Summary: People need something to hang on to, some glimmer of hope that things will get better, or that there is a hope for a better life, if not here, then in the afterlife.
Last week we introduced our theme for 2005: Sowing Hope in a Hopeless World. The more I interact with people from all walks of life and see many in the midst of crisis, the more I realize that people need something to hang on to, some glimmer of hope that things will get better, or that there is a hope for a better life, if not here, then in the afterlife. We by nature are a people energized by hope.
(Ill.) A number of years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope! Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. If hope holds such power for unthinking rodents, how much greater should its effect be on our lives.
We need hope. It’s as simple as that. But what kind of hope? There is a hope that is just that – a hope. A hope like, “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” A hope like, “I sure hope I go to heaven when I die.” Such hope is wishful thinking. It’s an unfounded desire for things to go as we wish. The help of such hope is minimal at best, or misleading and damaging at worst.
The hope that helps the most is hope grounded in reality and based on a sure thing. This morning we will deal with the Christian’s hope.
I. Our Hope is Founded on Promises from God
A. There is no other source of eternal hope (Isaiah 43:10b-11; 44:6, 8). Many world religions and philosophies offer some kind of hope for this world and the next, but all ring hollow and are empty promises. Mohammed did not create this world. The Allah of Islam is not the God of the Bible. There is only one God and creator. Even the most promising philosophy of this world will seem rather empty when a person is about to cross over to the other side of eternity.
(Ill.) George Bernard Shaw is perhaps most renowned as a free thinker and liberal philosopher. In his last writings we read, "The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, led, instead, directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshippers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith."
B. Our hope is in God who never changes and is not fickle (James 1:17).
(Ill.) I am not a connoisseur of great art, but from time to time a painting or picture will really speak a clear, strong message to me. Some time ago I saw a picture of an old burned-out mountain shack. All that remained was the chimney...the charred debris of what had been that family’s sole possession. In front of this destroyed home stood an old grandfather-looking man dressed only in his underclothes with a small boy clutching a pair of patched overalls. It was evident that the child was crying. Beneath the picture were the words which the artist felt the old man was speaking to the boy. They were simple words, yet they presented a profound theology and philosophy of life. Those words were, "Hush child, God ain’t dead!" That vivid picture of that burned-out mountain shack, that old man, the weeping child, and those words "God ain’t dead" keep returning to my mind. Instead of it being a reminder of the despair of life, it has come to be a reminder of hope! I need reminders that there is hope in this world. In the midst of all of life’s troubles and failures, I need mental pictures to remind me that all is not lost as long as God is alive and in control of His world. James DeLoach, associate pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Houston, quoted in When God Was Taken Captive, W. Aldrich, Multnomah, 1989, p. 24