Hope. What is it? And does it make a real difference here and now? Does hope only direct us to the future or does it impinge with any power and relevance on our present lives?
Certainly hope is in part about the future. One present benefit of the Christian hope is perseverance in the face of suffering and adversity. Knowing that our eternity with God is indeed a blessed hope, one that is very real, makes it possible for us to put up with and face whatever troubling circumstances come our way.
But can hope also include hope for better circumstances in the present? Can having hope also mean God might provide us with a different present or future in this life?
N.T. Wright tells the story of a church that decided to purchase and restore an old schoolhouse, and how it became a place where the physically and mentally challenged of the community repaired furniture and learned various life skills. Rather than sitting passive all day watching TV, these people were now able to participate in and contribute to their community. The hope that life in the present could be more became a reality because the church took an active step in hope that it could make a difference.
I want to hear more stories like this. I want tell stories like this. Most of all, I want to be a part of stories like this. These are stories that embody the hope we have in Jesus. And they also provide a picture–even if scratched and incomplete–of our ultimate hope of the full restoration God promises. Hope is transposed into the present tense and becomes real rather than remaining abstract. Stories like this make hope tangible.
Without compromising the gospel and holding to a version of the prosperity gospel, I think we can experience hope for the here and now. I think the resurrection life Jesus promises us for all eternity, even if in glimpses and pieces, can take hold of us now. And when it does, our confidence that our future in Christ is secure and certain becomes a lot more than wishful thinking; it becomes hope. And hope, as Scripture tells us, does not disappoint us.