Hoping against Hope

By Pastor Emmanuel Akatukunda

Hoping against Hope

Text: Romans 4:18-22

Today, I would like to share on the subject of hope. If there was a time when we needed to keep our hope alive, it is now. Every other day signs of hopelessness and despair keep manifesting in our society. People are increasingly giving up on life — some even attempting suicide. God is reminding us today to keep on hoping.

What Hope is Not

Before we can see what hope is, we need to know what hope is not. For one, hope is not sheer optimism or wishful thinking. Optimism is a belief that things or the world will get better. Optimistic people always look at the bright side of life—and this can sometimes be helpful. Although optimists hope for the best, there is no guarantee that the best will ever come. But hope is more than that. Hope is also forward looking but it is active (rather than passive). It is not just wishful thinking. Hope anticipates something we are certain will happen. In this sense, hope is intrinsically connected to faith because both of them are based on the promise (or Word) of God. There may be a lot of things happening around us, but there is also the certainty of God’s promise.

What Hope Is

One Bible character that illustrates hope vividly and concretely, is Abraham. His story is amazing. We do not have much information about Abraham until he is 75 years old. Think about that for a moment. Some people are still in their twenties or even younger and they have already given up on life. So, God calls Abraham at age 75 and tells him to leave his extended family, his culture and his country—and go to a place God would show him. Life was just about to begin! In obedience to God’s word, Abraham leaves for a destination he has no idea about. But also, God gives Abraham—who until now has been childless—a promise of a son. Remember it is at age 75 and his wife Sarah is ten years younger than him! But Abraham believes God’s promise. He waits for another 25 years before he could have a son. The book of Romans 4:18-23 describes Abrahams hope and faith for us:

Romans 4:18-22: 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.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead —since he was about a hundred years old —and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”
I believe there is a lot that we can learn from Abraham about Christian hope.

1. Hope is grounded is reality.

Hope does not deny what is happening. It acknowledges that things are the way they are—although they could be better. 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.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead —since he was about a hundred years old —and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. As I already mentioned, Christian hope goes beyond sheer optimism and wishful thinking. For us to be truly hopeful we have to face our realities head-on. These could be personal challenges, pains or struggles. They could also be systemic injustices in our community. We cannot live in denial and be hopeful at the same time. For Abraham and Sarah, they knew that the biological clock was not in their favor. …he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead —since he was about a hundred years old —and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. What are those realities that you have to confront? What are those pains, struggles, injustices, and failures you have to admit? What are those circumstances; those facts that almost make you feel hope-less; that make you feel like giving up? Name them. When we face our realities, we wrestle with them, we weep, we lament, we repent and we surrender them to God. This becomes the seedbed for hope. When we name our challenges, we disempower them. We deny them the opportunity to keep us down.

2. Hope sees beyond reality.

While hope refuses to deny what is happening around us, it does not end there. It goes ahead to interpret reality from God’s perspective. It does not only see things are they are but goes beyond to envision them as God said they would be. It refuses to be bogged down by the pressures of the circumstances. In a sense Christian hope is stubborn.
Romans 4:19-20: 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.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead —since he was about a hundred years old —and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.

Our Christian hope goes beyond what we see with our physical eye, the painful experiences we go through, the injustices we are subjected to. We hope against hope. We see justice and equity in the face of injustice. We see hope amidst hopelessness. We see life in the face of death.

But how would this even be possible? Why would a terminally sick man still be hopeful? Why would survivors of a financial downturn or even a genocide be hopeful? Why would believers living in the most tyrannical and oppressive countries remain hopeful? It is because our hope is grounded on something—or even better—Someone greater than our circumstances. We are hopeful regardless of the things around us because of who God is and what He has promised. Romans 4: 21 tells us that Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

God is able to do what He has promised to do. He is faithful and able. Like the old hymn goes, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Our hope is not built on our own ambitions or accomplishments. It is not built on our political systems or the economies of this world. Our hope is built on Jesus Christ. Any other basis for hope is shaky and unreliable. It is like “sinking sand.” Christian hope is the patient expectation of what God has promised. But it is not merely futuristic, it also looks backwards at what God has done in the past. God cannot lie. He is completely trustworthy. Our hope is anchored in him. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). It is our hope in God that keeps our feet on the ground amidst the uncertain storms of life. It is our hope in God that causes us to refuse to give up or even despair amidst pain and rejection. It is our hope in God that causes us to lament, resist, imagine and prophetically engage with our communities. It is our hope in God that causes us to envision a better and wholesome communities despite the brokenness that we see and experience. Do not give up, keep hoping—even if it means hoping against hope. God bless you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s