For What are You Hoping Today?

– Henry Neufeld

Now faith is the substantial nature of things we hope for, the clear conviction of things we don’t see. By this means the elders were approved.
By faith we understand that the universe was made by the word of God, so that things which are seen didn’t come out of things already visible…

Therefore restore the weakened hands and the bent knees, and prepare straight paths for your feet so that the lame might not stumble but rather might be healed.    — Hebrews 11:1-3; 12:12-13 (HN)

As I was reading this passage, my attention was repeatedly drawn to the word “hope.”  I have never really talked that much about hope before.  I’m pretty much a “facts” person.  I like to be realistic.  Even when I’m going out on a limb, I like to remind myself regularly how far out I am, how thin that limb is getting, and how close to the ground it’s bending.

You could say that I walk by faith, but with a powerful emphasis on how hard it is.  I take the step of faith, while making sure I’m clear that I’m really stepping over the edge.

When I was slowly walking away from the church after seminary, many people told me that all I needed to do was have faith. The problem was, you might say, that the lack of faith was precisely the problem.  Not one person suggested that I look for hope.  I wonder why that is.  Since then I’ve heard many, many sermons on faith for every sermon on hope I’ve heard.  Yet in the classic verse we use for defending our faith, we’re told to be prepared to give a reason for our hope.

Now look at our text for today.  In Hebrews 12:12-13 we are told to strengthen those who are weak.  Do you suppose we do this by telling them how they ought to be strong, or is there something else we need to do?  Then move back to Hebrews 11:1-3.  Faith is the “substantial nature,” the real essence of the things that we hope for.  Faith connects us to our hope!

But what if we try to have faith without hope?  Well, our faith may move us forward, but we will certainly miss the joy, and we may lose the faith.  Some of us seem to adhere to a John Wayne theory of faith—if we’re just tough enough, we’ll succeed. But God knows we need hope.

For what are you hoping today?

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