“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” — Romans 8:22-25
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” — 1 John 3:1-3
When St. Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, he opened his first letter with these words: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope…” When we think of hope, we usually think in terms of expectation. But what Paul is saying here is that Jesus is “our hope”. He is the incarnation of all of the virtues upon which we are contemplating in these meditations. He is the incarnation of the virtues we are pursuing in our calling to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. To acquire these virtues we need the One who is the very manifestation of them. Do we want a large dose of hope in these troubled times? Look no further. Jesus is our hope.
We have been exhorted to pursue excellence, and to be remade in the image of Christ. And now we are being encouraged to live in the moment, for it is in the present that God meets His people. He has given us instruction in the past and the promise that “when he appears we shall be like him”, but it is in the present moment that our hope in Him will purify us. For St. John says, “everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” If we are going to be built into the walls of His New Jerusalem, we must be purified. The dross must be burned away, and the bricks fully cleansed.
This is what we have been talking about. God is purifying His Church—His people. We are God’s children now. And He is transforming us to be fully like Him! Paul tells the Church at Rome that we ourselves have the firstfruits of the Spirit. When our lives are purified by the Holy Spirit we can begin to manifest those fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
It is not easy to walk in hope when things are coming against us from a multitude of directions. And right now, between the pandemic, political turmoil, and social unrest, many have lost hope. Schools are reeling, students are struggling, jobs have been lost, businesses closed, and people are dying in record numbers. Where is the hope? And how does one manifest the “firstfruits” in these uncertain times? When our focus turns to the things of this world it is easy to lose hope. But here is the truth for those who are in Christ: Jesus is our hope.
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews said, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). That word substance can also be translated as “assurance”, or “reality”. When we stand in Jesus, who is the incarnation of hope, we know that His promises are sure, and that there is NOTHING that can come against us that He is not capable of carrying us through. It is a temptation to try to take control and make things happen, to correct the problem ourselves in our own strength; but in HIM we have hope that He will triumph over our circumstances. That is why St. Paul repeatedly tells the Church at Ephesus to “stand”. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…and having done all, to stand firm.Stand therefore…” (6:11-14). We don’t stand in the past or the future. We stand in the present moment, fully covered in the armor of God.
Jesus is our hope. When we stand in Him we can be purified, strengthened, and encouraged. There is no need to be afraid of the past, the present circumstances, or the future. Our hope is in Christ Jesus, and He will clothe us in the full armor of God.