Life today can be sorely lacking in hope. But there is a timeless source we can turn to. The hope in the Bible is guaranteed not to disappoint!
When I feel hope fading or even feel hopeless, I know where to turn.
In the world of men, apart from God, there is no real hope (Ephesians 2:12). And this world desperately needs hope! We need hope not just to make it from one challenge, trial or disappointment to another, but to lift our heads and give us direction and meaning.
Real hope empowers us, encourages us and makes life worth living. But where can we find this hope?
God is called the “God of hope” (Romans 15:13). And He gives that hope to us through His inspired Scriptures.
Our go-to source of godly hope is the Holy Bible.
Meaning of hope in the Bible
The Greek word elpis, translated hope in the New Testament, has the connotation “desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, 1992). Hope based on God and His sure promises is vastly different from the fleeting hope of this world.
Human, natural hope “is transient and illusory,” and the “majority of secular thinkers in the ancient world did not regard hope as a virtue.”
“But for the most part the hope with which the Bible is concerned is something very different; and in comparison with it other hope is scarcely recognized as hope.” It is closely tied to faith. Because of what God has done and promised, “the Christian dares to expect future blessings at present invisible (2 Cor. 1:10). The goodness of God is for him never exhausted. The best is still to be. His hope is increased as he reflects on the activities of God in the Scriptures (Rom. 12:12; 15:4)” (New Bible Dictionary, “hope,” 1982).
“That we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope”
Paul points to the Bible as our source of hope.
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
The stories and teachings of the Bible were recorded for many reasons, but here Paul highlights how God inspired them to give us hope.
William Barclay noted about this passage: “The Christian fellowship should be marked by hope. The Christian is always a realist, but never a pessimist. The Christian hope is not a cheap hope. It is not the immature hope which is optimistic because it does not see the difficulties and has not encountered the experiences of life. It might be thought that hope is the prerogative of the young; but the great artists did not think that. When [the painter George Frederic] Watts drew ‘Hope’ he drew her as a battered and bowed figure with one string left upon her lyre. The Christian hope has seen everything and endured everything, and still has not despaired, because it believes in God. It is not hope in the human spirit, in human goodness, in human achievement; it is hope in the power of God” (Daily Study Bible, note on Romans 15:1-6).
Examples of hope in the Bible
Consider the story of Rahab, the harlot in Jericho who had come to believe in the power of the God of Israel. She and all the people of Jericho realized it was hopeless to fight against Israel (Joshua 2:11). But it seems only Rahab chose to believe in the God of Israel. She risked her life to save the Israelite spies, and in turn they promised to protect her and her family, if she put a scarlet cord in the window of her home on the city wall (verses 18, 21).
Interestingly, the word cord is from the Hebrew word tiqva, which is most often translated in its figurative sense as “hope” and “expectation.”
“By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe,” we’re told in the Faith Chapter. Instead, God gave her hope and a place in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).
God’s plan includes saving us from our deadly and deceitful enemy. Instead of death, God offers us the amazing opportunity to become members of His family and to inherit everything with Jesus Christ.The book of Job, which tells the story of a man bereaved of nearly everything he held dear, mentions hope (tiqva) 15 times, but can hardly be considered a hopeful book. Until the last chapter, that is, when God reverses the misfortune.
Mourning for the loss of his children, his possessions and his health, Job cried out, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope” (Job 7:6).
Yet even in the depths of despair, Job expressed hope for the next life:
“If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands” (14:14-15). Interestingly, the phrase I will wait is from the Hebrew yahal, which is often translated as hope.
Growing in hope—the hope that does not disappoint
Paul tells us that followers of Christ are able to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Here again hope is translated from the Greek word elpis, which means “to anticipate, usually with pleasure” (Strong’s Definitions).
Then he outlines the steps that produce more hope.
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [that] was given to us” (verses 3-5).
Growing in this way is not easy. Enduring troubles in order to have the character of Jesus Christ hurts. It stretches us, toughens us and strengthens us. And it produces hope—real, 100 percent satisfying hope enlivened by the love of God.
God’s loving plan is what gives hope its power.
“As a helmet the hope of salvation”
God’s story for your life is epic and dramatic. God’s plan includes saving us from our deadly and deceitful enemy. Instead of death, God offers us the amazing opportunity to become members of His family and to inherit everything with Jesus Christ. He wants us to live forever in His close, loving family.
Understanding this amazing plan serves as part of our protection from Satan the devil.
“But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
In his famous list of the armor of God, Paul called this the “helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17). But to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote the more complete description “the hope of salvation.”
Transforming the wonderful promise of salvation into armor to protect our minds requires a healthy dose of hope. We must truly believe that God will save us from eternal death and give us eternal life. That kind of hope can deflect the blows of our enemy who wants to discourage us. The hope of salvation protects our minds.
This helmet allows us to fully engage in the process of transformation God has called us to.
“Christ in you, the hope of glory”
Paul calls God’s plan a mystery that has now been revealed to the saints—to all those God has called out of this world. (For a look at the biblical meaning of saints, see “How to Become a Saint.”)
God wants all those who have been baptized and received the Holy Spirit to understand the transformation He has called us to.
“To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus encouraged His followers. He told them, and He tells us, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). He adds, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (verse 23).
Studying the rest of Jesus’ Passover teachings shows that the Father and the Son live in us through the Helper—the Holy Spirit (verse 26).
What does the Bible say about how to receive the Holy Spirit? “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
This process of conversion changes us from the inside. It helps us think and act like Jesus Christ as it writes God’s laws on our hearts and minds (Hebrews 10:16).
“Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself”
Hope is also part of our witness to those around us. If someone wants to understand how we can have hope in these hopeless times, Peter encourages us to be prepared to share the reason.In 1 John 3 the apostle John also points to the transforming power of the hope we have been given. After describing the incredible love the Father has shown us by calling us “children of God” (verse 1) and explaining that when Jesus returns, “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (verse 2), John says:
“And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (verse 3).
God’s holiness and purity are major themes throughout the Bible. To truly become like Jesus Christ, we must pursue purity.
William Barclay commented on this verse: “John has just said that the Christian is on the way to seeing God and being like him. There is nothing like a great aim for helping a man to resist temptation” (Daily Study Bible, note on 1 John 3:3-8).
Faith, hope and love
The Bible connects faith, hope and love many times (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; Galatians 5:5-6; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Hebrews 6:10-12; 1 Peter 1:21-22).
Faith and hope work together, hand in hand. It takes faith in God to have real hope, and it takes godly hope to have real, lasting faith.
Love elevates faith and hope above any selfishness, producing a desire for God’s plan to provide His blessings for everyone.
William Barclay put it this way in his Daily Study Bible: “Faith without love is cold, and hope without love is grim. Love is the fire which kindles faith and it is the light which turns hope into certainty.”
Love’s outgoing nature and eternal qualities makes it the “greatest of these” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
For more on this, see the sidebar “Faith, Hope and Love” in our booklet Finding Hope in a Hopeless World.
Give a reason for the hope
Hope is also part of our witness to those around us. If someone wants to understand how we can have hope in these hopeless times, Peter encourages us to be prepared to share the reason:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
The Church has been commissioned to share the good news of God’s plan, and being ready to answer other people’s questions is part of that mission. See more in our article “What Is the Mission of the Church?”