Sometimes in spite of all the positive thinking we can generate, life is really terrible. Simple optimism will not do. Genuine hope (“confident expectation”) must go beyond positive thinking. Genuine hope is not “Wishing for something you know isn’t going to happen.” It is not an idle wish at all.
Hope is a vigorous principle; it sets the head and heart to work and animates a man to do his utmost.
I like the story about the boy and his father who were planning a fishing trip for the next day. That evening as the father was putting his son to bed, the boy hugged his father’s neck and said, “Daddy, thank you for tomorrow.”
The apostle Peter offered this counsel: “So, then, gird up the loins of your mind; be sober; come to a final decision to place your hope on the grace which is going to be brought to you at the revealing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13).
Peter has been talking about the greatness and the glory to which the Christian may look forward; but the Christian can never be lost in dreams of the future; he must always be virile in the battle of the present. So Peter sends out three challenges to his people.
He tells them to gird up the loins of their mind. This is a deliberately vivid phrase. In the east men wore long flowing robes which hindered fast progress or strenuous action. Round the waist they wore a broad belt or girdle; and when strenuous action was necessary they shortened the long robe by pulling it up within the belt in order to give them freedom of movement. The English equivalent of the phrase would be to roll up one’s sleeves or to take off one’s jacket.
Peter is telling his people that they must be ready for the most strenuous mental endeavor. They must never be content with a flabby and unexamined faith; they must set to and think things out and think them through. It may be that they will have to discard some things. It may be that they will make mistakes. But what they are left with will be theirs in such a way that nothing and nobody can ever take it away from them.
He tells them to be sober. Peter is appealing to them to maintain the essential steadiness of the man who knows what he believes.
He tells them to set their hope on the grace which is going to be given to them when Jesus Christ comes. It is the great characteristic of the Christian that he lives in hope; and because he lives in hope he can endure the trials of the present. Any man can endure struggle and effort and toil, if he is certain that it is all leading somewhere. That is why the athlete accepts his training and the student his study.
For the Christian the best is always still to come. He can live with gratitude for all the mercies of the past, with resolution to meet the challenge of the present and with the certain hope that in Christ the best is yet to be.
Hope is also a powerful concept. Without hope in the future, we have no power in the present. Hope may keep us alive. Without hope there is no reason to live. It has been said, “Life without Christ is a hopeless end, but life with Christ is an endless hope.”
Hope is grief’s best music. Hope is like the clouds: some pass by, others bring rain. Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.
Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them?
He is your keeper. He has kept you thus far. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, He will bear you in His arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. Our Father will either shield you from suffering, or He will give you strength to bear it.
I like the example of the hospice nurse, who had ministered to many as they faced death, trying to ease the transition. A minister asked her, “Do Christians die differently from others?” “Most definitely, yes,” she replied, “Christians really do die better.” Why do Christians die better? “They know it isn’t over.”
Hope prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory.
It’s the wise individual who can hope for the best, get ready for the worst, and take what God chooses to send.
Have I forgotten Paul’s prayer? “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
How can I tolerate gloomy expectations when my Lord is Jesus, the God of creation? When my family is in his faithful care? When my church is his church, under his sovereign direction?