The worldly hope men set their hearts upon turns to ashes
I wait for the lord, my soul does wait, and in his word do I hope
This generation is engulfed in a maze of crisis. These crises are unique because each one of them is capable of annihilating our civilization. Some world authorities have even gone ahead to postulate that we might not even survive this millennium; that ours is the “Terminal Generation”. Evidence of a world in dire straits are sadly obvious: an ever increasing void between the haves and have-nots, a regime of anomie, economic downturns, political unrests, moral decline, a regime of anomie, changing weather patterns, an increase in the spate of natural disasters, hunger, famine, mutation and migration of deadly disease across borders, balkanization of family ties, wars and rumors of war, to mention just a few. Many are being gradually pushed beyond the Rubicon of tolerance into a world of fear, despair and hopelessness.
As this generation faces a greater external crisis, we are less able to cope. Men are becoming more depressed, women confused and children lost in an avalanche of decaying values, overwhelmed by the complexities of a directionless world. Our shock systems are no match for the formidable armada of disintegrating values and sundry other challenges we’re daily confronted with. Stress permeates virtually every stratum of our world, afflicting both the rich and the poor. This worry epidemic lives us fatigued and helpless. “Help me” is the cry of most people you see every day on the streets pretending that all is well, going through the motions of living their miserable lives, not knowing where all this is leading. Life has lost its meaning for many who are merely hanging on to the cliff waiting for their inevitable end and freedom from the whole nonsense.
A global outcry of earthquake proportions ricochets left, right and centre: What is happening? Where did we go wrong? What can we do to remedy the situation? These questions stem from the fears that grip us in the face of a world teetering precariously on a hydro-carbon pinnacle; a world gone madly amok. In seeking answers to the various questions thrown up by man’s sad state, many have taken different routes: Alcoholism, drug addiction, occultism, false religions, mysticism, philosophies, et al. But these roads have all ended in cul-de-sacs, resulting in more broken lives and shattered hopes. They have left men more confused than they were prior to embarking on their fruitless journeys.
The major reason why man continues to grope in the darkness of life, when he should naturally be living on the bright side is because he has misplaced his priorities. He has chosen philosophy above reason in his quest for answers to life’s most stirring questions: Where did I come from? Who am i? Why am I here? Where am I going? Man has allowed the Philosophical postulations of fellow men to condition the way he lives and thinks. Philosophy has become the foundation of every human society. Philosophical ideas like the non-existence of truths- only opposite views or forces- (thesis and antithesis), and the non-existence of absolutes (principle of relativity), govern our daily lives. The grandfather of this movement (which started from the eighteenth century and is still evolving) that now permeates virtually all aspects of our lives was the German, Hegel, whose theory of relativism provided the foundation for the western philosophies of pragmatism, humanism, scientism, and existentialism. Hegel’s disciples, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, expanded on his thoughts and took them to heights never thought of. The relative thinking of these men forms the fulcrum of our academic systems which has eroded our cultures and coloured our beliefs in absolute truths and morality.
To the basic questions of life, these men answer thus: Where did I come from? “Man is here by chance, his existence is meaningless and his identity an uncertainty”. Who am I? “Man is a helpless victim of ignorance and fear; he is nothing”. Why am I here? “To dethrone God and destroy capitalism” (Karl Marx); “To completely hate life with a passion (Soren Kierkegaard). Where am I going? God is dead, so man is doomed to live and die to no purpose on this earth. The seeds sown by the philosophies of these men are still with us today. No wonder there is little acceptance of God and his absolutes in our primary and tertiary institutions. These men have gone to extreme lengths to make God unnecessary and push him out of our minds. They have influenced us into rejecting our sense of reasoning in order to totally embrace the philosophical systems of relativism and atheism (2 Peter 3:3, 5 NIV). Virtually everything that touches our lives today is connected to the teachings of these men. But funny enough, we are ignorant of this fact. That is why most people, including modern day Christians are unable to answer the four most important questions of life. This has tended to produce the same uncertainties, the same confusion of minds that it elicited in those men who postulated these theories. Is there no hope for this obviously hopeless generation? What is the Bible’s take on this?
Now, hope is one of the most significant words in life and one of the building blocks of Christianity. It is also one of the major themes of the Bible and runs through the Book from Genesis to Revelation. Proof of this is demonstrated by its several Hebrew versions: Qavah (hope that gives strength: Isaiah 40; 31), Yachal (hope that gives endurance: Job 13; 15), Batach (hope that inspires trust: Psalm 22:9; 16:9, 10; Romans 4: 18 KJV), Chasa (hope that gives refuge: psalm 104; 18; Proverbs 14:32) and Sabar (hope that looks intently to the promise: Isaiah 38: 18, 19). The ancient Jews and later, early Christians hoped for the fulfillment of several prophecies and promises related to them, their religion and nation. While the Jews looked forward to the coming of their promised military Messiah who would free them from the brutal yokes of their Roman overlords, early Christians looked forward to the fulfillment of the prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming and the deliverance of all who surfer oppression for his sake (John 14:1-3 NIV). Modern Christians also look forward to the later promise.
The modern dictionary defines hope as to “wish for”, “to expect (without certainty)”, “to desire very much (but with no real assurance of obtaining your desire)”. The book of life, the Bible, defines hope as an indication of certainty. It is first an attitude of faith in the things we are promised in the future. It is something we choose to have, subject by subject. Biblical faith believes everything that proceeds from God’s mouth and then acts upon the truth therein. This is the kind of hope that liberates us from all our fears, both real and imagined, and keeps us going in a world of frightening uncertainties. With this kind of hope, we can boldly answer the four basic questions of life in a life-transforming, hope eliciting manner.
This is how the Bible answers the basic questions of life. Where did we come from? We are from God, Created in His image and likeness (Gen 2: 7; 1:26, 27; Matt 19:4). Who are we? We are special people, unique creations of divine intelligence, fashioned with love and care (psalm 139:13-16). Why are we here? To get to know God better (John 17:30), to mature in faith and grow in the knowledge of our lord and savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18 NIV), to be role models and do good (Titus 2; 14 NIV), to enjoy life through our relationship with God (Philipans4:4 NIV). Where are we going? We are going to our eternal home, heaven, where our lord and saviour Jesus Christ has prepared incredibly beautiful mansions for us (John 14:1-3). These succinct answers (and not the sterile, whacko philosophies of these end times) gives more meaning to our existence and lives on this earth. They are the foundations of real hope for this hopeless generation.