Thankful (Part 4): Thankful for Our Hope

Thankful

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:52-57).

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he spent the entire fifteenth chapter discussing the resurrection. The resurrection is the reason why our hope as Christians is better than anything for which others may hope. No matter what happens in this life – even when we face difficult situations, including the eventual end in death – our hope remains as long as we continue to faithfully serve the Lord.

The Gift of Hope

When Paul began his first letter to Timothy, he identified Jesus as “our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1). This means we are without hope when we are without Christ. Paul reminded the Gentile Christians in Ephesus that when they were “separate from Christ” they had “no hope” and were “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). This hope is based upon the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. Paul told the Corinthians, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Because Christ was raised from the dead, we have hope for our resurrection as well.

This hope through the resurrection of Christ is “the hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2; 3:7). This means that we are looking for something beyond this life. This was why Paul, in discussing the hope of the resurrection, told the church in Corinth, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). We do not have the assurance that our lives here will improve; but we do have the promise that we can live for eternity in heaven with the Lord.

The hope that God provides for us is a product of His grace and love. Paul said that the “grace in which we stand” allows us to “exult [rejoice, KJV] in hope” (Romans 5:2). A few verses later, the apostle wrote that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts” (Romans 5:5). The hope of the resurrection is a gift that has been given to us by God because He loves us.

We Must Accept This Hope

Accepting the hope that God has made available to us is the idea of embracing His promises. These promises were first made by God to His people in the Old Testament. When Paul made his defense before King Agrippa, he said, “And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews” (Acts 26:6-7). When God made His promise to Abraham, Paul indicated that it was “in hope against hope he believed” (Romans 4:18). Referring to this, Paul told the churches of Galatia, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer” (Galatians 3:8-9). Unfortunately, many of the Jews rejected this and refused to accept Christ and the hope found in Him.

This hope is expressed through the Scriptures. Paul wrote, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Hope has been revealed in the gospel. The brethren in Colossae were told to “continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23). Therefore, we must accept God’s word in order to accept this hope. However, just as many of the Jews rejected Jesus in the first century, many reject God’s word today. They do not possess “the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). They “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus,” so they stand to “pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Let us not be among this number who tragically reject the hope that God offers.

We accept God’s promises by believing in Him and obeying His word. Peter explained that when we “obey Jesus Christ” we are “sprinkled with His blood” and are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:2-3). This puts us on the path to eternal life in which we can “obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Jesus explained it to Nicodemus this way: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. […] Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5).

We Must Appreciate Our Hope

In order to fully appreciate the hope that we have from God, we need to recognize that it pertains to something far better than anything we could hope for in this life. Again, Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). There is a temptation to focus on the things of this life and make it our hope simply to gain more of the things of this world. Yet Paul told Timothy, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). We must place our hope in God, not in riches or any other material thing since the riches of this life and the things of this world are only temporary (cf. Matthew 6:19; 1 John 2:17).

Paul wrote, “For in hope we have been saved” (Romans 8:24). To properly value our hope we need to recognize it as being tied to our salvation. Nothing is more important than this. Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). There is nothing in this world that is of more value than our soul; therefore, the hope of eternal life for our soul needs to be most precious to us.

As we already noted, our hope is a product of God’s grace and love (Romans 5:2-5). This means it is underserved. Paul explained just how undeserving and helpless we were in the verses that followed: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. […] But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. […] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6, 8, 10). Without the Lord, we will pass from this life with “no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). We must never forget the great blessing it is to have this hope from God.

We Must Demonstrate Gratitude

Through Christ we have hope of something beyond this life that is far better than anything we might hope to gain in this world. Once we accept this hope by becoming followers of Christ and learn to appreciate this great blessing, how to we express our thanksgiving for this?

  1. Thank God that we have the hope of overcoming death through Christ – In the passage we cited at the beginning about the hope of the resurrection, Paul wrote, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). We need to regularly thank God through our prayers and even our songs for this hope.
  2. Live righteously – After Paul described the hope that we have through the grace of God (Romans 5:2-11), he had to correct a misunderstanding that some of the brethren in Rome had. There were some who believed that they could “continue in sin so that grace may increase”; to which Paul responded, “May it never be!” (Romans 6:1-2). He went on to explain that we are to “consider [ourselves] to be dead to sin” (Romans 6:11). He wrote, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). Because we have hope, we are to obey the Lord.
  3. Speak boldly about God and His word – Paul wrote, “Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12). If we truly believe in God’s promises, we ought to be willing to tell others about these promises and defend the reason for our hope. Peter said we must be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks [us] to give an account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15).
  4. Persevere until the end – Paul told the Romans, “But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:25). He described the “steadfastness of hope” that existed in the faithful brethren in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:3). No matter what we must endure, we need to keep focused on the hope we have through Christ and remain faithful to Him.

If we do not show gratitude for our hope, eventually we will forget why our hope is so important. When this happens, it is inevitable that we will turn our attention away from that final reward and become distracted by the temporal things of this life, leaving us unfruitful in the Lord’s service (cf. Luke 8:14).

Conclusion

No matter what we face in this life – good or bad – we have something far better after this life. This hope is possible through the resurrection of Christ. We can have this hope if we will be “born again” and conform to His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5), and then continue to faithfully serve Him until the end (2 Timothy 4:7-8).


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