By TJ Poon
With edits, additions and formatting by Stephanie Nannen and Jason Poon
No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.
- Psalm 25:3
We often throw out the word hope casually: Hope you’re doing well! or I hope the test isn’t too hard! But these expressions fail to communicate the depth and richness of the kind of hope God intends for us to possess.
As noted in the article “Epic Is About Hope”, biblical hope isn’t just wishful thinking or passive waiting. Rather than simply reflecting something that we desire to happen, hope is a deeply spiritual and subversive act. Often when we look around our campus and the world, we don’t see much that inspires hope. Instead we see violence, death, greed, hatred, poverty, oppression, injustice, and more.
In the face of all of this, a Christian’s hope is not that tragedy will not find us; rather, it is the certainty that tragedy will not have the final word. Hope is both an expression of character birthed in our hearts as we trust God through difficult circumstances, and a reflection of the credibility and foundation of the object of our hope: the Lord.
The Scriptures tell story after story of men and women who overcame apathy, denial, and stagnation in order to give their lives to the mission. They risked everything to join in God’s redemptive work, not because they knew the outcome, but because they knew God.
We see an example of this tenacious hope in the story of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:14-22, 31:1-8). Toward the end of Moses’ life, he spent a significant amount of time reviewing the Israelite covenant with God, which urged the people to obey and follow the Lord. God then spoke to Moses, sharing that Moses would die soon, and that the people would forsake the covenant they recently renewed. Moses had given the last 40 years of his life to accomplish deliverance of the people from Egypt and the birth of Israel as a nation, in spite of the repeated disobedience of the people.
As this time of prophesied disobedience drew near, God asked Moses to teach the Israelites a song. The song was about the faithfulness of God, designed to be a witness against the people when they broke their covenant with God. After Moses taught the song, he gave his final blessing to the twelve tribes of Israel before going up to a mountain, where he was only allowed to gaze at the promised land before his death.
On the surface, this is hardly a happy conclusion to the story. But we are inspired by Moses, who continued to work toward the formation of Israel’s identity as God’s chosen people even though he knew he would not get to join them in living in the promises, and they would not remain faithful to God’s covenant. Moses exhibited true spiritual leadership and authentic hope when he continued to shepherd the people’s hearts, urging them to cling to the vision of God’s promises, in the midst of his own grief, frustration, and disappointment. This is exactly what hope must become in our lives.
In Epic, our hope allows us to shepherd those around us and engage the injustices we see in the world, not because we are assured that everything will “work out,” but because we are committed to being involved in God’s redemptive work on earth.
FOR GROUP STUDY
- This passage speaks to the internal aspect of hope. Describe how hope is birthed in a person or community. Have you ever seen this happen in real life?
Romans 8:18-29; Hebrews 11:13-16
- These passages point to God’s future promises. How do future realities impact our present hope?
Deuteronomy 31:14-22; 31:1-8
- Moses did not allow a bleak outcome to thwart his hope or prevent him from spiritual leadership. Talk about the spiritual maturity and inner resilience that Moses needed in this chapter of his life.
Reflecting back on Moses’ story, we see he wasn’t putting his hope in the faithfulness of the people or the success of the mission. Romans 5 describes hope as an outworking of character, versus a reaction to the things around us. We rejoice in suffering because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. Hope is cultivated in us as we faithfully engage our part in God’s story, including suffering.
The foundation of our hope is the certainty of God’s promise. We are absolutely convinced that, even if we do not see it, God is committed to his work of reclaiming, redeeming, and resurrecting all things and that we are called to join in this work.
We want the kind of hope Moses exhibited to characterize our teams and our movements. Hope that grows in our hearts—regardless of what might happen around us—as an outworking of the character produced in us, as we trust God’s redemptive work and faithfully engage in it. This hope will allow us to persevere in the face of personal loss and disappointments and to work tenaciously in the face of evil and injustice. Because we know God’s vision is worth the giving of our lives, even if we only get the briefest glimpses in this life.
Read through the “Epic Is About Hope” article and answer these questions:
- At times we all mistake false hope for authentic hope that comes from God. Do you tend to think of hope as wishful thinking or passive waiting? Name some attitudes or areas of your life that reflect that.
- How have you seen blind positivity as a denial of reality: in life, leadership, or ministry? What’s the difference between managing morale and cultivating authentic hope in others?
- Think about the various sources of community in your life. Which have built hope in your life, and why? Which might have discouraged hope, and why?
- Whether it is currently happening or not, what do you think would be true of your team if you were individually and collectively connected to hope?
- In your current team context, where is perseverance needed? How can you encourage each other in hope?
- Do ethnic minorities need a different hope than people in majority culture? If so, what does that look like?
- Where are the places that your movement is actively cultivating hope in the lives of students?
- What hope do you present when sharing the gospel? How can you avoid presenting “blind positivity”?
- Is your movement a hopeful presence in the midst of campus realities—racism, academic struggles, and sexual assault, to name a few? If not, how can you help others connect to hope in the midst of these realities without resorting to Christian cliches?
- What is the unique cultural expression of hope that your movement embodies?
What is one thing that your movement can do to help communicate genuine hope to others?