What’s the difference between hoping and believing?
Asking a few life questions can help us to discern whether we hope or believe something. For the married folks….do you hope or believe that your spouse will be faithful? Some practical people will say that we are all human and lean towards hoping for fidelity rather than believing for it. Next question, for the folks still in school…do you believe your father will give you lunch money tomorrow? If he has given you lunch money without a hitch for your entire educational career so far, you most likely more than hope that he will give you lunch money; you more than likely believe that he will. For the working folks…do you believe that you will get your paycheck at the end of the month? If you work for a reputable organization with proven profitability and integrity over the years and decades, you probably believe. If on the other hand, you work for a small family business that is oftentimes delayed with salaries or sometimes offer goods for pay, you most likely hope to get paid, rather than believe you will get paid. See where I am going?
Hope is an optimistic desire for something to happen. Hope is good-natured. It is positive. It is good. Believing on the other hand, takes it further. It is confidence that a particular thing will happen. It is certainty for a particular outcome. That confidence has its root in the character of the person who is able to honour your needs or requests. Now, most God-fearing people put their hope and belief in the sovereign God. They hope because God is a good God and is presiding over the world. They hope He will smile on them and that His goodness will manifest in their lives. On the other hand, people who believe in God tend to believe because they recognize that He has been giving them “lunch money” for their entire lives. So now they have come to trust and expect Him to provide their needs. Sometimes, it’s not the length of time that God has been showing Himself to be faithful; sometimes people who believe, believe because God promised it in His Word or He gave a rhema word to them on a particular situation. Because God’s word does not return to Him void, but accomplishes in our lives that which He pleases, we believe that Word and hang on to its truth even when the physical evidence says otherwise.
For the child of God to live a victorious life that is ordered by God, he must believe. Let me put it another way, for the believer to live a victorious life, he must believe. Kinda goes without saying, right? He must believe that God is, and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. She must believe that when she asks, seeks or knocks, that the door will be opened unto her. He must believe in the Son of God in order to have access to eternal life; to enter the Kingdom of God. Believing is your currency in the Kingdom. Hoping has its place. You can hope when you don’t quite know the mind of God. But if God has promised, or has spoken or has been faithfully giving you ‘lunch money’, you must activate His power in your life by believing.
I remember the passage about David fasting and praying for days that God would spare his love child with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12). God didn’t. David was hoping that God would change His mind. But God had already spoken His word of judgment and death. The baby died as God had declared.
And then there is the passage about the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), who not only hoped but believed. Indeed, the centurion’s belief is a glimpse of what is available to the believer. He just wanted Jesus to speak the Word about his sick servant and He would believe it wholeheartedly. Jesus marveled at this level of believing. We must believe to activate the power of God. Our belief however isn’t based on a gut feeling or desire, but on the word of God.
When I examine my own life, I recognize that because God didn’t answer some of my requests with a yes, I started shifting my position from believing to merely hoping, and them moving from hoping to…well God is sovereign….so He will do what He will do and I am ok with that. Well God is sovereign and He will do what He will do and I am ok with that. But when I combed through the circumstances in which God allegedly “failed me” I couldn’t see where God had gone against His word. It makes sense then to live my life always seeking and knowing God’s word. “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto m path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Let’s take this idea into reality then.
How can we believe practically when the cupboard is empty, when the child is sick, when the spouse has walked out? You go back to God and sit in His presence, you remind yourself of His goodness; you saturate yourself in His glory; you worship Him. Our hope in a great God usually brings us here. You then bring your request, petition and concern before Him with all kinds of prayers and supplication and wait for His voice. Let Him speak. He still speaks; in a still small voice, in dreams and visions, in prophecies, through His written word.
He may say:
About the empty cupboard….
- “Fill the jars with water…” John 2:7
- “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.” 2 Kings 4:3
- “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
About the sick person….
- “I will come and heal him…” Matthew 8: 7
About the spouse who has walked out….
- “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:9
- “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.” 1 Corinthians 7:15
And when God has spoken to you, you clutch on to His Word like how a drowning man clutches for that rescuing paddle or donut plunged into a violent sea. You clutch onto His Word, as though it is the life that it is. Behold, I give you Word that is Spirit that is Life, Jesus says. And so then, deciding to believe is a decision to go back to studying God’s word and sitting in His glorious presence and waiting for His word.
Shelly-Ann Harris is the Editorial Director for Family and Faith Magazine. Email her at