A DEAD HOPE
A LIVING HOPE
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a living hope by the Resur-rection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3).
Working, investing and operating a business are necessary things in our lives and St. Paul commands: "Whoever does not work shall not eat." We need to work, and we hope for a good job or successful business, but this is an innocent hope. But there is a difference between placing all our hopes in these things without hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Herein we refer to a total hope in material things as being a dead hope. But hope in Jesus Christ is a hope that enlivens our souls to hearken to His words and keep His commandments leading us to eternal life.
There is a living hope and there is a dead hope, and there are many who place their hope in material things which is a dead hope, while all who place their hope in the Living God and the resurrected Jesus Christ, have a living hope. Hope is a strong influence in everyone’s life, for it energizes us to struggle for the object of our hope.
If we hope only in ourselves this is a dead hope, especially when we also realize the limitations of our strength, minds, and bodies. The fact is that we have little control over our lives, for death can come when we least expect it, therein all our worldly hopes vanish as smoke rises from the fire. Although we enjoy some freedom we are also limited by many circumstances over which we have no control. Economics, health, crime, and betrayal can unexpectedly change causing our worldly hopes to disappear. Sickness and economic losses can intervene and cause disappointment. This is the nature of worldly hope, which is a dead hope, based on love of pleasure and deceitful attractions.
Many people struggle with the hope of acquiring much money, and things money can buy, expecting that this will bring happiness. Others, with thoughts of old age, struggle to accumulate valuables in order to retire with ample income, but these are dead hopes, which cannot bring happiness. Earning money for necessities, to provide for our selves and our families, we must not allow them to be the object of our lives. The world encourages us to eat, drink and be merry, and to enjoy all pleasures possible before death. Not only modern man, but the ancient Epicureans lived by this pagan philosophy. Christ revealed this deception which arouses selfishness, causes misery, and will result in condemnation and eternal torment, "where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Unbelievers convince people that we were not created by a God of love and wisdom, but having descended from animals, we gradually ascended to what we are today. This myth supplants hope in the Creator of everything that exists, the God to whom each of us will one day, be called upon for an account of our lives on earth. It encourages men to seek only the things of this life, and causes all our hopes to be dead hopes.
In Scripture speaks of a rich man. "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room to store my fruits? And he said: This will I do; I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat drink and be merry. But God said unto him, Fool, this night they will require your soul, then whose shall these things be for which you have provided So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).
All the wealth in which the rich man hoped, was one day acquired by someone else. All that we gain and hope for, will one day be acquired by someone else. For we will brought nothing into this world, and will leave everything behind when we depart from this world. At the moment of death we will realize everything good or evil, which we have done during our lives, which will encourage or torment us. We will find ourselves standing before God awaiting judgment and to account for what we have hoped for and done in our lives. All earthly treasures will be like ashes, having no value after death. If our hearts are attracted only to earthly treasures, then our hope is vain, short-lived and remains a dead hope, which can never bring us the happiness for which we yearn.
Our Lord teaches us that He is the only Hope of the hopeless, the treasure that came down from heaven. He is the life and the judge of all men. Following His glorious and decisive battle with the Evil one on the Cross, He ascended and received the spoils of battle against the Devil on the Cross, and spoke to His disciples, saying: "All authority in heaven and earth has been give to me. Go and preach this Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I commanded you, and behold, I am with you unto the close of the age" (Mat. 28: 18-20). These words of Christ generate in a pious soul a fervent hope and great trust, that He is worth living and dying for being our hope above every hope – a living Hope! Everything He did was filled with His great love for us, and His great mercy assures us with the hope that we will be members of His heavenly kingdom.
Jesus Christ is the only living hope, infinitely better than all the dead hopes, just as life is preferable to death. He who seeks happiness in this present life alone by means of acquisition of material treasures will never find fulfillment of his soul’s hopes. While all those who place their hope in God, firmly look forward to the kingdom, actually experiences and has eternal life now in this present life. Those who put on Christ, and partake of His nature, eating and drinking Him like food, will always struggle to be adorned with a Christian character. This will cause faith to pour into the soul bearing all the promises and hopes of our Lord. Joy never experienced before, will fill such a soul with exultation and peace and beauty.
Only Jesus Christ convincingly demonstrates, by word and deed, that He is the living hope of mankind. True happiness can only be found if we follow Christ, keeping His commandments thus showing our love for Him. True happiness is found when we acquire eternal life after defeating the realm of death. But so long as we fear death, lacking hope in Christ, we have failed to defeat death. We forget that Christ in rising from the dead has "trampled down death by death" and granted us eternal life.
By avoiding sin we begin transformation into a holy life. By faith and hope in Christ we fulfill our predestination to become like God. For He commands us to be holy as He is holy and perfect like our Father in heaven. Remembering our responsibility before God with prayers as found in the following morning prayer we should pray: "Suddenly the Judge will come and the deeds of each of us shall be exposed; but in fear let us cry out in the middle of the night: Holy, holy, holy are you O God, through the Theotokos, have mercy upon us." In the present life we have the opportunity to avoid disaster and torment, eliminating every dead hope, holding the one and only Living Hope, who will enable us to ascend directly to heaven and Paradise.
In Orthodox Church services, we hear repeatedly of Christ our living hope. He preaches the Good News, He cleanses the lepers, He raises the paralytics, gives sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the dumb, and raises the dead! He is worthy of our greatest hope! When we rejoice singing of Christ being the conqueror of death, our hope continually increases. In jubilation we sing "Christ, has risen from the dead; trampling down death by death; and upon those in the tomb bestowing life! We are certain that Christ will never die again, for he shattered its dominion, therefore we ought to walk in the newness of life." Christ the Godman came to us as a new light and new hope, and accomplished what no man could ever accomplish by becoming a blameless and sinless sacrifice for us. All those who place their entire hope in Him will never be put to shame. Possessing a living hope causes our souls to return to Paradise.