Without hope life is featureless. With hope, life is in Technicolor. Hope is the expectation that there will be good things in the future. In Dante’s Inferno, emblazoned over the Gates of Hell is, “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here”. The label indicates that there will never be anything good ever again.
When I was in seminary, one of the counseling courses I took had a segment dealing with suicidal people. The emphasis was that for whatever reason those afflicted had lost hope. They were so caught up in the pressure, ennui or fear that they could see nothing but the continuation of an intolerable repetition of days in the same state. They could only see death as a relief. Their only scrap of hope was that death would bring nothingness.
As counselors and pastors, our responsibility was to give them hope. Since they saw no future in this life, first we had to give them a future. We did this by getting them to do something or to agree to a meeting sometime in their future. We did not need to address their state right away, but worked on pushing back the irrevocable decision to end their lives.
Once we got such an agreement, the next step was to discover how to show them that their situation was not hopeless. We had to avoid giving false hope, because that only kicked the can down the road. When that hope proved false, as counselors we had lost our credibility and their resolve of suicide intensified, most likely beyond recovery.
Robert the Bruce of Scotland (in 1306 A.D.) had been fighting Edward I of England for control of Scotland. He had been defeated six times, and was hiding alone in a barn, despondent. While brooding over his lot, he idly watched a spider trying to fasten its web to a beam. After six failed tries, the spider attempted the seventh and succeeded.
In the depth of despondency, hope in the form of a persistent spider resulted in the seizing of a kingdom. This is the power of hope. Its persistence inspired The Bruce to rally his army. In the next battle they won, and went on to defeat Edward’s General, Comyn, at the Battle of Inverurie in May 1308; he then overran Buchan and defeated the English garrison at Aberdeen. The Bruce reigned as King of Scotland until his death in 1329.
George Washington fought a retreating war with the British in 1777. As the English settled into the comfortable populous cities for the winter, George Washington’s Army settled into Valley Forge just 18 miles from Philadelphia. This was a bit more than a year before he signed the Declaration of Independence. He was fighting the greatest army in the world at the time. He had been in a constant state of retreat to preserve his army. While in Valley Forge, he was safe from attack, because the British had hunkered down in relative ease for the winter.
Washington, however, was losing men. Starvation, disease, malnutrition, and exposure killed more than 2,500 American soldiers by the end of February, 1778. In addition, men whose enlistments expired left for home. His situation was desperate. Continental Congress could not supply his men. Foreign nations, even enemies of England, were unwilling to loan money to a losing cause. The American General needed something to give his men, his nation and foreign lenders hope.
On Christmas, he made a daring crossing of the Delaware River to attack the elite Hessian mercenary force at Trenton. His surprise attack was eminently successful. This proved that the American “rag tag’ army was equal to face and defeat the British.
My climbing partner and I were rock climbing Castle Rock just off U. S. Highway 2, west of Leavenworth, WA. The first portion is a monolith that has cracked away from the main peak. You attain the relatively flat top of the monolith, but there in front of you is a narrow crevasse about 4 feet across, but 30 or 40 feet deep. There is a ledge on the main peak within arm’s reach, if one leaned out over the crevasse. To the gain main portion you must do what climbers call a mantle move. It is like putting your palms on a fireplace mantle and levering you body up to the place where you can put a knee on the mantle.
This is not a difficult technical move, but with the crevasse yawning below it is a difficult psychological one. I attempted it twice and failed regaining the flat top of the monolith with some difficulty, out of breath and heart surging.
I looked at it and said to myself, “Ted! It’s not that difficult! You CAN DO IT!” In one continuous move, I leaned over, mantled up, placed my knee and attained the ledge. I just needed the reassuring hope that It could be done and I had the ability to do it.
Earlier in life, I was a young Real Estate Salesman. I was unsuccessful and discouraged. I talked with a successful salesman. He taught me the “Vicious Spiral” and the “Successful Spiral”. Human nature projects the past into the future. One failure tends to predispose one to another failure. This reinforces the downward spiral of failure. Without some intervention, the downward spiral continues to complete defeat. In contrast the successful spiral builds on a success, which predisposes one to expect the next success and achieve it, building into an ever increasing record of successes.
Good salespeople do not allow a failed sale to influence their attitude toward the next one. They retain hope in their abilities and retain an attitude that projects confidence. This, in turn, evokes trust in clients who begin to trust the salesperson to successfully find the right property and help them buy it. The expectant hope in the salesperson communicates hope to the buyer.
This contributes to the success in the current sale and builds hope that the succeeding sales will be successful.
Instead of focusing on what they can do, people too often focus on their emotions. They allow their disappointments to sap the hope for a better outcome. The unhappy result is without hope, a person cannot exert his best effort, and the attempts become a self-fulfilling prophesy. You cannot because without hope you believe you cannot.
Personality conflicts with his superior led to the firing of an engineer. Unhappily, the reason given was incompetence. Essentially, that was a kiss of death. He applied to three different firms. At the first interview the vindictive report of his former manager caused them to reject him. He began to lose hope, so he went to his second interview steeled for the rejection that he expected. Sure enough, they passed him over. By the third interview, it reflected in his demeanor and his “you don’t really want to hire me, do you?” attitude.
He had been out of work so long that to get an income, any income, he took a job at another engineering firm as a mail clerk. He was headed for the disaster of dead end jobs until he died of a broken heart.
As he was passing out the mail, a former associate and a friend discovered him. “What are you doing?” “Oh, I had to take a stop-loss job.” His friend took him to lunch and discovered what had happened. “But you are a good engineer! You can’t settle for this. Your name is on the Richardson Building. It’s on the Century Tower and several other projects in town. Why don’t you lead with those? They will show your competence. Then state clearly the dispute you had with your former manager. Let the interviewer decide whether to believe him or your work.”
As in this case, sometimes it takes a friend who cares to give us hope. Our need for one another is humbling, but essential. “No man is an island.” We are foolish if we insist on “making it on our own.” There are times when one has to do everything by himself. Those times are a minority. By far, the most of life lies in the path accompanied by others. It is important to be willing to lean on others and encourage them to lean on us from time to time.
Often another person has the emotional separation to see a problem we are too close to see. Listening to others with humility and honesty can be a very hope-filled activity. We learn to expect an honest declaration of our unseen needs. This gives us the ability to address the needs and overcome them; when without that other’s insight we would continue down a dead end road.
We live in a prosperous nation. We live in a bountiful country. There are good people all around us. We have the freedom to exercise many of our desires.
Despite all the problems that are real in our lives, nation and world, still for us, there is much to enjoy in life. We too often focus too much on our problems and disappointments. We begin to have tunnel vision focusing too narrowly. We need to “stop and smell the roses”. We need to step back from the difficulties of life and take a broader look at the world and the people around us.
I see the vast majority of people being polite and taking turns. I see people naturally helping others. Day before yesterday, a vehicle had a dead battery. No cars were close by. The driver had no jumper cables. He went over to a vehicle further off. The driver was glad of help and was willing to lend his running vehicle, but he did not have jumper cables. The distressed driver asked another fellow. He could not leave his job, but he loaned his cables. In a trice, with the willing cooperation of two strangers, the engine was running.
Yes, we live in a society that is hopeful at its core. We never have a reason in this life to be hopeless. Even for the destitute there are numerous “safety nets,” from Rescue Missions to government programs.
In this life, we need to be constantly looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead. The hopeless struggle, because depression is waiting to sap their energy, their creativity and their very life force.
I have been encouraging us to have hope in this life. That is important, but there is more. The more is life after death. Many do not believe in it. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” appears to be to philosophy of many. For them hope in this life is all they have.
However, if they are wrong, and there is life, as I know there is, after these bodies die, they may be greatly shocked at what they have missed.
There are three alternatives:
If there is nothing after this life, then why not feast and party, without concern for the long run consequences. So, one destroys his body, it does not matter. It was fun while it lasted. Without consequences of an afterlife, there is no reason to be moral. Clever people can cheat their way through life. Social restrictions are for wimps or those who do have the brains to work the system to their own advantage,
If death is a trap door to misery, then there is no hope in the afterlife. If this is all we have, maybe the memory of the pleasures here and now will be some comfort in the eternal misery. So again, eat, drink and be merry, for this is as good as it gets.
Both of these alternatives offer no future hope–the one is nothing and the other is disaster.
The third possibility is that Death is a stairway to blessedness. Here, too, are two alternatives. One is that everyone gets to be blessed, regardless of how they have lived. This is certainly the depth of injustice. If all the truly evil receive the same life as the ones who have contributed wonderfully to the blessing of others, then what is the point of doing good?
The second alternative of the latter is that it is a combination of both; the evil receive their just reward and the good receive their just reward.
His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!’ (Matthew 25:23)
Here lies the truth. God who has created all that is, including life, and life after death has established the rules for all. He is the Creator, so He gets to set the rules.
Here are the rules simple, direct, understandable:
Sinners go to Hell. Those who do no sin go to heaven. To qualify for an eternal life of blessedness all one has to do is avoid every sin throughout life here. Since all that sin go to an eternity of misery, even one sin qualifies one for Hell.
When I look at my life, I am without hope. Everyone who has been born, lived and died or is going to die is doomed. Because all of us sin, we are doomed to spend eternity in misery. What is the hope in that? None!
God is the Creator. He did not create mankind to be swept into Hell. He created us to love and to love Him. Therefore, God set up a system, whereby all those who love him, God will raise into heaven.
In order for us to receive justice for our sin, he created the system of sacrifice. An innocent life can bear the sins of another into death. The earlier sacrifices were animals. They were a temporary cleansing of a person’s sin. Unhappily, there were many sins not covered by the animal’s death.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. (John 3:16, 17)
To fill in that gap, God chose to be born a man, fully man and fully God. The Son of God took on flesh and became man. He lived a perfect life of no sin. He voluntarily laid down his life for mankind. Therefore, all who believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh, and who died to cleanse their sins, God will save, cleanse of sin and inherit everlasting life of blessedness.
Conversely, all who for any reason do not believe in Jesus as God, exclude themselves from the eternal life of blessedness, and qualify for Hell and an afterlife of misery.
God is a loving father who has loved us so greatly that, to have us with Him in eternity, He paid an extraordinary price. He sent His Son, His only and beloved Son. How many of us would send our son to death to save a prostitute, a rebel, a murderer. The number is so small it vanishes into insignificance.
The other side of this is that the Son of God loves us enough to experience what it was like to live in a limited body, and then to actually, physically die, so that you and I could be with Him for eternity.
Can you see the extent of God’s love? Your embrace of that lover and the surrender of your life to Jesus, the Christ, is the price you pay for eternity in the blessedness of the family of God. God becomes your Farther. Jesus becomes your brother. The Holy Spirit comes to live in you, guiding your along the way in this life to eternal life.
There, my friend, is the love of God.
It is all embracing. It is the epitome of hope. It gives you the promise of eternal life. It gives you a future of blessedness beyond this life. God’s love plants your feet on the stairway to heaven, so that there is not fear in death. What a blessed hope is that! God’s love promises the companionship of the Holy Spirit living in you to be your Guide and Comforter. He teaches you to know Christ and His desires. He fills your spirit with spiritual strength to live this life as an overcomer, and to enter into the eternal Presence of your heavenly father. There you will stand before Him in all His glory and hear Him say words that will thrill your being, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of Your Lord!”
ANSWER: When Adam and Eve sinned, their first awareness was that they were naked. When God exiled them from the Garden of Eden, He sacrificed animals to clothe their nakedness.
Noah took the animals in two by two, but he took extra clean animals for sacrifice.
Abraham built an altar immediately upon arriving in the land God gave him.
Moses received elaborate instructions for an extensive sacrificial system–burnt offering for sin; thank offering, votive or good will offerings, meat (cereal) offerings, offering on the new moon, offering to redeem the first-born son, the offering of Passover, First Fruits, Succoth, the Day of Atonement.
The concept is that a person’s sins separate him from a righteous and holy God. To propitiate one’s sin one must sacrifice an innocent victim. The most common sacrifice was a lamb. For the poor, it was a dove.
The understanding was that the life was in the blood. Therefore, sprinkling the lifeblood of the victim was a propitiating sacrifice. To propitiate is to cause one to be favorably inclined, to appease or conciliate. Thus, the sacrifice of an innocent victim was what God required to appeased His wrath against sin.
God teaches us that because He is perfectly and infinitely righteous, any sin is an offense against Him and evokes His wrath. The perpetrator is condemned in the very act of unrighteousness. Thus, God’s wrath must be propitiated. An innocent victim was a stopgap. Since people sinned every day, the people had to repeat the sacrifice often.
The animal sacrifice continued in the Temple until the Romans finally destroyed it in 70 A.D.
However, in the meantime, Jesus the God/man was born lived and was crucified. God’s Son was the ultimate innocent victim. Because He loved mankind and wanted us to be with Him in eternity, Jesus went willingly to the cross. His innocent death propitiated God’s wrath against all who embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Sin strips away our righteousness, leaving us naked. Jesus through His sacrificial death and our surrender to Him, reclothes us in His righteousness. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. He died in our place. Jesus with his death paid the ransom for us to redeem us. Jesus’ lifeblood was the cleansing agent for our sin.
Because the Father loves the Son, and because the Son died in our place, when the Father looks at us and sees Christ’s blood on us and us clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we are accepted in the beloved!
Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him. He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.
I come to You, my Father, because I am eternally grateful for Your love and provision for me and my family. You have poured out Your love to each and all of us. You have selected us to be adopted into Your family. Out of all the billions of people who have ever lived and ever will live, You sent Your Holy Spirit to draw us into Your heart.
We were lost and we didn’t even know it. Now that You, Holy Spirit have called us we have been adopted into God’s family. It is marvelous what You have done in quickening our spirits and in filling us with Your grace. You have bestowed upon us manifold gifts and promises of future grace.
Jesus, thank You for bearing our sins on the cross and taking them to death with You in Your actual death. I am amazed when I consider what You went through to redeem me. You were severely beaten, your were brutally flogged, they crammed the crown of thorns on your brow, they forced You to carry the heavy, rough cross painfully on your bleeding back, and then they pierced your hands and feet, pounding in the spikes. After that excruciating pain they hoisted You up to hang from the wounds. You suffered the agony of Your injuries, the agony of thirst and agony of muscle cramps from dehydration. And worst of all You became the sin bearer with all my sin. Then Your righteous Father who will not look upon sin, turned away from You. That must have been the greatest agony of all, the just penalty for sin, abandonment by Your Father.
My Jesus, Your love is so great for me that You, knowing beforehand what you would suffer, willingly bore my penalty on the cross. Oh, my God! I thank You. I love You. I am humbled and deeply honored that You have embraced me as Your adopted brother. You are my Shepherd and You provide all I need. You have sent the Holy Spirit to seek me out and lead me to You. You are my King and I am Your slave. And yet, You raise me up and call me friend. You have amazing love.
Holy God I have so little to give, but in thanksgiving I give my life to You. I am Yours to command. My heart is willing to do anything to show my gratitude. While I know I can never repay the astounding debt I owe You, I give You all I am and ever will be.
Even in offering this is, I realize that I am bound in flesh. What I will, I cannot do. I am fickle, loving you one minute and forgetting I am Yours the next. Have patience with me, my most gracious Father. Send the Holy Spirit to convict me of my sins of distraction from Your glory, sins of being more concerned about the opinions of other people than Your opinion of me; more wrapped up in me than devoted to You. My God, O, my God, deliver me from this bondage to my fleshly nature.
You are the Loving God. You are the ultimate power in all Creation. Your judgments are right and true. Your mercy is beyond my ability to comprehend. Your glory is so magnificent that in my flesh it would consume me. You are the only, true God!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Glory, and blessing and honor be to You forever! Amen!