By Michael C. Mack
Hope makes all the difference! That’s the conclusion psychologists and social scientists have come to after years of research.
In his best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reported on what other researchers had discovered: “that hope was a better predictor of [students’] . . . grades than were their scores on the SAT, a test supposedly able to predict how students will fare in college (and highly correlated to IQ).” Hope, he says, “plays a surprisingly potent role in life, offering an advantage in realms as diverse as school achievement and bearing up in onerous jobs.”
That’s not a new discovery for Christ followers, however, who believe in a “God of hope” and who “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). We hold unswervingly to this hope and profess this hope to others (Hebrews 10:23) “while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
You see, the research simply confirms what God’s Word has been telling us all along.
The world is interested in hope and where to find it. I found recent online articles in Popular Science, Psychology Today, The Atlantic, as well as on the websites of Harvard University, the National Institutes of Health, and many other places. They say you may need to dig deeper to find hope (but they don’t say how deep) and to look for hope in the evidence of history, for instance. Their diagnosis is accurate: we all need hope. But they seem helpless—and hopeless—in where to find real hope.
That’s where God’s church—the hope of the world—comes in. We can show people how and where to find it. Hope is splashed in vivid colors throughout the pages of Scripture. Where do we look for hope? David’s reply was simple yet profound as he cried out to the Lord: “My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7). God is the source of hope and Jesus is the cure for all hopelessness. And God’s Word is better than any medical or psychology journal in providing a hopeful prognosis for all of us. We can say with the psalmist, who proclaimed four times in Psalm 119, “I have put my hope in your word.”
The world needs the hope we have. We have a God-given opportunity to help them find what they are looking for, especially in today’s culture that provides, it seems, so little hope. Our job is to tell them about the source of real hope. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Christians are not immune, of course, to difficulties, troubles, and trials. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). We can even boast in our sufferings as Christians! Why? “Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:3-5). Hope makes all the difference!
But what about when we don’t feel much hope? Over the last couple years, I’ve limped (when I could walk at all) through many of my days, both physically and metaphorically. My faith didn’t waver, but my hope teetered. So I read God’s words of hope over and over. Like the psalmist, I spoke words of hope to myself: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5). I’d say, “You know my circumstances are tough, Lord, but my hope is in you.” God’s Word helped me take my eyes (and my mind) off my circumstances and place them on the One who transcends my circumstances.
Where do we find that kind of hope? God gives it to us. Consider Peter’s words:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3-4).
God has given us this hope out of his great mercy; it’s part of his grace we received in our new birth. We don’t have to go searching for hope in a world that knows no real hope. We don’t need to dig deeper for it or look to the past for it. It is a gift of God to us as his followers. We have hope because we have Jesus and his Spirit within us. This hope is not like what the world defines and understands as hope. Our hope is living; it is as alive as our Savior through his resurrection from the dead. And it causes us to worship: Praise be to God!
My hope is that you will save this issue—either a printed or digital copy—and refer to it whenever you need a dose of hope. For all the articles point back to the giver of hope: “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The stories and other articles demonstrate and illustrate the hope we have in him in our personal lives, in our churches, in our movement, and in the future of the church. Ultimately, we have hope in the resurrection; that truly is the “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”
That kind of hope makes all the difference!