By Nathan Jones
How important is hope to life itself?
New Year's greetings to all of you! To ring in this new year, Dr. David Reagan, Dennis Pollock of Spirit of Grace Ministries and I discussed on television's Christ in Prophecy why you should be looking forward to the future with great hope.
Hope's Necessary For Life
Dr. Reagan: The Bible says that the Creator of this universe is a God of hope. The Apostle Paul wrote, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has the mind of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him."
But, we live in a world characterized by increasing fear and despair. People fear such things as terrorism, war, cancer, bankruptcy — the list goes on and on. Perhaps I could sum it up by saying that people fear the uncertainties of life and the certainty of death. The bottom line is there's an overwhelming need for hope, and most of mankind seems to be seeking that hope in all the wrong places.
How important is hope to life itself? Is it essential or not?
Dennis Pollock: I think the answer to that can be found when you look at where people are and what the situation is when there is no hope, when for them things seem utterly hopeless. Probably the worst and ugliest thing that a person can do to themselves is to kill themselves. Suicide is always the case when Satan is lying and whispering in someone's ear, "Your life is bad and it's going to be bad tomorrow and it's going to be bad next year. It will never improve." But, no matter how bad your life is, if you get the idea it will get better, eventually you can get through the hard times. It's when you're convinced not only is it terrible now, but it will always be this way, that's basically hopelessness and that's when people start to think about suicide.
Let me give you a little illustration. When we were children (and I don't know if it happened to you, but in my case) there were times when we'd be playing softball and choose up teams. After the first inning the score would be 10 to 1 and you find yourself on the losing side. Now, let's say you are playing seven innings and you are thinking after the first inning, "We had a lousy inning, but next inning we'll get it back." So you play one more inning and now it is 15 to 1. That's usually when the realization comes into your mind, "We've lost this game. We don't have what it takes. There's no way." You know you've still got five more innings to play. How does that knowledge affect you? Well, for most kids what happens is you get silly, you fool around, and you daydream. You don't take the game seriously anymore. You don't give it your best effort, because in your mind you're already a loser and there's no hope. The good thing about that situation is finally the game would mercifully come to an end and you could get on, and maybe the next day you would be on a better team.
It's not quite so funny when people see themselves as losers about their very life. Their life is bad. They're a loser already and there's no hope. That's hopelessness, but the Bible has so many good things to say about hope.
Dr. Reagan: That's so true, for Romans 15:13 says point blank our God is a God of hope. But, Satan loves to whisper in people's ears, "There is no hope."
Nathan Jones: I don't think you have to even be a loser to be hopeless. While you were talking about people who feel like their life is destined to be a loser, I thought about Simon and Garfunkel. They wrote a song called "Richard Cory." It's a very famous song about a man who had everything. He was born of a banker. He had power, grace and style, and he had lots of money. The main character is singing about how wretched it was to work in Richard Cory's factory. And then, one day, he reads in the paper that Richard Cory had killed himself. He was aghast, wondering how could a guy who had everything go and kill himself.
Even if we are winners in life, according to how man sees it, we are not winners. There's still that emptiness — that God-shaped hole — in us that needs to be filled. No matter how successful we are in life, we will always despair in the end without the Lord.
Christ's Return Equals Hope
Dennis Pollock: Dave, when I first started working with you I noticed that one of the themes that you would focus on was hope. You preached about hope. You wrote about hope. So, I started to wonder, "What's the connection between hope and the coming of Christ?" How does that work with your main theme concerning the return of the Lord. And so, I began to study the Scriptures, and one, I found hope is a major theme of Scripture, but two, it has a special connection with the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, probably that classic passage on the Rapture — 1 Thessalonians 4 — where Paul says the Lord will descend from Heaven and the dead in Christ will be raised and we'll be caught up together with them, well that entire line of thought is preceded by Paul saying to the Thessalonian believers, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope" (1 Thes. 4:13). The whole premise of what Paul is going to present about the Rapture is based on the fact that we do have hope.
Dr. Reagan: I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 one time — that beautiful love poem by Paul — and I got to the very end where the last verse says there are three great Christian virtues: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. I started to move on and the Holy Spirit said, "Wait, read this again." So, I read it again and again and suddenly as I began to think back over my life. I grew up in the church. I was there every time the door was open and I could think of hundreds of sermons I had heard about faith. I could think of thousands I had heard about love. But, I could not think of a single sermon I had ever heard about hope, because hope is directly related to Bible prophecy and Bible prophecy is ignored in the preaching and teaching programs of most churches. And yet, the more you know about Bible prophecy, the greater your hope will be because you learn about the promises of God for the future.
Nathan Jones: We had such an instance of hope derived from Bible prophecy sent to me this week. As you know, I get all the email questions that come in and I answer people's questions, which is a blessing. This one gentleman named Christopher wrote, "I live with chronic pain. I can't sleep. I'm in agony all of the time. At three in the morning I get online and I watch "Christ in Prophecy" because your message of the Lord's soon return gives me hope." It's stories like this that prove that knowing Jesus is coming back gives people hope.
In the next part of this series on looking forward with hope, we'll hear some shocking stories about how hopeleness can kill.