“Hope that is seen is not hope” Romans 8:24
Hopelessness is a great human disaster. Hopeless people abound. Life for them is dry, full of despair. They have nothing to look forward to other than pain or grief.
Hopelessness comes in countless expressions, and all of us have felt its cold touch. A student comes into a classroom to find out that the test is today, but thought it was next week. All hope is gone of doing well on that test. You didn’t make the team. Hope disappears.
On into adulthood you feel hope drain away when you didn’t get the job. You were laid off. You were asked to retire early. A future that seemed secure and bright is now full of uncertainty, dark and threatening.
Hopelessness can be much more painful. The phone call from the doctor’s office, “your test results are in Mrs. Smith, the treatments have not been effective. There is nothing else we can do.” I’ve seen hopelessness on scores of different faces, people who had counted on something and yet life stripped away their security. Dreams fade, then die, the embers of hope cool to the ashes of despair.
Then someone or something comes along and reawakens hope, and like rainfall in the dessert, life returns. They have something to cling to, something to live for. That is the power of hope. Hope has an immediate, animating appeal to the soul.
Think of a hopeful response to each of the situations I mentioned earlier. The teacher allows the student to take the test the next day. Another company calls, they want to interview. Another doctor says there is a new treatment. “I can make you feel better.” Hope reawakens!
Just as each of us knows despair, each of us has known the soul-stirring power of hope!
I want you to have hope today. You may have experienced a string of disappointments, or you may have one chronic disappointment. The gray walls of despair may have closed in on you and crushed any glimmer of hope. It’s time to hope again.
This new hope cannot be in humanity or in your power. In fact, that is the source of your despair today. Misplaced hope.
Men are peddlers of hope. We promise solutions in politics, science, health, education. And I thank God for the right use of each of these! Invest yourself in positive way in all of them.
But never forget their limits.
Look at the beginning of the 20th century if you want to see real, human-generated hope. The world was well on the other side of the Enlightenment, and the gears of The Industrial Revolution were beginning to grind at full speed. Science promised a bright new day, and clear thinkers were certain that we had left behind the ravaging wars that plagued the continent and the world.
No one was more hopeful than H. G. Wells. He is best known best known for science fiction works like The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, Time Machine, and War of the Worlds. But he also wrote books with splendid titles like The World Set Free, and later The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind. His novels were utopian, and he believed that humanity would march into a bright new century illuminated by science and human goodwill alone.
Wells went on to live through two world wars, genocides and man-made catastrophes unmatched in history. His last book, Mind at the End of Its Tether, contains his sad conclusion: “Mankind which began in a cave and behind a windbreak will end in the disease-soaked ruins of a slum.” He had placed his hope in humanity and its potential for advancement, but he also discarded belief in God. His hope eventually was crushed.
Do we discard God? Too often we let the clouds of our present-day disappointment obscure the sunshine of a bright eternity promised by God. And before we begin to complain that eternity is a long way off, remember that God’s hopeful eternity works its way back into our daily lives. It’s here and there and all around us. As I often say, you find what you look for in life.
I’d wager everyone reading this believes in God, and if I asked you to place you’d probably say that in the end God’s plan all comes together. Yet today you feel despair.
The heart of the problem is God’s timing. We trust that He’s good, powerful, and active, but He sure is taking His time. We just don’t see the promise fulfilled. He’s. Just. So. Slow.
God’s apparent slowness doesn’t prove the futility of hope, it proves the necessity of hope. Of course, we don’t see the fulfillment. That’s the nature of hope. Paul wrote, “Hope that is seen is not hope” (Rom. 8:24).
Your hope must be bigger than your health, finances, and relationships. Hope in the eventual redemption of the universe. Seriously. That’s the real object of hope, that God will one day make all things right. All things.
Thus, patience is the flip-side of hope. No harvest is immediate. And God deliver us from ignoring the endless ripe fields while we focus on one fallow corner.
The theme of the first Sunday of Advent is hope. We read from the prophets and light the prophets’ candle. Interestingly, the prophets’ words about the coming Light and the wonderful counselor, etc. didn’t come to pass for centuries. Seven centuries for some of the prophecies. All that time the people of Israel waited. Waiting people must be faithful people whatever the circumstances.
So stay hopeful, in God, because hope makes life worth living. No, the promises have not all come to pass, but they will. In God’s time they will. Just walk with Him from now until then.
Dr. Terry Ellis
December 3, 2017