Earnest for the Full Assurance of Hope1
In a previous article I said that God wants you to know that you belong to him. His desire is for every one of his blood-bought children to be gripped and captivated by the certainty of the hope we have in Jesus and to rejoice in it. And here’s why we know that it is true. It comes from what we read in Hebrews 6:11 – “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end.” Continue reading . . .
In a previous article I said that God wants you to know that you belong to him. His desire is for every one of his blood-bought children to be gripped and captivated by the certainty of the hope we have in Jesus and to rejoice in it. And here’s why we know that it is true. It comes from what we read in Hebrews 6:11 – “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end.”
It’s as if our author says, “You showed great zeal and commitment in your devotion to God’s name by serving his people. Now show the same zeal and earnestness in pursuit of the full assurance of hope.” I want to highlight three things.
First, growing in the assurance that your hope is sure and solid does not come automatically. You must be “earnest” or “zealous” in the pursuit of it. And it typically comes in two ways. First, it comes from reflecting and meditating on the glorious truths already set forth about Jesus in this letter: his sinless life in facing all the temptations we face, his atoning death in our place, and his role as our great high priest, just to mention a few. Second, it comes from being diligent by God’s grace to believe his promises and trust his word and to work and serve the saints by loving them. In other words, assurance is grounded primarily in the objective achievement of Jesus himself and secondarily in our transformed lives as we seek to live for his glory and the good of his people.
Second, let’s be certain we know what “hope” is, and also what it isn’t.
The psalmist preaches to himself, declaring: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps. 42:5). His point is that hope is not natural or instinctive to the human heart. We must preach it to ourselves and constantly remind ourselves that God is trustworthy and will fulfill his promises. “Come on soul! Get with it! Believe God! Know that he will never fail to come through for you.”
Hope, by the way, is far and away different from wishing for the best. Let me remind you of a scene early on in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart? His character, George Bailey, walks into the local drug store. He flicks what appears to be a lighter in the shape of an animal. Before he does, he crosses his fingers, closes his eyes, and says: “I wish I had a million bucks!” The flame lights up and he yells, “Hot dog!”
Is that what “hope” is? Is it the same thing that happened in your heart when you said, prior to Game Six of the NBA playoffs: “I sure hope the Thunder win tonight”? Is biblical “hope” always characterized by uncertainty and doubt, as if it were little more than wishful thinking? Is hope little more than a “desire” for something good in the future that deep down inside you know probably will never come to pass? NO!
Biblical hope is the confident expectation that what we want to come to pass will in point of fact undoubtedly come to pass! There is a spiritual and moral certainty in biblical hope because what we expect to see and experience and enjoy in the future is something God himself has promised he will bring to pass. Hope is rock solid and unshakable because it is rooted and grounded in the faithfulness of God.
Of course, merely hoping for something is not what makes it certain to occur. God’s promise does that. If God hasn’t promised it, not all the hope in the world will make it come to pass. Likewise, our failure to hope for something does not undermine or destroy its certainty. It simply undermines our capacity to enjoy what God has said he will do.
Finally, how does “hope” differ from “faith”? I love the way John Piper explains it. He says that hope is something of a “subset of faith.” Hope is that expression of faith that focuses on the future. Faith typically looks to the past and the present and says, “I believe what God has already done and has already said.” Hope typically looks to the future and says, “I trust that what he has promised, based on what he has done in the past, he will in fact bring about.” As Piper has said, “hope is faith in the future tense.”
To be continued . . .