TRA 30th December, 2001
Hope For the Future
Have you heard of the farmer who used to sit in his lounge room and look through the double windows at his beautiful green lawn? He had a rabbit-proof fence around the house, but somehow or other at night a rabbit used to get in. Every morning the man would look at his lawn and there would be mounds of dirt where this rabbit had scratched.
As he drove by the lawn one night, in front of the headlights, was the rabbit. He stopped his car, and got out while the rabbit sat mesmerised by the lights. He went behind in the hope of grabbing the mesmerised rabbit. But he had jumped out in such a hurry that he didn't quite put the automatic transmission, into "Park". He grabbed at the rabbit which escaped and ran blinded by the lights.
While the farmer was chasing the rabbit, he saw his car slowly lurching forward. It went over the rose bushes, on to the lawn, picked up speed, crashed through the windows and stopped halfway in his lounge room. Part of the metal framework of the window punctured the petrol tank, and petrol flowed out over the carpet. The gas heater was on. Then there was an explosion and fire. The whole house burnt to the ground taking with it his car. The rabbit ran out the gate.
1. TROUBLED HEARTS.
Some people think their lives are like that. Just one trouble after another. There seems to be no rhyme or reason. It just goes from good to bad to worse. Life seems to be pointless and purposeless, full of misery and troubles. Our community is full of troubled hearts.
Farmers have come to town for the Easter Show, but back home, the paddocks are dust, the dams are empty and the stock feed is running low. The man in the train reading TIME magazine is shaking his head as he reads of two schoolboys in Arkansas who shot their school mates as they ran into the school yard. The mother has tears in her eyes as she reads the latest reports on the number of babies who have died while under the protection of the Department of Community Services.
A couple of young business people are playing a word game, saying the first word that comes into their heads when a word is mentioned. The word "Parliamentary..." brings the response "rorts". At Wesley Mission our offices have lines of people talking about unemployment, poverty, sickness, schizophrenia, alcohol abuse, drug addiction, Alzheimers, violence - Sydney seems filled with troubled hearts.
Perhaps those gun-toting boys in Arkansas symbolise a whole TV generation who see violent act after violent act on TV, on a Sony Play station or at a Sega World. It is estimated that every teenager sees through his childhood over 68,000 murders. No wonder so many young people have no purpose, direction or future. Life is full of despair and hopelessness. So many young people do not know where to turn. No wonder they become despairing and downhearted and turn to drugs. They have no philosophy. Nothing to believe in. No one to look to. They have no hope which could guide their lives.
There are days when I think of the Negro spiritual:
"Nobody knows the troubles I seen,
No-body knows my sorrows,
Nobody knows the troubles I've seen,
No-body knows but Jesus."
Some people put their hope in technology. They believe that if we are smart enough we will make something that is big enough, new enough or clever enough to answer our troubles. They remind me of two men years ago who were shipwrecked by an iceberg. They were sitting on the iceberg in the middle of the night freezing to death. Suddenly over the horizon they could see the lights of a ship. They shouted out, hoping that somehow in the darkness someone might see them. As they watched they realised the ship was sailing towards them and they knew they were going to be saved. Out of the darkness sailed this magnificent ship, the triumph of man's achievement. With great joy, they shouted, "Look, it's so close now we can even read its name: "S.S. Titanic"!"
Does technology rescue troubled hearts? The old Negro spiritual ended by saying:
Nobody knows the troubles I've seen,
No-body knows but Jesus."
At least there is one who understands and can mend the needs of our troubled hearts. The Apostle Paul understood. "Who can rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
There is a way a person can be saved outside human technological and scientific achievement. There is meaning and purpose behind everything. Life was not meant to be meaningless, full of despair, disappointment and disillusionment. It is the purpose of religion to answer our deepest needs. It says to us in our troubles that life has point, purpose and meaning so long as life has faith and hope. The hope for the troubled heart lies in Jesus.
2. HOPE FOR THE TROUBLED HEART.
Dr Viktor Frankl was an influential American psychiatrist. As a Jew in Vienna he was an inmate of a German concentration camp. While there, he closely observed the men and women around him and made mental notes of what he saw. He made this statement, "During the war, prisoners in the German concentration camps who closed their eyes to the future and looked only to the past, found no meaning in their pitiful existence and they died.
The prisoner who lost faith in the present and hope in the future was doomed. The person who saw that life expected something from him and that there was hope for the future, even in that grim situation, gained inner victory over his circumstances." People need hope.
One of the great privileges that comes to me is to say a word of hope to hundreds of thousands of Australians each Easter. We stand at the Opera House and across the Harbour we see the sunrise and know the truth: New dawn! New day! New life! New hope! With hope in their hearts men and women can cope with anything that comes.
Easter Day celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. It is rooted in history, related to our present life, and relevant for all eternity. It gives us more hope that anything else in the world. The words of Jesus "Because I live, you also will live." John 14:19 are the words of hope for the present and the future.
When Billy Graham visited the then Chancellor of West Germany, Dr Konrad Adenauer, they had coffee together. Years later I was having coffee with Billy Graham and he told me about that time.
Billy Graham said he found the Chancellor a stiff and formal person and thought, "I will have difficulty raising the subject of personal faith with this man." But Dr Adenauer looked at the evangelist and in his first sentence said: "Mr Graham, do you know what is the most important thing in this world, the most important truth there is?" Billy said, "Before I could answer him, he told me: "The most important thing in this world is the resurrection of Jesus Christ because if Jesus is dead and buried in a tomb, then I can see no hope for the future of mankind. But if he is raised from the dead, we are all possessed with hope."
If Christ is risen from the dead, then everyone has hope. No matter how deep you sink in despair, how despicably you are treated, how full your misery, how great your troubles, God can reach you and give you new life and new hope.
Margaret Oates, captured the inspiration of hope in these lines of a poem she penned for me:
"Even the cold south wind will never shift from me
the hope that lies within my breast.
And no one will ever take from me the future -
for eternity will be my destiny.
And then the present will go on forever
because with hope there is no such word as "never."
I know that no matter what happens on this earth,
Somehow I'll cope, for I do not have a hopeless end,
I have an endless hope."
An endless hope! New dawn! New day! New life! New hope! There is hope for the trouble heart. It is found in belief in the Risen Lord and a personal relationship with Him as Saviour.
Those of us who share the resurrection hope are called to do what the disciples did: First, witness to Jesus; second, rejoice in the hope; and third, proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is Lord. We grow in faith when we witness to Christ's resurrection. The troubled, hopeless multitudes in our country greatly need that hope today.
There is an old adage that says, "While there's life there's hope." Christians have discovered its true meaning by turning it around, "While there's hope, there's life."
Our hope has its roots in the knowledge of the Risen Christ. His presence makes all the difference. He turns our fear into courage; our despair into hope; our sun-sets into sun-rises. All we must do is acknowledge Him as Saviour and follow Him as Lord.
The Risen Lord gives hope for the troubled heart.
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