“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: … Like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.” Ecclesiastes 9:11-12
Isn’t it funny how much of what goes on in the world is beyond our understanding and yet we think we can steer and control it? I’m learning that doing so is a great waste of time. There’s so much going on ‘behind the scenes’ in the spiritual realm that would blow our minds if we were privy to it all. God’s only allowed us small glimpses of it. See Job 1:6-12, 2 Kings 6:16-17, Dan. 9:21, 10:11-13, 20-21, Eph. 6:12, Jude 9, and Rev. 12:7.
THE ONE EVENT
It’s part of human nature to be fixated on self. Ironically, it doesn’t matter how rich, famous, beautiful, fit, skilled, talented, or wise one is, the one event that happens to everyone (regardless of status) is DEATH (Eccl. 9:11-12). Man, like a bird caught in a snare, does not know when death will suddenly fall upon him (Eccl. 9:11-12). All the tiresome toils and passing pleasures of this life can be traced back to the nature and fall of man. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the consequences of it were life changing as man and woman no longer had access to the Tree of Life. Now bound in time—life subject to limitations—it advances toward the one event that brings them back to the dust that they came from (Gen. 2:7, 17, 3:19, Eccl. 12:7, 1 Cor. 15:47, Ps. 103:14).
GOD’S TIME IS NOT OUR TIME
All’s not fair in this life. Often the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. The question, “Why would a loving God permit evil and suffering in the world?” is a common one. God’s allowed men and women to have freewill, giving each to choose to follow what’s good or what’s evil. God’s already provided a remedy for sin and His mercy and longsuffering are beyond human comprehension (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8, Ps. 86:15, 2 Pet. 3:9). To us mere mortals, ensnared in a fallen world, it may seem like an eternity, but God’s timing is always perfect. His work goes beyond the scope and sphere of our work and His purpose dates back before time began, and continues on after it’s ended. We’re unable to ‘find out the work that God does from the beginning to the end’ (Eccl. 3:11, Rom. 11:33-36, Acts 1:7, Ps. 115:3, Isa. 40:28). So why do we think we can?
The endless cycle of human experience described in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a faint echo of the mighty purpose of the ages. Whatever God does, it will be forever. Not a thing can be added to it or taken from it (Eccl. 3:14). God works in the way He does ‘that men should fear before Him’ (Eccl. 3:14). This fear of the Lord (reverence) is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). It’s only the “beginning” as Job discovered (Job 42:5-6, James 5:11). King Solomon found that the conclusion of all his searching and testing was to “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13).
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN NO LONGER FEAR GOD?
When men no longer fear God they sin without hesitation. The fear of consequences isn’t a deterrent when the fear (reverence) of God is gone. Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many devices (schemes) in a man’s heart, yet the counsel of the Lord shall stand.” Yet throughout the ages man has turned to the creature and not the Creator to seek counsel apart from God using everything from fortune tellers with crystal balls to tarot cards and horoscopes. Even turning to witches, enchanters, wizards—those who use spells, divination or consult with familiar (evil) spirits to seek the dead. These are of no real help and an abomination to the Lord (Rom. 1:25, Ps. 115:4-8, 146:3-4, Deut. 18:10-12, Lev. 19:26-31, 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Titus 1:10-16). This in the end led to King Saul’s demise (1 Chron. 10:13-14).
OBEDIENCE LEARNED THROUGH SUFFERING
Jesus’ death and resurrection has given the believer a hope and a purpose to wait patiently and endure this present evil age. If the dead won’t rise then the “Let’s eat, drink for tomorrow we die” mentality would suffice. But that’s not the case. The counsel of the Lord will stand and all works will be brought into judgement (Eccl. 12:14, Ps. 37:1-2, Heb. 10:23). Sin came through disobedience while righteousness comes through obedience (Rom. 5:12, 19). “Though He were a son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8, 12:2, 1 Pet. 2:21-24). Obedience is the cadence in which a believer must learn to walk in. One can’t bypass suffering in the chain of events that lead to hope (Rom. 5:3-4). Being conformed to Christ’s likeness happens as the believer has faith through trying times, while keeping their eye on the prize (Rom. 8:29, Phil. 3:14, 20-21, 2 Tim. 4:7-8, 2: Cor. 4:8-10, 16-18). Though we may not understand it, God disciplines because He desires for us to be partakers of His holiness. It’s not always pleasant going through it but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:5-11, Gal. 6:8-9, 2 Tim. 2:11, 2 Cor. 4:17-18).
FAITH IS MEASURED IN STEPS
Our finite minds can only see in part. It’s not for the created to question the Creator. God justifies man/woman when they come to Christ and receive Him as Savior, knowing that it’s not based on any merit of their own. The believer becomes a new creation and learns to live and walk by faith, not by sight (Eph. 2:8-10, 2 Cor. 5:17, 7, Gal. 2:20). Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” God sees the whole staircase. He knows where it’s going. We need to trust and obey His direction and will in our lives. Even when we trip and fall, we need to get up and take the next step in faith, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2).
May the poem, “The Weaver”, by holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, inspire you to see with eyes of faith:
“My life is but a weaving
between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaves steadily.
Oft’ times He weaves sorrow;
and I in foolish pride
forget He sees the upper
and I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
will God unroll the canvas
and reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
in the weaver’s skillful hand
as the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
who leave the choice to Him.”
It’s been said that people can live for up to 70 days without food, 10 days without water, and 6 minutes without air. But they can’t live without hope.
In order to stay afloat through the changing ocean tides of life, one needs an anchor for the soul that’s both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19). That anchor for the Christian is hope.
The word hope defined by Noah Webster is: a desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable.
Where or what one places his or her hope in can make all the difference. Is one’s hope placed in fallible, unpredictable man’s ways or in some realm of this fallen world? Or is one’s hope placed in (what the Scriptures testify to) an immutable (unchanging) God, Who doesn’t have in His nature to lie (Heb. 6:18, Tit. 1:2)?
David’s hope (or expectation) was from God, “My soul, wait silently for God alone; For my expectation is from Him…Trust in Him at all times…Do not trust in oppression, nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:5, 8, 10). David’s confident trust in the Lord is reflected also in Psalm 56:3-4, “Whenever I’m afraid I will trust in You. In God I will praise His word, In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do to me…” Notice his use of “In God I have put my trust”.
Not surprisingly as America has distanced itself away from “in God we trust” as a nation and toward dependence on the ever-changing & unreliable ways of man, there’s been a rise in anxiety, depression, and related disorders resulting in a reliance on an array of prescription drugs (which sadly many times, in the long run only worsen things). Not trying to negate or minimize the truly devastating effects of life in a fallen world, and the legitimate need for some to be dependent on medication/s, but stress, hardships and troubles are a reality for all in this present life (albeit, some more than others). There’s a real need in society today for more encouragement toward its citizens to have a faith in a loving God, and our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, that transcends self. It’s only there that the believer will find an object of hope that’s glorious, eternal & will not disappoint (Titus 2:13, Rom. 5:5, Phil. 3:20).
FAITH IS THE NECESSARY LINK TO HAVING HOPE as it’s the outworking of trust in God and the proof of BELIEVING IN THINGS NOT SEEN. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” (Hebrews 11:1); “…hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what it sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Rom. 8:24-25).
Faith is the crucial channel that leads to hope as one is saved through it (Eph. 2:8), and without it one cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Having faith may seem easy at first (especially when times are good and the living is easy). Sadly the moment when challenging circumstances arise, it’s in human nature to dwell on the seen trials rather than on an unseen God. Even the disciple Peter began to (literally) sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and was thus rebuked, “O you of little faith” (Matt. 14:24-33).
Those who have faith (as those in chapter 11 of Hebrews) are prime examples of the Romans 5:25 chain that connects tribulations (afflictions) to perseverance (patience) and perseverance to character (experience) which leads to hope. Their hope made it possible to endure hardships as they focused and relied on the invisible God and His promises (Heb. 11:27). We too, today need to look for our blessed hope, not here on earth, but where it’s laid up for us in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1-4, Phil. 3:20-21, Titus 2:13).
Nothing worthwhile is easy, but one must suffer evil as a good soldier (2 Tim. 2:4), especially in a world with its allures of instant fixes and gratification.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
A Story of Hope
Theirs was the perfect country residency. It was really quite the set up–fully loaded with everything they could possibly need. All that was required of them was to make sure that it was taken care of and preserved. The only stipulation that the Architect/LandLORD had been adamant about was for them not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil. If they did they would forfeit their security (of life) deposit (Genesis 2:15-17).
They were unaware that a potential, conniving squatter had snuck in and was planning on scamming them into breaking their contract with the LandLORD. In his corrupted, scheming heart it was a ‘no brainer’. All he had to do was make them question what the LandLORD had said & knew they’d forget about the stipulation—and of course that’s exactly what happened (Gen. 3:1-6).
The LandLORD became aware immediately and the penalties were swift for the tenants (Gen. 3:16-19). They not only were evicted from their home of paradise but forfeited their security (of life) deposit as warned (Gen. 3:22-24) and were sent out–homeless–to live their remaining sentence, with the stain of sin & death on their record, in a very different dark & fallen environment that was filled with toil, sweat and pain. Sadly the fate of their poor choice was even more far reaching–extending to every generation to come (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22). The usurper would be held accountable as well for his part and suffer total destruction in due time (Gen. 3:15; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8). Until then he would be allowed to continue to tempt and deceive mankind (John 8:44, Heb. 2:14, 2 Cor. 4:4).
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
All was not lost as a Savior from on high entered into the fallen world and took on flesh & blood so that through His sacrificial death, He could destroy the devil (the usurper, who was allowed the power of death) and thus deliver mankind, who’d been subject to bondage all this time and make reconciliation for the sins of the people (Though as sinners they were undeserving of this merciful grace—He still died for them.) (Luke 1:30-32, 35, 78-79, 2:11; Heb. 2:14-17; Phil. 2:5-8; Eph. 2:3-5). This Savior/Mediator, though sinless, gave Himself as ransom for all, through His blood so that those who received this offer would become in good standing (as their debt was forgiven) once again with the LandLORD (Col. 1:12, 14, 20, 2:14; Eph. 2:8; 1 John 3:5).
A promise of a new residence & citizenship in heaven was given to all who believed & received the offer–and once it was received this security (of life) deposit could not be taken away (John 3:16; Eph. 1:13-14, 2:19; 2 Cor. 5:5; Phil. 3:20-21). They received direction & guidance (including ways to protect themselves in their present environment) from a living handbook (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 6:10-18). These new citizens of heaven know that when their earthly house (their tent), is destroyed, they’ll have a building from God. A house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For this they groan as they earnestly desire to be clothed with their heavenly habitation while still being burdened as they wait for mortality to be swallowed up by life (2 Cor. 5:1-4). Their sights have been readjusted on things above, making it bearable for them to walk with endurance & victory in the present fallen world where they walk by faith (Col. 3:1-3; 2 Cor. 4:7-11, 16-18, 5:8).
So if you haven’t already joined them, consider it so you too can have the hope of a new change of wardrobe from a corrupt outdated body of humiliation to a timeless & gloriously fashioned one like the body of His glory.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that’s written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory!” (1 Cor. 15:42-49, 54). Hallelujah!
Having an Outlook that’s Positively Eternal
March is the month that includes the last phase of winter & also the official beginning of spring. For us in the northern Midwest especially, it’s the long awaited glimmer of hope of warmer temperatures and the bright & beautiful colors of creation reawakening–replacing the frozen snow-covered, brown & barren ground.
THE HOPE OF SPRING ENABLES US TO ENDURE THE REMAINING DAYS OF WINTER.
I often tell people (especially after discussing current events or other circumstances that may be out of my control), that I’m so thankful that I have ‘a Hope’. I don’t mean the kind of hope that has a trace of doubt in it—like, “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow” or “I hope he remembers to bring the mail in”. That’s an “I’m not so sure if it will happen, but I have my fingers crossed” kind of hope—it’s possible but… The “Hope” that keeps me ‘keeping’ on’ and focusing upward is the capital “H” type of Hope defined by “confident expectancy”—as in the fulfillment of a promise. It’s a certain hope (where there’s no trace of doubt) (Heb. 6:19, 10:23; Titus 1:2)!
Martin Luther King Jr. said this, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Finite means having limits or bounds/fixed. Contrarily, infinite means limitless/unable to measure. This type of hope can only come from the Divine. It’s a HIGH Hope placed in a God Who, though He was on High, was brought low so that those (like me) who were low could have a hope on High (Phil. 2:6-9, 3:20; Rom. 3:23, 5:6-11)!
- IT’S a PRECIOUS & BLESSED HOPE that was BOUGHT with a PRICE. A Hope, through Christ Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, for those who were alienated, to have peace with God & citizenship in heaven upon its reception (Eph. 2:12-13; Phil. 3:20).
- IT’S a HOPE that came by GRACE & through FAITH is received (2 Thess. 2:16, Eph. 2:8).
- IT’S a SAVING & ETERNAL HOPE (Rom. 8:24, 1 Thess. 5:8, Titus 1:2, & Eph. 2:8).
- IT’S A HOPE that focuses on the BIG PICTURE—the FOREST (not just the trees). This Hope comes from God’s perspective & doesn’t focus on earthly circumstances that will pass –but on the eternal unseen things that will last (2 Cor. 4:18).
- IT’S A GLORIOUS HOPE THAT CAUSES ONE TO REJOICE (not be disappointed) even through hard circumstances the future glory outweighs the present afflictions (Rom. 5:2, 5; Col. 1:27; 2 Cor. 4:8-10, 17).
- IT’S SUBSTANCE CONSISTS of FAITH/UNSEEN with the NAKED EYE. Through tribulation, perseverance & character it’s produced & must be eagerly waited for with perseverance (Hebrews 11:1, Rom. 5:3-4, 8:24-25).
- IT’S ENERGIZING: One can endure & abound in this hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word (Rom 15:4, 13; 2 Cor. 4:16).
THE HOPE OF ETERNITY ENABLES US TO ENDURE OUR REMAINING TIME ON EARTH.
Want the shadows to fall behind you? Keep your mind’s eye toward the Son and the things above where HIGH HOPE can be found (Col. 3:1-4, Heb. 12:1-2, Titus 2:13).