The Hope of Job
In the Book of Job, we find Job enduring an indefinite period of intense suffering. For Job, worse than the suffering itself is his inability to find any meaning in it. He truly had been a righteous man and couldn’t understand why a righteous God would allow him to suffer so.
Even in the middle of his intense, indefinite, and apparently meaningless suffering, however, Job remains a witness to hope in God. Hope is our joyful confidence, our lively expectation, that the living God will come to us again today with his saving word of truth.
Job expresses his hope in this way: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (English Standard Version, 19:25-26).
In the middle of our own difficulties, may we also give such a clear witness to our hope in Jesus Christ.
Contrasting Hope with Faith
On one hand, faith and hope do share certain similarities. On the other, they are different enough to make them distinct.
Faith is our knowledge of, trust in, and loyalty to Jesus Christ. Our Tufluvian personality puts its faith in Jesus Christ. Our Olympian personality puts its faith in six false gods.
Sometimes, though, our faith weakens. I’m not speaking here about doubt or unbelief. We still know Jesus, we still trust him as our savior, we still affirm him as our Lord. It’s just that we feel tired. We can no longer agree with our fellow Christians on questions of faith because we grow indifferent to them. We all think faithfulness is important but we can’t reach any agreement about what it means. We face the same problem with love. We want to love God and neighbor but it takes energy we just don’t have. In general, this is where Christians and the Church in the West are today.
This is where hope comes in. It’s a gift to a few right now from Jesus. It’s our joyful confidence that Jesus will come again, soon, and restore to us the energy we need to be much livelier witnesses to him. It’s our lively expectation that he will speak to us, as individuals and Church, the word of truth that will again set our hearts on fire for him, others, and all of God’s good creation. Hope means hearts on fire for stronger faith and love in Christ despite all appearances to the contrary.
After the large bright bonfires of faith and love burn down, hope sustains the burning coals that remain. If we allow these to burn out, faith and love can’t come back. Jesus calls us to be people who take care of the remaining fire to prevent it from going out.
Is Hope Eternal?
To be eternal is to exist both in this age and in the new age. Love certainly is eternal. So are freedom, truth, and vitality. Hope, though, isn’t.
Hope is our joyful confidence that Jesus will come to us again and speak his saving word. It is what sustains our faith between one age of faith and the next. Right now we are in such an in-between time. Witness to Christ by Christians is weak.
For reasons known only to himself, Jesus calls some of us, but not many, to live as hope-filled Christians in this in-between time. He daily sets our hearts on fire to serve him. He enables us to be keepers of his Tufluvian flame until he chooses to renew his Church with a new explosion of faith and love.
As important as it is now, hope is not eternal. It will end when Jesus comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Then we will live in the Kingdom of Tufluv which will have no end and, for that reason, have no more need of hope.
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