Make Hope the Anchor of Your Soul
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast,…..” Hebrews 6:19
In my humble opinion, most of western Christianity does not understand the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, and the critical role that it plays in our daily lives as Christians. I see this as a major flaw in their understanding of the Gospel which has resulted in a multitude of issues within the western Christian culture.
Hope is one of the three major pillars of the Gospel along with faith and love. These three must work together because they are intertwined and interdependent. A misunderstanding of hope, therefore, has an impact on our understanding of faith and our ability to love.
It is interesting that I don’t recall seeing books or hearing teaching about hope, not even a sermon focused on it, yet I have heard many about faith and love. There has even been a movement involving faith: the faith confession or “name it and claim it” teachings. This faith teaching is also at the root of the prosperity teachings in the western church.
It has been my experience that in past 40 years or so the concepts of “believing that God can work miracles”, “knowing how much God loves you”, and “loving a lost and dying world” have been prevalent and taught in many different forms. The concept of “placing our hope in the promises of God as made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” has not been clearly taught and has not been prevalent in the church, to my knowledge.
I want to draw your attention to the sixth chapter of Hebrews, which includes the verse quoted above at the start of this writing. In this chapter, the writer begins with a warning about Christians who bear no fruit in their lives, comparing them to ground that, although receiving ample rain, produces nothing but thorns and thistles, and is at risk of being burnt. The writer goes on to say that the Hebrew Christians were producing fruit but could have done better, and then encouraged them to improve their understanding of the hope that was within them. I like the J.B. Phillips version best to convey this portion of Scripture:
“But although we give these words of warning we feel sure that you, whom we love, are capable of better things and will enjoy a full experience of salvation. God is not unfair: He will not lose sight of all that you have done nor of the loving labor which you have shown for His sake in looking after fellow Christians (as you are still doing). It is our earnest wish that every one of you should show a similar keenness (or diligence) in fully grasping the hope that is within you, until the end. We do not want any of you to grow slack, but to follow the example of those who through sheer patient faith came to possess the promises.” Hebrews 6:9-12
Let me reiterate what is being said here. In other words, God saw their deeds of helping other Christians, but it was desired that they do better things: that they would fully understand and comprehend the hope that is in Christ Jesus, and continue in this hope until the end, not slacking off but continuing in patient, enduring faith towards this hope.
So what exactly does it mean for us to have this hope in us continuously? What do we do in practical terms? This hope in the promises of Jesus and eternal life in heaven needs to be the hope that we are living for. This needs to be our daily focus. If it isn’t, we are slacking off and not continuing in patient faith until the end.
What are you living for? What is your purpose in life? What is your goal in life? This is the hope that these verses are referring to.
As Christians we can’t allow our purpose and reason for living to shift to something in this world. Or we can’t just let it become void or empty, consumed in daily survival and the day to day grind, not considering the hope for eternal life we have set before us. This is a major difference from the focus and thinking of the world. This is how we can be in the world but not of the world. This change in focus of our hope impacts our thinking and transforms our minds. It influences our decisions and guides our direction in life.
Our hope will also cause a change in our affections. We set our affections on the things above, not on earthly things. We store up our treasures in heaven, and this become the place where our heart is, that is, focused on heaven.
The writer of Hebrews goes on the mention Abraham as an example of someone who comprehended this hope:
“And then Abraham, after patient endurance, found the promise true.”
It is clear that circumcision represents not just Abraham’s faith, but his shifting of hope from this world to the promise of God of heaven. Abraham cut away his focus on this world, representing the cutting away of the fleshly part of his heart in circumcision, and placed his hope and focus on what God had promised.
Likewise in baptism, which is the new testament version of circumcision, we shift our focus of hope by considering ourselves dead with Christ to this world and buried with Him when submerged under water, then to rise to a new hope of sharing in His resurrection from the dead to an eternal, immortal, resurrected body like His and a place with Him in heaven.
I would even be as bold as to say that if we have not shifted our hope from this world to heaven, then we are still fleshly and carnal. I believe that this shift of hope is the key to walking in the spirit. True spirituality is directly related to our heart’s affections and the focus and purpose of our lives. Jesus must be our living hope in order to be truly spiritual.
We are patently waiting and enduring to attain the fulfillment of this hope and promise. This is what we are living for. In the light of this hope, the meaning of all other worldly things will be different. Even if we suffer physically, or experience loss, or any worldly discomforts, we will recognize that they are temporary and they do not compare to the glorious hope that we have in Christ Jesus.
Again quoting the J.B. Phillips translation of Hebrews 6, we see how critically important this hope is for us:
“So in this matter, God, wishing to show the heirs of His promise even more clearly that His plan was unchangeable, confirmed it with an oath. So that by two utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie, we who are refugees from this dying world might have a powerful source of strength, and might grasp the hope that he holds out to us. This hope we hold as an utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the innermost shrine of Heaven, where Jesus has already entered on our behalf…” Hebrews 6: 17-20
Our faith needs to be focused on this hope, and not on gaining material, physical “blessings” in this world. Then, when we have this hope as the focus of our lives, we will be transformed in our thinking, and will have the power to truly love others and serve God in love.