Christian hope is a present-day subjective experience of a future reality based on the past and present, objective, life and work of Jesus Christ. Hope is not a bonus of life in Christ, it is what it means to live in Christ. Our very confession is a “confession of our hope.” (Hebrews 10:23)
Hope is an expression of expectant desire. Hope looks forward. Hope is a feeling that good may come. This good is not already here. But we believe/desire/think that good is coming. Whether it's that your team will win, or the promotion will happen, or that dinner tonight turns out well, hope is a positive feeling that keeps you pressing on. Hope comes in all sizes too. We “hope” our new cookie recipe turns out well and we “hope” that the MRI comes back clear.
But there is more. Christian hope, though it looks forward, is based on looking to the past. You have sincere hope the new recipe works out well because the recipe book has proven itself worthy in the past. You have hope that the new coach of your team will bring success because their past record shows that he/she is a winner. You have hope that your new employee will work out because you’ve seen an impressive resume of their past work. Without a past record, hope is empty and foolish.
What makes hope really incredible is that hope is a present-day experience of a future reality. In hope, we enjoy something of the emotion of a good future now, as if it has already come. It’s like a smile now to a joke in the future—a taste of a feast in the future.
What makes hope in Christ unique is that it not only looks forward in this life, but into the next as well. The horizon of our hope in Christ blazes past death and extends infinitely into eternity, because our life in Christ is eternal.
And this forward-looking hope in Christ is immensely practical: it influences when (or if) I set my alarm in the morning, how I order my day, how to react to irritable co-workers, what to say when a friend becomes gravely ill, what to eat for dinner, and how to go to sleep in peace.
If our hope is sure for the future because of the past, then we live now from the assurance of the past work of God in Christ in our walk towards our future reward in Christ. That past-future-present connection works no matter the angle in which you approach the gospel. Consider the concept of Christ's victory over Satan and all evil, for example. Because Christ “won” in life, death, and resurrection, we have assurance that we will “win” in the future over Satan and death.
In that assurance we live now. So, we might say, we live “from" victory, not “for" victory. This is not simply because an eternal “win” is promised for us in the future, but because that eternal “win” has already been assured for us in the past. And in hope we experience the substance of that future win now.
This “from" victory not “for" victory kind of mentality changes our entire present-day experience of life. We are released from the stress of trying to “win” every day in life. We are delivered from the pressure to ensure our future for ourselves and our children. We are no longer enslaved to the fear of death.
We rise every day to face the turmoil of the day knowing that one day we will rise from the dead. In manifest surrender to the sovereign rule of God, we embrace sleep as a kind of doctrine of an abundant life. The past, present, and future life of Jesus gives us hope, even against all hope. And that changes everything.