As I write, a friend is struggling with the news that his wife’s cancer, that he thought was under control, is actually spreading. His most recent message to me being, “we had a deal that I would die first…”
As I write, a friend’s company just got bought out and he finds himself without a job, the only bread winner for his family of 5. He doesn’t know how to tell his wife.
As I write, the news is dominated by a missing college student in Virgina, a manhunt for a cop killer in Pennsylvania, and the beginning stages of a war against ISIS.
On Sunday, I will stand before God’s people and express that because of Jesus Christ, there is hope. Because of the resurrection from the dead, because of God’s promise to make all things new, that even in the face of overwhelming evidence we should be people defined by hope. I believe that message. I’ve staked my life to that message. But that belief in a future filled with hope is not because I can prove by undeniable evidence that the hope is well grounded. Instead it’s because I believe in an unseen reality that is more real that the reality that I can see and touch everyday. And it’s because I find strength in remembering the lives of those who were willing to risk all because of this same unseen hope.
Consider the stories of faith in Hebrews 11. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Our ancestors were willing to risk everything they had on the belief that there was a “far better country.”(11:16) They risked it all in a belief that there was hope in what was unseen. By faith, Noah builds a boat and fills it with animals, risking countless ridicule from everyone else, because he had hope in the unseen. By faith, Abraham moved his family from a place of security to an unknown place, risking all that he had accumulated, because he had hope in the unseen. By faith, at death, Joseph spoke of a future exodus, even giving commands for his burial, because he believed in what was unseen. By faith, Moses gave up a position in the royal court of Pharaoh, and possibly even a chance to be Pharaoh, and instead joined himself with an enslaved people because he believed that an unseen God would rescue them. By faith, Rahab risked her life to protect spies from an army that was going to destroy them, because she hoped in what was unseen.
Conventional wisdom would have told all of these people to respond in the opposite way than they did. The risk was far too great for a reward that was unseen. And “all of these died in faith without having received the promises.” (11:13a) They dreamed of a better place but they did not experience it. Yet, “from a distance they saw and greeted (the promises).” (11:13b) Their convictions about “things unseen” compelled them to act in ways that led to a new identity, helping them to live into a new reality that changed their lives forever. These convictions would not sit well with those who prefer the safety over questions of uncertainty. And yet because of their belief in the unseen they were able to act in ways that changed the world and their stories are still remembered today.
And that is how hope changes the world. Hope in an unseen future compels us to act in ways that conventional wisdom would say does not make sense. Hope, a belief that there is a far better country awaiting us on the other side, is what enables us to stare into the midst of overwhelming odds and believe that those who are with us are more than those who are with the world. Faith that God is right now in the process of making all things new, is what allows us to have hope even in the midst of sickness, economic hardship, and death.
And so, as Sunday comes, I will stand before my congregation and say, we are a people of hope. Not because we necessarily can prove our hope is well founded, but because we have faith, or better stated hope, in the assurance of things unseen.