Read Hebrews 11:1-2; 8-10; 24-28
Two topics will be at the center of our first week's message as we begin our sermon series through Zephaniah. These two items of focus are faith and hope. Faith and hope are not the same things as we see them listed separately in 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV):
"And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
To continue in prepping our minds and hearts for the Word of God this Sunday, let's explore the difference between faith and hope. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) provides us with a concrete definition of faith.
"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."
In combination with the examples of Old Testament saints, this verse defines faith as believing God's promises about the future despite the appearances of the present. It is a complete trust or confidence in something and involves a mindful agreement to a set of facts and belief in those facts.
Hebrews' author cites Moses' faith as an example. By faith, Moses believed God's promise of a coming Deliverer or Christ (Genesis 3:15) and chose to suffer with his people, pursue holiness, and reject the treasures of Egypt. Moses had complete confidence in God's promises that his faith in God's Word guided his life's direction (11:27-28). Moses' faith in God and His Word was the foundation for his hope.
A quick online search about hope will provide you with several definitions. According to the American Psychological Association, "hope is an expectation that something good will happen in the future or that something bad won't happen." An article from USA Today describes hope as being about "using personal agency to achieve a desired outcome." Yet, every non-biblical use or definition of hope is used as a motivator for mental health or as a way to help achieve personal goals.
I appreciated this definition of biblical hope by Wiley Online Library compared to how the word is generally used.
"Hope is commonly used to mean a wish: its strength is that of the person's desire. But in the Bible, hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised, and its strength is in His faithfulness."
Biblical hope is built on faith in God and His Word. Abraham had faith in God and God's faithfulness to His promises. He demonstrated his belief in God's promises by leaving home and going to a new land that God would show him. Abraham's faith led to his hope. The hope was that God would keep his promises if Abraham was obedient to Him. Abraham's hope was built upon the fact that God had made a covenant with him and the terms of the covenant that Yahweh had spoken to him. We see in 11:10 that Abraham's faith in the LORD led to a hope that was rooted in eternity.
A hope birthed from faith in God and His Word is the only type of hope that will sustain us when things all around us look seemingly hopeless now and for eternity. It is biblical hope alone that can provide confidence, security, and victory over worry. As we will see in our series, Hope Remains, if the people of Judah had put their faith entirely in the words God gave them in Deuteronomy 28, their hope would have been one of substance and blessing. Instead, we see God lovingly discipline His people for their good as He reveals the worthlessness of the things they have placed their faith and hope in.
If there is still any fogginess between faith and hope, maybe this illustration will help clear the fog.
My family has a tradition of going to the Outer Banks of the North Carolina Coast. My parents started taking us as a family to the Outer Banks when I was in middle school. Since then, there have been many changes in our family dynamic. My two brothers and I are married, and my parents are now Papa and Nana to 9 grand-children. While all of us and at times none of us have made it to those distant beaches of the North Carolina coast every year, more often than not, most years, a good part of the family takes a week and vacations from the rest of the world.
My kids love these beach trips with their grandparents and cousins. Last year we didn't take that family trip, and as the coolness of fall set in, the longing to travel to the coast grew greater. This desire for a family vacation wasn't limited to my kids. The wanting of a family trip was also a longing for my parents. It wasn't long till my parents reserved a house big enough for the whole family for November of 2022.
Our kids have been told that they are going to the Outer Banks this year. They believe they will go to the beach with everyone based on their grandparents' words - this is faith. At the same time, the belief that my children have in their grandparents' word kindles a joy that has to be expressed - this is hope. My childrens' natural trust in their grandparents' promise of a beach trip is faith. Their expressions of excitement (including asking Siri how many days are there till November) are the expressions of the hope they have in my parents' promise.
Biblical hope results from building our lives on the unshakable foundation; that foundation is believing that God always keeps His promises.