Volume 48 | Number 1 | January–February 2020

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Read a Special Article on Current Crisis: The World’s Pandemic Mandate on the Coronavirus: What Does It Mean?

Our Present Faith and Hope


By Dr. H. T. Spence

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit (Jer. 17:7, 8).

No God, No Hope; Know God, Know Hope—these words were once seen on a bumper sticker. Similarly, the apostle Paul writing to the Ephesians declared:

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:12, 13).

Without God there is no hope for humanity; only in God can humanity have hope. For humans to have hope, we must know God through faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.

In global crises, the world places its faith in its governments without the consciousness of God. Even in our present viral crisis, irrespective of the means or methods of this pandemic, God sovereignly is in full control of all events. When mankind is not conscious of God in these events, then there will be no true hope.

In contrast, the biblical Christian is a person with hope, no matter how difficult life becomes either in his personal life or its relationship to global life on earth. The Psalmist declared, “My times are in thy hand” (31:15), and the firm belief, “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me” (138:8). In faith we know God, and in knowing God we know hope. Dear reader, in this present global distress, we must have a complete, full trust of faith in God; He knows all that He is presently ordering.

Faith and Hope in God

But what is faith and what is hope? Hebrews 11:1 declares, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is the initial companion at the crisis of the Christian’s new birth. Faith is the same word as believe. Faith is a firm persuasion. I am persuaded that something is true; I am willing to commit my life to that truth because I am persuaded that truth is for me.

However, not all faith is true faith. The Bible describes three kinds of faith. First, James 2:19 clearly declares that the Devil and the demons believe in God. Though such spirit beings promote polytheism and demon worship, they know there is only one God. But to believe in the existence of God as a fact is not enough. Mere belief is not saving faith. The demons believe and tremble as they contemplate the day when they must face God in the final judgment of the wicked dead and of the fallen angels. Such belief has no saving value to it.

Secondly, there is a “dead faith” as presented in James 2:17–26. James 2:26 declares, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” As the body without the spirit is dead, faith without works (of the spirit) is dead. Biblical faith requires a personal commitment of the soul to Christ. Abraham was justified by faith; the “work” manifestation of that faith was his willing sacrifice of his son, Isaac. Abraham had a faith that obeyed.

Thirdly, there is living faith. Saving Faith (as seen in Ephesians 2:8, 9) is faith for the believing for the crisis of salvation. However Hebrews 11 reveals that faith must be part of the moment by moment living of God’s people as well. The Greek word for faith is pistis, meaning “a firm persuasion in something.” Pistis comes from the Greek word peitho, meaning “to persuade.” Therefore, faith is “to believe, to be persuaded, to place confidence in, to trust completely.”

What is the source of biblical faith? Romans 10:17 reveals that God must create the faith of belief directly through His revealed Word that leads to obedience to that Word. But faith must not only be for a work of grace for the soul; faith must be for the life of the Christian. This is the true revelatory purpose of Hebrews 11. Faith must ever be present in every aspect of life. This chapter commences with Abel in worship; faith must be the key element in worship to God. From that context the chapter unfolds the implementing faith in every aspect of life.

When we view the simplest conception of faith, it must include a personal confidence in God and His Word. Faith is when the individual has come to know God to some degree of real experience in his life. Initially, faith is taking God at His Word, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” But the longer a Christian lives with God in Christ, the deeper the knowledge will be of Him. Matthew 11:27 declares that no one knows the Father, except the Son, and those only to whom the Son may reveal Him. But then we read that Christ gives the invitation to come unto Him and to learn of Him. There is no other way.

Christians tend to view faith in the context only of things or workings they need from God. For these needs we have faith that He will work it out for us. As a result, Christians tend to compartmentalize faith for the realm of physical or monetary needs. In contrast, Christians tend not to have faith concerning imperative spiritual needs in their lives. Abraham was the first Old Testament character to example the details of a life of faith. In fact, he is known as the “Father of the Faithful,” or the forerunner, the beginning of those who live by faith. Whereas the Old Testament gives his life events, the New Testament tells us about the principle of faith that was part of his life. Especially in Romans 4:5, 9–23, Paul clearly outlines his being “justified” by faith.

But, again, what is faith? Hebrews 11:1 reveals that faith includes hope. Do we believe that God exists? Do we believe that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him? The apostle Paul was very emphatic in his statement, “For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Faith is the “substance” of things hoped for, and faith becomes the evidence of things not seen.

Hope is the handmaiden to faith. Just as faith is for the present moment, hope is sight for the future. The heart of faith believes for the present while also leaning into the future with hope. We are to live in the present with this posture of faith, maintaining our confidence and our trust in God and His Word. Faith cannot be grounded upon itself; it can only exist on the foundation of what saith the Lord. In this it becomes the firm ground upon which we presently reside, while leaning with great expectation toward the future.

The Christian may say, “I am expecting God to do this!” In such a statement, we must be careful to place our faith in the Word of God, and not an abstract belief we have fabricated ourselves. God has promised to meet all our spiritual needs; therefore, I do not need to doubt God meeting these needs.

Note an example in Romans 7:24, 25, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” In this cry of Paul, the answer is very clear: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This is a promise—God through our Lord Jesus Christ will do this for me! I dare not doubt it!

However, in any situation where the will of man is involved, we cannot have a similar hope. God is not willing that any should perish; it is His will for all men to come to repentance. But this truth does not mean that all men will repent. We may have human hope for a relative to be saved, but because it involves the will of man, this hope may not become a reality.

It is for this reason we must make a distinction between the word hope in the English language and hope in the Greek language. I may “hope” that something will happen, but I may not have the “guarantee” that it will. In contrast, the biblical hope is tied into the Word of God as a term of “great expectation.” The Word of God has promised this, and therefore I am expecting it to be so with great expectation.

Note the words of Daniel 3:16–18:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image, which thou hast set up.

Clearly, these three companions believed in God, and their hearts were settled in God about this matter. Nevertheless, there was no guarantee that God would deliver them from the fiery furnace. While their faith was present, only God knew what He would do in this crisis. They believed with hope that God would deliver them from the king, and God’s will would be done. When it comes to the future of this earth and the Messianic life and principles that will govern it, we have immutable words from God that it will be so. Therefore, I must have faith for the present; but I also must have hope for the future. Yet, our hope is a firm hope, a true hope that is founded upon the Word of God.

Amidst the reality of this world’s complex governments and systems, we may wonder if there can be any hope. But God is the one ruling the planet, not the Devil. I believe in God and in His capabilities. He will bring all of history to a glorious end, despite man and all his vain plans. The Devil may believe he is in control of humanity working out his own diabolical plan, but God is working His perfect plan while even using the Devil’s plan for His glorious end!

When Hope Is Lost

Can a Christian have present faith in God amidst a lost hope for his future? Perhaps the answer to this enigmatic question can be found in the words of Job:

And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it? (Job 17:15).

A careful reading of the Book of Job reveals moments when Job lost hope while maintaining faith. We must always be careful when observing Job and the trial he went through. Three times the Scriptures reveal that Job was a man who “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (1:1, 8; 2:3). Two of these recorded times were God’s declaration about him.

Job’s only problem was that he did not know why he was suffering. Why do the righteous suffer? We must remember that without a Bible, Job could not understand the reason for the devastations that had come upon him. He knew God was behind it all, but he did not know why. Amidst it all his faith never wavered in God.

Nevertheless, there were times when he lost hope, a loss of hope concerning his future. In this passage (Job 17:15) Job spoke of a darkened hope. For the moment, all he could see before him was the grave. In his sickness, he believed he was making his bed in the darkness. He declared that no light came from the dark shadows of death he believed he was facing very soon. Because he did not see any hope before his death, he wondered if there would be hope in death. He believed his present situation was his final lot and there was nothing beyond.

It seems that Job lived in the generations just before Abraham. Though much light concerning God was evident, there was little understanding of the world after death. The Old Testament Sheol (or Hades in the New Testament) was very little understood by God’s people. Had God revealed any concept for their future or the afterlife? Did they know there was to be a heaven ultimately for them? Although Sheol was a place of peace, rest, and tranquility, it was not the thrill and joy of heaven. Though those in upper Hades had faith in God, did they have hope of what was beyond? Did such hope come to them when Christ entered upper Hades during those hours when His Spirit was departed from His body?

Whatever may have been known, in this crisis Job had lost hope concerning his future. The crisis of his deep afflictions brought him temporarily to a lost hope. Not only did Job believe that his purposes were broken off, but also his hope was lost.

In such situations a person may try to create a hope; however, what he hopes for is not real and will not come to pass. In trials there is the danger of creating an illusionary or false hope. There are many people today who are so convinced that what they have created is truth, that they are willing to base their faith upon it, even their future in hope. They are convinced they can cheat God in overcoming the fact of the Judgment. There are also those who believe in the hope of succeeding in life without God. Others believe they do not need God for their life to exist; therefore, they have created a hope of worldly sufficiency. A true hope is singularly based upon God Himself and what He has promised. And yet it is possible to have a true faith in God while losing or leaving hope in God for one’s future.

God’s truth is ever in His Word, and His will is revealed in that Word. And a person’s faith can rest upon that Word. Yet, there is a possibility that one could leave hope’s manifestation in the life. Psalm 42 speaks of the overthrow of the soul’s hope amidst adverse circumstances in life. Faith, the anchor in Christ, may be present while the soul ceases to lay hold of the hope for faith. The Psalmist cries out to himself:

Why are thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope, thou in God; for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

Where is now my hope?! Does the blindness of grief cause the soul of faith to lose hope? Yes, it is possible! Circumstances may become so overwhelming that hope of faith for the future is lost.

Conclusion

Perhaps the absence of hope amidst living faith may arise when our soul does not permit the expectation of the Word to be present. Although there may be many causes for discouragement, there are far more reasons for hope to be lost. Every generation since Adam has faced calamities. Within the crucible epochs found in Scripture, there is recorded a long history of wars, plagues, famines, corruption, depravity, and suffering. Still God was always in control! He has had a plan that has included all the destructive forces man may witness. Through it all, the Bible has been given as a book of hope.

When we walk in fellowship with God, we find ourselves lifted by the irresistible updraft of biblical hope. Sometimes we must learn to preach to ourselves, like the Psalmist in Psalm 42. Even in the darkest hours, we have good reason for hope. Psalm 71:14 declares, “But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.”

When the powers of darkness were swirling around Jeremiah, the Lord told the prophet:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Note Jeremiah’s own words as he witnessed the burning destruction of Jerusalem!

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD (Lam. 3:21–26).

Another Scripture calls us to hope at this hour in our history:

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost (Rom. 15:13).

Although hope is a part of faith, it also has an anchor:

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 6:19, 20).

Oh, dear reader, this is where our hope is anchored, within the veil of heaven!

At this crisis hour of a global pandemic, we have submitted ourselves to the higher powers of the government while yet praying to God for the best amidst the unknown to us. As Christians we should never place our hope in the systems of the world.

The real hope is that Christ has called us to partake of His effectual work on the cross and that we have the present reality of His prayers in our behalf before the Throne of Heaven. Thank God! Our future does not depend on the shifting sand of empty humanity. Our hope for our future is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Let us trust God for today and hope in Him for tomorrow. To deny Hope is to cast aside the helmet of the believer (1 Thess. 5:8–10); to deny hope is to take away the believer’s consolation (2 Thess. 2:16).

May God grant us faith through His Word and Spirit for these present days! And whatever our future may be, may our faith in God have the evidence of things hoped for in Him. May our “faith be the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.”

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (Heb. 3:6).