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Think about the way we use the word “hope” these days. “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow;” “I hope I pass this exam;” “I hope he/she isn’t mad at me:” or even, “I hope I get away with this.” This sort of hope is vague and flimsy. It’s not real hope, but a watered-down, anxiety-ridden caricature of the real thing, a glimmer of positivity for the glass-half-empty person. It speaks of doubt rather than assurance.

This is not how Christians understand hope, nor how the Bible presents it. Hope is something strong and dependable, a concrete expression of anticipation when the glass is half full and we are assured of it ultimately overflowing. This is how the Bible speaks of hope.

“Hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:5)

The hope of salvation is a helmet, part of the full armour of God (1 Thessalonians 5:8; Ephesians 6:17)

“Full assurance of hope” (Hebrews 3;11)

“a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19)

“a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3)

What is this hope, which is certain, living and secure? It is the hope of salvation. The way the New Testament writers speak about this hope makes it clear that it is not some elusive wish, a pie-in-the-sky tenuous desire that may or may not come to fruition. It certainly does not rely on us being “good enough” or worthy. Quite the contrary, hope is the acknowledgement that what we are assured of is still future and is something that we look towards with absolute confidence. It is there ahead of us in time, in the hands of a timeless God, ready and waiting for us. That which we anticipate, which we long for, the focus of our hope, is eternal life in perfection with God.

The reason we hope for it is not because it is uncertain, but simply because it has not been fully manifested yet. We can have a taste of it, however. Jesus Christ has promised that if we belong to him we are forgiven and adopted into the family of God. We are already citizens of the heavenly kingdom that will one day fill the earth, living under the reign of Christ. There is tremendous assurance here. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). This assurance is repeated over and over in the Bible, that those who trust in Jesus have eternal life. Although our bodies temporarily decay, there is the sure and certain hope of the resurrection; we will not cease to exist, we will not perish. Nor will eternal life be an endless repetition of the trails and sorrows of this one, but life as it is meant to be lived, free from sin and sickness and death. Christians have a taste of this life now, as the Holy Spirit encourages, sanctifies and seals our relationship with God.

The Bible describes hope as an anchor. Think about a ship’s anchor; it’s placed to stop the ship from drifting, from beaching or crashing on to rocks. A good anchorage is a shelter from wind and waves, allowing those on board to rest. It allows the boat to swing around, however, so that it will be positioned with the tide. Sometimes the wind and tide don’t agree, and the boat may rock and swing, but if the anchor holds firm, it will not drift, and the sea will not overwhelm it. God does not promise us an easy life. Everyone’s lot is different, but we all face trials and suffering. They have their place; with the right anchoring of our attitudes, our lives, our hope, good can come out of evil. Trials build resilience and they build trust. A person facing trials without hope is like a ship without a firm anchor, adrift at the mercy of the wind and tide, and likely to be swamped or run aground. Those same trials afflicting a ship with a firm anchorage can be weathered.

Where does the strength of anchoring lie? It’s not a function of the ship itself, however well built it is. Nor is it completely to do with the actual bit of metal that is the anchor itself; these come in many shapes and sizes. The reliability of an anchor relies on the amount of chain that lies on the bottom, and settles the anchor firmly in the substrate, and it relies on the substrate itself, the sea floor. In other words, where the anchor is and how firmly it is situated there is the key. This makes the Bible’s metaphor particularly apt. It’s not about how “big and strong” our hope is, as if it were about our effort in wishing hard. It’s about the security and reliability of where the anchor is placed. The passage in Hebrews 6 is quite theologically loaded and makes reference to other parts of the Bible with which you might not be familiar, but the essence is this. God cannot lie, and he has made promises, confirming them with a solemn oath, that we have salvation in Jesus, a greater priest than any who have gone before. Jesus entered first on our behalf into the presence of God and laid, as it were, an anchor there. It’s a sure and steadfast anchor, expertly placed in the strongest substrate, the very presence of God to whom we now have access. We anchor there for refuge in the storms of life, knowing that we will be kept safe for eternity.

“By two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place... where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf...” (Hebrews 6:18–20).

Where is your anchor placed, if you even have one? Where is your hope? People place their anchors in all sorts of places; in luck, their own strength or intellect, in other people, governments, institutions, vague spiritual ideas, none of which are a sure and certain hope. We fail, we don’t live up to our own standards, let alone God’s. We sin. We hurt others and let them down. If they have their hope anchored in us, or we in other people, our ship will drag. Film stars and other celebrities, politicians, government, social groups, reform movements, even the church, sadly, none of these are completely sound anchorages. That has been evident all through history. About a thousand years before Jesus, a psalmist wrote this advice to the people of Israel:

“Do not put your trust in leaders, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Israel. whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them, the Lord, who remains faithful forever.” (Psalm 146: 3–6)

A hope anchored in the Maker of the universe, who cannot lie, is the strongest, most reliable anchorage there is. Paul greeted his friend and fellow minister Titus, “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2). The Bible writers didn’t express any doubt about the object of our hope. Their words of encouragement are not directed at God, pleading with him to follow through (“I hope God meant what he said”). Absolutely not! Their words of encouragement are directed at us, who have every reason to hope in the sure and certain promises of God. We are not to waver, we are not to loose faith, to pull up our anchor as it were and entrust ourselves to fortune or any other anchorage which can be but shifting sand. Jesus told a parable, not about anchoring, but about building on different substrates or foundations, but the idea is the same.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24–27).

Where is your hope anchored? Is it anchored at all? Do you “hope” there is more to life than this, that you will lead a long and happy life?” Do you “hope” for your children, your friends? Do you ”hope” that there is something beyond death, and that whatever it is, you might be in with a chance? My hope is situated in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God with us, and currently laid up for you in heaven, where Christ is sitting with that anchor in the very presence of God. (Colossians 1:5). It’s a hope, not a wish, and it is a hope because it’s not yet visible, not yet completely fulfilled. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope...but if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8: 23–25). That hope will appear with Jesus and be made a reality. Until then we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us...” (Titus 2:13–14). Thank God that I don’t have to hope in myself, my own strength and reliability, or in any one or anything else, or take my chances with the wind and tide of life.

Where is your hope anchored?

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