When God pours his Spirit into the hearts of men and women, he gives them hope. It’s sometimes said that ‘other people see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope’.
Rom 15:13 talks of God as ‘the God of hope’ who wants us to ‘overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit’. So hope comes from God’s generous Spirit who has a lot of hope to give away.
What is hope?
When we use the word ‘hope’ in English we tend to mean a vague desire. So we say: ‘I hope it’s not going to rain’ – which basically means that it probably is going to rain, but our desire is that it won’t! But the bible word for ‘hope’ is very different. The Greek word used is elpis and it’s much nearer to word we use for ‘belief’, which means real ‘hope’ is not a weak thing, but something strong and firm. Hope is a belief – a knowing – that there’s a better day coming. It might be some way in the distance, but it’s going to come. That is biblical hope. And that is what the Holy Spirit gives to us.
The hope of heaven
That’s why the bible talks of ‘the hope’ of heaven. You see, our future in heaven is not a vague desire but is assured because of what Jesus has done for us. If our future in heaven is based on our performance in life, then none of us would qualify. But thankfully it’s based on the performance of Jesus Christ – and because he’s done so well in his death and resurrection, winning our forgiveness and freedom, then our place in heaven is secure as we trust in him. For the believer, heaven may be some way in the distance, but it’s going to come.
The strong hope of heaven helps Christians who are being persecuted, which is the experience of some especially in the present turmoil in the Arab Spring and in parts of Africa. It helped St Paul conclude that he was happy whether he lived – serving Christ – or died or was martyred – serving Christ. He could confidently say in Philippians 1:21: ‘for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ Either way, he wins! Because what’s the worst that can happen? He dies or is killed. So if you’re a follower of Jesus you can humbly but confidently know where you’re going. You are secure in the hope of heaven.
How does the Spirit give hope?
Hope – both the particular hope of heaven, and the more general hope of a better day – grows as we go through the trials of life. Romans 5:3-5 is very clear about this, telling us ‘that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope.’ And all this, says St Paul in v.5 is a work of the Holy Spirit, pouring his love into our hearts to help us through the tough times, as well as the good. So if you’re going through hard times, be encouraged. God is wanting to use this to build hope in you. Seriously. The Lord wants you to believe that. To sustain you.
And as he puts hope in your heart so he wants you to bring that hope to others. Hope of a better day, as we follow Jesus Christ day by day. You see, followers of Jesus mustn’t keep hope to themselves. Christ-followers are to be hope-givers.
There’s a scene from the movie Star Wars: The Phantom Menace where the young boy Anakin is leaving home. He’s going to train to be a Jedi under his Master Obi-Wan but he’s upset about leaving his mother. So his mother reassures him with some wonderful words, telling him: ‘you are to bring hope to those who have none.’ I remember the first time I watched that movie and those words stood out to me. ‘Bringing hope to those who have none.’ I remember thinking: ‘that’s what we’re supposed to do. To bring hope.’ So, where can you bring God’s strong hope, today?
How much hope does God want you to have?
But how hopeful are we supposed to be? How much hope should we expect to have in our hearts? Romans 15:13 says that God wants us to be ‘overflowing with hope’. That means having more than enough. Enough to share and to give away. Enough so that when people bump into us, hope spills out.
A vision of hope
I was thinking the other day about the vision of The Belfrey – serving God’s transformation of the North – and I realised that it was a vision of hope. It’s a vision of a better day. Of a revived and transformed North of England. We don’t yet see it, yet we mustn’t lose sight of it. Because it’s going to come. And that is what we’re praying for and working towards. So I was telling the Staff this week that when they’re caught up in busyness, or when someone annoys them, or when they’re doing something that seems relatively mundane, that they must hold on to the vision. Because the vision we’re working towards is a future of great hope.
I hope that one day, when we get to heaven, we’ll find lots of people there from the North of England because of us. And it may well be that they are there because of a conversation you had with them, or as a result of an act of kindness someone performed, or as Conference we put on, or a prayer that was prayed for them on the street, or because they were stirred by a video we’d made that they’d watched online… It may well be that if it were not for those things, they wouldn’t be there. Which means that we can all be bringing hope to people right now in all sorts of big and little ways, that might even have eternal consequences! That’s what we’re here. That’s why we keep going. That’s why we pray. To the God of hope.
Do you need a fresh dose of hope in your life? For yourself? And to give away? If so, don’t hold back from asking God to pour his Spirit afresh into your heart. That you might overflow with hope.