By Ben Swift
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” (Corrie Ten Boom)
World renowned scientist Stephen Hawking was once asked to share his opinion on the divisive issue of euthanasia. His well-documented answer was, “The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants. But I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”
While there may be some truth in this response, it raises other questions such as, “Hope in what?”
Not so long ago, in a city not so far away, Louis Theroux conducted a documentary style investigation into the decisions that people make when they have been informed by medical specialists that they or a close loved one, has very little time, if any, to live. This may be due to cancer or any other cruel disease or medical situation requiring life-support. The findings of the investigation indicated that in the majority of cases, patients or next of kin were willing to do whatever it takes, no matter how distressing and painful, for hope of a medical miracle and thus avoiding death for whatever short amount of extra time they could gain. Very rarely, and seemingly miraculously, patients on artificial life-support do awake but sadly for the majority of patients, their hope goes in vain.
Hope however, seems to be imbedded into our DNA, but where we choose to direct our hope, remains widely varied.
What hope therefore is worth hoping for?
Should we grasp hold of the hope offered by eastern teachings such as Hinduism? This would at least give us hope that if we live rightly according to its teachings, we may move one step closer to Moksha, thus becoming one with Brahman [One force of the universe] where we belong. But then again, if things don’t go so well, all we can expect is to be reborn into a lower form of caste life. Hope in this case falls on us. That’s a lot of pressure.
Hope in a world rife with suffering must offer a way of dealing with the unbearable. We could dedicate our lives to the avoidance of suffering by following the Buddhist teaching, extinguishing all desire through eliminating all human cravings. But then why would we want to eliminate craving the very things that God made us to crave. Things such as love for one and other, or the desire to be amongst the beauty of creation itself.
Make no mistake. There are things in this life worth hoping for. We’re all aware of the cliché longings of potential Miss Universe contestants as they hope for world peace. Hoping for an end to war and the suffering that is found surrounding wars, a solution to the effects of climate change or seeing an end to domestic violence. Such things are worthy of our hope but in the end they cannot satisfy the deep desire in us for an ultimate hope. A hope that satisfies the questions that reach into the realm of eternity.
Theologian John Stott suggests that it is the hope of glory that makes suffering bearable. The eternal purpose of God is to make us [God’s people] holy or Christlike. As it is written in the New Testament, ‘God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.’ (Ephesians 1:4) His purpose is to present us ‘before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.’(Jude 24) Any suffering in this life can be made bearable only with the knowledge of God’s eternal purpose for our lives.
Ultimately, Christian hope rests on the fact that everything will be made, and is being made, perfectly new through Christ, including our relationship with God. As Christopher Wright suggests, ‘Revelation rolls back the curse to welcome the unhindered presence of God with the simple, world-changing words, “No longer will there be any curse.” (Revelation 22:3)’
But if hope worth hoping for is to be found in Christ, then how can we be assured of this hope?
The truth as expressed in God’s Word, the Bible, assures those who belong to God that the hope we have in Christ will not go in vain. It is a rock that we can build our lives on. Take for example Revelation 22:6 where it is written, “These words are trustworthy and true.” This however, will mean little for those who don’t know Christ as hope as presented in Christian Scripture will come across as foolishness to those who do not have ears to hear. Assurance therefore is dependent on the gift of faith. It cannot be accepted in any other way.
Graeme Goldsworthy in his book, ‘The Gospel in Revelation’, explains this well. He suggests, ‘The reason for this is that the primary assertions of the Bible relating to truth include the inability of sinful man to perceive truth because he has rejected the source of that truth, and also the gracious revelation of truth in the person of Jesus Christ. As to the mystery of how or why the godless and rebellious mind, incapable of perceiving the truth, will then respond to the truth as it is in Christ, the Bible resolves it in terms of the power of the gospel and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.’
In this life we will all place our hope in many things, all of which contribute to shape our lives. The question that will define our lives though, comes down to, “What will be the source of our ultimate hope and in what truth will our hope rest in?” While I long for my children to live in a world where freedom, beauty and love rule, it is only through Christ that this is ultimately possible. The good news can be found exclusively in that ultimate hope has been made possible through Christ alone. This is a hope worth hoping for.
Praise be God, Father of our Lord Yeshua [Jesus] the Messiah, who, in keeping with his great mercy, has caused us, through the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah from the dead, to be born again of a living hope, to an inheritance that cannot decay, spoil or fade, kept safe for you in Heaven.’ (1 Peter 1:3-4)