Devotional

What is hope?

Dr Tan Poh Kiang // April 22, 2019, 10:23 am

Photo by Hillie Chan on Unsplash

Photo by Hillie Chan on Unsplash

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes: but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Hope is not like the weather; it does not fluctuate. For if it does, it is not real hope.

Had God forsaken His children when they were critically ill and in need of His healing?

The idea of a constant, ever-dependable hope does not correlate to our day-to-day experience.

Yet many Christ-followers often swing from feeling assured to struggling with despair. That hope, as depicted in the Word of God, doesn’t seem to relate to the common man’s experience. But it points to the fact that we have been mistaken about the nature of true hope.

Most of us are prone to treat hope as part of our wishful thinking. We wish for something we desire and we hope to acquire that which is our heart’s desire.

The outcome is predictable: we are elated when we get what we want; we are devastated when our desires are unfulfilled. This is false hope.

Forsaken?

There is another common manifestation of hope that is even more severe.

I have lost count of the number of times a Christian had been diagnosed with advanced cancer and he was told by well-meaning but misguided individuals that:

  1. They had a prophetic word from the Lord that He would deliver the sick person from the cancer; or
  2. It was not the Lord’s will for His children to have cancer and therefore the sick person would be cured.

There is no place in the Bible that teaches it is the Lord’s intent for His children to enjoy perpetual good health on this side of eternity.

What always happened was that the sick one and his family would hang on to that prophetic pronouncement like it was absolutely going to happen. Some ill-advised ones even followed really bad advice to just “go by faith” without conventional medical therapy.

None of those I knew of were delivered; they have all gone home to the Lord. Tragically, a few died in bitterness because the Lord had not miraculously healed them.

Did God forsake His children when they were critically ill and in need of His healing?

Misplaced or false?

God does not fulfil that which He has not promised.

There is no place in the Bible that teaches that it is the Lord’s intent for His children to enjoy perpetual good health on this side of eternity.

If and when God has promised, our proper response is to believe and accept His promises.

On the contrary, there are many places in His Word that remind us that this is not our real home and that we are just passing through.

To claim God’s promise when He has not offered one, to offer divine intervention without the Lord’s authority, is dangerous behaviour. This, too, is false hope.

Our true Hope

What, then, is biblical hope?

Biblical hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised – its strength is in His faithfulness. Examples are:

  • Abraham and Sarah would have a son even though they were very old.
  • God would send the Messiah through a virgin.
  • Jesus would die and rise again in three days.
  • We will be with Him in a mansion with many rooms eternally.
  • Jesus will come again as our Judge.

Biblical hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised; its strength is in His faithfulness.

If and when God makes promises to us, our proper response is to believe and accept His promises – that is the basis of true hope.

This is an unshakable hope that underpins the tree planted by the river in Jeremiah 17:7-8. With such hope, we will not fear the heat nor be anxious in a drought.

My hope is real because my hope is in my Lord Jesus Christ.

Burnt and scarred, but this migrant worker embraces love and hope


This was first published on Dr Tan Poh Kiang’s blog and is republished with permission. 

Reflection and Discussion

  1. What are the promises that God has given you that you can put your hope in? 
  2. God is steadfast and faithful even amidst overwhelming circumstances. Is there an area of your life that you need to reaffirm and renew your hope in Him? 
  3. Who are your loved ones who do not yet know our Lord Jesus, the True Hope? Spend a few minutes to pray for them. 
About the author

Dr Tan Poh Kiang

Dr Tan Poh Kiang is privileged to serve as a general practitioner in the community while called to volunteer as president in HCA Hospice Care. His ministry is supported by his wife, Joan, and daughters, Ella and Alexandra. He worships at Pentecost Methodist Church.