Summary: Can we have a sure and steadfast hope in a mad word?
Hebrews 6 teaches us about the characteristics that Christians should display:
• Love to the Brethren – your work and labour of love v10
• Diligence and perseverance vv 11-12
We have looked at these previously and the end of the chapter goes on to talk about hope. This should be a key characteristic of a Christian. This gives Christians a real hope in total contrast with many others around us. I find it amazing that a chapter that has caused so many to doubt their salvation (v3-6) ends with such a focus on a hope which is an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. This reinforces my conviction that it wasn’t written to cause us to doubt our salvation, but rather to make us rely on God to keep us and also to challenge us to live lives that are worthy of Him.
We don’t exactly live in an optimistic world, do we? In contrast the was an age of optimism in the West with great development in scientific knowledge and invention. Industrial production rose dramatically, bringing greater wealth – at least to some! Education increasingly became available to all sections of society. Many believed that, as men and women became better educated, they would choose more noble pursuits and take pleasure in literature and in arts like music and painting. The result would be a higher moral tone in society, with improved behaviour – eventually resulting in world peace.
Politicians promised a new social order of justice and equality for all. As wealth increased, people would be better off and would no longer envy one another. "Banish poverty and you’ll banish crime" people claimed. The finest powers of the human mind would be developed and world peace would result. Church leaders joined in and confidently predicted that in process of time all nations would accept "the gospel of Christ". The world would be conquered by preaching.
What a contrast if you open a newspaper or listen to the news on radio or TV nowadays! Invariably it makes depressing reading or listening, doesn’t it? This depression isn’t only at a national or international level, it extends to touch virtually all of us in one way or another. What has happened to turn us from optimism to hopelessness in the space of a little over 100 years?
• The dream faded under two world wars, the Cold War (with its Mutual Assured Destruction from nuclear weapons). Numerous other, smaller, wars sealed the disillusion.
• Our world is also beset by numerous problems – pollution of land, water and air, global warming, extreme weather conditions (droughts, floods, hurricanes and even tsunami’s)
• Then there is terrorism, violent crime, over-crowded prisons; increasingly drug resistant diseases and drug addicts and alcoholics with increasing death rates.
• Far from poverty being eradicated the gap between rich and poor is widening!
- The world’s 225 richest people now have a combined wealth of over £500 billion. That’s equal to the combined annual income of the world’s 2.5 billion poorest people.
- Three billion people live on less than £1.10 per day while 1.3 billion have to get by on less than 55p!
- 30 years ago, the people in well-to-do countries were 30 times better off than those in countries where the poorest 20% live. By 1998, this gap had widened to 82 times.
- Yet we could fix it! For example everyone on earth could have clean drinking and improved sanitation for less than a quarter of what people around the world spends on bottled water!
• Are human minds developing as the prophets predicted? The A-level pass rates and grades may be the highest ever, but I see far greater evidence of a dumbing down.
H. G. Wells, one of these prophets , expressed his disillusion in two books published at the end of his life (Mind at the End of its Tether and The Fate of Homo Sapiens). He declared that there was no hope for humanity: "There is nothing but the dark". And that was back in 1945, before the first atomic bomb was dropped!
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: Man can count on no one but himself; he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
Enough with the depressing statistics already!
Is there an antidote to the hopelessness (Eph 2:12) that pervades our world? We all need hope.
In a rather cruel experiment some rats were put in a tank of water to see how long they would survive before drowning. The average time was just 17 minutes. Then the experiment was repeated, but this time the experimenters "rescued" the rats just before they drowned, dried them off and returned them to their cages. A few days later they repeated the experiment. This time, the average survival time for these rats increased from 17 minutes to 36 hours! The second time around, the rats had hope. They thought that the scientists would pull them out, because they had done so before.