We are living in very interesting times. Not a Chinese curse, this mistaken Chinese proverb was started by Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1936 when in a letter to a friend he said, “Many years ago I learned from one of our diplomats in China that one of the principal Chinese curses heaped upon an enemy is, ‘May you live in an interesting age.'”
It was untrue, but stuck in the minds of Western people, such that it has been so quoted by politicians, incorporated into media through books, articles and television, and it plays on the minds of westerners as such an ironic expression, that it has become almost impossible to find someone who has not heard it. Though the source was incorrect, the truth of the saying sticks because it resonates with our times: they are interesting because they are frightening unless you understand the times.
It is a misconception and dangerous assumption that history repeats itself. This is true, but only on a microscopic scale; e.g. children will always look for independence from their parents; wars will always be fought over land, resources or political power; fall will always give way to winter to spring to summer and back to fall. Solomon even said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
However, on the macroscopic level history is a continual development; in spite of Solomon’s wisdom he missed that there is new “stuff” that occurs. He never anticipated microchips or computers or space travel or refined drugs or MRIs. But on a deeper level, there is also a progression that is more than just the discovery of new toys and techniques. There has never been seven billion (7,000,000,000) people on the face of the earth at one time! Israel, once displaced from their promised homeland, has returned for the last time to “the Holy Land.” International relations, to the point of joining the world into one political entity, has never been possible before now.
So while “what has been done will be done again” occurs in small ways, this moment in history is like no other: it has followed all the previous moments and precedes only a limited number of moments to follow.
History is a clock that is winding down to an end. Even the universe declares this, as physicists argue over whether the universe will eventually contract once again into an infinitely small mass or continue expanding into oblivion. One way or another the entire world, the entire universe, and certainly your life here on earth will end. For the evolutionist, this is a despairing proposition. Without meaning, for what can one hope? For the Buddhist or Hindu, caught in an endless cycle of reincarnation, how can one hope to escape? Islam offers a heaven to anyone, but only if your good deeds outweigh your bad, and if Allah has chosen one to enter; but how can one know? In ancestral worship, one is dependent on children or future generations for gifts to live the good life in the ethereal state, but what if they forget you? How can you hope?
But there is a “hope” that is much more than “hoping that your team wins the championship” or “hoping that this idea will work out for me,” etc. In Paul’s writings, “hope” is a solid confidence of something not yet realized. As opposed to an empty wish-type of hoping, his and our “hope” is in Jesus the Messiah, the “hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27).
We live in interesting and uncertain times. No one knows how long he or she will live. Bombs in Istanbul murder 12 Germans, a train wreck in Philadelphia kills eight, a manhole cover somehow comes loose and kills a woman driving on the highway in Boston; obesity (by choice) is said to kill 30,000 people annually while lightning (randomly, we assume) kills 10,000 per year; texting (mostly while driving) results in over 6000 deaths per year while falling icicles kill over 100 . No one knows how long he or she will live, so how can we hope?
There are certain and clear promises in the Bible that give us “hope” that can not be dislodged by current events, tragedies around us, and not even by our own mortality! Joel was inspired (2:28-32) by The God Who Is There to write:
“I will pour out My Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.“
Peter clarified on the day of Pentecost what Joel meant: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” He then went on to say to those listening, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:17-38)
Repentance is a simple turning away from one direction and going in another. Faith, i.e. trust, in Him is not something you can manufacture in yourself. His Holy Spirit can make you alive in Jesus and give you “hope” that will never be put to shame. You simply need to ask Him and wait for His answer. Paul explained further: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
The Question That You Need To Answer today, is How Can You Hope?
Next week, March 27, 2016, we will look at the fourth question: Where Do You Find Love?