What does “hope” really mean?

What does “hope” really mean?

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent in the Christian calendar, and traditionally the first Sunday represents “hope.”

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve always struggled with the idea of hope. To me, it’s seemed like another word for optimism. Not that that’s a bad thing at all — I’m a very optimistic person, and I always try to find the good in everything. But I’ve never really understood the theological reason for the subject of hope to be so predominant throughout scripture. Until now.

According to Webster dictionary, hope is “cherishing a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true.”

So often, I simply tell God that I’m trusting Him because I know He has everything in control. I trust Him with my life and with my relationships and with my career and with everything. And that’s good. God wants us to trust Him. But that’s not all He wants us to do. He wants us to have hope in Him.

Without hope, trust is empty and futile. There’s no anticipation. Trust becomes easy and religious; it becomes pharisaical — blind to expectation and a strict adherence to the things we trust.

Hope brings that sense of expectation that God is going to do what He said He’s going to do and that He will fulfill His promises.

It’s not blind optimism. It’s anticipating in Someone.

And that’s what Christmas is all about. It’s the celebration of the moment God began to fulfill His promise that He will reunite us back with Him in a personal relationship.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Laziness vs rest

You scan the peaceful horizon. The sun sets over the lake, which is nestled between rolling highlands. A flock of birds shoots across the dusk sky, and you begin to hear crickets chirping in the distance. A fish playfully leaps from the water, and you watch an old turtle gently make his way into the reeds. No one is in sight. As the last ray of sunlight fades, you see the full moon reflect off the tranquil waves. Only one thing could make this beautiful scene better: for it to be the end of your stressful day.

The alarm pierces through your dream… blissful paradise replaced with monotonous reality. You lie there trying to convince yourself you can get out of bed. That you have the energy to pull off the sheets, sit up and shut the obnoxious alarm off. But that would only mean you’ve accepted today. Reality would win yet again. As long as you ignore it, you still have reign over paradise.

Somehow you find yourself dressed and heading out the door with a cup of coffee in hand. How did you get to this point? The routine of life has been ingrained into your mind so much that you barely even notice what you do. It’s 7 am on Monday morning, and you’ve got to be at work. You don’t have much choice, do you?

Why is life so monotonous? Somehow, we run our lives with such repetition that we lose sight of life itself. We busy ourselves with schedules and responsibilities, and eventually we crash and burn.

•  “But you, lazybones, when will you sleep? When will you wake up?” (Proverbs 6:9)

•  “Lazy people are soon poor, but hard workers get rich.” (Proverbs 10:4)

•  “Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.” (Proverbs 12:24)

The book of Proverbs talks quite a bit about laziness. It’s very clear that laziness is a path of destruction. By absolutely no means am I arguing against that. However, I think that we have a tendency to equate laziness with rest.

•  “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

•  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

•  “God has told his people, ‘Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.’ But they wouldn’t listen.” (Isaiah 28:12)

•  “Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, [and] he went up into the hills by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:22-23)

•  “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3)

The Bible is just as clear about finding rest as it is about not being lazy. That’s because there’s a difference. Laziness is consciously avoiding basic responsibilities and selfishly relying on others. Rest is consciously putting aside work to unselfishly rely on God.

At the time of writing this, I’m beyond stressed. My mind is maxed out with tasks and responsibilities. Being completely exhausted with so much left to do, I walk around campus, and I have to remember to do simple, basic things. Like, open a door before I walk through it.

Many of you know what I mean and feel a similar anxiety. This is a stressful time for all of us, even those of you not in school. Our lives get so busy that we forget simple things… like rest.

I’m encouraging you to take 10 minutes, right now, and go somewhere quiet. Grab a Bible and get somewhere away from distractions. Read Isaiah chapter 40. It’s not long, and mainly focus on verses 12-31. It was a reminder to the people of Israel after physical bondage, and it’s a reminder for us today to find rest in the right place.

God’s plan is not always easy. In fact, sometimes He leads us through trials and crucibles so that we remember to always depend on Him. But He has lead you to this place for such a time as this, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Finally, always remember that God made you and loves you more than you can comprehend. His love is consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly-pursuing, lavish, unrestrained, furious and extravagant. Rest in His arms.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He’s done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, my dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:6-9)