The play “Thunder Rock” flopped in New York City, but in London, England, inthe fall of 1940 it became a sensation. In the story, a lighthouse-keeper on Lake Michigan reflects on the passengers whose ship went down near there in 1848. Throughout endless days and lonely nights, he re-creates these forlorn passengers who had fled Europe as immigrants and now in this wreck had lost what little they owned. They were discouraged, the world was against them, their hope was used up.
The lighthouse-keeper imagines he is personally addressing the passengers. He urges them to hold on. There is plenty of reason for hope, he assures them, because at that very moment in Illinois there is a young man named Abraham Lincoln. Madame Curie has been born. Florence Nightingale is alive. Pasteur is in Paris. Lift up your spirits, he calls to them. There is good news just ahead.
In his 1941 book on war-time London, “I Saw England,” CBS newsman Ben Robertson tells that story. He adds, “The citizens of London went to that show, night after night, and wept. It was a play for a city that had prepared itself to die.”
The Old Testament prophets had an interesting assignment. They weresometimes called on to preach doom and disaster until the events actually occurred. Thereafter, they were reassigned to give hope to the people that the future held brighter prospects, that they should not despair, but should fix their hopes on the Lord and serve Him. Human nature being what it is, I suspect some of those preachers were better at the negative than the positive. Likewise, I imagine the people in the depth of despair found it difficult to lift up their heads and their spirits and start believing again.
Hope is not a term most of us grapple with on a daily basis. If you are living comfortably, able to afford whatever you need, your bills are paid, and the family is doing well, you do not sit around dreaming of a day when things will be better. If you’re not careful, you will give no thought to tomorrow at all. When the preacher (this one!) says to you that bad times are coming, you turn him off as a nay-sayer. So, let me put it this way.
You are going to die someday. Sorry, but it’s true. Statistics show that one out of one person dies.
Writer William Saroyan once said, “Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?” He died in 1981 at the age of 73.
What will you do then? Do you have hope that you will be in good hands? Do you look forward to life beyond this life?
Next question: if you do have hope, what are you basing it on?
I know people who are basing their eternity on the teachings of a religious charlatan who claims to have had a vision and the testimony of a convicted con man who says he read a message from Heaven in some golden plates which no one has seen since. Their prophet is dead, his word is worthless, and the plates are non-existent. Theirs is a dead hope and we pray they wake up.
Here are four words on hope every one of us should hang on for dear life.
1. “MY HOPE IS IN THEE.” (Psalm 39:7) The Lord alone gives us reason for a positive expectation about the future. He is “the God of hope.” (Romans 15:13)
2. “We have been born again to a LIVING HOPE by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.” (I Peter 1:3) Jesus Christ rose from the dead and became both the conqueror of death and our personal guarantor of immortality. Our hope is in a living Person.
3. “In hope WE HAVE BEEN SAVED. But hope that is seen is not hope. For why does one also hope for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24) The very nature of hope pertains to the unseen future. If we already possess it, we no longer have to hope for it. In Heaven, we shall possess all that Jesus promised.
4. “This hope we have as AN ANCHOR FOR OUR SOULS.” (Hebrews 6:19) Nothing steadies us like a strong faith in the future which God has promised andChrist has guaranteed. The Apostle Paul wrote to some early believers that he had heard of their “faith in Christ Jesus, and their love for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for them in Heaven.” (Colossians 1:4-5)
A pastor and a priest stood by a road driving a sign into the ground. The message read: “The end is near! Turn around now before it’s too late.” A motorist speeding by sticks his head out the window and yells, “Religious nuts!” A moment later, the sound of screeching tires and a splash fills the air. The pastor turns to the priest and says, “Maybe we ought to just say: ‘Bridge Out Ahead.'”
This fellow asked, “When are you preachers going to quit talking about dying?” The man of God said, “Just as soon as people quit dying.”