The other day, I was out walking with someone new to the church when she turned to me and said, “You’re not like the other Christians I know…you are so hopeful!” I thanked her for her graciousness, but deep down, and I wondered what twisted version of Christianity she had experienced that a hope-filled Christian would seem odd to her.
What might cause someone to believe that “hopelessness” was somehow synonymous with the Christian faith?
Sadly, such a skewed understanding of the faith can be traced back to a joyless witness by other Christians. The fact is, there are some Christians who live out their faith in a negative and condemning fashion.
Such people spend more time complaining about others than blessing them. They are quick to judge and condemn and frequently point out all that is wrong or godless. Pastors can be toxic, and church communities can be starved for vitality, joy, and hope.
This should not be so. As Christians, we are “born into a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3), a hope that is incarnated in the very fabric of our lives. Similarly, hope is one of the three pillars of the Christian life.
Paul writes, “Now faith, hope, and love, abide, these three” (1 Corinthians 13:13). As Christian people, hope is to ooze out of us.
What does it mean to be a people of hope? If we wish to embody the hope of the gospel in this world, what might that look like? Living as a hope-filled witness demands three things.
1. Recognize Our Hope
Hope isn’t some optimistic state wherein we wish for something positive. Hope isn’t escapism or pie-in-the-sky fantasy. Biblical hope is the confident expectation that Jesus is present and working in our lives. In fact, Jesus isour hope! (1Timothy 1:1).
When we are connected to Jesus, we are connected to the one who gives us strength and encouragement, healing, and resilience. Jesus is bigger than anything we possibly face in this life. This means that we can confidently face whatever situation this world throws at us.
Ultimately, the hope we have as followers of Jesus is rooted in his presence, not in the exterior circumstances of our lives. Our confidence in Christ’s presence and power means we can be hope-filled during profound difficulty or struggle.
Paul writes that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The most extreme situation or struggle will never thwart the presence of Christ within us.
Hopelessness removes us from the very spirit of Christ within. When we live in hopelessness, we embody a spirit of powerlessness and deny that Christ is at work in the world or in our own lives.
But this is not the gospel truth. Scripture reminds us that “the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Hope, therefore, means we give our attention to the presence of Christ, who has “not given a spirit of fear or timidity, but one of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:17). With Christ is redemption, forgiveness, healing, and grace. These blessings are realities in our lives.
Living in hope is to live with the audacious commitment that our forgiveness has been won by the Cross. Hope tells us that we are loved by God and that such love will never be thwarted by the ills of the world. Above all, hope dares to believe that Jesus remains with us.
2. Live Out Our Hope
Hope is not meant for private reflections and silent prayers. As Christian people, we live out our hope in the world. We embody it and express it. Of course, this is easy to say when everything is going well.
When life is sunny and blissful, it’s easy to be filled with hope. Living out our hope becomes much harder when we find ourselves in a time of hardship or difficulty. But such times are precisely when hope is most needed.
Hope combats the struggles of life that press hard against us. When we live out our hope, we strip the enemy of his power. This is what we see in Scripture again and again. In fact, this was the very experience of the early Christians.
Peter encourages the early church to “always be ready to give a reason for the hope that you have within you” (1 Peter 3:15). Instead of complaining about a “war on Christianity,” these early followers of Jesus were to respond to persecution and struggle with grace and hope.
Instead of responding evil for evil, or insult for insult, they were to be compassionate and humble and return each insult with a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9). This expression of hope, despite intense persecution, fueled the growth of Christian witness and the life of the church.
It can be easy to respond to hardship and suffering with negativity and bitterness. After all, that’s what we see in the news and on social media. But this is not the Christian way. We seek not to “put people in their place.”
Rather, our hope-filled response to the difficulties of life is what testifies to the power of God to redeem and save. Hope is a beacon that leads others to Christ. Thus, like the early Christians, we are to embody hope to such a degree that it forms our activities and attitudes in our life.
3. Share Our Hope
Hope is life-giving. Thus, our experience of hope is never solely for ourselves. Hope is not a privatized possession designed for personal enjoyment. When hope is lived outwardly, it can be something that gives hope in someone else’s life.
Our expression of hope may be what helps another recognize the truth of the gospel. As Christians, we are not simply people who recognize hope and then live it out; we are people who take up Christ’s call to share the hope we have within us.
The idea of sharing that which is important in our lives is not much of a stretch, really. We all have places we like to eat or frequent or television programs we watch regularly.
If someone was to ask us to “be prepared to give a reason for your favorite TV show,” many of us could respond without hesitation. This is because it is natural to recognize and share that which impacts our lives.
So why not do the same for the hope we have in Jesus?
Psalm 66:16 says, “Come, and listen of you who fear God, and let me tell you what God has done for me.” The Psalmist recognizes the importance of sharing how their life had been touched by the loving grace of God.
The world around us needs hope. Based on the rampant negativity we see in the news, the increase of discord, discouragement, and destruction, the world needs the church to embody the audacious truth that hope overcomes despair, forgiveness heals guilt, and love dismantles hate.
But more than this, there are people in each of our lives who need an expression of hope. We all know people who are struggling with an illness, a job loss, or some type of anxiety.
We all know people who could benefit from the Lord of all hopefulness coming into their life. Who do we know that might need a gentle reminder of Christ’s healing presence? How might you gently and reverently speak a word of hope to them?
Recognizing, living, and sharing the hope we have in Jesus is the call for each of us. This was the expressed witness of the Psalmist, of Peter, and for the early church, and it is the mission that we are to take up as followers of Jesus.
After all, if hope is life-giving for us, could it not be so for someone else? If hope connects us to the presence of the Holy Spirit, might it help another recognize the Spirit’s work in their life?
For further readi
3 Words of Hope When in the Depths
What Does the Bible Say about Hope?
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The Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada. He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at Christianity.com, crosswalk.com, ibelieve.com, Renovare Canada, and many others. He also maintains his own blog revkylenorman.ca. He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.