A favorite song of recent years is titled "What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love" — but before the world can have love It must have hope!
Every morning we wake up to a cacophony of fear and despair, chaos and cruelty, coups and corruption. In the newspaper over the morning cup of coffee, we read of crime increases and social disintegrations, bloody revolutions and civil disorders taking hundreds of lives somewhere else while we slept, natural disasters (also somewhere else, hopefully) killing hundreds or thousands in their beds, with perhaps tens of thousands homeless. Not even the comic page is funny: it's sick, because the world is. Governments are unstable, shaken worldwide by epidemics of distrust of officialdom, a yawning chasm of credibility gaps, the outside pressures of aggressive world powers bent on world domination. The economic news is no better even in an upswing, because of the unique fiscal dilemma we face of inflation battling the headlines with depression. Odd and contradictory terms like "stagflation" puzzle the mind. Staggering news tells us that the commercial and banking capital of the world, New York City, is on the brink of bankruptcy, perhaps the state of New York may tumble into economic collapse with the city — only the federal government may be able to bail them both out. Other cities face similar problems on the horizon, while many begin to doubt the monetary health of the entire nation despite the fact that it is the richest in the world! Personal and business bankruptcies are on the rise; giants of industry exercise massive layoffs and struggle in court battles defending or justifying bribery as an essential element of successful commerce: the future is uncertain and doubtful to say the least. Sword of Damocles. While some of us are dying from overeating, nearly twenty thousand a day die of starvation around the world. The hunger bomb and the population explosion seem about to unite in a critical mass and to blow civilization as we know it off this beautiful round blue ball of life we call earth. Our own breadbasket seems in jeopardy as weathermen tell us that we are entering a drought cycle similar to or worse than the dust bowl specter of the 30s. The future looks glum — the black horse of Revelation has just been saddled up for his end-time run. The sword of Damocles filled with nuclear. holocaust hangs over our heads. There is weather upset, fuel crisis, mindless crime, dope addiction, political corruption at all levels, a degenerate low in education for our next generation, pollution of the air we breathe and the water we drink and the land we live on, glowing spark points that could trigger World War III (literally the war to end all wars because it could end all life on earth). Our own personal problems seem small in comparison, but they are real: you just lost your job, your family is about to break up, you can't make ends meet, your son is sick, your mother just died.... It's just too much — the modern-day pace, communications worldwide and instantaneous bringing of all the problems of the world into our own living rooms, added to the personal crises we face, add up to an overload on our capacity to cope. Hope is long since fled; despair hangs heavy. "What's the use, nothing's going to turn out all right!" is the plaintive cry of many. Household Word. Doomsdayers, sundowners and prophets of doom all have a heyday — their moans and cries of despair and negativism seem very credible in today's world. Armageddon is a household word no longer the property of the religious fanatic. People are more familiar with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse than they are with the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Politicians, newsmen, educators, historians, even businessmen have taken over from the lunatic fringe of the clergy the expression, "the end of the world"! Purpose, direction, a set goal are all missing from our collective lives and from most of us as individuals. Peace, security, happiness are all empty words that have lost meaning in the hopeless world of today. Thankfully, God has no such plan in mind for mankind. Our Creator is not going to allow mankind to die in the throes of World War III (or any other world war number). He is not going to sit by and let mankind commit suicide (cosmoscide) through any combination of population explosion, lack of food, pollution, disease, natural catastrophes and economic chaos. He has a hope He is determined to spend His limitless energies fulfilling — the greatest hope there is! This world needs hope — you need hope. Hope means, by dictionary definition, "to cherish a desire for something with some expectation of obtaining it." If Hope Were Fulfilled. Let's leave the world scene and start small — with you. What do you hope for? What do you desire to obtain? What is your own individual and personal hope — apart from the hopeless world? A raise in pay? Maybe just a job? A new car? A home? A husband or wife or children? Financial security? A friendly neighbor? Health? Longevity? Happiness? A freedom from fear? What if your hope were fulfilled? Let's say you want to get married. So, you get married. Five years pass. You've achieved what you hoped for; you're married, the ceremony is over, it was a lovely church wedding, all your friends were there, you were given fabulous gifts by relatives and friends alike, the honeymoon was a dream fulfilled that you look fondly back on with misty-eyed memory. But now the flower girls are gone, the rose-colored glasses you saw things through have turned to gray. The babies (you so hoped for) are here and the diapers and sleepless nights along with them. Bills are mounting, your mate is nagging, you both work, but you've spent almost as much time going over your budget with cut after cut as you have working on your job. The car needs repair, you don't know how you are going to pay for increasing insurance and fuel rates, the kids are outgrowing clothes faster than you can buy them but your bottomless-pit checking account, your mortgage, your time-payment bills and your credit card balances (all in the red) say you can barely afford to put food on the table. Your hope of five years ago is fulfilled — and it now seems a hopeless situation. Now what do you hope for? A raise! If you just earned one-hundred dollars more a month... So, you get a raise! Your hope is again fulfilled. But you soon discover that inflation has more than eaten up the advantages of the raise, your four-year-old broke an arm and your wife wrecked the car: you're deeper in debt than before and she's not able to work for a month yet! Now what do you hope for? Tomorrow's Sliver Lining. Hope is a strange thing. You've probably noticed that you never hope for something you already have. You always hope for some future improvement on the present lot in life.
The goal, which seemed so golden at the beginning, loses its glitter. Apathy breeds cynicism. Cynicism, in its turn, engenders despair. And the cycle is right back where it started.
Fortunately, we can change our hopes, upgrade them as each in turn becomes fulfilled (or we give up hope of them being fulfilled). Hope makes the world go around — the possibility of future betterment, of tomorrow's silver lining for the clouds of today. Without hope people don't try. The fact is that each hope fulfilled demands a new hope to live for. In human history hope has had a strange cycle. Whether you pick Genghis Khan, communism or Christopher Columbus, the same unfailing cycle occurs. Hope begins in despair. That is, the individual seems to be in a hopeless situation — then an idea strikes and hope flares anew. The individual now has a reason to live, because he feels that there may be some slim chance of achieving the goal he has now seen. Life has meaning again. He strives (for his individual hope, or perhaps his hope is big enough to include a group as large as a whole nation, religion, or empire) to accomplish that hope. He succeeds! Enter Apathy. Yet, oddly enough, nothing in history fails to quite the extent of success! In the footsteps of success invariably follows one degree or another of apathy. The individual or the group becomes careless with the success achieved. With no bigger, newer hope, there is no reason to strive, to live, to face a challenge anymore. Things bog down. The goal, which seemed so golden at the beginning, loses its glitter. Apathy breeds cynicism. Cynicism, in its turn, engenders despair. And the cycle is right back where it started. And the reason is because the hope is never big enough! A hope, to be worthwhile, must be big enough so that it can never be accomplished in its entirety. Otherwise a new, bigger and more vigorous hope must follow on the heels of a fulfillment of the past hope. Example From History. Let's take Christopher Columbus' hope for an example. Columbus hoped to prove his idea that the world was round indeed and not flat like most of the people of his day believed. For most of his adult years, that hope drove him to accomplish the things which he did. Nothing in his life swayed him from pursuing that one goal. All other things were subservient to it. Family, job, his own health were all spent in feverish desire to prove that one hope. The despair of the humdrum life of his age and circumstance was given meaning and reason. It was a great hope. It was greater than anyone else had come up with in his generation. It seemed foolish, but he believed in it and was driven to accomplish it at all costs. Finally, he convinced the crown of Spain to back his idea, his goal, his hope. The queen even hocked her jewels to finance his venture. Columbus was given three ships and a crew from the prisons of her government to prove his hope. But, believe it or not, his hope was not big enough! He hoped that by sailing west he could reach the East, India, China, the Orient, fabulously rich. What proving his hope accomplished was greater than his hope! Instead of proving that you could reach the East by sailing west (and so proving that the world was round and not flat), he discovered a whole new world! Not only was his hope of his life achieved, but a goal far richer than he had imagined was revealed. Of course he was hailed as a great explorer, unique so far as the world of his day realized — he was honored, feted, and sent back to govern the new lands he had discovered. The hope of his entire previous life was fulfilled and then some! But now what did he have to live for? What new hope, greater and more meaningful than the first, did he have to give meaning and purpose to his existence? Unfortunately, none! The Human Cycle. The sad circumstances of the life of Columbus after the fulfillment of his life hope are some of the most painful on record. The ignominy, final imprisonment and utter despair (not to mention abject poverty) in which one of the greatest explorers known to mankind finally died exemplifies perfectly the point that unless your hope is big enough to survive success it is indeed hopeless. Columbus failed miserably in governing what he had discovered. Others took away from him the potential and riches he had discovered over the objections and against the advice of those same others. Columbus ended his life in poverty, having suffered the indignity of chains and imprisonment in the face of the successful fulfillment of one of the greatest hopes ever maintained by man. He died in despair, a hopeless man. The human cycle had been fulfilled: despair, hope, success, apathy, cynicism, despair — an empty circle, because his hope was not big enough! What about you? Hope That Is Transcendent. In the beginning of an independent life we hope for things, or the money to get things. If and when those things come to us, we begin to realize " things" are not enough to hope for. Even to keep the things we now have that we hoped for we need security — and security is not a thing. Security depends on the economy, on government, on peace, on health, on future stability. All these are hopes that drive us on — we never seem to achieve any one of them for long (and I do not know of any individual who has achieved all these hopes at anyone time). But are any of these hopes big enough? What if you lived in a peaceful, secure, economically healthy and stable state — what would you hope for then? What hope would keep you from boredom; what hope would you seek to achieve that would give meaning to your life, purpose and reason to live, a goal to strive for? That's where God enters the picture. God holds out a hope that is transcendent, that goes above and beyond the goals and purposes of this life, that offers a challenge that keeps you going all life long; a hope that is never fulfilled in this life, a hope beyond the grave, a reason to live. Someone said a very wise and strange thing once: "The only thing worth living for is that for which you would die! " Do you have that kind of hope? God's Hope. Do you realize that God Himself lives by hope!? Did you know that God has set before Himself a hope so great that not even He will ever be able to realize it, ever? That His goal and reason for living, that for which He strives, for which He is (has been) willing to die for is so vast and eternally occupying that He will never achieve it? The God who put this world together did so with a plan in mind. That plan was not the hopeless Nirvana of one major religion of the world which promises your becoming an unconscious part of the great whole of nothing with no worries forever because you have no individual consciousness forever. It is not the bliss of slumbering in a hammock slung between two date palms in an oasis being fed by voluptuous maidens forever, as the promise of the followers of Allah are assured. It is not walking the golden streets with golden slippers, strumming on a harp with your only worry being how to keep your halo straight as seems to be the promise of the majority of Protestant groups. It is most certainly not the promise of finally being able to look into the face of God and appreciate the beatific vision (whatever that is) as is the promise to those who follow the Catholic faith. What the God who created everything proposes is to bring you into His very family. To be God as God is God! Not just to be a God in the euphemistic sense of our all being brothers and sisters with God as our figurehead Father, but to share his divine nature completely. Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is
God's promise is to make you a son as Christ is now a Son. To grant you membership In the family of God. To give you eternal life as He is eternal. To be holy as He is holy.
alive and well, not in hiding, at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He fully plans to fulfill the promise He made to us in the name of the Father to bring many sons to glory, to establish His Kingdom here on this earth. God's promise is to make you a son as Christ is now a Son. To grant you membership in the literal family of God. To give you eternal life as He is eternal. To be holy as He is holy. To share all power and joint ownership with the Possessor of the universe. To share the divine nature. To have the character of God, full of love, peace, joy — to be God as God is God! This is the purpose of creation — the hope of the world! Eternal Reason to Live. God's real plan is practical. He says of His family kingdom that there will never be an end to its expansion. His plan is to continue adding sons and daughters who look, feel, act and are composed of the same self-regenerating eternal spirit life as He is, forever! That is why the goal God has set before Himself is a hope that not even He will ever fulfill. Endless, eternal, forever creating an ever-expanding family to enjoy and rule the great creation He has already made — and to have you and me share in future creations without end. A busy, practical, interesting, challenging, ongoing plan that gives an eternal reason to live. There is no boredom in that plan. Never a time when your interest will run out. No mythical, religious-sounding folderol about some spiritual never-never land where you do nothing forever — but an eternal job of creating, governing, problem-solving with visible benefit. That's a hope worth living for... and worth dying for if necessary in this life. Because God our Father has our life in His hands at all times. No man can take that away from you — because He has the power to resurrect you from whatever death any man can imagine. He created you in the first place for a reason beyond the imagination of any religion on the face of the earth — a reason some in the religious field would call blasphemy (to think that the purpose for our creation could be to make us equal with God in every way). No matter what your many temporary and interim goals and hopes may be — and may they all be fulfilled — be sure to cherish this greatest possible hope God offers us to give transcendent purpose to our lives. Make this hope your hope!
THE GREAT HOPE OF MAN
Why should Christians call God Father? Why should we pray "Our Father which art in heaven"? Because we are to be God as God is God! God is our Father because He is actively and presently in the process of begetting and bringing sons to birth, sons to be born in His image, spiritually perfect as He is perfect, ever-living as He is ever-living, God as He is God. In the Old Testament, God said: "... Israel is my son, even my firstborn" (Ex. 4:22). And: "... O foolish people and unwise ... is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made [created] thee, and established thee?" (Deut. 32:6.) Also: "But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand" (Isa. 64:8). Remember what Jesus said? "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? [Jesus here quoted from Psalm 82:6.] If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified... Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" (John 10:34-36.) Jesus also said: "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). And: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are" (John 17:11). Human beings are to share in this oneness. Perhaps Romans 8 best explains how it is that human beings become the sons of God in every sense of that expression. This chapter begins by showing that as physical human beings, in our present fleshly state, we cannot obey the laws of God and please Him. First of all we have to have a sacrifice to pay for the sins which demand our death, and then receive a new mind, a changed mind — a spiritually, rather than a physically, oriented mind — so that we can begin to think and act and live like God our Father in heaven. Paul put it this way: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). The Father's Spirit joins with our spirit and proves to us that we are the sons of God (verse 16). Then Romans 8 goes on to show that by joining His Spirit with ours, God does not immediately bring us into His Kingdom, His family, but that we have to live through experiences, which in many cases are painful, to develop character, to bring us to maturity (Matt. 5:48). Comforting advice is given to show us that despite all the trials and difficulties we have to endure while we are still human beings, "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (verse 28). Paul goes on to explain in verse 29 that the purpose of God according to which true Christians have been called is that we might be sons of God as Christ is a Son of God, born into the Kingdom and family of God as Christ was born into the Kingdom and family of God! And so it is that Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, is called the "firstborn among MANY brethren." That is, Jesus Christ, the only human being to be begotten in the womb of a woman by God the Father in heaven, is the first human being to become a Son of God by the resurrection from the dead! (Rom. 1:4.) But only the first! Any human being, by exercising the power of the Spirit of God, can join that firstborn Son in God's Kingdom once he is called by God the Father. It was from the beginning the plan of our great God — the source of outgoing concern, the source of love — to share His eternal life, with all its joy and majesty! Speaking of Christ, Paul quoted the book of Psalms and wrote: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him" (Heb.2:6-8). Certainly we recognize that all things are in subjection to Jesus Christ! We all remember the scripture quoting Jesus, after His resurrection explaining to His disciples: " All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18). Notice in reading this quote that Paul cites from Psalms that it is not just the Son of Man (Jesus) who is being talked about, but mankind. That God created mankind with the ultimate purpose of sharing His own rulership of all things is manifest by these verses. Christ is not the only One to have Sonship in the Kingdom of God — all of mankind was created with that purpose in mind. God is called a Father because He is a Father. And it is His will, purpose and plan to become the Father of untold billions — to become your Father to share in His life, His glory, His majesty, His Kingdom — God as He is God! That is your great hope — the hope of all mankind!
HOPE IN THE BIBLE
Romans 5:2. "Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God."
Romans 8:19-21. "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God."
Titus 1:1-2. "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to further the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who never lies, promised ages ago."
Psalm 119:166. "I hope for thy salvation, O Lord, and I do thy commandments."
Romans 8:24-25. "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
I Corinthians 15:19-21. "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead."
Ephesians 1:18. "Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints."
Ephesians 4:4. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call."
Colossians 1:23. "... Provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard."
Colossians 1:27. "To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
I Peter 1:3. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
I Peter 1:13. "... Be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
I John 3:3. "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."