Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. - Hebrews 10:23
These are surely times that are trying our hope. Hope is being battered and buffeting and blasted by the storms of current events. Now as much as ever, we Christians need to go back to God and to his unshaken and unshakable word to feed hope. Hope is a strong feeling in the soul that the future is bright, based on the promises of God. This sweet text from Hebrews calls us to do it, and we would do well to heed its call. For 2020 brought us through many dangers, toils, and snares. And 2021 has dawned with no lessening in these circumstantial storms. The dominant plague on hope worldwide has been a microscopic virus, given the name COVID-19 from its coronavirus structure and the year it first made its appearance. This relentless issue has waxed and waned in various places around the world, accumulating a death toll of almost 2.1 million. For those people and their loved ones, COVID has been devastating. For most people, it has been a persistent blight on the varied joys that enrich life. It has withered life experiences on the college campuses, shutting down almost all social interaction of young people at one of the best times in their lives. It has made elderly people extremely lonely and tempted to constant fear, being in such a vulnerable demographic. It has made single adults tempted to despair of finding a spouse since so much of social life has been frozen. It has killed many small businesses, and others have hung on by the narrowest of margins. The rich family interactions—weddings, births, holidays, graduations—have been replaced by virtual counterfeits which hardly qualify. Churches have seen their fellowship severely hamstrung by quarantines and the precautions their leaders have felt necessary to impose on their members.
Beyond all the COVID miseries, the political/cultural climate has become extremely charged and divisive, and the outcome of November’s elections has left many Christians deeply apprehensive about the future. Both left-wing and right-wing extremists have taken their rage to the streets in the last year, resulting in death and destruction as these lawless people act out mirror-image versions of the same idolatry: overweening trust in human government to bring hope.
Hope Based on Scripture
These howling winds and sideways rains are ripping at the bodies and souls of Christians. For many people, hope is wavering. As I read Hebrews 10:23, I am struck by the command—“Let us hold fast to hope…” The image of holding fast is powerfully evocative for me. A number of years ago, I saw a movie entitled Master and Commander of the Far Side of the World. It was set in the era of wooden sailing vessels. These magnificent ships had lines of rigging fixing canvas sails to wooden masts that bent and creaked and threatened to splinter in raging storms. Sailors were often required to climb the rigging to attend to a shredded sail or a loosened line flailing in the shrieking wind. They had to learn how to trust their grip on the rigging almost two hundred feet above the deck… their fingers keeping them from being thrown to their deaths, crushed on the hard deck below or drowned in the seething waves around them. One of the sailors in that movie was an old salt with a leathery face and long white hair. He’d seen many a voyage and climbed many a rigging. He had tattooed on the outside each of his eight fingers—four on one hand, four on the other—these letters: H O L D F A S T. And it was his slogan to younger sailors during a vicious storm: “You better hold fast!” So must we!
The command in Hebrews 10 is to hold fast to the hope we profess. What is that hope? It is the ultimate end of Christianity, the ultimate purpose of our salvation, the reason why God sent his only begotten Son into the world. It is the perfection of salvation from sin, from everything sin has done to us and to the universe in which we live. Hope is all about the future, for Paul said, “Who hopes for what he already has” (Rom. 8:24)? Hope is all about good things in the future, for who hopes for what he dreads? And unlike pagan hope which is a mere wish that has no grounding and no guarantees, Christian hope is firmly based on the promises of God. God, the eternal one, has gone ahead of us into the future by his eternality and his omniscience and his sovereign power and has prepared a perfect world, a “New Heaven and New Earth” in which there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:1-4). That world will be a radiant world, perfectly illuminated with the glory of God (Rev. 21:11, 23). At the center of that world will be the capital city of the New Heavens and New Earth, called the New Jerusalem. So, the essence of the Christian hope is both a glorious city and a radiant country to which we are on pilgrimage. As Hebrews 11:13-16 says of the heroes of the faith from the past, who lived like aliens in this world:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
This is the center of the hope we confess—a “better country, a heavenly one” and a city, which God is preparing for us.
And we ourselves will be perfected in resurrection bodies, which Jesus said will “shine like the sun in the Kingdom of our Father” (Matt. 13:43). Paul described those resurrection bodies as imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual (1 Cor. 15:43-44). Those words are crackling with eternal energy and should give all believers in Christ a buoyant hope. We will spend eternity in bodies that cannot die or lose their capabilities… bodies that will have limitless power, radiantly beautiful, and a new essential nature defining a new physics— “spiritual bodies.”
Nothing in heaven or earth or under the earth can stop all this from happening, because Almighty God, the omnipotent sovereign ruler of all things has decreed it and promised it! And as Hebrews 10:23 says, “he who promised is faithful.” He is absolutely faithful to make certain and to achieve everything he has promised. That is the ground of Christian hope.
"This is the center of the hope we confess—a 'better country, a heavenly one' and a city, which God is preparing for us."
So what is hope? As I said, hope is a strong feeling in the soul that the future is bright, based on the promises of God. Hebrews 6:19 says “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Following with the nautical imagery, the anchor must root itself on the floor of the sea and not bend, not break, not move, no matter how turbulent the waves and powerful the storm. But the anchor is only as good as the chain that connects it to the ship. And to melt the images together, we must hold fast to the chain that delivers the anchor-like stability to our souls. Hold fast, dear friends! The anchor will not bend, break, or move, because it is rooted in the settled determination of the decrees of God. The chain of God’s Word (the delivery system of promise to your soul) will never break, for Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35). But you must hold fast to the promises, in order to have that sense, that feeling in the heart that the future is bright. Base it on the faithfulness of God… “He who promised is faithful!”
What does it mean in these turbulent days of 2021 in our nation? It means that COVID cannot take from us a single blessing God intends to give us. This pandemic will not last any longer than God wills, and it will achieve the purpose for which he sent it—the slaughtering of many idols. The political situation will not derail any of God’s plans, for Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and rules sovereignly over even their innermost thought processes: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Prov. 21:1). No ruler walking the earth today is as powerful and tyrannical as Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. In an instant, Almighty God changed his mind into that of an animal, and seven years later changed it back again (Dan. 4:33). It was to teach him that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to whomever he chooses and rules constantly over them as he sees fit. His kingdom is an eternal kingdom, enduring from generation to generation. All the powers of the earth are as nothing compared to his (Dan. 4:34-35). American Christians need to drink in those words and stop making an idol of elected officials and the supposed power they wield. All their decisions will be like so much chaff on the threshing floor of history, swept away without leaving a trace (Dan. 2:35). So Presidents and Senators and Representatives can make wicked laws for wicked purposes, and none of them will alter the certainty of our Christian hope.
So Christian parents who are welcoming newborn babies into these uncertain times need not fear for the future. They should pour hope into their little ones as they grow, the unshakable hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They should lead them to Christ, and then prepare them to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for them to walk in (Eph. 2:10). And Christian workers who are tempted to fear for their jobs and their economic futures in such an uncertain economic climate should realize that God will not let them starve… they should “seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness,” knowing that all the material things they need for life and godliness will be provided for them by their loving heavenly Father (Matt. 6:33). And Christian singles who have been drinking in loneliness because of COVID isolation should not fear for the future either. God is able to lead you to a godly mate if that is his will for you. And he is able to make you as secure in your singleness as Paul was in his if that is his will for you. But COVID will not derail God’s meticulous plan for you. And elderly people who are especially isolated and fearful, hold fast to the hope you profess! Make the most of your days at home by prayer and electronic communication—write your family and friends and missionary laborers, feeding them all with the words of hope God has burned in your hearts over decades of walking with the Lord.
"So Presidents and Senators and Representatives can make wicked laws for wicked purposes, and none of them will alter the certainty of our Christian hope."
And college students who are tempted to be fearful of your futures—your employment in the Kingdom of God is secure. And so will be your employment in some job for the future as well. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and secretly runs the hiring processes of every corporation in America (Ps. 50:10). You will get the internships you need when you need them, and you will get the jobs he has ordained for you when you need them.
Hope is a feeling in the heart that the future is bright. And when I say “future,” I mean from right now to the end of this very day, through the end of 2021, through to the end of your life, and on into eternity. Christian hope covers it all because God’s sovereign plan has covered it all. And his promises have covered it all as well. For the rest of your life is laid out in the mind of God, with beautiful good works that he has ordained for you to walk in. He will not allow you to be tempted one single day beyond what you can bear. And he will guarantee through Christ’s prayers and the Spirit’s inner working that your faith will not fail. The rest of your life, dear Christian, will be well worth living. And then, when you die or the Lord returns, you will instantly be made glorious for all eternity. All of these assertions are rooted in Bible texts, founded on the promises of God. And “he who promised is faithful.” Not one of those promises will fail.
So, “hold fast to the hope that you profess.” Because the watching world is “without hope and without God in this world” (Eph. 2:12). And you as a Christian witness must be buoyant in hope, clearly holding fast to the hope you profess. If you are, lost sinners may ask you to give a reason for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15). Shine with hope! Shine!! Your future is indescribably bright!!!