How do hope and faith differ from one another?  That’s sort of the question I recently received from one of our blog readers. In her note, this is what this woman whose first language is Afrikaans actually said.  

”Now, I was thinking…Hope… and Faith…
The Bible has a lot to say bout it… but whats the difference between the two?  I know that faith is the things we hope for and cannot see… but what is hope then?  i did also read in Heb 11 about Moses an Abraham and Noah's 'fait' but can u help me to describe it into words???” 

My answer: it’s good to hear that you are thinking and especially that you are thinking about biblical issues. Growing Christians are thinking people who think about the right things. Growing Christians are people who ask good questions and want to know biblical answers and truth. So, I would venture to say that though you are only a new convert, you are a growing Christian. Never stop asking the right kind of questions and wanting the right kind of answers – biblical answers. 

You’re right, the Bible has a lot to say about faith and hope. In fact, these two qualities are often mentioned together in many passages of Scripture. (See Romans 4:18; 5:2; 15:13; I Cor. 13:13; 2 Cor. 10:15; Gal, 5:5; Col. 1:5; I Thess. 5:8.)  

What’s the difference? In some ways they are so closely related that you can’t have one without the other, except that I suppose you could have faith without having hope. You might have faith that judgment day is coming and not have a confident and joyful and certain expectation of good (which is a biblical definition of hope). Faith doesn’t necessarily lead to hope unless your faith is in something or someone that brings with it or him a confident, joyful, certain expectation of good. We might have faith that something will occur or someone may arrive and not really want that to happen; hence, no hope. On the other hand, if we have faith that something will happen or someone will arrive that will bring good with it or with him we have hope. 

It seems to me that faith precedes hope and, in a sense, you can’t have hope without faith in the promises of God. Faith which involves trust, confidence, belief in God and His promises produces hope. FAITH could be defined as Forsaking All I Trust Him. True faith includes at least three elements: some knowledge of the One whom I am trusting and some knowledge of what He has promised. I can’t and won’t and shouldn’t trust someone or something about which I know nothing. Second, true faith will involve agreement with what that Someone has said or stands for. We might call that assent. In other words, we give assent to Who that Someone is and what that Someone says. And third, it involves commitment or submission to that Someone and what He says. Unless I commit myself to and rely on that Someone and what He says I don’t have saving faith. True faith is more than mental assent or agreement. Saving faith always moves me to action. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17 – 26).   

In our book God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems  we explain true faith this way: “To believe on involves reliance upon; it involves resting your weight on Christ. It involves commitment to Jesus Christ. Commitment is the crowning element of saving faith. This is well illustrated in the physical realm when a patient actually submits to the operating surgeon undergoing an anesthetic, thus literally putting his life in the doctor’s hands. So also, when a sinner puts himself into the hands of the great physician, Jesus Christ, calling upon him to heal him  of the deadly disease of sin, he trusts Christ alone for salvation….The pith, the essence of saving faith lies in this, a casting of myself on Jesus Christ. It is not the life buoy on board the ship that saves the man when he is drowning, nor is it merely his knowledge that it is an excellent and successful invention. No! He must have it around his loins or his hand upon it or else he will sink. Thus it is with saving faith. We must actually commit ourselves unto Jesus, body, soul, and spirit.” 

On the one hand, for the disobedient, unless they repent and commit themselves to Christ and His Word, knowledge of and mental assent to the warnings of God about judgment on our sins will produce despair. On the other hand, for those who sincerely trust and obey, faith in Christ and the warnings of God about judgment on wickedness and sin in the world and on those who persecute and oppose Christians and the cause of Christ will produce hope for the believer. So the same phenomena may produce different results in different people depending on their response to what has been promised or warned as coming.  

Suggestion: take a concordance and look up a number of references to faith and then do the same with references to hope. I think you’ll find that faith and hope for the child of God are always related. The person who doesn’t really have faith will not have a solidly, biblically based, certain, confident expectation of good. A person may have a false hope which is based more on wishful thinking than it is on the certain promises of God. See Job 8:13; 27:8; Psalm 33:17; Proverbs 10:28; 11:7. This kind of false hope will disappoint and perish, while our hope which arises out of faith in the promises of a God who can’t lie, a God who has the power and wisdom to fulfill every promise He has made will most certainly produce in us a joyful and expectant attitude of good in spite of what unpleasant and undesired things may be going on in us or around us.