Friday, December 7, 2007

Advent 2007 / Daily Doses of Hope - #6

"Now faith is being sure of what we HOPE for and certain of what we do not see." - Hebrews 11:1

HOPE BEFORE FAITH. Before faith, there is hope. At least, that's how I'm reading Hebrews 11 today. Usually called the "Hall of Faith," Hebrews 11 names people and situations in which faith was exercised in response to God's Word and God's promises without ever seeing the fulfillment of the promise. But before there is the act of faith and a life of faith, there is hope. Hope happens before faith is engaged. Faith is the response of certainty to the hope that is presented to us.

FAITH & HOPE INSEPARABLE. Faith and hope are inseparably related, but notice the nature of their relationship. If faith is the daring response, hope is the shining promise of a meaningful future. If faith is the choice to leave the past behind, hope is the compelling vision that gives one a sense that doing so will be worth the effort. If faith is the action of going doggedly forward through an apparent desert, hope is the Word-based scenario that is fixed in the heart even if it cannot be seen with the eye.

SPURRED ON BY HOPE. All of the people and situations listed as examples to us in Hebrews 11 are not only examples of faith, they are examples of the power of hope and the promise of a fulfilling future. So, we could just as readily call Hebrews 11 the "Hall of Hope." They lived by faith, but their faith was spurred on by hope. They saw something that moved them beyond themselves and sometimes beyond "reason." They sensed something others around them did not or could not sense. They did not see with their physical eyes, they saw and sensed the future with spiritual eyes. They received and acted upon "insight."

THE CHOICE FOR HOPE. All of these people had choices to make, not just at the point of receiving a promise from God, but also at points all along their life's journey. The options to turn back or settle and compromise were always available. But they consistently chose to put the weight of their lives and the lives of their families onto an unseen promise. And, with faith in that promise, they moved forward. They chose to look forward. So do I!

WE ARE BEING CHANGED AS WE HOPE. Two quick further observations: (1) People who have hope grow as they move forward--even if they do not "achieve" or receive that on which they set their hearts. Abraham did not see a nation develop through him, as God promised. But by acting upon hope, Abraham grew in godliness and is lifted up as the example of faith. As he responded to hope with faith, hope changed him. To a great extent, we are being formed by what we set our hearts upon. You and I are being shaped by hope. As we embrace them, faith and hope change us now!

OTHERS' HOPE CHANGES US. (2) We have hope, faith and life because somebody before us believed God's promises (had hope) and acted on them (exercised faith). Likewise, there will be people who will have hope because of the hope, faith, and life we have lived and shared. It's worth being faithful!

Photo: the baptistery of the sanctuary at West Morris Street Free Methodist church holds the manger during this year's Advent observance.

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