A friend with cancer had just died, and his wife turned to me and said; "I don't understand! We were standing in such faith! How could this have happened?"
A teenage girl asked me to talk to her friend who was threatening suicide. The girl had been molested in her pre-teen years, was a believer, but struggling in her faith and life.
A young couple got denied volunteer positions in their church, and they were hurt and angry. That led to anger at leadership, then 'the church', then to God, then to stress in the marriage, then leaving the church and not wanting anything to do with 'church' or God.
My friend with cancer and his wife, were both actually in hope—not faith—but thought they were 'standing in faith' for his healing. The teenager found faith impossible because her hope had been destroyed by molestation. The couple who wanted to make a difference in their church had their hope denied, which led to a progression of ever deepening anger and unbelief. (Hope deferred makes the heart sick- Proverbs 13:12)
Hope is one of the most misunderstood and least taught aspects to our lives of faith, yet it is so vitally important!
What is hope?
Hope is of the mind; of the soul. It is describe as "favorable and confident expectation...having to do with the unseen and the future" and "the happy anticipation of good." (Vine)
Hope is a picture in our minds of what we see as our future:
When a seemingly healthy person hears a cancer diagnosis, or a girl has dreams of living in pureness but is molested and now feels unclean and unworthy, or when someone is turned down for a position when they were just trying to help their church, their respective pictures of their futures is dashed - hope is destroyed.
Hope is an anchor for our soul
Hebrews 6:19 says "We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain (veil)."
Notice hope is an anchor of the soul. An anchor is a small device when compared to the size of a ship, yet it has the power to dig into the unseen ocean floor and hold that vessel firm. Our hope also digs in, unseen in our emotions and thoughts, as our ship of life is assailed by the storms of life.
In fact an anchor is designed that the more it is pulled on, the more strain on the ship, the more it digs in.
We have an image in our minds of the way we think something will turn out whether spiritual or related to our length of days or quality of life - and we dig in, we stand, we fight to hold onto that image proportional to the intensity of the storm in life - and that is hope. Hope is a small thing relative to our diagnosis, our tragedy, our vision of the future, yet we find ourselves holding onto the anchor, making it dig in deeper.
An anchor allows a vessel to swing in place so that it presents the least resistance to the wind and waves. A ship may set an anchor while the wind is calm out of the south, but in the night the wind changes to a storm from the north, and the ship can swing with the wind rather than taking the onslaught broadside.
That is what we do when we get bad news, have someone use or abuse us, when our image of hope is threatened - we hold onto the image in our minds of ourselves and our life. What we are doing is swinging around so we present the least resistance to the battle, and dig in for the duration of the storm!
The phrase describing hope as 'sure and steadfast' in the Greek is 'asphales and bebaios'. 'Asphales' means "not tripped up" and 'bebaios' means "certain, secure, safe."
Hope is an anchor that keeps us from being tripped up in the storms of life. Hope is a safe place in our soul. It is a secure place. That is why, when things get tough, we go back in our memories to favorite times, to idyllic settings of days past - we retreat into that safe place where our hope is not under attack nor can be.
We don't realize recalling our favorite memories is sometimes a means to escape the stress of today's hope under attack in favor of days when hope was intact and pure, but that is often the case. And of course a certain amount of looking in our rearview mirror at peaceful days is healthy, but hope primarily looks forward into the unseen future.
"It enters the sanctuary behind the curtain (veil)."
This is where the hope held in our soul, that confident expectation of good, becomes spiritual, linking itself with faith - it enters heaven behind the veil. Hope is of the soul, and it is an image of a blessed future - and therefore able to enter the heavenly sanctuary to see the expected end, or hold onto what is.
That particular Saturday night was the end of a series of meetings that had begun the previous Sunday, which required me to attend every meeting. Barb had watched Chris all week long. Chris is our oldest son who suffered brain damage (lack of air) in labor and delivery, and has remained mentally about equal to a 3 or 4 year old. So I took him to the concert that night as he'd enjoy the music and she could have a night off.
I was seated on the floor section in a folding chair, and I parked Chris' wheelchair on my right side. Suddenly I felt the presence of Jesus in the arena, filled now with some 4,000 people. I told Him; "Lord, I know you're here because I can feel your Presence, but I don't see you."
Suddenly I was aware of Him walking up behind me on my left side and turned slightly as He approached, and stood on my left, and my eyes were opened to see Him as well as the crowd.
He started teaching me about healing - with Chris sitting right there! He told me that people think in pictures, and I asked what He meant. He said "When I say 'cat', what do you think of?" I said "I think (and see) Clipper." (Clipper came into our home as a tar covered kitten my brother rescued one morning as we waited for the school bus, just after a road crew had sprayed tar all over the road.)
He said "Right, but others see their cat, or a neighbor's, or maybe even a lion or tiger. When someone who has never known wholeness in their body, or it has been a long time, hears that healing is possible, they have no picture of themselves as healed. They have no (Biblical) hope, yet often they try to have faith. You could immediately remember Clipper, but what if you had never owned or been around a cat, but had only seen one in pictures, if at all?"
He was of course primarily talking to Me indirectly about Chris and our stand for his healing. Chris has only known what he is. At that point in our lives, 1997, we were 'standing in faith' for him to be healed, and I was frustrated in my attempts to get Chris to understand he could be healed. This visitation explained why Chris was locked on to "When I get to heaven there won't be any wheelchair" and upon seeing kids running on a children's TV show exclaim "When I get to heaven I'm going to run like that!"
As much as I want him to be healed here and now, his hope - his confident expectation of a favorable result - was and is to this day, set on "When I get to heaven." No matter the hope Barb and I have for him, Chris is set on being healed when he gets to heaven. We can't override his will.
And that is where the Lord meets him. One day Chris came crawling down the hall (his legs don't enable him to walk) exclaiming loudly: "Dad! Dad! Know what Jesus told me?! He said He's going to walk through the mountains with me! YoooHooo! Yep, that's what He said, He's going to walk through the mountains with me!"
And just 3 weeks ago, when I picked him up from his group home and yet again, the Father had arranged our steps so that a train (which Chris loves) crossed in front of us just as we drove up to the lowering gates, and I said "Like I always say Chris, the Father sure loves you to make it so we see trains all the time." Chris responded; "He just likes trains". That is where his hope is - walking with the Father and Lord here and now, and when he gets to heaven he will walk with Jesus and he won't need a wheelchair. That's his image of hope.
The next verse in our text - Hebrews 6:19 and 20 - says of hope entering into heaven behind the veil..."where we have a forerunner who has gone ahead...Jesus."
A 'forerunner' in ancient times was actually a person who would jump over the side of a ship with a small rope, and swim ahead through treacherous, reef and rock strewn waters, guiding the ship to a safe spot to anchor.
Hope is an anchor of the soul - it presents an image that enters into the holy place - and our Forerunner, Jesus, has gone ahead with a rope to guide us to safe harbor. But how does hope link with faith, how is that image born in our soul? That's where we'll pick it up next week.