I found a little article by Thomas Watson (1620-1686) on the topic of hope. Watson began like this, "Hope is a theological grace planted in the heart by the Spirit of God whereby a Christian is quickened to the expectation of those things which are held forth in the promise." There is a lot to ponder there. Here are a few thoughts on the subject of hope from this one sentence above that jump out at me.
1. Hope is a theological grace
I wonder exactly what Watson meant by this. I don't really know. I can suggest that it is a summarizing statement, stating that hope both has God-ward content, is God-ward in its focus, and is gifted by God Himself for our good. It is a "theological grace."
2. Hope is planted in the heart
Hope's "seat" is the heart. It is a seed that is planted there and sprouts forth and grows. It all begins in the heart. As it grows, it begins to poke itself through the heart and spill out into everything we touch, everything we do, and everyone we interact with.
3. Hope is planted in the heart by the Spirit of God
It is not something we can muster or create. It is, like faith itself, like repentance, something given by God. It is planted in the heart by Him. It is something worked in us by Someone else. This is an affront to our human sensibilities, like all of the truths are that illuminate the harsh reality of our spiritual inabilities, but it is good because it establishes hope itself, for we know that He who has the power to give it is gracious and merciful.
4. With hope, the Christian is quickened to the expectation of things held forth in the promise.
I am reminded of a series John Piper did called "future grace". Piper talked about how faith includes an element of expectation of the glory to come in our future. There is something of an eternal perspective to hope. There is a "quickening" involved. We were dead to these things, but then we are made alive -and we are made alive to, among other things, the expectation of things held forth in the promise of the Gospel.
5. The things hoped for, which are "held forth in the promise" are true things, external things, objective things.
All of those things promised to us in the Gospel are true things -even as simple as the promise of life and righteousness contained in Christ, Himself. The Belgic Confession reminds us, "For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely." (Article 22) With this salvation is hope of a bright and sure future. Paul said, "and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. " (Romans 8:30) All justified are glorified. We shall be glorified. We shall be with Him, like Him, conformed into His image, free from sin, free from corruption.
I long for more hope. I would like to not just know "I am safe now, I am forgiven and acceptable to God". I would like to have that eternal perspective, that the living hope would be brighter. Often it seems non-existent, or rather that I am just not considering it or being mindful of the hope that is ahead. There is a lot to think about here. What manner of sin and hardness is obscuring the hope that is so plainly and objectively laid out before me in His promises? May we fall in utter trust and dependence upon God, the Giver of all good gifts.
Lord, have mercy upon me and others who are so blind to hope. Plant this seed within our soul if it is missing, and if it is there and just hidden, then water this seed, Lord, and bring the increase. Grow it so that it would penetrate our hearts and send roots through our entire being. Overcome our dullness, our hardness, our worldly-mindedness and restore in us a burning and bright hope that would be for your glory. In Christ's name. Amen.