It is amazing how much hope you can find when you look hard for it, and hope is a desperately needed power in our lives. It is the river of joy that flows back to us from the final triumph of God, and "the joy of the Lord is our strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). We simply cannot live without hope—let alone flourish in the cause of God.
So maybe we should go harder after hope than we do. I have in mind specifically the most exhilarating hope of all—namely, the hope that God's saving purposes are now triumphing in the world and will one day hold sway over all creation.
How shall we go harder after this hope? First of all, we can't do it alone. Without each other's cheering exhortations we sink. God saves one from despair by giving another a vision of hope. He does not always come directly. God's work of encouragement in you saves me. His work of encouragement in me saves you.
Second, we need to be intentional and disciplined. This is too important to leave to chance or coincidence. Emotional strength can be fed and nurtured just like physical strength can. If we make up our minds to become strong, we can do it. Most of us leave the resources of hope to happenstance and then wonder why we are so often disheartened.
I am proposing that we get as serious about strengthening hope in the triumph of God as we are about earning a living. It is amazing how we manage to get up and go to work. Only the most severe cases of depression keep us out of work and require hospitalization or home rest. So I suggest that we go as hard and as systematically after hope as we do after the money that feeds our less important need for food.
Here's my idea: Find a few people who will pledge to meet for a few months together specifically to stoke the fire of hope in the triumph of God. Not less than three. It could be a dozen. Meet perhaps for breakfast or lunch somewhere for about an hour, maybe once every two weeks; but if you have time, every week.
Let's call them Clusters of Hope! Remember, it will take some diligent pursuit. One of the reasons we do not find hope is because we do not seek it with the same discipline we use to get to work in the morning. But it is more important than getting to work!
Here is what I suggest happens in a Cluster of Hope: At each gathering an assignment is given to three people for the next session. One will come with a text from the Bible that stirs up hope in the triumph of God over the forces of unbelief and evil and pain. That person will read it and tell why it gives hope. Five to ten minutes perhaps. Others can make comments.
The second person is assigned to come with a story from a biography or a history book that gives a living illustration of God's faithfulness and power in spreading his kingdom. The person can tell it or read it. Others can make comments. Five or ten minutes.
The third person is assigned to come with a report of a contemporary happening or development that illustrates God's triumphant movement in the world today.
Finally, on the basis of the Bible, biography and contemporary developments, there would be a session of prayer that God's cause would prosper, that we would feel the hope of his victory and that the personal problems of our little lives would be swallowed up in the great God of hope who is at work in such tremendous ways in the world today.
Then each meeting a different three people would be given the assignments.
All this will require that people be sniffing out and tracking down Bible promises and biographical tales of victory and contemporary movements in the kingdom. But that's exactly what we need to do. Have we not been assuming that the precious commodity of HOPE will somehow take care of itself?
But we don't do that with making a living. We get up and work hard all day to have bread for the stomach and a roof over our head and a car to drive. But is not hope more important than all these? Why then should we not go hard after hope the way we do making a living?
We would read the Bible with new purpose and attention. We would get onto the exciting track of some man or woman that God has used, and ransack their biography in search of the footsteps of God. We would track down the best magazines and books recording the great work of God in our own day.
What a thrilling pursuit we would all be on. And not just for ourselves, but to encourage others, too. And for the cause of the kingdom.
Clusters of Hope! If it sounds like a burden, don't try it. But if it makes sense that hope is more important than making a living and even life itself, then maybe this is a desperately needed discipline.