Grasping the Unseen God

the wellspring of hope

John Bunyan (1628 – 1688) spent 12 years in a prison in Bedford, England for refusing to stop preaching the gospel of Christ. During this time, he had a wife and four young children at home, including a blind daughter. One of the roots of his resolve was, according to his words, “to live upon God who is invisible.” Grasping and holding on to the unseen God is the essence of faith (Heb 11:1) and the fountain of hope. Romans 8:24,25 say that hope that is seen is not hope, but “if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

The foundation of hope is an understanding of and communion with the unseen God, in all His grandeur. He is our hope. To be without God is to have no hope (Eph 2:12). Paul labored hard in his ministry because, he says, “we have our hope set on the living God” (1 Tim 4:10). The source of hope is the abiding Holy Spirit and the means He uses to enflame our hearts with hope is the Scriptures. It is the eternal Word of God which reveals the eternal Creator to us and in this knowledge our lives are rooted in hope.

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.

Rom 15:13

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction,

that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures

we might have hope.

Rom 15:4

It is not overstating the case to say that the Christian life, properly understood, is a life filled with hope. For some people, ‘hope’ is nothing more than a wish for what might happen. For Christians, ‘hope’ is a confidence in what will happen, based on the Word of God. Perhaps the following illustration can serve to portray the difference.

Two students are studying for a final exam in history. The first student is asked, “Will you pass the exam?” His answer is, “Well, I hope to pass it.” Now this student has not cracked his book the entire semester. His class notes are spotty, with elaborate doodles lining the margins. He skipped many of the lectures. He couldn’t tell you the difference between the Code of Hammurabi and the Declaration of Independence. And now, in the final examination, he will be called on to divulge information he has never heard of, much less memorized. His ‘hope’ is nothing more than wishful thinking. To use our contemporary vernacular … he doesn’t have a prayer. It would be accurate to say, in fact, that prayer is all he has. Truly, his hope is empty.

The other student in this story, on the other hand, is prepared for the test. She has read the textbook, carefully taking her own notes as she read each section. She has not missed a single class lecture. She has taken extensive notes on the professor’s lessons and has reviewed them regularly. We would say she knows the material ‘cold’. The professor can ask anything about the Civil War or the French Revolution and she is ready to give an answer. We come to her and ask the same question we asked the first student. “Will you pass the exam?” She replies, “I hope to pass it.”

The question to both students was the same … and their answers were the same. That is to say, the words of the answers were the same. But there is a profound difference between the ‘hope’ of the first student and the ‘hope’ of the second. For the first student, hope is nothing more than a wish for what might happen. It has no foundation … it is empty. In contrast, the hope of the second student is an overwhelming confidence in what will happen. Because of her diligence, her hope is filled with promise.

The hope of Christianity is not simply a wish for what might happen. It is the confidence of what will happen, based on who God is and what He has said. It is no wonder that Romans 5:2 says that “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” and Romans 12:12 says that Christians are to be about “rejoicing in hope.” Is there any more abiding spring of joy than to have a soul that is captivated by an indomitable, unshakable hope that is rooted in the living God and in what He has said. There is in such hope a strength for every trouble of life. Surely this is what Bunyan meant when he wrote from his prison cell about “living upon God who is invisible.”

Rejoicing in hope with you,

Pastor Cosand