable.  Most days I’m happy although some days are blue.  Often I have a reason for my emotional state.  Sometimes even I don’t know why I feel the way I do.  Does this sound like a valid basis for something that will never disappoint?

Even though I have hope within me, the origin of that hope is from outside me.  Feelings, emotions and desire originate from within and are therefore unsuitable as a foundation for anything.  True hope, on the other hand, is provided to me from an outside source and is therefore not dependent on my emotional state or at risk from my imperfections that often cause disappointment.  Hope never disappoints because it is a gift from God!  That makes it a perfect strategy for life.

Now for the explanation! 

First, I believe hope is a place.  Remember the story of Jackson and Cousin Garrett on the roller coaster?  As we were ascending the first hill on the coaster (prior to the plunge when he said, “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this”), Garrett kept looking back to the platform we had just left.  After glancing back several times, he asked me with fear and apprehension, “how long does the ride last?”  I told him the ride lasted an hour.

Just kidding!  I told the poor traumatized child that the ride lasted less than a minute.  Garrett settled back into the seat somewhat comforted.  I could see him thinking in his head, “It’s only a minute.  Soon it will be over and I’ll be back on the platform.”

Garrett took comfort from the certainty that he would make it back to the platform safe and sound just like the multiple sets of riders he had witnessed leaving and then returning as we stood in line.  Each time he glanced back at the platform, he had a visual reminder of the certainty of his destination.  The ride might be scary, but the end result was assured.  He had the testimony of the riders before him to rely upon.

Virtually every major world religion has the concept of an afterlife that is a better place for the faithful.  Even the pagan Greek and Roman religions had an afterlife although twisted and unpredictable.  I don’t think the universal expectation or longing for a “better place” after this life is accidental.  I believe certain characteristics are built into every human being by our creator including an inherent sense of right and wrong, an appreciation for creation, a sense of the presence of a creator and the sense of a larger context for life than we can perceive with our senses.  These characteristics show up in individual humans and in societies and their religions throughout human history.

Paul speaks to this inherent appreciation for God and the desire to be close to him in his famous sermon to the Athenians recorded in Acts 17.

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Fortunately we are not doomed to “perhaps reach out for him” in the darkness because we are blessed to have God’s Word to answer the important questions about God and how to live with him.  The Bible tells us about heaven and in process brings our eternal “landing platform” into view.  As crazy as the ride of life may be, I know there is a landing platform of safety and security waiting for me at the end.

The certainty of that place called Heaven is part of the reason for the hope that I have that never will disappoint.  Just like the riders disembarking from the coaster cars testified to Cousin Garrett about the safe end of the ride, we have testimony from those who have seen heaven.  Among those with first-hand heavenly experience (II Corinthians 12:1-4), Paul reminds me in Titus 1:1-3 why he had hope and why he preached hope to anyone who would listen.

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior

I’ve seen the landing platform through the words of the inspired writers and it’s a real place.  The security of my destination is part of the reason for my hope and that hope never disappoints!

In addition to being a place, hope is also a person…

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Previous Intersections Articles

A Roller Coaster Life for Hope A Roller Coaster Life for Character (Part 2) A Roller Coaster Life for Character

Copyright © 2011 Michael Willoughby. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to author and/or owner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Responses

  1. Hope a place. (heaven) That’s so comforting.

  2. Thanks Michael, I do have hope. Elizabeth


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