Hope


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[Editor’s Note: If you received the email version of our last post you probably missed Joey and Rory singing Leave it There since videos do not appear in the electronic post. However, you can watch it on our blog.]

For my mother whose middle name was Hope. She passed away last Christmas almost four years to the day of my father’s passing. I miss them very much.

When I was taken to the emergency room I had hope. When I lost a job I had hope. When I was on the verge of homelessness I had hope. When my bank account was bankrupt I had hope. When I couldn’t pay my rent I had hope. When I was housebound four years because of acute panic disorder I still had hope.

Hope (in God) kept me alive and preserved my soul.

Christians know all about faith and love, but there are three fruits of the Spirit that remain (1 Corinthians 13:13), and hope seems to be an afterthought in today’s church. We know that we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but did you know that Paul told the Romans that we are saved by hope? We’ll address that later.

Readers of Messiah Gate know that I occasionally engage [in] lengthy discourse over the more complex issues of theology, but that makes me somewhat like the Pharisees who knew the letter of the Law, but not its practice. John the Baptist called them a brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7)  — echoed by Jesus (Matthew 12:34) who also condemned them as hypocrites (Matthew 23:13).

Joel Osteen has been, at times, a target of my criticism as I have suggested that watching his sermons is like eating a candy bar — empty calories with a sugar rush. He tickles my ears (2 Timothy 4:3).

But when my days were darkest I found myself listening to him because his words made me feel good. TBN recently broadcast Night of Hope in Jerusalem with the Osteens which originally aired in 2011. To be expected there were the circuit preachers bellowing their motivational mantra sounding much like the used-car salesmen who pitch their inventory on late-night television:

I declare your suffering has ended … I proclaim your deliverance from poverty … I declare that your storehouse will be filled … I proclaim this day of healing … You will get that job … You will prevail … You will overcome … and so on.

Yes, Osteen is light on theology so what is it about his message that inspires so many people?

May I suggest that it is a message of hope. That’s what Joel Osteen preaches — hope. Now, I still have theological differences with him, but I can’t deny that my hope meter charts full, and my spirit is lifted, when I watch him.

The Night of Hope in Jerusalem was near the anniversary of the death of Osteen’s father. Osteen buried his head in his hands and sobbed as he reminisced about his dad, John — how his father encouraged him to pastor the congregation even though Joel had no training in seminary, or confidence that he could assume such a role. At that moment you could sense an outpouring of love and hope, and the very real presence of the Holy Spirit.

It was an awesome night … Jesus was preached … and our God was glorified.

I’m sure that I am wrong about some things as well, but my hope is that one day we will sit together at the feet of the Master who will teach us the great and hidden truths of His heavenly kingdom.

Now, what about Paul’s statement that we are saved by hope? Your King James Bible reads:

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it  (Romans 8:24-25).

The translation does not convey all that Paul is saying. The Aramaic version is worded … Because we live in that hope … or the English Standard Version that reads … For in this hope we were saved

So, if we compare Paul’s writings we learn that we are saved through faith, and in hope. But for what are we hopeful? Paul reveals that in the previous verse:

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us (Romans 8:23).

The apostle was not immune to suffering as he wrote to the assembly at Corinth:

[Of the apostles] Are they servants of Christ? — I speak as if insane — I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure  (2 Corinthians 11:3-27). 

Might the circuit preachers declare Paul’s deliverance from all of these hardships? Our Lord said that, in this life, we will suffer:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Ellicott summarizes:

Because hope in the future is of the very essence of the Christian’s life. It was [in] hope that he was saved. Hope, at the time when he first believed, made him realise (sp) his salvation, though it is still in the future. This is, indeed, implied in the very nature of hope. Its proper object is that which is future and unseen. [1]

Benson wrote that our hope is in a salvation not fully possessed. [2]

And Barnes surmises:

[As to saved by hope] perhaps the word “saved” may mean here simply, we are kept, preserved, sustained in our trials, by hope. Our trials are so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience. [3]

Consider, finally, that the underpinning of hope is love, of course, but also patience.

This message is not heard but from a few pulpits. Maybe that is why people listen to Joel Osteen. Certainly, my own testimony confirms that in my darkest days, hope — I’m speaking from the Spirit — was the sustaining power in my life.

To Him be the glory.

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Baby David and Mom

Notes:

1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers VIII, by Ellicott, Charles J., Cassell and Company, 1905.

2. Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Benson, Joseph, 1811–18, 5 vols.

3. Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes, 1834.

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