Message of the Week: Hope against hope
Hope is a word that we use in many different contexts.
We often use hope as an oblique reference to prayer, as in "Oh, I hope I get that job." We are not sure who we are putting our hope in, but perhaps there is someone or something out there that can help things come our way.
We also use hope in relation to our dreams when we say things like "All my hopes and dreams are wrapped up in this."
The dictionary definition of hope is "to desire with expectation of obtainment." What is intriguing, though, is the dictionary definition of hope against hope. The dictionary says that is "to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment." What a different picture we see painted in the Bible concerning hope against hope. In Romans 4:18 it says, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed." How did that happen and how do we get there?
The story of Abraham begins to unfold in Genesis 12. God tells Abraham that "I will make you into a great nation." God went on to tell him that his offspring would be like the stars in the sky. For Abraham, that wasn't the problem. The problem was the first offspring. He and his wife Sarah could not have the first one. It just didn't seem to happen. Even though God told them what he would do for them, they could not see how it would happen so they tried to help God out. Sound familiar? Sarah gave her maidservant to Abraham as a wife and thought they could have a child, thus an offspring, through her. That did happen, but it was not God's plan for his covenant.
So, we find Abraham and Sarah near 100 years old and still no offspring. Was God's word really true? Was he going to keep his word? And, if so, how was he going to do it? They were too old to have children, so it seemed that God was boxed in and there was no way to accomplish his plan. It just seemed impossible.
So, what happened?
Read again in Romans 4:18, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be. He faced the fact that his body was as good as dead and that Sarah's womb was also dead. . . being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised."
Abraham faced the facts and they did not add up. There was no hope. When our hope is fully in God, the facts take on a different meaning. We have people in our congregation who have been told that the medical facts say there is no hope. Our God, the living God, is not limited to the "facts" of time, space, and boundaries as we know them. So, we can hope even when the facts say "no." God is not limited to the facts. We can depend on his word even when it looks to us as if there is "no way."
What facts are you facing? A medical report that holds no hope? A marriage that seems to be beyond repair? A job that just isn't there? Remember, if your hope is in the living God through the presence of Jesus Christ in you, there are no dead ends. Abraham, against all hope, that is, hope in the facts and the boundaries of our world, in hope, that is, in the living God who goes beyond the facts and creates highways from dead ends, believed that God would do what he says he will do. So, what is God saying in your "hope-less" situation?
Gary Moore is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene, 600 N. George Washington Blvd., Yuba City. Message of the Week appears on Saturdays.