|Vol. 16 No. 10 October 2014||
Gary C. Hampton
Robert Ingersoll, an atheist, paid tribute to his deceased brother, Ebon C. Ingersoll, in Washington, D.C. on May 31, 1879. He said,
Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.
He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for a return of health, whispered with his latest breath, “I am better now.” Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas and tears and fears that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.
Contrast Ingersoll’s baseless longing for hope with Peter’s words to Christians confronting persecution.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).
The word “blessed,” according to Thayer, means “praised.” God is particularly to be praised because of his great mercy that leads to men being born again (John 3:1-8). Christians are born into a hope that lives with promise because Christ is alive from the grave (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
The Christians’ hope is an inheritance since they are born as children into a family (Romans 8:13-17). It is undefiled because no impurity will be allowed in heaven. It never fades, like a flower perpetually in beautiful bloom. It is “reserved,” like being guarded by a military guard, kept for those who faithfully pursue God’s will (1 John 2:25).
Christians are guarded by God as long as they remain true to the faith and keep it constant until the last time when the ultimate salvation in heaven will be revealed.
Do you ever have periods of depression? There are so many events that can disappoint us. Even more disheartening are letdowns from people. In this life we cannot escape disappointments from our fellows. Jesus said: “It is impossible but that occasions of stumbling should come” (Luke 17:1).
We are powerless to control what others might do, but we can decide how we will respond. Let’s consider what difference forethought can make. Have you ever had an agitated interchange of words with someone, only later to think of what you should have said? After-the-fact we come up with many great things that could have been said.
Since we know that disappointments will come, we can make some mental preparation. Visualize how you ought to respond when a let-down occurs. Listen to the disappointment in these words of Jesus. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). The Jewish rejection of their promised Messiah was tragic. His heart was broken.
The Master’s response is humbling. Did He allow this affront to derail His plans? Did He turn His back and walk away? Quite the opposite. His back was burdened with the cross, and He died for us all – “while we were enemies” (Romans 5:10). Our blessed Lord did not respond with prolonged discouragement. One definition of “discouragement” is “the state of being discouraged.” Discouragement is a thief that robs men of positive progress and productivity. I shudder to think of the hopeless destiny we all would face if Jesus had given us what we deserve (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 10:31).
Let’s make application. We shall meet with disappointment, but we need not wallow on in debilitating discouragement. We can decide ahead of time how we will treat others when they offend us. Remember, hatred harbored in the heart hurts the harborer, not the hated.
Refuse to allow events or people to throw you into a pit of self-destructive pity. Take a look at children. There can be a falling-out between two, and one will say, “I’m takin’ my toys and playing by myself!” The next minute they are playing together again. We adults become too good at holding a grudge and keeping it fed.