On this first Sunday in Advent, Dave spoke from Isaiah 40:25-31 about hope. The single most important attitude for us to adopt is one of hope, and this is entirely Biblical, for God has plans to give us hope and a future. (Jer 29:11) In our culture, hope is often watered down to simply wishing something, but in the Bible, the word is associated with confidence in God. We can hope and therefore not be afraid; we can hope and face the future whatever it holds because of God’s power and faithfulness.

Hope is not the same as optimism – a person can have hope even if temperamentally they are pessimists! We hope ultimately because God is in control. Hopelessness is a desperate situation, leading to depression and often to suicide, but we have access to hope which enables us to:

  1. get started! Hope is what gets us out of bed in the morning; as Isaiah tells us, ‘those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.’ Vigour and energy are fuelled by hope.

  2. continue whatever the burden. Paul tells us in 2 Cor 1 that he almost despaired of life itself because of the opposition and burdens he faced, but this taught him to trust God rather than himself.

  3. persevere and continue. The swimmer Florence Chadwick once failed in an attempt because fog descended and she could not see the shore. The fog of doubt and fear often mean we cannot see God’s promises, but they are still there. Mary and Martha were without hope because Jesus arrived too late to help Lazarus in their opinion, but in fact, Jesus raised him to life. There is much suffering in life, but 1 Pet 1:6 reminds us of the joy ahead, no matter what.

  4. slow down. Hope enables us to rest, to accept that because God is in control, we don’t need to be! We can find rest in God alone. (Ps 62:5)

  5. say no. We need to have power to say no to the temptations of life and to live with holiness (1 John 3:3)

Ultimately we have hope because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:3) The word ‘hope’ is mentioned 70 times in the New Testament after the resurrection. The cross was the symbol of shame and humiliation, but that dark place became the place of God’s ultimate triumph and He both understands and can transform our pain. The resurrection of Jesus Christ points to a future hope of heaven, a ‘blessed hope’ which sustains us (Lam 3:21-22). Is 49:23 reminds us that those who hope in God will not be disappointed. We can live hopeful lives because of God’s presence and help.