Summary: A five message series on the resurrection with Small group study questions for five weeks.
Hope in the Midst of Despair
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and Believers
1 Corinthians 15:1-58 (Part One - vs. 1-11)
The resurrection of Jesus and the promise of the believer’s resurrection offer the ultimate hope in the midst of a world of despair. We are caught between two resurrections -- pushed by one in the past and pulled by one in the future. The resurrection of Jesus Christ vindicates His claims to be the Messiah; our resurrection vindicates our faith in Him as the Messiah.
What our hope is not!
As far as many are concerned, we now live in world without meaning, without promise, without hope -- a world of despair. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), a German philosopher, envisioned that the Western world would collapse into nihilism -- the belief that there is no meaning or purpose in existence. Nihilism is the logical consequence of evolution.
The first World War terminated Western Europe’s faith in modern progress -- the anticipation of the promise of a better future.. The dissolution of the Soviet empire has canceled faith in Marxism as the guarantee of progress -- Marxism’s promise of a better world never came to fruition. Though America has been spared the devastations of war and has continued longer in its belief in a better future through modern means, many seem to be accepting the evidence that hope in progress through human means is empty.
Our modern world has not only lost faith in man, but, at the same time, had already declared its independence from God , so that there is neither faith in God or faith in man, leaving only faith in nothing, or faith in faith, both of which lead to despair and disappointment.
Nietzsche was partially correct as Robert Jenson points out, when he predicted that “There would at once appear the hollow ‘last man’ and the glorious ‘superman.’ The hollow ‘last man’ is clearly on the seen, but the glorious ‘superman’ is so far missing” (Jenson, First Things , Oct. 93, p.19).
In this world of despair, many are the spiritual entrepreneurs who generate salvation programs to offer hope. One such program is that of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. “If, says Yogi, a sufficient number of people led by trained mediators could be induced to sit still and meditate for ninety minutes each morning and evening, the positive waves they emitted would ensure universal peace, improved economy, and a reduction of the crime rate, to say nothing of the physical and spiritual well-being of one and all. The cost to employ seven thousand mediators would be $20 million ...” (John P. Sisk, First Things, May 93, p. 9). Despair often becomes desperate. That desperation is seen in the proliferation of New Age, Eastern religion, cults, etc.
Biblical hope is not merely the promise of a better world. Biblical hope does not guarantee a solution to all the present crises of life. Biblical hope does not exempt us from present suffering. Biblical hope does not believe that modernism, human reasoning, education, government, liberal programs insure progress in the world.
Remember the men on the road to Emmaus after Jesus died and before they knew he was alive: Luke 24:21 "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.”
Proverbs 13:12 says: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
What is our hope?
Our hope is a promise from God with a historical basis, tied to the prophetic word of the living God, connected to a future event. Essentially, the gospel is an eschatological message. Our hope is in a person Jesus Christ and all the events, both past and future, that involve that person.
How do we address a world of despair? Is there an anchor for that life which appears to be no more than a small cork drifting on the vast and unpredictable ocean waters?
Actually, the world of despair in which we live offers the church of Jesus Christ a fresh opportunity -- an opportunity we will lose if we fail to be “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14, see 14-17). Because as Heb. 6:18-19 reminds us “... 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 ....”
Foundational to the Christian hope is belief in the historical (time/space) resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus lives. Because He lives, we live also. Not only here and now, but forever with Him. His resurrection not only vindicates His claims but assures us that life is more than what we presently experience. Whatever may be your lot in this temporal world -- this world is not the end. Amen!