• How do we stand with them?
A lot of people are talking — and praying — about Ukraine in its struggle against invasion and they are using the word "hope" in that connection.
What do we mean by "hope"? It's a word that can mean different things, depending on whether you mean everyday hope, or the word that is used in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Let's look at both, and also explore how hope relates to faith.
Understanding hope — an introduction
Our everyday use of hope expresses desire — "I hope this rain stops soon". It's an aspiration for dry weather, and it might work out that way, or it might not.
However, the word for hope in the Bible is not about our aspiration, but our sense of being able to rely on God's provision. It's not about expressing our desire for something, but a mental resolution to agree with God's desire — and good intention. Hope is confidence in a good outcome arising out the relationship we have with Him — we know God's character and especially that He is faithful and constant.
Hope and faith work together. Hope is confident about God's intentions for us, and for all those who are His, but it reaches out for something more specific — what is He saying about our situation now? It provides a good foundation, a landing place for the word He may show us, which gives us faith for what He is doing. It is like a frame all ready for the picture that will come. Without hope, we would not expect that word and therefore might not receive it. We would have nowhere to put it.
Bible study — the five strands of hope
1. Our hope is in God — belonging to Him
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Saviour and my God! Psalm 42:5&11, 43:5 NLT
Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:21
Having hope in God means confidence in knowing Him, trusting Him, belonging to Him, having a living relationship and conversation with Him. He is looking out for us!
But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God's entire house. And we are God's house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. Hebrews 3:6 NLT
We are part of the family that Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, has charge of. If we are holding on to our hope in Christ, we are in effect putting Him in charge of whatever is happening around us.
2. Hope in the gospel promise.
Once you were alienated from God... but now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy... and free from accusation if you continue in...the hope held out in the gospel... Col. 1:21-23 excerpt
Hope is ultimately the assurance of salvation held out in the gospel. If we have received Jesus into our heart, trusting in His work for our salvation and not our own, we know that our destiny is with Him. Confidence in the future promise for us, helps us to trust Him in the present.
3. Hope is an inner witness that we have
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in His holy people... Ephesians 1:18 NIV
This is the Holy Spirit, active in our human spirit, heart or soul. He gives us a revelation of the privilege that has been given to us. Because we belong to Jesus, we belong with all His redeemed people. It is something that only becomes apparent when we say "Yes" to Jesus as Saviour and Lord — at which point things we couldn't know intellectually become clear to us spiritually.
4. Hope is the counterpart of faith
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1 NLT
Hope is general while faith is specific. Hope is a general confidence in God's goodness coming through to us because of who He is. Faith is more specific and usually rests on what God has said or shown or highlighted to us. Having a general confidence in our relationship with God makes us expectant. It puts us in the right place to become aware of the specific thing He may be showing us, which causes faith to rise in us.
5. Hope is linked to our present need
He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us. 2 Corinthians 1:10 NIV
Hope removes from us the fear of death and oblivion — or worse. It assures us of our destiny. But God has a purpose and a care for us in the twists and turns of this earthly life. Paul was not spared from extreme danger in shipwrecks, accusations, mob violence and beatings — but he was delivered in them. He says that his relationship with God through Jesus is his confidence that he will continue to be delivered as he faces dangerous situations.
The war zone
This helps us to have a confidence about what God, in His kingdom order, is bringing out of the horrific scenes and reports that are coming out of Ukraine. But this modern, democratic country has an unusually high proportion of people who identify as Christians — two-thirds or even three-quarters according to Pete Greig, of 24-7 Prayer International. And as their faith is being shock-tested, we can be sure that Ukrainian Christians and even those on the fringe are turning to God. How do we stand with them and pray with them?
Their hope is the same as our hope. It's those same five strands. So we can pray for their hope, their confidence in God, to be stronger than ever and for them to hear more specifically about how they should exercise faith day by day, situation by situation.
They may have some things to teach us about this. Here is a story from a reliable source — some of the details you will have seen backed up by news reports — about what some believers in Ukraine are seeing in answer to prayer. It comes from a member of Oasis, a church in Hereford, who has a daughter who belongs to Every Nation Church, Slough, with links to a number of churches in Ukraine: "We heard several stories in our service this morning from our church members and leaders in Ukraine. Stories of missiles/rockets disappearing from the sky and not hitting anywhere, Russian tanks running out of fuel, Russian convoys getting lost and asking locals for help/food/directions, and Russian soldiers sitting down and drinking tea with locals saying that they do not want to fight. We have seven Every Nation churches in Ukraine, all in the west of the country, so they are assisting refugees there. God is doing miracles in the midst of the evil. Prayer is powerful!"