by Brad McMurray
When we take our kids somewhere fun—the beach, camping, Disneyland—there’s something about the anticipation that makes getting ready to go so much more enjoyable than a day without a special event.
I remember waking up early one morning to take my family skiing. We had a long drive ahead of us but everyone pitched in and got ready at that wee dark hour, getting dressed, packing the car, eating breakfast. There was a distinct absence of quarreling—a noticeable air of cooperation and kindness, even forbearance. The kids helped each other, grace ruled. But we weren’t skiing; we were just getting ready to go skiing.
Hope is like that. It makes you deal with stuff that would make you cranky or reluctant if something good wasn’t coming your way.
Sometimes it can even work long distance. When you’re expecting a family vacation in a few weeks, the daily hassles don’t seem so powerful. The hope of the vacation makes us cheerful, loving—more flexible. I confess I have taken advantage of this principle by mentioning Christmas is coming as early as September to stimulate the kind of cheer and compliance that usually waits until December.
So what about heaven? Is that something we hope for? Of course! It’s the best promise of the best future with the best Being, forever. And we are told repeatedly in scripture to be filled with such a hope:
Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
We’re not commanded to try to stir ourselves into some sort of abstract feeling or imaginary euphoria. The God of hope fills us with joy and peace, in believing and we overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit.
In 1 Peter, we’re told to consider the reason for the hope, even to be able to defend that reason.
1 Peter 3:13-15 “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”
That hope we have is irrespective of the harm or the suffering or the potential for fear or trouble. The testimony of our hope in such trial is powerful. Our hope is a witness to the greatness of God and to the thing for which we hope, enabling us to exhibit gentleness and respect for the very ones assailing us.
As Paul commends and exhorts the church in Colossae, he shows them that their hope is the motivation for a kind of love that the whole world can see.
Colossians 1:3-6 “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,”
The church at Colossae is full of hope—the hope of heaven—and they show it in love, bearing fruit and increasing.
But it’s hard to keep the focus on the eternal, while living in the now. Hope can wither when we spend our days looking at this world, thinking, “It’s all about here and it’s all about now.” Don’t fall for it. Fix it by fixing your eyes on Jesus. Contemplate your eternal destiny, often and deeply alone and with the family of God.
A preacher once warned his congregation of “being so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good.” Looking at the Colossians and their mark on the world, I prefer to say, “If the saints of God were more heavenly minded, the world would see more of God’s goodness.”
I certainly hope so.