What is it like to lose all hope? It is obvious people use the word “Hope” is a lot of different ways and most of them don’t fit the way the Bible uses the word. Probably our most common use of the word is about something we wish for. “I hope to find just the right person to marry one of these days.” “I hope I win the lottery.” I hope to live until I’m 100.” “I hope to retire when I’m 50 and have plenty of money to live on for the rest of my life.” These are all about wishes. The word “hope” means to long for something that I fully expect to have. It is an equal mixture of desire and expectation. Many things we desire in life we really have no hope of getting and many things we expect are not things we hope for at all. It is only when the two things are put together that we really have hope.
Real hope is based on evidence. When Paul said that we are saved by hope in Romans 8:24 he was talking about our salvation in Christ, based on our faith in him as the Christ, the Son of God and on his promises to save us and bless us not only in this life but also in eternity. In I Corinthians 15 Paul was discussing the resurrection from the dead when he said, “If it is only in this life that we have hope, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Why would it be a pitiful situation for us to only have hope in this life?
One reason is that our hope is laid up for us in heaven where we will have an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled ( I Peter 1:3-5). But it is also true because when we look clearly at this life, it is often the case that the very people who are totally devoted to God go through the most difficulties, persecutions, rejections and pains in this life. If this life is really all there is then we have built our whole life on something that has no real future to it. Think about men like Paul and Peter who went through major agonies in this life, and were executed because of their faith in Jesus, if there isn’t reward beyond the grave, they lived rather pitiful lives. When Peter wrote his second letter to Christians who were scattered abroad because of their faith he challenged them to lean into the great and precious promises of God by adding to their faith, courage, to courage, knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness, brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness love. He said that adding such virtues would make us fruitful in God’s service and in doing so it would lead to our calling and election being sure. He declared that all who followed that path would have an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom of the Lord. (2 Peter 1:5-11)
We develop hope as our trust in God grows and in living for him we believe His promises to us about the future and about how he works in us even when we are going through difficult times in this world. The closer we walk with Jesus and the more we trust him the deeper out hope goes and the more that hope will stand even when things go in the wrong way for us.
So, what happens that causes a person to lose hope? In Acts 27 Luke tells us the story of Paul being shipped to Rome as a prisoner to appear before Caesar. They sailed in the middle of winter and during the worst storm seasons. They were on the Adriatic Sea and hurricane force winds were sweeping them along. The sailors had no control. They were fearful of the ship breaking apart and all being lost. “On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun or stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved” (Acts 27:19-20). After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up and urged them to keep up their courage, “because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me” (Verses 21-25).
Paul not only encouraged them to eat something since it had be 14 days since they had eaten but he took food and ate before them so they too began to eat. They did have a shipwreck and the ship was lost with its contents, but all the people were saved. Notice, they lost all hope of being saved when all they could see was the storms, the winds and each other struggling. How could they regain hope? It would come through believing the promising words of one man who expressed faith and courage because God had sent an angel to encourage him. Notice that Paul offered them hope that was shown by eating and encouraging them to eat, but he tied it all to believing God. “I believe God that it will be just as he said.” In reality this is the basis for hope in every situation. When we focus on the winds, the storms of life, the people around us who are struggling and afraid, our hope drains out and we are left empty. Hope only builds when our focus changes from us and circumstances to God. It isn’t enough to believe in God or to believe there is a God. It is vital that we believe God that it will be just as he said. When I trust God and His great and precious promises, hope builds and changes our entire focus in life.