The word for today is “hope.” The storms of life often threaten to throw us off course. How can we keep our bearing when the wind and waves of trials and tribulations toss us to and fro? In our reading of Colossians 1:3-6, the apostle suggests an answer: “We give thanks…. because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven…” (vs. 4).
In the Word of the Gospel, we hear of the hope reserved for us in the heavens (Strong’s #606, 36). The Greek word translated as “laid up” expresses the sense of a store of blessings that awaits us. They are “stored up” as a treasure kept under guard until its owner comes to claim it.
Begotten to a Living Hope
Extending this thought, St. Peter says that God has “begotten us again to a living hope… to an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (vs. 1 Peter 1:4). The incalculable fortune of God’s grace is eternal and imperishable. Therefore we can be sure that it will be ready for us.
When we have reservations for a banquet or concert, a ticket gives proof of our admission to the event. But what guarantee do we have of our reservation in heaven? James suggests that it is the “word of the truth of the Gospel” (v. 5). Along the same lines, Peter adds that we have been reborn to a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This proclamation means that the Gospel of the Risen Christ is the model and the assurance of our own resurrection. When we are raised to life as Christ was raised, we will claim the precious inheritance that the Word of God promises.
Hope Alive and Active
Yet when the apostle says that our hope is stored up in the heavens for us, we should not get the idea that we can only wait for its promise to be fulfilled in the future. No, Peter emphasizes that ours is a “living hope” (vs. 1 Peter 1:4). Its promise is not meant to be stashed away for some later time. But hope should be alive and active in our hearts and minds. Especially in times of distress, it has the dynamic power of encouragement, resolve, consolation, comfort, and motivation to bear fruit.
Hope Orients Our Lives
More than that, hope is able to orient our lives. To pilot a boat, one does not steer by fighting the wind and waves buffeting the vessel about. You pick out a goal at a distance and confidently head for that destination. Likewise, our hope orients our lives so that whatever happens, whether for good or ill, does not alter our course. The stronger our hope, the more we can endure with joy and prevail with confidence, for the confusion and troubles that surround us cannot divert us from our destination.
According to the Philokalia, faith that is founded on spiritual knowledge “grasps with the aid of hope the things of the future as though they were present” (G.E.H. Palmer 1981, 202-203). How would treating the fulfillment of the promises of God as present with us even now change the way we face the struggles of life? How would the belief that heaven’s treasures are already ours affect our goals and concerns in this world.
Works Cited: G.E.H. Palmer, et. al. Trans. 1981. The Philokalia: the Complete Text Vol. 3. New York: Farber and Farber