Do you remember when you were without hope?

You may be thinking that this title refers to that time in your life when you had great financial distress, but it doesn’t. Or you may suppose that it refers to that time when you may have been in fear for your life at the threat of a thief or a maniac, but it doesn’t. Or you may be thinking it’s referring to the loss of a parent or a spouse, but it doesn’t.

It’s referring to Ephesians chapter 2: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh,… That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”

Too many people are hopeless, and far too many Christians are displaying hopelessness as well. It’s very easy to get caught up in the concerns for this life and to forget that there’s an eternity awaiting us. Paul is saying that without Christ this life is hopeless. Without Christ this life holds no promises.

The writer of Ecclesiastes makes the same point in a very powerful way. He writes about seeking success, wealth, joy and meaningful work, but at the end of the day it’s vanity, “grasping after the wind.” He’s not suggesting that these pursuits are worthless. His conclusion is the same as Paul’s, without God in your life all these things are hopeless. His conclusion of the whole matter is, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” [Ecc 12:13]

Have you ever met someone that appeared to have nothing, no money, had physical disabilities or otherwise devoid of many of this world’s goods but was happy? I have, many times. I met a man, whom I’ve told you about, who had a disease called Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP). It is a disorder in which muscle tissue and connective tissue are gradually replaced by bone (ossified), forming bone outside the skeleton. He was one of the happiest guys I knew. I loved being around him because he brightened every room he entered.

How can anyone in a condition like that be happy? It was by no cause of his own, it happened to him beginning from his youth up. He experienced daily pain because of his disease but brought joy to those around him. How did he do it, what’s the key? I’ll tell you, he looked forward to being with God. In other words, he had purpose. This is true of nearly everyone who, despite the difficulties of life, are happy. They have found purpose, meaning and a direction.

THE KEY TO TRUE JOY…PURPOSE

People with purpose are some of the happiest people on the planet. They will endure great pain & struggle because of purpose.

I read about a study where scientists tossed lab rats into a jar of water that had been placed in total darkness to see how long they would swim to survive. In total darkness it took 3 minutes before they gave up. Then they took the rats and placed them in the same conditions, but this time with a small ray of light at the top. How long did the rats struggle this time? 36 hours! When they had a light, a possibility of escape, they were able to endure.

Think about how strong we can be when we have hope, true hope that is in Christ. We can face tomorrow when we know that we’ve been reconciled to God in Christ. Paul finishes his command to remember by saying, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

So, let us be reminded that without Christ we are without hope, without the promise of heaven, but IN CHRIST we have both the promise of heaven and hope that He will return to take us there. [Gal 3:27 put on Christ in baptism]

The next time life gets you down, and it will, look up and be reminded that God loves you, and that He sent His Son to provide you a way of escape.

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful (compassionate), and of tender mercy.” [James 5:11]

EMERGENCY ALERT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL

Last week an erroneous alert went out when a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee triggered a ballistic missile alert, and people freaked out. Rightfully so, what would you do if you learned that a nuclear missile was rocketing toward you?

The alert lit up the phones of people, many of whom were still in bed, having coffee or taking a morning walk on the resort beaches of Hawaii. They fled toward shelters and crowded the highways as panic and terror spread across the islands. Many more had no idea what to do when a missile is about to fall from the sky. One woman said, “We have no bomb shelters or anything like that. There’s nowhere to go.”

And they prayed. I’m sure that more than a few atheists began to pray as well. As with many catastrophes, there’s just isn’t enough time to come up with a doomsday plan, and then activate it. (It would take 20 minutes for a missile to reach Hawaii from North Korea and would leave only 12 minutes for the state to warn everyone.)

It was a normally beautiful winter day. Winter in Hawaii starts out in the mid 70’s and sunny. A Saturday in Hawaii would have found folks, sleeping in, getting ready for a wedding, going to work, babies being born and at least one man suffered a heart attack triggered by the startling alert. Being a popular vacation spot, there were many thousands of tourists beginning or finishing their vacations. In other words, everything was normal.

ARE YOU READY

As many of you already surmise, this article is not going to be about preparedness for a Global Thermonuclear War. We talk about spiritual issues here and this incident is an exceptional illustration of what will take place when Jesus returns.

He will return, it’s been promised. “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” [Acts 1:11].

Unlike in Hawaii, there will be no advanced notice of His appearing. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” [Matthew 24:36].

The world will be “acting normal” just as they did that morning in Hawaii. “And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man” [Matthew 24:37-39].

Just as a thief catches the victim by surprise, so too will be the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up” [2 Peter 3:10, cr. 1 Thess 5:2].

There will be no sirens, but there will be trumpets louder than any you’ve ever heard. It will be the trump of God. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” [1Corinthians 15:52].

All of this means is that there just will not be any time to obey the gospel [2 Thessalonians 1:7-8]. To those of you who believe the error of “faith alone,” that also will fail, for the very instant Jesus appears in the sky is the moment “faith” will end. “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1]. Faith ends at sight. Scripture reveals no prayers an infidel could utter to place them in a right relationship with God. Only faithful obedience to the Gospel can do that through Christ Jesus.

Here’s what else will happen on that day; “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” [1 Thessalonians 4:15-17].

The key to this verse are two simple words, “IN CHRIST.” The location of Salvation is “IN CHRIST.” Every spiritual blessing is “IN CHRIST” [Ephesians 1:3]. We are “IN CHRIST” when we have “PUT ON CHRIST” through water baptism by faith. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” [Galatians 3:26-27].

The only way we’re going to escape any and all catastrophes is to be “IN CHRIST.” When one is in Christ, what looks like a disaster, will be the most wonderful celebration any could ever imagine.

– Spencer