Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We Have This Hope

Do we really? Have this hope, I mean? Do we really have something more, in the way of hope, than people who don’t believe in God?  Well, I did some reading this week and, believe it or not, the Christians say “yes” and the atheists say “no”.  That’s a shocker.

What are some things you think about when somebody says the word “hope”?  A lot depends on the context, doesn’t it?  I mean, “I hope we’re having ice cream for dessert,” is way, way different than “I hope it’s not cancer.”  I’ve heard people use hope and pray interchangeably.  Sounds kind of silly when you plug it into that first example, but makes perfect sense in the second.  Do you have to have faith to have hope?  Do you have to believe to have hope?  Can you be at peace without hope?

In Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus, I found the definition of hope listed as to “dream about” along with these synonyms:  “anticipate, aspire, assume, await, believe, cherish, contemplate, count on, deem likely, depend on, desire, expect, feel confident, foresee, hang in, have faith, hold, long for, pray, presume, promise oneself, rely, suppose, surmise, suspect, sweat, sweat it, take heart, think to, trust, watch for, wish.”
I’m not sure I agree with all of those.  And I’m pretty sure we could discuss the definition of hope all day and still not come much closer.  Maybe a better question, then, would be, not what is hope, but where can we get it?

This is where those who believe in God and those who don’t part ways.  In many ways, Christians and Atheists have trouble comparing notes because they have such different expectations.  Here’s an exchange I found very interesting.  Cliff Walker, the editor of a web-zine called Positive Atheism, and an anonymous letter writer who asks Walker where atheists find “eternal hope that is equivalent to the ‘inner peace’ that many Christians feel in their relationship with God?”  And this is where I noticed that these two individuals are not speaking the same language because Walker responds that he has found the “peace of mind” that the correspondent was asking about.  In my own opinion, inner peace and peace of mind aren’t really the same thing…

Anyway, Walker then goes on to discuss how and where he has found his peace.  His claim is that the church and the pub serve the same purpose:  the camaraderie that we find when we are with like-minded believers.  He goes on to say that there is nothing that “religion has that cannot be found apart from religion.”  Well, for me, that is the absolute opposite of finding hope.  It is, on some level, I think, admitting that life is hopeless.

Another internet writer goes to great lengths to explain “How to find hope when hopelessness attacks”.  For Melissa Quiter, thought, hope is something that you can give yourself by using the right tools.  These tools are the “Law of Attraction” (we’ve talked about that before—“This law states that whatever you place your energy and focus on is what you attract back to you.”), the “Nine Environments of Holistic Living” where you “break down your life into manageable segments”, “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” which Quiter explains is “an advanced form of communication that not only improves communication between people, but also opens up communication with all the parts of your subconscious mind.”  And the last tool Quiter mentions is the “Process of Deliberate Creation” which she explains is “about combining all these tools and giving yourself the gift of hope.”  Again, I’m just not feeling that “inner peace” kind of vibe, what about you?

And then things got REALLY weird.  I read the transcript of a sermon that contains quotes from people like Nietzsche and Henry Miller stating that hope is a bad thing, a disease, and the answer is hopelessness.  In fact, saying things like “Hopelessness can change the world.”  I was appalled and then I found out that the “sermon” was supposed to be funny.  Pheww!  What a relief! 

But then I read the next article, written by Margaret Wheatley.  It was called, “From Hope to Hopelessness”, and she wasn’t kidding.  Wheatley quotes someone named Thomas Merton who says, “we are consoled and strengthened by being hopeless together.”  Excuse me?  Now I was on my way to hopelessness! 

I needed the “camaraderie of like-minded believers”!  I high-tailed it to the E.G.White website and typed “hope” into the search box.  What a difference…and what a relief!  The first quote to come up was this:
“Christ says to His followers, ‘Ye are the light of the world.’  Then let you light shine forth in clear, steady rays.  Do not wrap about you a cloud of darkness.  Cease to suspect others.  By good works represent the character of Christ.  When you are tempted to yield to despondency, look to Jesus, and talk with Him.  Your Elder Brother will never make a mistake.  He will judge righteously.  He will guide you aright.“God is not well pleased to see His children wrapped in gloom and sadness.  …He wants us to make melody in our hearts to Him.” {BEcho, September 24, 1900}
There is no doubt in my mind that we, as Christians, have something very special that someone who has not met Christ cannot understand.  The peace that passes all understanding is not simply peace of mind.  I think the biggest difference is that we can’t find hope, faith, peace or real happiness by looking within ourselves. 
“Faith and hope are not to be centered in self…Talk of the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“…Put away all fretting and complaining, for this is the snare of the devil.  Let us make a pledge before God and the heavenly angels that we will not dishonour our Maker by cherishing darkness and unbelief, by speaking words of discouragement and mistrust. …Think not that Jesus is the Saviour of your brother only.  He is your personal Saviour.  If you entertain this precious thought, you will beat back the clouds of despondency and gloom, and make melody to God in your soul.” {BEcho, September 24, 1900}
Over and over again, Ellen White reminds us to avoid being discouraged because we have a hope that people who don’t know Christ don’t have and can’t understand.  We have the hope of spending eternity with Jesus.  Can you think of anything at all that you would rather do?  Better yet, we don’t have to wait until then.  Jesus promises hope now to survive out everyday trials.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:1-5 KJVR)
I’ll admit that I have taken hope for granted.  For me, knowing that this life is only the preview of what God has promised us makes the junk that happens from day to day a little easier to handle.  As I read the philosophies of those people who haven’t met Jesus, I realized that they have to expend a huge amount of energy on NOT accepting the hope that Jesus offers.  As humans we all long for that power that is outside of ourselves.  And C.S. Lewis says that we don’t crave things for which there is no fulfillment.  We thirst and there is water.  We get hungry and there is food.  We long for the support of a strength outside of ourselves and there is Jesus.

Atheists’ lives are not any easier or harder than ours; we all struggle and we all have times when things go well. 
“Are the wicked free from disappointment, perplexity, earthly losses, poverty, and distress?  Many o them suffer a lingering sickness, yet have no strong and might One to lean upon, no strengthening grace from a higher power to support them in their weakness.  They lean upon their own strength.  They obtain no consolation by looking forward to the future, but a fearful uncertainty torments them; and thus they close their eyes in death, not finding any pleasure in looking forward to the resurrection morn, for they have no cheering hope that they shall have part in the first resurrection. …“The Christian is subject to sickness, disappointment, poverty, reproach, and distress.  Yet amid all this he loves God, he chooses to do His will, and prizes nothing so highly as His approbation.  In the conflicting trials and changing scenes of this life, he knows that there is One who knows it all, One who will bend His ear low to the cry of the sorrowful and distressed, One who can sympathize with every sorrow and soothe the keen anguish of every heart. …A short rest in the grave, and then the Life-giver will break the fetters of the tomb, release the captive, and bring him from his dusty bed immortal, never more to know pain, sorrow, or death.”  {OHC9}
We do have something extra, something special because we can look forward to a world with no pain, no tears, no sickness and no death.  We can look forward to a world without hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes.  We can look forward to an eternity with our Creator and Savior.“Jesus, precious Jesus, ‘merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty’ (Exodus 34:6,7).  O How privileged we are that we may come to Jesus just as we are and cast ourselves upon His love!  We have no hope but in Jesus.  He alone can reach us with His hand to lift us up out of the depths of discouragement and hopelessness and place our feet upon the Rock.  Although the human soul may cling to Jesus with all the desperate sense of his great need, Jesus will cling to the souls bought by His own blood with a firmer grasp than the sinner clings to Him.” {TMK80}

We have this hope that burns within our hearts,
Hope in the coming of the Lord.
We have this faith that Christ alone imparts,
Faith in the promise of His Word.
We believe the time is here,
When the nations far and near
Shall awake and shout and sing
Hallelujah!  Christ is King!
We have this hope that burns within our hearts,
Hope in the coming of the Lord.

We are united in Jesus Christ our Lord.
We are united in His love.
Love for the waiting people of the world,
People who need our Savior’s love.
Soon the heav’ns will open wide,
Christ will come to claim His bride,
All the universe will sing
Hallelujah! Christ is King!
We have this hope, this faith, and God’s great love,
We are united in Christ.
Wayne Hooper

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