I was recently in Houston with my family, and on our last day of our trip, we were planning to visit the NASA Space Center there.
Early that morning, I went out for a walk to engage God in conversation. During that time, I began considering and praying for all those involved in the Space Program, from the beginning until now, those who have lived and for those who have given their lives to the adventure of discovering the truth through space exploration.
Like so many adventurers before them, in so many different ways and purposes, each individual on this earth who has pursued the unknown with the hope of discovery, has unwittingly preserved and encouraged the idea and the need for hope in this broken world.
There are those who would say that the world is an accident, and that we, too, are only by-products of the random collision of time, space and material who have no real purpose in our very existence.
Yet we would find these very same individuals pursuing everyday of their own lives with the hope that tomorrow would come. Indeed, the most ardent atheist rests his head on his pillow each night, not just with the hope, but with the unspoken confidence of a tomorrow his own philosophy argues against. This, of course, begs the question, Why should tomorrow ever come, and why should one even care?
Instead, all of mankind does have an expectation of tomorrow’s coming. Though some live in fear of what tomorrow may bring—overcome by their past and terrified of their future, still others live in hope for what lies ahead.
Like me, all those who have true confidence in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ live in a world of hope; hope of the tomorrow that will most definitely come, and one we do not fear because we know that death is not the fruitless end of an aimless and purposeless existence. Because we can know that Jesus lived, died, and was raised again to new life, we too may share in that wonderful truth:
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
However, this only works for those who have confidence in the Resurrection. Christians the world over have received God’s forgiveness through their faith in that event. And the Bible clearly teaches that this is all that is needed:
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
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.
But it’s important to understand that this is only intended as a starting point—like a small mustard seed. Because Jesus intends for it to grow within us, that we may one day move mountains. Though our faith must always begin as a thin and fragile branch that reaches across the chasm between knowledge and truth, we must make every effort to pick up the pieces of evidence that God has provided us and add them to that bridge until it becomes one of increased strength that can sustain the weight of the world when it falls on our shoulders, repel an attack by the flaming arrows of persecution, and thwart the dreadful blows of the Evil One’s hammer of doubt.
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
For those who do no more than accept the Gospel without investigation, they can never know that what they believe is really true. They can only assume it to be true based on what others might see as a blind faith. Now, this does not, by any means, nullify their faith or their salvation through Jesus Christ, but it does undermine that individual’s ability to live in the hope and peace that comes from knowing that it is true. And until one uses their mind to add to their faith the supporting evidence of truth, it is nearly impossible to move from the point of believing in to the point of knowing that.
And though we know that belief in is sufficient, it is only when we truly know that something is true, can we be in a position to defend or argue—be apologetic to—that belief. Otherwise, when challenged we have only the option either to assert our opinion (often by just speaking louder), or to remain silent in quiet submission to the one that speaks loudest.
Note: Apologetics does not mean to “make an excuse, but rather “to speak in defense” (from the Greek apologia).
We regularly hear news these days of another “true believer” who has given their life for something they believed to be true, even though it wasn’t. Clearly, belief itself is not enough. It may get us started, but there needs to be much more, especially if it is going to hold up under scrutiny or stress. It has been said that,
Truth is still true, even for those who don’t believe it. A lie is still a lie, even for those who do believe it.
But Jesus never asked us to believe blindly in him. In fact, he commanded us to use our minds as part of loving him
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Jesus didn’t express disappointment with Thomas and say, “After all this time, why don’t you believe me? You should have more faith.” Instead, Jesus gently affirms him and says:
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
There it is right there! “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!” So blind faith is good, right? Certainly not. Should we really think that Jesus is telling us that the less we know, the stronger our faith will be? If that were true, why would Jesus provide any evidence at all for his claims, and why was any of it written down? No, that’s not what Jesus is saying here at all. A clue to this is in the context of the very next verse:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Jesus was acknowledging that Thomas believed because he had the opportunity to physically touch Jesus and see him with his own eyes. Thomas wasn’t willing to accept something just because everyone else said it happened (blind faith). He was looking for evidence to convince his mind of what his heart wanted to believe was true (evidential faith).
When confronting those who were opposing him, Jesus implored them to examine the evidence of his claims, not just to believe his words:
“Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
But everyone, except those who personally experienced the truth of Jesus during his ministry and/or after the Resurrection, knows the truth only as a direct result of the Gospel accounts themselves. Whether the Good News was received directly from the mouth of an apostle or indirectly from their written accounts, all believers throughout history have come to know Jesus from their testimonies.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
But how can we know that these accounts are reliable and true? How do we know if what we believe is true? And how can one make a convincing argument for the truth if he can’t be sure that what he believes is true? Yes, we may know why we believe Christianity is true, but that will never help others who don’t believe, or those whose faith is not strong enough to stand up against opposition (as we discussed earlier). But we are, instead, encouraged to know that it’s true so that we can speak effectively to others in any situation:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:15-16
Instead, we should live confidently that:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
So remember, the Good News of Jesus is not simply a nice story of a nice guy who did nice things so that we can live in the false hope of something that’s not really gonna happen. If it was, there would certainly be no point in sharing it with others, and absolutely no point in dying for it.
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins… If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
1 Corinthians 15:14-19
Everything hinges on this singular event. Because if Jesus was not raised, then everything else is pointless. And so, without evidence, any hope we may have is tormented by the possibility that it is not true. Certainly, Jesus may have made an indelible impact in your life in other ways that do provide you with sufficient evidence for your faith. But that faith cannot grow beyond yourself if there is nothing substantial to share with others.
And we see the difference this kind of hope makes in others when facing tragedy. There are those whose lives are torn apart by the death of a loved one, because they have no hope, or their hope is based on insufficient or incomplete information:
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13
Instead, the hope and peace that passes all understanding
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and confident about what we do not see.
And so, finally, we see that peace is the freedom from the anxiety that accompanies the lack of confidence, and lack of hope. Hope and Peace are partners on our journey to the everlasting. There cannot be one without the other.
So if you find your spirit is in a state of unrest—full of worry or anxiety—or if you find yourself always uneasy about things you do not control (and equally uneasy about the things you do), or you just seem to live without a great deal of Peace, perhaps you’ve arrived at a place where you need to truthfully consider what the source of your Hope really is. And if you live without Hope, perhaps it’s time to make Peace with the Truth.
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.