It seems to me that the Book of Job is becoming more and more applicable these days. By that I mean more and more people are finding their lives running parallel to this man named “Job.” For those who don’t know his history, Job was enjoying the greatest blessings of life on earth. He was apparently happily married with a number of good children. He was wealthy, because he had always worked hard, and eventually he managed a multifaceted farming and ranching business. His health was good by the grace of God. He was a religious and godly man who worshiped Jehovah according to the principles of the Lord. But then, through no fault of his own, his world collapsed. All his children died in an apparent “act of God.” A horrible, painful disease fell upon him. Every aspect of his livelihood was taken from him though natural disasters and human greed. And as is often the case, because of the circumstances, his marriage seemed bent on destruction. He felt betrayed, forsaken by God and man, and he fell into a deep depression with no hope of extraction.
Our scripture this morning is one of the expressions of Job’s emotional state. He declares: “All my goals have been destroyed. My life, as I knew it, has ended. A darkness has descended over me. The only thing to which I can look forward is death. Corruption and the worms of the grave are my destiny.” Verse 15: “Where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it?” “My expectations and hope for the future are destroyed.”
It is the subject of “hope” that I’d like to consider this morning. So many of our neighbors are losing, or have lost, the hope they once had. Many are in an emotional state similar to Job. Perhaps not the man next door, but certainly someone down the street and some on the next block. We are surrounded by them. They came into the early years of their adulthood with expectations of happiness and success. But then the economy changed, their friends forsook them, and one or two actually died. Whether or not they understand, they became like the prodigal of whom we read in the New Testament. Their own health began to suffer through the abuse of their lives and their bodies. And the things which gave them joy in their teen years they now see are pointless – video games, weed, immorality, and even their enjoyment of the natural world. Like Job their hope for the future disappeared.
Perhaps you are not like that, but that doesn’t mean you won’t end up that way for one reason or other. Even Job, a good religious man, fell before the onslaught. When he was on the crest of the wave, it looked like he could ride the surf up onto the beach. But that wave crested and troughed, while a second wave swept in to crush him. The point is, we need more than hope in some potential possibilities; we need faith in absolutes. The differences between faith and hope are immense and important to recognize.
Let’s start with a couple of DEFINITIONS and DESCRIPTIONS between faith and hope.
Faith is the easier of the two. It involves an assurance of something – either in some object or in the means of reaching that object. “Trust” is a synonym for “faith.” When true faith is the subject, then we can add the word “confidence” to the definition. A Biblical faith in something suggests a confidence so high that we might put our lives at risk for it. I might have hope some day to swim across the widest section of Lake Pend Oreille, but it is only a hope. On the other hand I have complete faith to get into the Fulton’s boat and to zip across. That faith is real because it is something I’ve already done a time or two.
When speaking about “hope,” the words “trust” and “confidence” don’t play a part. A really strong hope might involve an expectation, but nothing upon which to hang one’s life. Hope is nothing more than a extravagant wish. Someone might say, “I HOPE my rattlesnake, which I raised from a baby, won’t bite me as I play with it.” That is not a wise thing to do – or to say – but it is a more accurate statement than, “I have FAITH that this hungry, six-foot, diamondback rattler won’t strike me if I pick it up and play with it.” Hope, no matter how strong it is, involves uncertainty. It is nothing but one variety of wish. Simply put, faith speaks of an absolute trust, while hope speaks of a much lesser expectation.
Now, having said that, I hope that some of you are already thinking of another kind of hope, a Biblical hope. This morning I am not talking about the blessed hope of Titus 2:13 – “The grace of God that bringeth salvation… teaches us, to look for the BLESSED hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” This morning I am not talking about the hope to which Hebrews refers in chapter 6 – “God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which HOPE we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast… even Jesus…” Paul says, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have HOPE” – (Romans 15:4).
I will come back to this, but there is a kind of hope, which comes from the Almighty Himself through His Word. Because of its source, this hope is guaranteed, and therefore we can rely upon it. But that is not my subject. The hope to which I refer is expressed by the neighbor, who when he is asked, “Are you going to heaven when you die?” replies, “I sure hope so.” That kind of hope is not worth risking one’s eternal soul. At this point, let’s just say, there is a difference between faith and this kind of hope. It is the difference between trust and a wish – the difference between a trust and even an expectation.
There is also a difference between faith and hope in their SOURCE.
I admit that I am treading a fine line here, but hear me out before you criticize too vociferously. That man who hopes to go to spend eternity with God, basing that hope upon his good works or his good looks, can not make that statement with any scriptural foundation. Generally speaking, the person who merely hopes to go to Heaven, is doing so based upon the wishes of his fleshly heart and mind. He may have heard his wonderful grandmother say that sort of thing, so he hopefully repeats it, but it is not something which the Holy Spirit is teaching him. He may be repeating what some 19th century “prophet” taught him to say, or it may be what his Protestant religion has always professed, but it is not of God; it is of the flesh. The vast majority of religious people hope they are good enough for God and for Heaven. But that is a fleshly hope, not a Biblical one.
What is the source of the faith which can say, “I trust Jesus Christ to cleanse me from sin and to carry me to glory?” I believe that the source of that faith is Lord Himself. It is a gift from God. God’s Word doesn’t encourage us to have hope for Heaven without faith in Christ the Redeemer. God’s word teaches that sinful souls are saved by God through repentance and faith. That kind of faith is a flower which grows only in the soil of the Word of God. It is a gift from God, making it entirely different from the fleshly hope so many people have.
There is a difference between faith and hope in the OBJECT of each.
I am preaching this message today, because many people find it hard to see the difference. In some ways the dissimilarity between faith and hope is narrow. For example, both faith and hope involve the idea of trust, but they employ different prepositions. By faith we “trust IN” something, but with hope we “trust FOR” something.
Again, we ask our neighbor, “Do you expect to go to Heaven when you die?” He answers, “I sure hope so. I have been going to church all my life, trying to be good enough for God. I was christened as a baby, and I was baptized after Vacation Bible School when I was nine-years-old. I sure hope I go to heaven after I’ve lived for ninety years pleasing myself in all my whims and sins.” Am I wrong in saying that such a person is looking toward one of the future blessings of the Saviour? His hope is not too far from the Christian’s “blessed hope” to which I referred a few minutes ago. But this sort of person is looking entirely toward the RESULT rather than the SOURCE. He is hoping for good things, not trusting in the Lord from whom comes every good gift, every perfect gift.
In contrast to that man is the Christian whose trust is “IN” the Saviour who provides those blessings. “Christian, do you expect, when you die, to be carried by the angels into the very bosom of God?” “Absolutely, because my faith is in the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to deliver me from the penalty of my sin and who has surrounded me in His own perfect righteousness.” “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save (me) the chiefest of sinners.” “He was wounded for my transgressions, He was bruised for my iniquity: the chastisement of my peace was upon Him and with His beatings and crucifixion I have been healed.”
I hope you can see the difference between hope and faith. It is my prayer that you can see and understand the difference between hope and faith. Personally speaking, I don’t hope to see the Lord Jesus when I die. I know I shall see Him, and I’ll see Him as my Saviour, because my trust for eternity is in Him and Him alone. “My FAITH has found a RESTING PLACE, a perfect and permanent resting place, not in device or creed. I trust the ever living One; His wounds for me shall plead.” Over the last couple of months we have heard the testimony of several people who have essentially said the same thing: their faith for eternity is in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not “hoping” for future salvation; they already possess that blessing by faith through Christ Jesus.
There is also difference in PERSPECTIVE when it comes to faith and hope.
Built right into the word “hope” is the element of something future. Hope is not something we hold in our hands; it is something we expect, or yearn, to hold someday. Misapplying Paul just slightly: “hope that is seen is not hope for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” We don’t hope to become wealthy or healthy if we are fit as a fiddle and we have a huge bank account. It is the sick man who hopes for health, and the poor man hopes to win the lottery. We hope for things we don’t possess. But the saints of God already possess the blessed promises of eternity – in Christ their Saviour.
Faith is not directly about the future; it is about the now with application or extension into tomorrow and the day after, and after that forever. “Mr. Christian, if the Lord gave you a heart attack right now, would you go to Heaven?” “Well, to be honest with you, I already possess Heaven within my badly-diseased heart. There is a sense in which I won’t need a Saviour when I die, because Christ Jesus is at this moment my Saviour. I am not looking for eternal life, because I already possess it.”
The Apostle John said, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. “ The Lord Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I now them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” The sheep of Christ, the children of God, don’t live in the hope of eternal life; they live in the possession of that life, by the promise and power of the Saviour.
And finally, another difference between faith and hope is in what each PRODUCES.
In reality true faith produces hope – the Biblical kind of hope to which I referred earlier. “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through (faith), patience and comfort of the scriptures might have HOPE” – (Romans 15:4). I John 3 – “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” From where does this hope come? It comes from the faith which the saint of God has in the Lord.
Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundance mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively (living) hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And Paul in writing to the Christians in Colosse said, “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus… for the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven…” From where does Biblical hope arise? It comes naturally out of trust in Christ as sovereign Lord and Saviour. Hope is not the only thing which faith produces or accesses, but it is one of them.
In contrast, what does the false hope of Heaven produce? Eternal disappointment. When Paul and Silas were giving the gospel to the jailor of Philippi, they did not say, “Have HOPE in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The Lord Jesus didn’t tell Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, Whosoever sufficiently HOPES in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Christ didn’t say, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever HOPES to have eternal life, should not perish.” In the Biblical presentation of the gospel, the word used over and over is “believe,” or “trust” or “have faith.” Anything less than dependance upon the sacrifice of Christ as Lord and Saviour, will end in eternal disappointment. And “disappointment” is a very weak word in this case. It will mean eternal disaster – DAMNATION.
Rephrasing that just a little bit: the difference between faith and hope means the difference between salvation from sin and condemnation for sin. Romans 3 tells us in no uncertain terms that every human being is a sinner before God. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes… For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
But then in the next chapter Paul says, “What saith the scripture? Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Abraham’s faith was counted for righteousness. Abraham wasn’t hoping for righteousness from God. He possessed it through his faith in God. And then in the following chapter, Romans 5:1 we read, “Therefore being justified (or declared righteous) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Hope for God’s eternal blessings is something given to those whose faith or trust is already in Christ. But if the cart is put in front of the horse – if hope is put in the place of faith – the effect of our sins remains upon us and God’s eternal judgment will result. No matter how much hope we have that we will be good enough for the Lord some day, we will fail. Salvation is not by hope. It is given to those who have complete surrender before God and explicit faith in the finished work of Christ.
If the Lord permitted a semi-tractor trailer to t-bone your car on the way home from church this morning, would you awaken in presence of God? It’s not good enough to say, “I hope so.” The Apostle John said, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life, and that ye may BELIEVE on the name of the Son of God.” Will you come to the cross this morning, putting your faith – your trust – in Jesus’ sacrifice for sin?