Hope. It's a pretty elusive 4 letter word. I don't mean that it is hard to find, but more that it is hard to define. For the sake of all the smartelics out there, the dictionary definition for the word "Hope" is "to cherish a desire with anticipation : to want something to happen or be true". This is great start I believe, but the elusiveness that I mentioned before comes into play when we think about hope outside of just ourselves. What gives me hope could be very different from what gives you hope. Also, the things that you hope for are more than likely different than what someone on the other side of the world hopes for. Which brings us back to the original statement of how do we define something that is different for every person? The short answer is we don't, but God does.
Let's approach it biblically and then we will come back to how it applies to you and I. We know that hope is necessary for a few different reasons. The first being that hope is needed when faith is involved. We know that "faith is the substance of things hoped for", so without hope faith is not produced. The reason many begin to lose their faith is simply because they have already lost their hope. This leads to the second reason hope is necessary, which is that without hope we are lost. Paul wrote to remind the church in Ephesus about this very thing by saying "That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). There is one final point about biblical hope that is the most important and I intentionally left out of the first two reasons. Our hope must be in Jesus Christ. Every other thing is fallible. If I hope in God and not the things of this world I can rest assured that I will be safe (Proverbs 29:25).
Hope is something that looks different from every person's perspective because we all have different situations, circumstances, and problems that our hope is being applied to. That is why it is hard to define on our own. What we can agree on, however, is that our hope is (or should be) in Jesus. He can be the "author and finisher of faith" or first and final say in our lives if we put our hope in him. It's then that faith has it's full potential and the things unseen can begin to become a reality. Put your hope in someone that will never leave you or forsake you and see how your environment changes. So how do we define hope? The answer is we don't, but God does.
As a kid, one of the popular field trip destinations was to Luhr Park. It seemed like every year or every other year we would find ourselves there walking nature trails, or making bird feeders out of pine cones. While it was nice to get away from the heavy work load of my elementary school career, most of this didn't leave an impression on me. I can't recall most of what happened, but on several of those trips, especially the younger years, there was one activity that I can recall with a great amount of clarity. The person in charge would have us walk up to these boxes that we couldn't see in and feel what was in the boxes to try and guess what it was.
For most of my peers this was a chance to show how brave they were. For others a slight fear or apprehension could be seen on their faces. For myself, this was a specific torture aimed in my direction. They wanted all of us to do it, but I don't like anything that puts me in front of a crowd. That being only a minor flaw compared to the complete trust I was asked to give to this park employee whom I barely knew and just hoped that she didn't stick a dead bird in that box. Now, I know what you're thinking, what kind of sick person would force first graders to touch dead birds and as an adult I know how ridiculous this sounds. But that's all that crossed my mind as I anxiously watched the children in front of me take their turns.
I remember how usually I would hang back not wanting to be a part of the crowd, but this time I was drawn in with suspense as children stuck their hands in slowly to discover the lifeless robin surely waiting on the other side. I remember how we would all jerk back when the student jerked their hand out quickly confused by what they were touching only to find out it was a cotton on the stem. I soon came to discover there was in fact no dead birds but various plants and things related to nature and after many of my friends reviewed their experience, the park employee earned enough trust for me to come to the same conclusion.
It's not easy putting your trust into someone. If you are in a group project, you want to be partnered with a friend or someone who is known for having good grades. Someone who puts little effort into their work could possibly give the same effort to your combined work. When you go to a new restaurant, with the help of online reviews or past experiences from friends and family, you can decipher how much you too will enjoy the experience. You risk wasted money, a chance at a good meal, and possible illness from a shady looking eatery. There are risks, but there are also missed opportunities from not having a little faith. There could be new friends to be made on branching out in your group projects. There could be amazing meals in restaurants that have little being said about them. Sometime we have to just risk it and go all in.
In Mark chapter 10 and starting at verse 46 we see someone who set aside their risks to take part in an opportunity. Bartimaeus heard Jesus was coming and being blind, he saw an opportunity to be healed. He begin to cry out, "Jesus son of David have mercy on me!" He had no idea where Jesus was, he was a beggar on the streets and begun to make a scene in front of all these people who wanted to get a closer look at Jesus. They were annoyed by his disruption.
Mark 10:48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.
But Bartimaeus was all in! He had no idea what was going to happen. He relied on the change from these people to get what little he could. To make them angry was a financial risk to his way of life. If one of them tried to harm him, he wouldn't be able to see what was headed his way. Yet here he was faced with an opportunity that could make his life better and Bartimaeus had to go all in. He had to put all his trust on Jesus and all he had heard about Him. Bartimaeus was noticed by Jesus. Jesus called Bartimaeus to him and said:
Mark 10:51-52 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.
Bartimaeus no longer had to beg. He didn't have to risk his life trying to get through town. He could now see because he was noticed by Jesus. We could sit down and list all that could go wrong, we could hide our heads in the sand and hope to just make it through, or we could try it the way God intended and go all in. Trusting that God can see you through and that he isn't trying to put you in harms way is not the easiest option, but what if it could make your life better? Is that a risk that you are willing to take?
May we all look pasts the risks, to the opportunity for a better life,