As we take a look at the role of hope in the sanctification process, it’s important to understand that much of the hope that is provided to those who need it most is a false hope.  This kind of hope rests on an unbiblical foundation and will inevitably crumble. True hope, however, rests on a solid biblical foundation and will endure.  In the book, Introduction to Biblical Counseling, Wayne Mack contributed a number of chapters.  One of those chapters is ‘Instilling Hope in the Counselee,’ where he outlines the difference between false hope and true hope. Here are 5 characteristics of false hope.

5 Characteristics of false hope

False hope is based on human ideas of what is pleasurable and desirable

  • Many people think their problems will go away if they can just get what they want. “If I could just get married, my problems would be solved,” or “If I just had a better job, I would be easier to live with.” This places the objects of people’s desire in the physical realm rather than the spiritual, temporal rather than eternal.  Because God has not promised them freedom from trials in this world (see John 16:33 and James 1:2-4), they become disillusioned when they do not get what they want.

False hope is based on a denial of reality

  • Dr Mack once counseled a young man who wanted to make a living as a musician. Some of this young man’s friends encouraged him in that pursuit because they didn’t want to hurt him.  But, in reality, he did not have any musical ability.  He though he did, but he did not.

False hope is based on mystical or magical thinking

  • Sometimes Christians place their hope in fanciful ides that have not biblical substance. Consider one who leaves “Christian music” playing 24/7 in their home to ward off evil spirits.

False hope is based on an unbiblical view of prayer

  • Christians sometimes believe that prayer is all God requires them to do, as if it is a magic formula. Mack calls this the “quarterback approach” to spirituality – we pass the ball or hand off to God (by praying) and expect Him to run it across the goal line without any help from us.  But, God never promised we would reach the goal of godliness without strenuous personal effort (I Tim 4:7b).  Compare Matthew 6:11 and II Thessalonians 3:10. We are to pray that God will provide what we need, but we must not expect it to fall from Heaven.  We need to work for them with abilities God gave us.  So, even the hope we place in prayer can be false in we hope that prayer alone will take care of everything.

False hope is based on an improper interpretation of Scripture.

  • Many times people suffer from what’s known as eisogesis, which is the practice of reading personal meaning into a text of Scripture. They often seek guidance by randomly selecting a verse (sometimes even with their eyes closed) and assigning meaning to it regardless of the context.
  • Or they may build an entire way of thinking around a misunderstanding of a text. For example, someone may believe that “if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it will be done for them by My Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 18:19).  They seek out a friend who agrees with them, prays for that thing, and expects God to provide.

We must be willing to examine and challenge the basis for our hope.  We must also be willing to examine and challenge the basis for hope of others as we minister and care for those around us, and avoid providing false hope for temporary comfort.

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