Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.Pro 3:12
Hope has three components.
- First, hope is a vision, a goal, a desire that wants to be accomplished, a possible future that is desirable. It adds meaning and thrive, a reason to live.
- Secondly, hope has pathways that allow to attain it.
- And last but not least, hope needs grid, boldness, stamina, endurance, resilience as well as ability and willingness.
We so often define hope as this sense of a great possible future that keeps us going. But we forget that in order to keep us going, this possible future needs to be attainable. If not, we either are into wishful thinking or self-deception.
One of the objections against Christian faith is based on exactly that. Our hope does seem unattainable.
What then is it that makes hope attainable?
Attainability has to do with the ability to see not only the goal, but the pathways to it. How is it going to come about?
There are two ways to reach that goal: we either hope for things naturally and easily attainable, or we find supernatural pathways to hope for the impossible.
For centuries, most Christians have restricted themselves to believe only what could easily become reality. What they themselves could bring about with human effort. What was left, what was promised but seemed out of reach was deferred to the after-life, where physics and circumstances were so different, where the almightiness of God was finally unrestrained, that it was easy to see the pathway to fulfillment: Jesus will do it at the sound of the last trumpet or at the bema seat of judgement.
More and more, Christ is restoring faith. Everything is possible for him that believes. Faith, trust in the one that can do all things does give us a pathway, a possible strategy to fulfillment of our hopes and promises. Just believe.
But then, who is it exactly that can do all things? We do, in Christ. Leaving out our own ability, willingness, and responsibility, hope still is wishful thinking, or better, the power of positive thinking. We just wait praying, with the addition that we do not doubt that God will come through. And more often than not, hope is deferred. And we will get sick.
The Aramaic Bible in Plain English puts this verse like that:
A man who begins to help is better than he that props up with hope, and the tree of life brings hope.Pro 3:12
Could we say that a man who begins to act is better than he that props up with hope?
God made man, gave us great abilities—not the least of which are reason and cooperation—and on top of this gave us supernatural gifts and restored the possibility of relationship with himself. He entrusted us with the stewardship of this universe. And this creation, this universe is waiting for us to become what we already are, to believe not only in God, but ourselves in him, to do our assignment. One could say, creation puts all its hope into us.
Creation wants to be reconciled and restored. The pathway there is the manifestation of the sons of God. Creation therefore provides us with what we naturally need to do our job—it adds its own abilities to the picture. Granted, what was planned to be easy and effortless, can only be done with sweat as nature is under a curse. The picture and understanding we have of work—well, it is work!—is one of after the fall. Before that, work was fulfillment and enjoyment, brought about a sense of meaning. It was using our abilities to bring about vision and hope, together with and in thankfulness towards the creator. Jesus at the cross restored paradise and we grow into that reality since. Work therefore is no toiling any longer, but should be fun and give meaning, Effortless. I am in for that!
Faith plays a big role in all of this. Faith enlarges the classes of things we are able to hope for. Faith shows us pathways that cannot be realized without, that involve the supernatural, that exceed our natural abilities.
Our God given ability to think, analyze, synthesize, reason opens up the possibility to come up with pathways in the first place. Without the ability to imagine a future, there is no hope, no creativity, no possibility for faith.
Cooperation opens up many more pathways, as we can work together, thus overcoming the weaknesses of the individual. We complement each other. That both makes it possible and necessary to cooperate to reach bigger goals. The revelation that we need each other has us look for God to complement us with his supernatural, inimitable skills, and discover how much greater our own toolset is than we think, as we are spiritual, supernatural beings.
We could say that our imagination and our ability to cooperate project us into a relationship to God, and make faith possible in the first place.
And faith fuels our imagination, as greater things come into reach, adding God’s abilities to the picture. And God gifts us with his dreams and plans. A self-energizing, self-reinforcing system.
Unless we abandon our part and leave it to God alone.
Limiting our involvement in bringing about hope, manifesting what we believe for, is denying God’s plan. He gave us this world. He told us that we are its hope. He has a plan of cooperation. He honors his own decision to work through us. And we wait on him.
And we do so pointing to the story of Abraham. After about 12 years of waiting for the promised son, Abraham went forth with his own plans and gave life to Ishmael. And that was bad, as we still can see today. Arabs sprung from Ishmael, and they are still today the greatest threat to Israel, the promised son. A powerful story, preventing us from going with our own plans. A powerful story, quenching so many plans of God in that we fail to do our part, reducing our involvement to waiting and believing.
It is a fine line. We do not want to do our own thing and expect God to bless it. And we do not want to freeze because there is the possibility to fall out of God’s plan. Cooperation means to operate together. In sync. In order to do so, there needs to be communication.
O yes, we pray. We talk, talk, talk. We express our hope, we speak to things and circumstances in authority. This is great. Don’t stop doing this. But take time to listen. Ask about your part. And follow James, show your faith in your actions.
Cooperation is only possible in a relationship of mutual trust. We are back talking about faith. God’s driving force is love, as he is love. He wants to have a love relationship with us. And therefore, faith, hope, and love are the three greatest things that will never seize (1Co 13:13). They work together to accomplish all things.
Faith fuels our imagination, making it possible to hope for bigger things, and love as a two-way enabler of relationship and cooperation lets us have more faith as we can imagine more pathways to success, to bring about our hopes, and thus a tree of life, or plain—life.
But it all depends on our ability to imagine. Therefore let’s enhance our imagination. It works off a world view. It thrives and prospers on a story we tell ourselves. It has an axiomatic system of what we believe to be possible. Let’s enlarge our toolset, our selection of pathways by adding faith—in our God given abilities and gifts.
The world thinks that man can do all things.
We believe that God is almighty.
Let’s change our thinking and start to believe that we can do all things through Christ that strengthens us.
What can you imagine?