Defining Hope

June 9, 2009

Before I write my next post on John 13-17, I thought it would be helpful to give you an overview of my working definition of hope. This will just help us be on the same page as I try to explain how Jesus’ words in these chapters are a message of hope.

Most simply, I define hope as a confident and joyful expectation for the future. Hope is desire. Here are some definitions that Webster gives us… my concept of hope is expressed in each of these:

  1. to cherish a desire with anticipation
  2. trust
  3. to desire with expectation of obtainment
  4. to expect with confidence

Biblical hope is birthed in the promises of God. Trusting His faithfulness and ability, we confidently expect and await the joyful fulfillment of those promises.

Psalm 37 is a beautiful hope Psalm. Again and again, David gives the exhortation to hope, articulating it from a slightly different angle each time. (Something we frequently find in the Psalms.) Rather than presenting a lengthy list of things that David thinks are a generally good idea, it further develops this uniting theme of hope or trust.

I see each of these phrases from Psalm 37 as an exhortation to hope:

  • Do not fret
  • Trust in the Lord
  • Abide… and feed on His faithfulness
  • Delight yourself in the Lord (… and He will give you the desires of your heart)
  • Commit your way to the Lord
  • Trust in Him
  • Rest in the Lord
  • Wait patiently (or longingly) for Him
  • Cease from anger and forsake wrath
  • Depart from evil and do good

I will not give a lengthy explanation of each of these and how they exhort us to hope, but I will happily clarify any of them if you ask.

My definition of hope actually came to life as my heart was resting in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews, as a whole, is all about hope. It, like Psalm 37, is a constant exhortation to hope, packed with beautiful articulations of the nature God. My time in Hebrews has resulted in the following conclusions (among other things):

  • the concepts of COURAGE and encouragement/exhortation are closely linked with hope
  • hope is manifest in OBEDIENCE
  • hope sustains ENDURANCE
  • hope is about PROMISE
  • hope is BELIEVING
  • hope requires FAITH in who God declares Himself to be
  • … and a lot more than that, but we’re trying to keep this simple. 🙂

And, most significantly, I pulled this really simplified definition of hope out of Hebrews 3:6 – Hope is essentially CONFIDENCE AND REJOICING.

My favorite apostolic prayer is Romans 15:13. It reinforces this basic definition (in a chapter that similarly addresses themes of believing, courage, and promise):

Now may the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE in BELIVING, so that you will abound in HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(The Holy Spirit aspect of all of this is pretty exciting, too, but I’ll wait for that, until I actually start talking about John 13-17.)

Each of the terms I have mentioned throughout this post always evoke the idea of hope when I hear them. And my definition of hope is a glorious swirly pool of all of those terms and concepts.

Hope. I love it.


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