Holy Saturday Devotion

Holy Saturday Devotion

Text: Philippians 3:12–21

Hope is a belief about the future of things. But it’s more than that. Hope is something human beings can’t live without. Christianity is a hope-based religion. It is a future-based religion. It is about what God is doing now, yes, but we can’t know what God is doing now unless we see where everything is headed. Christians must always be “straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13).

Paul is consumed by this future hope in this passage. Just like the sun is overwhelming to your eyes when you look at it, this Christian hope (hope in Christ) should be overwhelming to your heart.

The English word hope isn’t all that helpful for communicating what the Bible is talking about when it uses the Greek word. They both have a future-oriented aspect, but the English word is shallow by comparison. We use the word hope like this: “Do you think so-and-so will happen?” “I sure hope so!” The way we use “hope” in English entails uncertainty about the future. But in the Bible—and here for Paul (although he hasn’t used the Greek word for hope)—hope does not mean a future uncertainty, but exactly the opposite. Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Biblical hope entails confidence.

Hope completely changes how we live our day-to-day lives. Let’s say you are an excellent high school basketball player. In fact, you were the star of the team last year in your junior year. When tryouts come around again, you will be giving it your all, but with a firm confidence that you will make the team. This completely changes the way you practice all off-season. This hope is a confidence that you will be on the team in the coming year, and so that future hope impacts how you live now.

We are hope-based creatures. In fact, we desperately need hope to survive in this life. Why? Because without hope our lives have no meaning, and we can’t bear that possibility. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote that there is “no reason for attributing to a man a significance different in kind from that which belongs to a baboon or a grain of sand,” and adds that when he starts to think about this for too long it is time to “go down stairs and play solitaire” (quoted in Tim Keller, Making Sense of God [New York, NY: Viking, 2016], 67). Essentially, if we have no hope, we have no meaning. We desperately need hope.

What is the Christian hope that Paul is “straining toward”? Two things that it’s not and one thing that it is. First, it is not earthly prosperity. Many people think if they live their life right, God will bless them, and they will live happily ever after. This can’t be what Paul means, because Paul is writing this in prison. Further, Paul writes in verse 10, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

Second, the Christian hope is not escape. Many Christians think hope means we will someday be rescued away from this world to go up into heaven and be away from all this. In verse 20, Paul writes, “Our citizenship is in heaven,” and this has been misunderstood. Remember that Paul is writing to a church in the city of Philippi. Philippi was a colony of the Roman Empire, and one hundred years before Paul wrote this letter, the general of the Roman army gave this piece of land to all his retired soldiers. When we read verse 20, we think Paul means, “We are citizens of heaven, and so we are waiting until the day we can go and live in heaven where we belong.” But that’s not it. If someone in Philippi said, “We are citizens of Rome,” they definitely didn’t mean, “So we are looking forward to going to live there.” The task was exactly the other way around. The task of a Roman citizen in a place like Philippi was to bring Roman culture to the city they were in. But suppose Philippi got taken over by a foreign power. How would the Roman citizens in Philippi handle themselves? They would put their hope in the fact that the Roman emperor (who was called the savior) would come from Rome to Philippi to overthrow the evil powers and establish his rule in that city.

This is what Paul has in mind. The church is a colony of heaven with the responsibility of bringing the culture/rule of heaven here on earth (see N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Epistles [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004], 12428).

So, what is the Christian hope? Our hope is that the true Savior, the true King, Jesus, will come from heaven to earth to change all of this. He will bring heaven to earth. Not save us away from earth to heaven. But without this hope, the world becomes meaningless. Without the victory won by the cross, the world loses its

shimmer.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How does a person’s hope for the future change the way they live in the present? Give an example.
  1. Why is it important to see that the Christian hope is not about material prosperity or escape? 

Big Idea: Whatever our future hope is in will greatly impact how we live in the present day. Seeing our great hope in Christ will transform our lives right now.


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