I hope to get good grades. I hope to marry a good man someday. I hope to have a successful life. I hope to stay healthy. I hope.
We use the term 'hope' a lot of the time, for a variety of different things. We nearly always use it as a verb... an interchangeable good luck charm. "I hope you get better soon." "I hope you have a nice day." "I hope the weather is nicer tomorrow." We hope for fragile, simplistic, more-or-less pointless things.
But we have a hope. Noun. We were given a hope. In fact it has been illuminated inside of us, and is meant to be a blindingly beautiful light for all the hopeless. However, it gets crowded out with all of the 'I hopes' on the outside of us.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7 ~
For God, who said, "Let there be light in the darkness," has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
When we 'hope' to have an enjoyable day... do we think of it as a powerful statement? I doubt it. But hope- true hope- is a God-given gift. It is the great power of God. We are like clay jars. Fragile, dusty, ordinary, empty. But God has filled us up with a hope that shines like a beacon of light for all the other empty vases around the world. At least... that's what we're supposed to be doing.
Our 'hopes' crowd the true hope out. We hope we will be liked. We hope we will be comfortable. We hope for fame, status, wealth, popularity, and ease. Has it ever occurred to you that there is a much greater number of empty clay jars out there than us, full ones? So if the battle of evangelism feels easy... there's something wrong with that picture.
For a clay jar who is filled with the hope of Christ, all the other meaningless 'hopes' fall out of place. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says:
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
Dwell on that for just a moment. This is incredible! We 'hope' that we will have an easy life, but here, Paul describes the hopeful clay jar as being 'pressed on every side by troubles.' That does not sound like an easy, comfortable lifestyle. However, though our hope for comfort is not fulfilled, the true hope is: we are never crushed by Satan.
We hope for good grades, intelligence, and good, old-fashioned logic. However, Paul describes the hopeful clay jar as being perplexed. Confused. But the hope that is inside keeps it from being driven to despair.
We hope for popularity and love from other humans... but if we are being totally loved by those of the world, that is quite a clear indication that our 'beacon of hope' is being cluttered up. Because, as Paul says, if people can see where our hope lies... we will be hunted down. We will be persecuted and hated. But the hope that we have that makes it worth going through a billion times: we are never abandoned by God. Humans may desert us, flog us, back-stab us, mock us, but they are humans. We have a God who will never desert us.
We hope for emotional strength, and confidence in ourselves. Who needs self-confidence when you can have confidence in an entirely reliable God? We will get knocked down, but we will NOT be destroyed!
Are you beginning to see the amazing picture of true hope? It is not a good luck charm. It is not a wishlist. It is not wistful thinking. It is a light; a light that has been put in every clay jar that belongs to God. So clean out the meager 'hopes' that are dirtying up the outside of your fragile clay jar, and show your true hope inside for all to see!
Paul knew better than most that Christianity will be hunted with crucifixion, the sword, and the constant danger of death. But Paul also had a very firm grasp on reality. He knew that every time we suffer for Jesus' sake, we share in His death! Isn't that an honour? To endure suffering for the King who saved you from eternal doom? I would hope we accepted it as an honour.
So, despite all the persecution, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:13~
We continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said "I believed in God, so I spoke."
Could it be any more straightforward than that? He believed God, so he spoke. The two concepts came hand-in-hand. I say I believe God, but I pipe down in the face of mockery.
So what do I value more? My faith in God? My hope in God? Or my meager hope of popularity?
It's pretty sad that the answer to that question is always somewhat hesitant.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.