Some people take things to the extreme. And we’re not even talking about sports.
Consider the esteemed GK Chesterton: “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”
So, where there’s even the slightest chance of a hope and you hope on it, that cuts no ice with him. Hope, in his opinion, only kicks in when there’s no hope left! Like when the battery’s at zero. Or, when the man has been dead 4 days! (Recall the biblical Lazarus in John 11:39.)
But isn’t that what hope is for — to give people even a single straw to grasp? For if there is hope and one does not cling to it, well … then, what’s there to say except “hang on tight”? Hope is there to sustain belief for just a little longer. Hence the popular maxim: Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
But when one has to hope against hope itself, that sounds like post-doctoral stuff. It’s tough to compute. Really, it’s all over. Zero chance. The facts stare one in the face. Not Hope-Regular or even Hope-Lite. This is strong brew.
The apostle Paul uploaded for the Romans his take regarding the quintessential Abraham (and Sarah) episode in 4:18-19 (ESV) — “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb.”
Nothing humanly left to hope for, but this was underwritten by the Promise of God. Which, by itself, was more than enough. God’s word can be trusted to come to pass. So, a hopeless situation transcended into an awe-inspiring example for all of us.
Some commentators have even ventured to emphasize how energized Abraham’s body must have been by the Holy Spirit, that long after Sarah had passed away, Abraham had 6 sons with Keturah (Gen 25:1), namely Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
Bernard Baruch tells of a man sentenced to death, who obtained a reprieve by assuring the king he would teach his majesty's horse to fly within the year – on the condition that if he didn't succeed, he would be put to death at the end of the year. "Within a year," the man explained later, "the king may die, or I may die, or the horse may die. Furthermore, in a year, who knows? Maybe the horse will learn to fly."
Just a gamble with chance is surely not hope. Nowhere near biblical hope.
Biblical hope, in Chuck Swindoll’s own words, "is a voice crying in the wilderness…a word of enthusiasm for life in the midst of any difficult situation you are in. If you want to smile through your tears, if you want to rejoice through times of suffering, just keep reminding yourself that what you're going through isn’t the end of the story…it's simply the rough journey that leads to the right destination. Solid, stable, sure hope. Hope to press on. Hope to endure. Hope to stay focused. Hope to see new dreams fulfilled."
In one word, Hope is a Person. His Name is Jesus. When you have got the victorious coming King enthroned in your heart, you’ve got everything and some to spare.
Finally, it matters little whether you have hope; the critical question is – does Hope have you? That settles it.
Dr Andrew Goh is the editor of Impact magazine.
This article "A Gamble with Chance" can be found in the Apr/May 2019 issue of IMPACT Magazine.
In the midst of suffering ... The search for wisdom
Persevering in hope ... While living the unfulfilled life
A whistling in the dark ... Just hearing the music
Hope becoming reality ... After the first Easter
Hope for the hopeless (Panel interview)
Outreach to our household ... Now is the time
Finding God in the wilderness ... Faith for the desolate times