The Source of Hope

(Romans 8: 22-25) Paul on our expectation of a resurrected life

Imagine two women are employed by a company to do the same job. The job is boring. The women work in separate rooms all day long. The first woman is told that at the end of a month she will be paid $164 (Ksh15k), but the second woman is told she will be paid $164,000 (Ksh15m).
At lunch time the women are together. The first woman says ‘This job is so boring. Don’t you find it boring?’ The second woman who is being paid $164,000 says, ‘Um no, I think its ok.’
The two women are doing exactly the same job, but their attitude is different. Why, because one is expecting a little while the other is expecting a lot. Our hope for what is coming in the future impacts our present dramatically. This life will always have difficulties, but our attitude towards those difficulties will be different depending on what we expect will happen when this life is over.
♦ The apostle Paul speaks a lot about faith for the present, but he also speaks a lot about hope for the future. In Romans 8: 22-25 he said ‘We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit … wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’
We believers have an extraordinary hope in Christ, a hope that far surpasses any difficulties we may have now.
Humans cannot live without hope. Viktor Frankl, the Jewish psychologist that survived the Nazi concentration camps, noted that prisoners that lost hope usually curled up in a corner and died. He discovered that the way to rescue such people was to give them hope, usually the hope of something beyond this life that could not be taken from them. This could be the expectation of heaven and eternity or just the thought that a deceased loved one was looking down on them and praying for them.
But even people who are living a more normal life need hope. Think of how many people start to panic when they hit a mid-life crisis. They suddenly realize that the things they dreamed would happen in this life are not going to happen and they start to blame themselves, another person, or society. This can result in bitterness, a sudden rash change of partner or career, or even suicide. But it also happens to people who succeed. Think of the Hollywood stars and singers who lost hope when they realized that fame just didn’t bring the fulfillment they thought it would. Many turned to drugs and eventually suicide.
Sometimes people who work to high levels get disillusion because they lose most of what they gained in old age. The company they were director of is now directed by someone younger, or the mansion they built has to be sold because they are frail and need something more manageable. When these things happen they are suddenly left wondering why they built it all in the first place.
Is there a solution to this mess? I think J.R. Tolkien provides the remedy. Tolkien who is famous for writing The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings was an expert in ancient myths. He said myths and fairytales reveal the hopes and desires of people; both ancient and modern. They reveal that we desire something beyond this life, and he said we can see this in five themes that recur frequently in ancient myths and modern fairytales; (1) People stepping outside of time, (2) People escaping death, (3) People experiencing love that never ends, (4) People communicating with supernatural beings, and (5) People experiencing a final triumph of good over evil.
Tolkien says that these themes reveal a longing in the human heart for things that transcend this life. But he goes further and says if these desires are in us then the things that satisfy them must actually exist.
C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy, agrees when he says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless the satisfaction for those desires exist. A baby feels hunger, well, there is such a thing as food. A ducking wants to swim, well, there is such a thing as water. Men have sexual desire, well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.’
Tolkien and Lewis are saying that although myths and fairytales are not true, they point to something that is. And both of them believed that the truth was to be found in Christ. Christ provides a way for every person to step out of this life and into eternity, to rise from the dead, to have love unending, to have supernatural relationships, and to experience a final triumph of good over evil. The myths point to Christ; he is the one who fulfils the longing of every human heart.
No matter what losses or disappointments Christians experience in this life, they can stand firm, because they have great hope for what will happen in the next life. After death all the desires expressed in the myths and fairytales comes true. And one of the reasons Christians know this is because when they experience the presence of the Holy Spirit they experience a touch of eternity and their spirits start to soar. If you have experience this you will know what I mean.
Do you have hopes for the next life? Do your friends? Asked them what their hopes are, and if they have none, share this message with them; give them a reason to believe.

This sermon is based on a talk by Tim Keller in his 2014 ‘Questioning Christianity’ series

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