Hope was a commodity that very few in the ancient world knew anything about. Most lived without hope, or any real semblance of it. Theirs was a violent world full of petty gods, where life was short and brutal, lived at the expense of others. Hope simply didn’t come into the picture. And sadly, much the same is still true in our world today. For far too many people around the globe life is still both short and bloody, lived at others expense, full of petty gods and with no real hope.
Hindus can only hope that someday, after countless reincarnations, they might finally be absorbed into the divine like a drop of water in the ocean. Buddhists can only hope that one day they will wake up and realize that everything they have suffered has been because of their own wrong desires. Both Jews and Muslims hope that they can do enough in this life to make up for their sins and appease their respective gods who seem both fickle and vindictive. Not even Jihadist martyrs are actually guaranteed anything from their deity. And for the atheists, everything means nothing, and is going nowhere.
What real hope can there be in any of these worldviews? None. No wonder life for many is still brutish, short, and lived at the expense of others. Most people in the world are quite simply living a life without any real or lasting hope. And why is that? Because that in which they trust just isn’t trustworthy. None of these worldviews can give any true hope, because none of these is ultimately true. There is only one hope for this world. One hope for human life. One hope for you or me or any Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, or Atheist. Christ is that hope … in truth.
And so it is that Paul begins his letter to the little church in Colossae with his customary words of thanksgiving for where those dear Christians find themselves in such a hopeless world: (3-5) We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
You see, unlike so many around them, these people – just like you – are filled with hope. And not the kind of hope that is little more than a dream, a desire that something better might come along. A real, true, solid hope based on real, true solid facts. It is a hope laid up for them and us, in heaven. A hope secured for them by their faith in Christ. A hope that leads them to live a life, not at the expense of others, but in love toward one another. But why should this hope make such a difference in the kind of life one lives?
Paul gives the reason when he says: (5-6) because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing — as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,
A Christian’s new life is no longer short, nor is it cold and brutal. It has no need to live at another’s expense. Instead it is a life of love and service, a fruit of the hope that we have in Christ. And this objective hope comes only through hearing the Word of Truth which is the Gospel. The only thing that can truly change a person is that which is true. The only real and lasting hope is that which is based upon something or someone both real and lasting. Christ is the Truth, He who can be trusted and relied upon. Unlike other worldviews, this one is based upon one single truth – one moment in human history – the resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1Co 15:17-20) Jesus Christ dying for sins and rising for new life is the one thing all other worldviews lack, and that is why they ultimately also lack hope. They lack the truth – the Gospel.
And furthermore, that Gospel is ever bearing fruit and growing, both locally and throughout the world. That’s what it does. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my Word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) This is an encouragement both to the congregations in Colossae and Collingwood and to the individual Christians found in either. God’s Word is powerful and productive. It is never idle. It is always bearing fruit.
How long has the Word been bearing fruit among us? “Ever since the day you heard.” The Word of God bears fruit the moment the Holy Spirit opens our ears and hearts to truly hear it. The moment God sends His servants, like Epaphras or your pastor into the midst of His people to proclaim the truth of the forgiveness of sins and the hope of everlasting life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The moment that Gospel truth is applied to people’s lives in the water and promise of Holy Baptism, or the Body and Blood of Christ himself in the Lord’s Supper.
And so Paul goes on to pray for the Christians at Colossae and for where that Truth of the Gospel will continue to lead them. (9-10) And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Where people continue to hear and grow in their understanding of the Gospel, and receive its blessings in the sacraments, there faith is worked. And where faith is worked, hope springs forth. And where hope is secured in the Truth of God’s Word, fruits pleasing to God cannot help but to follow. And where such fruits are harvested by the saints of God, hope is in turn spread into all the world that so desperately needs something to hope in.
But this walk is not always easy. And so Paul concludes with His hopes for them (and us) as we continue to walk in such a manner worthy of the Lord. (11-14) May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Notice, the hope is not in us and what we can accomplish, but in Christ and in the Truth of what He has already done for us, and is even now doing for others. Delivering from the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of no hope. Transferring to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have been redeemed and forgiven, in whom we have real hope. This is the Truth … Christ is our Hope.