Author: Ron Graham
Patience and Hope
—Giving Meaning to Life
You and I live in an imperfect world, locked into the flow of time. Our lives are like "a vapour that lasts for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). A hopeless situation?
Some people can't stand life, so they commit suicide. Most of us put up with our troubles and live our lives as best we can —but we do feel that this life ought to be a journey to something very far better. Why bump along life’s hard road, unless to reach our happy home by evening? Without that hope, life would be pretty meaningless. We could not be patient with life at all.
Paul describes three states of the present earthly creation.
- A longing to be rescued from the tyranny of transience and decay. "The earnest longing of the creation waits expectantly for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19).
- A sense of futility and disappointment. "The creation was subjected to vanity... the bondage of corruption" (Romans 8:20-21).
- A blindess to the reality beyond the physical realm. "In hope we have been saved, but there is no such thing as hoping for what you already see... we hope for what we do not see" (Romans 8:23-25).
1 Our Deepest Longing
You may have noticed a vague but persistant longing deep in your heart. Maybe you have pursued love, or adventure, or bodily perfection, or wealth, or service to the poor, or drugs, or something else, but the longing is still there. Without knowing it, you crave fellowship with God in the eternal heaven.
Paul recognizes that "the earnest longing of the creation waits expectantly for the revealing of the sons of God" and he went on to write of "the hope that the creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:19-21).
We have a natural longing for that glory —because it's our intended destiny.
We must be more at peace, and be prepared, if I may play on words, to “long long”. As James says, "Be patient therefore brethren, until the coming of the Lord" (James 5:7)
2 The Futility of Life
If you are like most people, you are disappointed by life in this world. Sure it has its good times, even its ecstatic moments. But what if you take the sum of your life, leaving out of the picture God, faith, and the hope of Heaven, what do you have?
- Your kids? Well that's good, but many people have lost their kids.
- Your job? Well that's good, but many people don't have a job or hate the one they've got.
- Your health? Well that's good, but many people only have pain and disability.
The list goes on, but the fact remains that all such things can be taken from you as they were from Job (Job 1-2). Even if they are not, when you add them all up they fall far short of expectations, as in the case of king Solomon.
Solomon wrote, "Futility of futilities says the preacher, all is futility ...and striving after the wind" (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:4-11). His father David wrote, "Surely every man is at best a mere breath, surely every man walks about as a phantom" (Psalms 39:5-6).
Our hope of Heaven is different. There is no futility in heaven, and our "hope does not disappoint" (Romans 5:5). Paul tells us that "The creation was subjected to futility, not voluntarily, but because of him who subjected it in hope... of the glory of God" (Romans 8:20-21).
I think Paul means that we should not become exasperated with the futility, disappointments, and frustrations of life on earth, because God subjects this world to futility in order that we may rest our hope in his plan for us. He imparts futility to this world to direct our attention to His plan.
God’s plan teaches us that this life is not an end in itself, but a journey with Christ along a narrow road to a heavenly and eternal city (Matthew 7:13-14, Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:13,16).
We must be more accepting of the disappointments and dissatisfactions of life, and be patient in our hope for that joyous world where everything makes sense and, if I may play on words again, a world where there are no “vanishing vanities”.
We can take a lesson from the Thessalonians whom Paul congratulated for their, "patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ..." (1Thessalonians 1:2-3).
3 Our Blindness
If you are like most people, you wish you could see things that your eyes cannot see...
- When a loved one dies, we wish we could see where they have gone.
- When we need help, we wish we could see the angels who come to our aid.
- When we want to believe in God, we wish we could see him on his throne in heaven.
- When we pray, we wish we could see Jesus listening.
- When we seek forgiveness of our sins, we wish we could see God’s hand blotting them out of his record.
- When we think of our inheritance in Christ, we wish we could see the mansion that is reserved for us in the city of light.
If we could just see the unseen, how much easier it would be to have assurance in our hope.
Paul gently chides us however. He says [I paraphrase], "Once you can see what you have hoped for, you no longer need to hope. Why would anyone “hope” for what is right in front of his eyes? So we hope for what we cannot see, and with patience we wait expectantly for it to appear" (Romans 8:23-25).
One of our greatest frustrations is the incapacity of our physical eyes to see spiritual realities. But that's what faith, hope, and love are all about. We believe in Jesus, we rest our hope in Jesus, and we love Jesus, even though we do not see him.
A blind man was given his sight after many years. His wife asked him, as he looked at her, "Do you like what you see?" He replied, "My darling I have always been certain you are beautiful. Now, at last, I can see with my eyes what I have always been sure of."
We must be more content in our limited sight and let the eyes of our heart be enlightened with hope and promise. Allow me one last play on words: Add a “k” to “see” and it makes “seek”.
You can't see what you seek, because if you could see it, you would not need to seek it. Seeking takes patience, and we, "By patience in doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life" (Romans 2:7).