The Saving Power of Hope
We are saved by hope — Rom_8:24
It is not difficult as one looks out on life to recognize the saving power of hope. One thinks, for instance, to what a large extent it is hope which saves humanity from idleness. When a student faces an examination, it is his uncertainty that makes him toil. Were he perfectly sure that he would fail or pass, that would take all the zest out of his studies. Hope is the kindly instrument of God for rescuing mankind from inactivity, and inactivity is sister to stagnation. It is in hope that the writer wields his pen; it is in hope that the sower casts his seed. Search deep enough into the springs of action — you always catch the whispering of hope. In a large sense, we are saved by hope from the tragedy of doing nothing in a world where there is everything to do.
Hope Rescues Us from Giving In
Akin to that is the great fact of life that we are saved by hope from giving in. For the great multitude of men hope lies at the back of perseverance. That may not be true of elect natures. It was not true of Marcus Aurelius, for instance. Never was there a more hopeless man than he, yet how magnificently he persevered. But for the rank and file of ordinary mortals on whom the Gospel always keeps its eye, hope is essential to holding on. One thinks of the story of the little lame boy who was “hoping to have wings some day.” He could not race nor leap like other boys, but he was hoping to have wings some day. It was that hope which helped him to endure and taught him to bear the burden of his lameness, and so it is largely in this life of ours. From giving in when things are very difficult, from breaking down just at breaking point, from losing heart when all the lights are dim and the clouds return after the rain, in deep senses we are saved by hope.
Hope Saves Us from Losing Faith
Equally true is it of life, that we are often saved by hope from losing faith. Think, for instance, how often that is true of our Christian hope of personal survival. When his friend Arthur Hallam died, Tennyson was plunged into the depths. It seemed as if the foundations were destroyed and the moral universe had fallen in ruins. And then, as one may read In Memoriam, morning broke with the singing of the birds through the shining Christian hope of immortality. Nothing could be more dreary than the inscriptions on old pagan tombs, but pass to the catacombs and everything is different: they are radiant with trust in God. What millions have been saved from loss of faith in the hour when the heart was desolate and empty by the burning hope of a blessed immortality. “My soul, hope thou in God.” His name is love, and love demands forever. “Forever” is engraven on the heart of love as Calais was engraven on the heart of Mary. When life is desolated by the hand of death so that faith in Fatherhood is very difficult, multitudes have been upheld and comforted by the saving power of hope.
Christ Inspired Hope
Now, it is very beautiful to notice how our Savior utilized that saving energy. Think how often He began His treatment by kindling the flame of hope within the breast. One might take the instance of Zacchaeus, that outcast from the commonwealth of Israel. He had been taught there was no hope for him, and he believed it till the Lord came by. And then, like the dawn, there came the quivering hope that his tomorrow might differ from his yesterday, and in that new hope the saving work began. Often hope is subsequent to faith. The Scripture order is “faith, hope, charity.” But it is equally true, in the movements of the soul, that hope may be the forerunner of faith. And our Lord, bent on evoking faith, that personal trust in Him which alone saves, began by kindling hope within the breast. That is how He often begins still. He does not begin by saying, “Trust in Me.” He begins by kindling these hopes of better things that are lying crushed in every human heart. Despair is deadly. It is blind. It cannot see the arm outstretched to help. Our Lord begins with the quickening of hope.
Christ Kept Hope Alive
One reads, too, in the Gospel story, of the pains He took just to keep hope alive. That, I think, is most exquisitely evident in His handling of Simon Peter. One would gather that Peter had a nature very prone to access of despair. He was the kind of man to climb the mountaintop and then swiftly to drop into the valley; and the pains, the endless pains that Jesus took to keep hope alive in Peter’s breast, is one of the most beautiful things in history. One day he had to call him Satan. What darkness and anguish that must have brought to Peter! He would move through the crowding duties of the day saying despairingly, “The Master called me Satan.” And then, within a week, when our Lord went up the Mount of Transfiguration, He said, “Peter, I want you to go with Me.” It was not Peter’s faith that needed strengthening. Peter trusted the Lord with all his heart. It was Peter’s hope that needed to be strengthened, crushed by that terrific name of Satan. And then one remembers how on resurrection morning after the black hour of the denial, the angel (commissioned by the Lord) commanded, “Go, tell the disciples and Peter.” The Lord had to wrestle with the despair of Peter. He had a mighty work to keep his hope alive. He had that same work with Luther and with Bunyan and perhaps with many a one who reads these lines. All of whom, rescued from despair by the divine hopefulness of Christ, understand what the apostle meant when he wrote that we are saved by hope.