Hope, The Neglected One of the Big Three

I say to my son, “I hope to come out and see you this spring.” What do I mean by that? I mean that I have an expectation that I will be able to take a trip and go to visit my son. There is a possibility that it may not happen because we cannot tell the future, but we are certain if everything goes well this trip will become a reality. It is a future expectation. It is dependent on circumstances. I do have a belief that there is a very strong possibility that it can be accomplished. I have confidence that this can and will happen. Hope is a strong component of optimism about the future. It can give us great strength if our hope is in the right things. To be without hope is to be most miserable. Hopelessness crushes the spirit and the will to live.

There are some authors that I simply refuse to read. Some of them are considered the greatest writers of their time. One is Steinbeck. I had to read several of his works in school and I said, “Never again.” Another is Hemmingway. It’s not that I’m close minded. I only have ”x” amount of time in my life so I must choose carefully how to spend it. We did however, watch the classic movie For Whom the Bell Tolls. The setting is the Spanish Civil War in 1937. The last scene is so pathetic! The main character Robert Jordan, who loves the girl Maria, gets injured while escaping the enemy. His horse gets hit, Robert falls off, the horse falls on him and he breaks his leg. He can no longer ride. He tells Maria that she must go with the others — what he has to do now he must do alone. There will be no “trip to America for us this time.” He insists over and over that when she leaves him he will be with her. They are the same, a part of each other. She is him and he is her. She must live on for “them.” Robert Jordan awaits his death feeling “his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest.” This theme is repeated a number of times in the book showing his full integration with the earth.

I have often heard similar explanations in other books and movies. The story is that one who dies, lives on in the hearts and minds of those who loved them. You will take them with you in your heart and your mind. They will live on through you. There is some truth to that, but oh what pitiful comfort that is to one who is dying and then even more so to the one who is left behind! Is that all there is to a human life — a memory in the mind of some other human?

This is only so pitiful because most of the world refuses to acknowledge that there is so much more. In an atheistic world view, this is as good as it gets. There is no recognition of the fact that life was created by God and it is eternal. There is no explanation for why there is so much evil in the world. There is no accountability required so that we will choose to do good and not evil — to love and not hate — to act selflessly with concern for others. These things don’t come naturally to self-centered human beings. Only the love of Christ can completely transform an individual and help him to act selflessly and lovingly to others.

In both the book and the movie, suicide looms as an alternative to suffering. Many characters are prepared to kill themselves or a fellow human being if necessary to avoid capture. Robert Jordan understands this, but he doesn’t approve of suicide. His father committed it and Robert sees it as cowardly. Yet, he will oblige another who wants it if it is required. “You have to be awfully occupied with yourself to do a thing like that,” he says in the book. With this I actually agree. Focus on self is what the world is all about these days, especially in American culture. There are so many people around us who need to know the way of repentance and faith toward Christ, that there isn’t time to be absorbed in our own wants. Surely to take one’s own life is incredibly selfish and sad — a destruction of something God has created.

Before I get to the good news of the hope of the Christian, let me point out that the people in our world are extremely self-centered. There is a very popular song by John Lennon called Imagine. In it, he says imagine there is no heaven, no hell, no countries, nothing [worthy] to die for, no religion, no possessions, no greed or hunger, everyone sharing — the world will live as one. Have you ever thought about these words and what they mean? This song promotes atheism. Lennon said, “I don’t believe in the Bible. I don’t believe in Jesus. I believe in me, Yoko and me, that’s reality.” What a selfish and uncaring attitude that is! In Lennon’s world, who would make sure that everyone had the same level of living? Who would decide what to do with orphans, the poor, the sick? Who would insure that there was no greed? Who would provide everyone with food? Who would protect others from evil? What about faith, hope and justice? Do you want to live without those? He would begrudge people the enjoyment of the fruits of their labor, the satisfaction and reward of doing meaningful work, of caring for others around them, of having countries that protect them, and especially the blessing of knowing the truth — that there is a Saviour and a better world coming.

The common thinking about simply remembering loved ones has always bothered me. It seems so trivial. That’s the best you can do, remember them and carry fond memories of them in your heart and mind? The Lord designed human life to continue in fellowship with Him. There is a problem with that because man rebels against God every day. This sin separates us from fellowship with Him. The good news is that there is a way to be reconciled again. Through repentance (a complete turn around and change of mind which involves seeing ourselves as God does — sinners worthy of punishment and hell) and faith in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, we can regain our place in the family of God. God never intended for anyone to suffer in hell. The only reason they do is because they will not give up their will to His. Because they love running their own life and continuing in their sin, they will share the same fate as Satan and his crowd who rebelled against God.

Now that we have the problem defined and the solution prescribed, we can move on. Imagine knowing with absolute certainty that death is just a passing from one life to an even better one. Imagine knowing that when you make that passage, loved ones will be waiting for you on the other side to welcome you home. Imagine that in the new world to which you go, there is no suffering, no weeping, no sadness, no hunger, no sickness, no evil, no crime, no injustice. Imagine that it will be without end, this joy that is indescribable. Imagine that there will be fellowship with loved ones and others that is totally satisfying and is not bounded by time constraints. Imagine that there will be the most satisfying work to do and things to accomplish — things to learn, things to experience that you never dreamed of before — a chance to totally immerse yourself in learning a skill or field of knowledge that you never had time to fully explore in earthly life. Imagine a body and mind that is perfect and whole. Imagine seeing the places that you could not visit before, but now you can and with those whom you love. All of these things and more can be reality. It is gained by believing, trusting, and repenting in the way that God describes in His Word.

God designed us for fellowship with Him. We were not designed to hate, to kill each other or to be cruel as we see mankind doing every day in our present world. When Adam and Eve lived in the garden, God walked with them and fellowshipped with them every evening. He gave them the most beautiful place on earth in which to live. All the necessary things for a full and enriched life were provided. They cast it away with their pride and rebellion. The good news is that it can be gained again.

Hope is the most powerful and comforting force on earth. I am not talking about hope in the simple terms of a mere expectation and desire as in Greek literature. I am talking about hope in God to fulfill all He has promised. The hope of a Christian is not fleeting or unpredictable. It is a sure thing. It has been provided by God and is therefore an absolutely secure promise of things to come. Eternal salvation, once obtained, cannot be taken away. See Romans 8:38,39.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord His God: which made heaven, and earth, the sea and all that therein is: which keepeth truth forever . . .The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord. Psalm 146:5,6,10.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7,8

For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope, for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Romans 8:24,25

Where does this hope come from? Romans 15:4 tells us it comes from the Scriptures which were written down that we might have hope and comfort. It is the hope of heaven that allows us to endure suffering here. It comforts us in the losses that we experience. Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:19) It is the hope for a wonderful and everlasting future that keeps us going. We can have that hope because Christ conquered death. He is the only one that has done so and can do so. His example of life after death is our hope, too. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” says Paul in 1 Cor. 15:26. That is because all things are under the feet / control of Christ. When we have Christ in us, we also have the hope of glory to come.

We are told to be

“putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” 1 Thess. 5:8-11.

The hope we have is the knowledge that those who have died and gone on before us will be with the Lord because Christ has conquered death. When the rapture occurs, they will be coming with Him in the air to meet those Christians who are still alive and removed from the earth at that time.

For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort ye one another with these words. 1 Thess. 4:16-18

For the believer, life does not end with the death of this body that we are in now. It doesn’t end for the unbeliever either, but their fate is worse than death. What God created is eternal. Where that eternity is spent is entirely dependent on the choice of the individual and whether he reconciles with God or not.

We hope in the Word, the work of Christ, and in God’s promises (God cannot lie because it is not in His character). “And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.” Psalm 39:7 The disciples and followers of Jesus saw a glorious resurrection just three days after the crucifixion. That one occurrence has sustained countless thousands of believers through the ages knowing that their future was bright and secure. What better way to live is there than to know that a glorious future with our loved ones and other believers awaits us without any of the pain and heartache that is so abundant on planet earth? None that I know of.

If I thought that all of the work I had done and time I had invested in my family and friends just ended with death, I would give up. What purpose would there be in life? I would just indulge myself in any way I wished and could afford.

I wish I could have my adult children and their spouses in our neighborhood. I would rather see them and my grandchildren every day and have them live next door to me. My parents always lived far away after I grew up. There just isn’t enough time to spend with loved ones now. How amazingly wonderful it is to know that all of that lost time can be made up when we are reunited in heaven! Who wouldn’t want to look forward to that? This life is just a moment on the eternal scale. To spend future time with loved ones, to learn even more about them, to know them intimately and to be present with the Lord who made it all possible is the most wonderful gift of all. It’s the hope that makes all of these current earthly trials bearable and worthwhile. Seek the Lord while He may be found and make your future secure. Then work on those around you so they can be with you in glory.

But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 1 Cor. 2:9,10.

Be comforted! We have a glorious future in store far above what we can even dream up. Think on that!!

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