“Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9,10).
The Christian’s hope is not an advanced subject which is only to be understood or achieved through years of experience. Rather, it is part of the Gospel, something to be known and enjoyed from the very beginning. The Colossian believers heard of “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” when they heard “the word of the truth of the Gospel” (Colossians 1:5). Likewise, the Thessalonians were still babes in Christ when Paul wrote his first letter to them, every chapter of which speaks of the coming of the Lord. There were details of His coming about which they needed further instruction, but the fact of His coming again was known to them from the hour of their conversion.
In the more recent history of the church, the coming of the Lord—the proper hope of the Christian—was largely ignored or relegated to a future so hazy and far distant that it excited little influence as a hope. Now it occupies a prominent place in the minds of most evangelical Christians, and has for many decades been preached with increasing conviction and clearness. The danger with us, then, is that we may hold the coming of the Lord as an item in our theology without it being a hope, potent to influence our lives.
We earnestly ask for close attention to this point and for an honest spirit of self-examination and self-judgment. We challenge especially every Christian young man or young woman as to whether they are “like unto men that wait for their lord” (Luke 12:36). Are you shaping your course through the world in view of the day of Christ’s appearing, or are you conforming to the world’s ways and spirit, and seeking your own things rather than the things of your Master, the Lord Jesus Christ?
It has been said that God has more to do in us than by us. Let us then test ourselves about the work of God in us. Brother or sister in Christ, is the hope burning brightly in your soul? Faith gives you an object that instantly sets your course across this world. Love delivers you from a self-centered existence, and sets you at the happy task of laboring for Christ’s glory and the good of others. Hope steadies your soul, and nerves you with the absolute certainty of final victory and glory.
When hope burns brightly, the service of God is diligently pursued. It has been supposed by some that the hope of the coming of the Lord is an unpractical and visionary thing, that those whose hearts are filled with it are thereby left idly standing and “gazing up into heaven” like the “men of Galilee” (Acts 1:11). It is possible, no doubt, to misuse the Christian hope; we may hold the doctrine of the second advent and at the same time we may be very active in the pursuit of earthly pleasure. But if His coming holds our hearts as a burning and shining hope, it will be far otherwise: we shall be diligent servants of God.
Shall we close by once more testing ourselves? What is the aim and purpose of my life? We are all serving something or somebody. Am I serving the living and true God or my own ease and convenience, my own whims and pleasures? Is the truth of the second advent of Christ to me a mere doctrine, a matter of theology, or is it a bright, an inspiring, and a compelling HOPE?
—Adapted from “The Hope, and its Effects” by F. B. Hole.