Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My Hope Is Built...

I ran across this quote from C. H. Spurgeon. Let me say that I'm not the kind of guy who quotes Spurgeon or Lewis or any of the other noteable, quoteable Christians with any regularity, but this one caught me unprepared:

"It is the most bitter of all afflictions to be led to fear that there is no help for us in God."
Now I could run with this quote in a couple of different directions. First, as a Christian, to be convinced that God will do nothing to comfort me, to rescue me, to strengthen me or to direct me would indeed be a horrible spiritual place to be. In 2 Samuel 16, Shimei curses the fleeing King David, telling him essentially that because David has lived a life of war that even God will not save him. David alludes to this in Psalm 3, when he writes, "Many are saying of me, 'God will not deliver him'." David knew better, but I've talked to people who see no hope in God whatsoever. The horrible nature of their grief and dispair is more than they believe God can handle. Heaven, hell and divine promises mean nothing to a person who is lost in sorrow and fear. The bitterness of that fear does seem to be stronger than any other I can imagine. There are plenty of these people who leave faith healing crusades still in wheelchairs, still nearly blind, still wracked with pain, hopeless because the "healer" didn't call on them from the audience. The fear of being damned with no care from God would be seemingly unbearable.

But the other way I could understand this quote is from a non-Christian, or even an atheistic position. The atheist sees no possibility of hope in God. This life is all there is. Yet it's different for her because in her worldview, nobody has any hope. Saint or sinner, genius or idiot -- we're all doomed to decomposition after we've struggled for every breath we could manage. And I suppose there is some comfort in that for the atheist. Death becomes the Great Equalizer. Sure she'll get nothing more, but neither will anybody else.

And so the idea of a God who saves only those who come to Him on HIS terms becomes an affront to her sensibilites. She can become upset by those who have hope in God because it seems like a rather capricious system. It's like winning the lottery or being struck by lightning. The only "rules to the game" seem to be giving up your common sense or your freedom to win. Since this is unacceptable, atheism seems the more fair system. A hopeless system. And that would certain make me bitter toward the idea of God and toward those who expouse such a view.

So there are those who are bitter because they view the world as a hopeless system, and those who believe themselves on the outside looking in. Whether it's simply dismissing the concept of God or thinking you've personally done something to exclude you from hope, the result is the same. But while that may be bitter, it's not the most tragic. The most tragic situation is not those who are hopeless, but of those who live with a false hope. These people have placed hope in something that will not happen.

My fourteen year-old still has hope that someone will buy him that dream car this week and drop it off at the house. A woman who was caught in the act of adultery has hope that her betrayed husband will eventually forgive her and welcome her back, despite the fact that he has been happily remarried for five years now. A gambler hopes that the one to whom he owes much more than he has will forget about the debt for a while. False hope is worthless. Yet I don't go a day without talking to someone with false hope.

A person with a false hope in the power of his own works is in a dangerous situation. Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter-Day Saints think that God will save them based upon what they do on earth, yet the Bible tells us that works do not save. These people have doomed themselves based upon a false hope. Followers of all other religious faiths have done the same thing by trusting their leaders who tell them that one must be good to attain heaven, nirvana, godhood, perfection or whatever promise that faith makes. Yet if I'm hoping to be good enough for a perfect God, then I'm hopeless. I know what's in my heart.

Finally there are so many people who call themselves "Christian" yet have put their hope in their own efforts. Being better than some selected other people is the only standard they choose to accept, and they convince themselves that this is how it all works. My heart aches for those whose hope is terribly misplaced.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

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