by Eugene Higgins
Unabashedly and Unashamedly Hopeful
“Hope” is a wonderful word. Just a few days ago, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said that Pennsylvania is already working on plans for how social distancing measures will be lifted once it is safe to do so. She added, significantly, “It’s very important to have hope.”
Brittany Akinsola, an intensive care nurse working in NY City as a Samaritan’s Purse response team member, said, “At the end of the day, we feel like we’re here to bring hope to a hopeless situation.”
On May 23, 1939, just about 12 miles off the coast of Portsmouth, NH, the USS Squalus was going through her dive procedures when an electrical malfunction allowed water to pour in and the submarine nose-dived to the bottom of the Atlantic. Today, a submarine rescue at that depth might not pose so great a problem; 81 years ago, that scenario was tantamount to a death sentence. A watertight door separated between the flooded and sealed part of the sunken vessel, where 26 bodies floated, and the dry side where 33 men huddled in the darkness, fearing the frightful death that awaited them. Unknown to the seamen, a private citizen had developed a rescue method that was able to reach their depth. Using it, a rescue team descended and, when the submariners heard noise on the outside, they tapped out one question in Morse code, “Is there any hope?” (Thankfully, they were all rescued).
Just about 6 years later, Billy Graham was sitting in the office of Konrad Adenauer, the 1st Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. Adenauer was, according to Graham, “deeply committed to the traditional values of Western Christendom that Hitler and many of his followers had tried to repudiate.” Chancellor Adenauer asked the evangelist, “Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?” Graham answered, “I do. If I did not, I wouldn’t be preaching what I preach.” Adenauer looked out over the still war-scarred city of Berlin, now divided by communism, and said, “Apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know of no other hope for the human race.”
We have all seen the bumper sticker: “Know Christ, Know hope/No Christ, No hope.” Christians know the truth of that statement. Through faith in Christ, we have received a hope that is eternally secure. The Apostle Paul referred to hope in Romans 5. If we laid aside the wonderful truth of Divine Inspiration, and it were you who had to put into words the thoughts that are in that passage, how would you have finished this sentence: “Hope maketh not ashamed; because …”? Would you have written that hope maketh not ashamed “because God is faithful?” “Hope maketh not ashamed because the Bible is true”? Would you have written, “We have no fear of our hope failing to be valid because God’s promises cannot fail?”
All of those statements are, of course, true. But is there any possibility – even the slightest – that you would have completed it by writing that it is because “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”? Would you have based the certainty of our hope on God’s astounding love? Probably not. Paul is expressing that what we anticipate is absolutely certain because we are loved by the God Who gave His Son for us and His Spirit to us. It is a love that was completely undeserved (vs. 6); it is a love that was completely and perfectly displayed (vs. 8). Having loved us with an everlasting love, God drew us with lovingkindness and linked us eternally with His beloved Son. We who once were ungodly (vs. 6), unrighteous (vss. 7, 8), and enemies (vs. 10), have now been reconciled and “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We who once had no hope and were without God (Ephesians 2), now have a hope that is like an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6). This is a truth, like so many others, that directs our hearts toward the Triune God. Christ is not only our Passover (1 Co 5:7), our peace (Eph 2:14) and our life, (Col 3:4), but He is our hope (1 Tim 1:1). We are linked with the God of Hope (Rom 15:13), and are told in the same verse that we can “abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Peter tells us it is a living hope. Paul tells us it is a blessed hope.
Counting the days when self-isolation was still voluntary, this is, by my reckoning, the 30th day of our lockdown here in NJ. As the health secretary said, “It’s very important to have hope.” We all share a hope (in the sense of “a wish”) that this present crisis will end and that a vaccine will be found. We hope that the virus will not become cyclical or seasonal. We hope that more people will not die from this virus. We hope that our nation, and the nations of the world, will learn from this so that future crises will not find us medically unprepared. But, as believers in a risen Savior, we also have a hope (in the sense of “an absolutely certain expectation”) that He is coming for us and we will be with Him forever. That hope cannot be destroyed by sickness and death (it is a “living hope”), cannot be dimmed by darkness and pain (it is a “blessed hope”), and cannot be deluged by storms and trials (it is a sure and steadfast “anchor”).
Some years ago, there was a very stirring and hearty preacher to which many of us had the privilege of listening: Mr. Archie Stewart. He called the Book of Psalms, “God’s Quick-Lunch Counter,” a place where you could quickly get some food for your soul when you did not have time for lengthy reading. Here is some solid food, on the topic of hope, from the Quick-Lunch Counter, where what you will find is always nourishing, constantly available, and totally free.
- Ps 33:22 “O LORD … we hope in Thee.
- Ps 39:7 “Lord … my hope is in Thee.
- Ps 42:11 “Hope thou in God.”
- Ps 71:14 “I will hope continually.”
The term “Covidiot” was coined because of the “idiotic” and selfish behavior of some people. Dave McMichael, one of my clever brothers-in-law, came up with something more memorable. Since “COVID” is, itself, something of an acronym, I am not sure whether his sentence is, perhaps, more of a backronym: “Christ Offers Victory In Death.” And with Isaiah 43:2 in mind, we know that that victory is not only in, but over, death itself.
For many years the southern tip of Africa was called the “Cape of Storms,” so named by the Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias. Sailors dreaded the dangerous waters about the cape. At some point the cape’s name was changed. The writer J. Ralph Grant suggests that it was renamed because the Portuguese Captain Vasco De Gama successfully sailed around the tip of Africa and came back. This helped to remove the dread and terror. The “Cape of Storms” became the “Cape of Good Hope.” Whether that is historically accurate or not, it is true that, for us, death and the grave were once a “cape of storms.” But the Captain of our salvation passed through death, defeating it, and came back. Now, for the believer, it is a cape of good hope. God’s love has made it possible for us to have a “hope that does not put us to shame.” That is why Paul wrote: “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life … shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38, 39). As we await His imminent return, we can lift our gaze above the chaos and can focus on this: Christ is our hope. The thoroughly Biblical, Sir Edward Denny, wrote in one of his thoroughly Biblical hymns:
“Hope of our hearts, O Lord, appear! Thou glorious Star of day,
Shine forth, and chase the dreary night, with all our tears, away!”