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What is the difference between faith and hope?

What is the difference between faith and hope?

No one enters into the olympics without training.  That training is faith in action.  The athletes believe those who have gone before them and their trainers that they have what it takes to compete, if only they will faithfully commit to their training and keep going. Olympic competitors hope to win a medal, but until the line is crossed or the final whistle is blown, that hope is not confirmed.  It doesn’t mean that hope is not a powerful force however. 

When Mo Farah the expected winner of the 10,000m Olympics final fell down during the race he was suddenly overcome by emotions he told the BBC in an interview.  He said that overcoming those emotions was the most difficult part.  Those emotions encouraged him to give up and give into the pain, and probably shame he felt at falling, but he managed to put them to one side.  He got back up, reminded himself of the training he had done for the race and in the last lap overtook the race leader and won! My husband, Mark was in the stadium the night of the race.  He said the crowd went crazy and leapt to their feet in the final lap as he ran into victory. 


When Mo got back up he didn’t know if he could still win the race.  He didn’t know if those seconds had cost him the title and a gold medal or if he still had a chance.  But he had a hope.  Hope encouraged him to get up and keep running.  Hope burned in his heart and spurred him on to the end. Hope encouraged him to keep fighting forward. 

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love
— 1 Corinthians 13:13a

Faith and hope are intertwined.  They work together.  

They are both a belief in something that is unseen.  

You hope for something you have faith in, and you have faith in something you hope for, so what exactly is the difference between hope and faith? 


When I google researched the difference, one of the first things that came up was an exploration by Martin Luther.  You can read the full text there, but here are somethings I have learned about the difference: 


1. The origin / need of faith and hope is different.  Faith was needed and present before the fall.  It was needed and present before life was created.  Hope on the other hand only came into play when sin came into the world.  Faith is needed on the good days and the bad days, and although we may still hope for something on a good day, it springs into real action in the face of opposition. 


2. Faith is predominately demonstrated in action - in walking out in obedience the trust that we have in God in the physical realm.  Hope on the other hand is active inside our minds and hearts.  Outwardly we may be physically doing nothing but waiting, but internally we are fighting to believe in God and still trust Him.  Hope if often what we need when we can do nothing. 


3.  Hope can be a tiny candle or roaring wildfire.  Although hope comes into play in the midst of opposition and involves waiting, perhaps the best verb associated with hope is ‘standing firm’.  It is our role and responsibility as believers to declare the truth and encourage ourselves to stand firm in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations, and fan into flame hope through faith in God’s promises. 


4. If faith was personified, he would be like a teacher or judge, declaring the truth and seeking it out.  If hope was personified it would be like an army captain - fighting against weakness, impatience and desperation.  It is as if the army captain, Hope, takes hold of the truth that Faith teaches and declares and encourages us to keep believing in spite of what we can see. (These were Luther’s ideas.) 


5. Faith is a ship, hope is the anchor.  If you were going on a long journey to discover new lands 500 years ago you would need a sturdy ship that you had faith would get you there.  Boarding the ship you would put your faith into the ship.  However, when the storms came and the ship was being attacked on all sides, it would be the anchor of hope that would sustain you in the midst of the difficulties.  The effectiveness of an anchor in a storm is that it stops the ship from drifting into the rocks or off course in the midst of the storms.  

The explorations of faith and hope have brought Hope alive to me in a new way.  I guess because hope is predominately strong internally, and faith strong as it is externally demonstrated, I have never rated hope much.  I have always seen her as vague and pretty, not strong and determined. But learning about the difference between hope and faith caused me to see hope differently and write about what I now saw.  You can read about that in last week's post: when hope is not vague or pretty.  

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
— Romans 8:24

What about you? What is the difference between faith and hope for you? How does that play out in your life?  

When I am feeling hopeless

When I am feeling hopeless

When hope is not vague or pretty

When hope is not vague or pretty