Hope—The Soul's Anchor
“That by two immutable things in which it is 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 steadfast.”—Hebrews 6:18–19
There is an ancient legend that the gods filled a box with blessings and gave it to Pandora, the first woman, for safe keeping. She opened it incautiously and everything in it escaped except hope. But Pandora, with hope in her box, was richer than she could have been if every other blessing had remained without hope. Wealth without hope is poverty. Joy without hope is sorrow. Pleasure without hope is pain. Health without hope is disease. Life without hope is death. Light without hope is darkness. Prosperity without hope is adversity. Take hope out of the world and you have blotted out the sun that rules the day and the stars that rule the night. Hopelessness turns midday into midnight. Pandora can be happy with only hope in her box, but when hope escapes nothing that is left can save her from misery.
Even pagans knew this truth. When Alexander the Great was starting on one of his campaigns of conquest he divided his estates among his generals. He gave to one a province, to another a city and to another a mine. Perdiccas, perceiving that his great leader had reserved nothing for himself, asked: “And what have you?” Alexander answered “Hope.” “Well,” said the generals, “we will surrender these possessions, that we may share with you in the hope of the future.”
The Christian has a three-fold joy coming from the past, present, and future. Paul said, “I am now ready. I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. HENCEFORTH.” The “now” of the present is like a bridge buttressed on one side by the experience of the past and on the other by the hope of the future. He is strong enough for martyrdom in the present because the memory of the past means victory and the hope of the future means glory. The end of time with him is the dawn of eternity.
This “henceforth” rings every bell in heaven and has in it the music of the celestial choir. It makes it worth while to endure and wait. “For the joy that was set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame.” The Via Dolorosa was lighted all the way by hope.
The Basis Of Hope
“By two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie.” My hope is based upon the veracity of God. God has promised, and if He should break a promise He would cease to be God. There is one exception to the Scripture, “With God all things are possible.” It is impossible for Him to lie. And this makes it impossible for me to be disappointed if I base my hope upon His Word. God is conscientious. He does all He says He will do. David Livingstone said, “My God is a gentleman. He keeps His Word.” Basing my hope upon the veracity of God is equal to saying that it is based upon God Himself. Hence Paul could write to Timothy, “The Lord Jesus Christ my hope,” which was an echo of the prophet Joel’s word, “The Lord will be the hope of His people.” The psalmist breathes the same experience in the prayer, “Remember the word unto Thy servant upon which Thou hast caused me to hope” (Psalm 119:49). God, who is from eternity to eternity, is the basis of salvation. After the mountains have crumbled to dust and the empires of Earth have passed away, He will remain “The same yesterday, today, and forever.”
The Certainty Of Hope
Hope is SURE. There is no doubt about it. Doubt is the dagger that kills hope at one thrust. “I hope so” sometimes means “I guess so,” but it is a misuse of a noble word. Quaint Joseph Irons insists that knowledge is more than hope and that every Christian should know rather than hope that he is saved. “Hope, hope, hoping,” he says, “is equivalent to hop, hop, hopping,” and it means a lame, limping Christianity. But Paul says, “We are saved by hope.” Hope is an anchor of the soul that is sure. Hope includes knowledge. I know that I am saved and therefore hope for the “salvation yet to be revealed.” My experience of faith in Christ and the new life which has come into my soul is a matter of knowledge. All this comes through my knowing God in Christ Jesus.
Hope is knowledge illumined and glorified. Hope is assurance radiant. Hope is certainty with its face toward the sunrise.
The Steadfastness Of Hope
“Both sure and steadfast.” It is the anchor that holds the ship against wind and current. A dying Christian sailor said, “The anchor holds.” He saw himself on his vessel in the storm, drifting before wind and wave toward the breakers. The anchor is cast out and for several minutes there is painful suspense. Has the anchor found good grounding or is it dragging with the ship? Suddenly the cable is taut, the ship veers around and becomes steady. The anchor out of sight has gripped the rock and a strong cable holds the entire weight of the ship, cargo and crew. The winds howl and the current swirls along at a rapid pace, the waves beat upon the sides and dash over the decks, but the ship is safe because the anchor holds.
Thus hope is “the anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast.” It holds the soul against the winds and currents that would drive it upon the breakers. Its grounding is in the veracity of God, and its cable is the promise and oath twisted into the one mighty rope that can hold steady any ship that ever sailed on life’s ocean. The howling storm may tear into shreds our philosophical sails, but the anchor of hope holds the soul.
Said a great man, “I cannot say that I have so lived that I am not afraid to die, but I can say that I have so trusted Christ that I am not afraid to die.” Better not afraid to live. Fear of men which we call shame is a current which drifts many a soul to ruin. “Hope maketh not ashamed.” While Christian and Hopeful were crossing the river, Christian was full of fears, but Hopeful said, “Be of good cheer, my brother. I feel the bottom and it is good.” Hope gives good bottom all through life as well as in death. It conquers shame and fear.
During the riots in the West Indies the mob, believing that the religious excitement of the negroes was the cause of the trouble, killed one of the leaders and bringing his ghastly head to an aged pastor said, “You see this. And if you do not stop your praying and shouting your head will be in the same place.” The old man lifted his hands and said solemnly, “Let us pray,” while his humble brethren fell on their knees around him, careless as to whether they lived or died. The simple fervor of their prayers softened the hearts of their prosecutors. It was hope that made them brave.
When Savonarola was offered a cardinal’s red hat, provided he would cease his opposition to the abuses of the papacy, he replied that he preferred a hat made red with his own blood rather than do violence to his conscience. Hope made him courageous. When Christians were being martyred in Madagascar their persecutors tied them to ropes and suspended them over the edge of a precipice, at the bottom of which laid the mangled bodies of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Without exception they all chose death rather than apostasy. It was hope that made them able to do it. They knew that when the body fell the spirit would rise to be with its savior and Lord.