Too many people confuse Christian hope with the power of positive thinking.
This past April a friend from Baltimore asked me, “Do you think the Orioles will win the World Series?” Like The Little Engine that Could I repeated, “I think they can!” I pointed to players’ statistics, team dynamics, coaching ability, and a recent winning record. The trouble was my evidence wasn’t all that compelling. By September, my optimism proved vain.
What if, instead, someone had asked me, “Do you think the sun will rise every day until the World Series?” Philosophically, no one can prove beyond all conceivable doubts that the sun will continue to rise, but as little orphan Annie sang “you can bet your bottom dollar the sun will come out tomorrow!”
Christian hope is not merely historically verifiable, like baseball statistics, but overwhelmingly compelling – like the sunrise. When Jesus defeated death on Easter morning, he wasn’t simply batting above average. Jesus’ victory over death didn’t merely make him a probable winner against future opponents – it makes him the definite winner. Jesus proved he was capable of pitching the perfect game, once and for all, and against all odds. He went against the reigning champion, death itself, who had never lost in a match. Jesus won! In fact, Jesus won every time death, and his teammates (sickness, blindness, deafness, etc.) took the field.
When John the baptist wavered in his hope he sent messengers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” Jesus responded with compelling facts, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up.” (Luke 7:22)
The apostle Paul was crystal clear about the basis of Christian hope. He writes, “If Christ has not been raised [from the dead], then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Paul knew that real hope was rooted in facts – not feelings, intentions, aspirations, or probabilities. The resurrected Jesus Christ shined like the sun upon Paul’s eyes and transformed his skepticism into enduring hope.
Big faith has little to do with the size of your belief but everything to do with the object you believe in. If the object of your faith is big and reliable, your faith is strong — no matter how much doubt is mixed in. Jesus said we only need “faith the size of a mustard seed.” (Luke 17:6) Even the smallest, weakest faith in Him is strong because He is strong.
Christian hope is based on what Jesus accomplished — not our feelings. There is a huge difference between placing faith in Jesus and placing faith in your faith.
- Do you struggle to trust God has forgiven you? Do not base your confidence on feeling sufficiently sorry or proving earnestness to yourself. Rest instead on what Jesus did. He paid your debt on the cross so you may be fully forgiven, no matter your failure.
- Do you want assurance that you can change. . . that your character flaws are redeemable and your addictions are conquerable? Look not in the mirror. There you will only find a flawed person barely capable of short lived victories. Look beyond the mirror to, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Jesus reflects the image of God perfectly and is working by His Spirit to restore you to look as glorious…someday!
- Are you worried the best things in life may pass you bye? You can strive hard after them, but to what end? Even the best things under the sun will leave you hungering and thirsting for more. Then death will rob them all away. Strive instead after the one who defeated death, and offers Himself. The one who came to give us life to the full, now, and forevermore.
By all means think positively. But if you want a hope that never fails, look to Jesus.