Flooding in Colorado, Earthquake and Typhoon in the Philippines, Tornadoes in the Midwest, Wildfires in California, Arizona and Colorado, Hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana…and the list goes on and on. Just think of the devastation, and dire circumstances each has created with the loss of homes and lives. We have received an email from our missionary friend in the Philippines that she and her co-workers are okay, though without water and power, probably until Christmas. She and her staff had to stand in line for two and one half hours just to get drinking water, but she said on many of the islands they are having to drink coconut juice.
As I think of the disruption to lives caused by natural disasters, crime, loss of employment, serious health issues, broken relationships, etc, I wonder how people who have no hope in Christ deal with such things. Our worldview really affects how we deal with such difficult circumstances. The Christian has a faith that is infused with hope that sustains him in times of trial and suffering. From the hope of the coming Messiah promised way back in Gen. 3:15, to the hope of the New Heavens and the New Earth in Revelation 21, God’s Word is full of hope for those who believe in Him and in His promises. Just a quick word search in the Bible reveals anywhere from 60 to 72 times when the word “hope” is used just in the New Testament (depending on the translation), along with numerous synonyms. We have a hope that God will be faithful in the future as He has been faithful in the past, and there is a day coming when “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4).
The Bible, in fact, refers to God as “The God of hope” (Ro. 15:13). And according to Rom. 15:4, the Scriptures “were written…that we might have hope.” Hope is closely tied to faith, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Ro. 8:24,25). Compare that to verses like Eph. 2:8 where it says we are saved by grace through faith and Heb. 11:1 where faith is defined as: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The Apostle Paul refers to “The hope of His calling” (Eph. 1:18). It is not just a “wishful thinking,” as in “I sure hope things work out,” but it is a deep-seated assurance that they will. The Greek word used in the New Testament is elpis (el-pece’) which means: “expectations, confidence, assurance. It is a “Hope laid up in heaven” (Col. 1:15).
Since God is the “God of Hope” (Ro. 15:13), and Christ, who lives in us is God the Son, Paul writes of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27 cf I Tim. 1:1). We have “the hope of salvation” (I Thes. 5:8), “the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 1:2; 3:7), and “the hope of His return” (Tit. 2:13). It is a “hope that does not disappoint” (Ro. 5:5). As believers, “we rejoice in hope” (Ro. 5:2; 12:12). And, because it is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is “a living hope” (I Pet. 1:13). Since the hope is fixed on Christ and His return, the Apostle John also tells us that “everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” During times of adversity, this hope is our foundation. It is what sustains us and takes us “through” the storms of life. The writer to the Hebrews said this about hope: “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things (The promise made to Abraham and the oath which rests on the very being of God), in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” Heb. 6:17-19).
But, those who have not put their trust in Christ do not have this hope. Paul, in writing to the Ephesian believers, reminded them that before they believed in Christ, they “…were separate from Christ…having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). In writing to comfort the believers at Thessalonica who had lost loved ones through death and were wondering if they would ever see them again, he said, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope” (I Thes. 4:13).
Those without Christ have no anchor for their soul to see them through the storms of life. Their hopeless philosophy is described well by atheist Richard Dawkins in his book River Out of Eden. He writes: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” With such a worldview, tears are at best useless, restoration is futile, encouragement has no basis, because THERE IS NO HOPE. The sad thing is that this is the worldview being taught to our children and young people in public education that makes right and wrong indistinguishable, the Bible a joke, and hope just an intervention crutch. But, hope does not arise out of nothing, and the only foundation for that hope is being eroded everywhere we look by the ramifications of the teaching of the theory of evolution. Hope needs a foundation that the world and evolution cannot sustain.
An illustration of the contrast in the lives of those who have hope and those who do not, is seen in looking briefly at the lives of two Ernests taken from Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay. The first is “well-known author Ernest Hemingway who is universally acclaimed as one of the great American authors.” He was extremely talented, but with his non-Christian worldview, was governed almost entirely by what he felt like doing at any given moment. “In the end, he shot himself to death as did his father before him and his brother after him, because that’s what his depression (no hope) drove him to feel like doing.” The second Ernest was a little-known missionary, Ernest Fowler, who, “five years after Hemingway’s death…also died of a gunshot wound. His was not self-inflicted, but came at the hands of bandits who attacked his missionary home and family in Colombia in July of 1966.” He was faithful, even to the point of death in his ministry for Christ and his concern for others. Ernest Hemingway took his life, Ernest Fowler gave his life. The difference? One lived without hope. The other had “Christ in ‘him’ the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
Do you have that hope as an “anchor for your soul”? If not put your trust in the only source of hope, Jesus Christ. If you do have that hope, always be ready to give a reason for it to those who ask (I Pet. 3:15).
P.S. The complete story of Ernest Fowler can be found at people.bethel.edu.