What does it look like to hope? Does it mean to be superstitious? We Ohioans probably all know someone who blames the loss of Ohio State to Michigan on them not wearing their buckeye necklace or favorite jersey. Is that hope, to depend on a talisman or trinket to get you your desired outcome? What about the person who recites a memorized prayer every time they drive across a bridge? Is that hope? Is hope merely some emotion that you bury inside yourself only to bring it to the forefront in times of need?
What if hope, real hope, causes us to act? One of my favorite movie lines of all time comes from the film Facing The Giants, when a Christian man is trying to encourage a down-and-out football coach. In describing faith, he said “Two farmers prayed for rain. One went out and prepared his fields to receive the rain.” And then he asks the question: who had demonstrated more faith? Whose prayer did God answer? Faith and hope, while not the same, are intricately connected. If we are truly hopeful for something, we begin to act differently.
Hope is the reason you plan an outdoor event in Ohio because you never know what the weather will do. It’s the reason a parent of a missing child leaves the porch light on each night. It’s why you don’t throw away your favorite team jersey after they blow the game. Hope is the reason you plant seeds in the garden. Hope makes a difference.
Paul, in writing to the Romans, talks about how our hope in Christ should cause us to order and live our lives differently than people who don’t trust in Christ. In Romans 13:11-14 he says, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
When Paul says that our salvation is nearer to us now than previously, he’s not talking about almost being “saved” but rather the coming of the Lord. It’s a mathematical fact that we are one day closer to either our death or the return of Christ. What does that mean? It means we have things to do. We’re not called to just sit and wait the rest of our days, scrolling Facebook or watching TikTok. We have more to do than just get through the day. No, Christian, our hope awakens us to reality.
You see, the non-Christian lives as though human history was destined to continue forever or to colonize Mars. But we know that God is the unseen mover of history, causing nations to rise and fall, and bringing history to a determined end. And so we must “wake up to reality” as J.B. Philips translates this passage. The world may be asleep at the wheel, but we’ve got places to go and things to do.
The Christian hope in Jesus doesn’t mean we put our heads in the sand or keep our eyes fixed on the sky. Rather, it means that we live a life of faithfulness and fruitfulness. We love God and love others well. We engage with a world that needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It means that we don’t allow ourselves to get distracted by the glitter and glimmer of sinful pleasures that separate us from our heavenly Father and cause us to forget our hope. The fulfillment of our hope is at hand. What began way before Bethlehem is continuing today, the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today, live as if we have hope.