Searching for things online for me is like browsing in a library or bookstore. While I usually get started with a clear, precise idea of what I want, more times than not I end up getting sidetracked by things I find along the way that spark my curiosity. If I don’t work hard to maintain my focus, before I know it, a significant amount of time has elapsed and I’ve forgotten what it is I was originally looking for.
For example, I was doing an image search for “hope” and I came across this picture advertising the 2018 Global Atheist Convention. It is scheduled for Melbourne, Australia on February 9-11. The theme they’ve picked out is: A Reason to Hope. Now doesn’t that make you just a tiny bit curious? Whatever else you might think, you have to admit that’s an interesting, even bold move on their part. After all, I’m not sure that many people associate atheism with hope.
But I think I get it—while religion might be bad according to their worldview and they want to rid the world of it, hope is good and they wish to retain that. And since many of the protests against atheism are that it destroys hope, they are seeking to counter that objection with the bold assertion that rather than destroying it, atheism (somehow) gives people a reason to hope. Agree or disagree, you have to tip your cap to their moxie.
It’s 538 BC and the Jews living in exile in Babylon have a reason for hope. Jeremiah had told them that after seventy years, the Babylonians would be displaced as the dominant world power. That has already come to fulfillment in the Persian defeat of them at Opis the previous year. Even more to the point, Isaiah had prophesied over a century and a half before that the towns of Judah that had been destroyed by the Babylonians would be rebuilt and Jerusalem would repopulated. A man named Cyrus would issue the order for this to be done (Isaiah 44:24-48). Do you think anyone in exile thought that it was just one big coincidence that the name of the Persian king was Cyrus?
Neither do I.
Things were happening just as God (through the prophets) had said they would. It wouldn’t be long before they would be returning to rebuild. They had every reason in the world to hope.
What was true for God’s people in exile then is true for us today. We have every reason to hope. We came from God and one day we will return to Him. In Jesus we have eternal life—that is to say we share in God’s life now while on earth (1 John 5:13) and we have the hope of sharing in His life forever in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). Peter tells us that God has “given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3). Our hope is as just alive as our Lord.
And our atheist friends? Well as it turns out, their convention was cancelled because ticket sales were “substantially below expectations.” Maybe the whole atheism-hope connection they were trying to establish didn’t take hold as well as they hoped it would.
Build your hopes on things eternal.