In his introduction to the sermon, he defined “hopelessness” as “the belief that tomorrow will not be any better than today.” After thinking about his definition for several days, I came to the conclusion that his definition actually represented reality for a huge percentage of humankind.
In our world today, tens and tens of millions of people, whether they are conscious of it or not, live their lives operating with the belief that tomorrow will be no better than today. You can see it in their faces as you pass them on the street. The United States is the most affluent nation on the planet by such a margin, there is little point in arguing over who might be the second. Yet in the United States today, alcoholism and drug addiction are rampant; even among the nation’s youth. Divorce rates are staggering. Plastic surgeons live in the biggest houses in town. Every week, Americans, many of whom are unable to pay their bills, buy millions of dollars of lottery tickets. There are those that actually hold themselves out as professional advisors under the absurd title of “Life Coach”, and as unbelievable as it may seem, people actually hire them! All of these things are reflective of how far people will go in their quests for that most mythical of magic beans: hope.
The passage of Scripture from which today’s verse was taken was written by the Prophet Haggai to a people that had essentially lost hope. At the time of its writing, the Hebrews had been permitted by Darius, the conqueror of Babylon, to return from their long captivity in Babylon to their homeland of Judea. Their temple, the center of their religion and once the most awe inspiring building in the ancient world, lay in utter ruin. Drought and famine plagued the land. Day to day life was tough. The Hebrews busied themselves with their farms to eke out meager livings. They built houses to shelter themselves but made no effort to re-build the once great House of worship; the dwelling place of God.
The Hebrews of Haggai’s day were doing precisely what Christians often do in the modern day. Convinced that the mistakes of their past had forfeited any future claim to the goodness of God, they just went about doing what they could do on their own; resigning themselves to a life that resembled to a great degree little more than some sort of a salvage operation. Though they were going through the motions of life, the truth was they were without hope.
God knew that. In verse 3 of chapter 2, God spoke to the Hebrews through His Prophet Haggai, and said “Who is left among you who remembers this temple in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?” It was painful for the Hebrews to look upon the destroyed temple and recall the grandeur of its former state, yet that is exactly what God caused them to do.
Why would God do that? It seems almost cruel for God to put the spotlight on an issue that had such a demoralizing effect on His people. Well for sure God is never cruel, but God does want people, and especially His people, to come to an understanding of the hopelessness of life without Him.
Today the world is filled with people, both Christians and non-Christians alike, who because of bad decisions, past mistakes, failed relationships or whatever the reason may be, live every day convinced that they have permanently and irreversibly ruined their lives. Like the Hebrews of Haggai’s time, they look on the ruins of what was once a successful, productive life and coming to grips with the magnitude of the devastation and their utter inability to rebuild it, abandon all hope and go about merely existing with the firm and genuine conviction that tomorrow will not be any better than today.
It need not be that way. In the very next verse (Haggai 2:4), with the grieved Hebrews still looking on their ruined temple, God said to them, “take courage……I am with you”. And if that were not enough, He went on to tell them that not only would He see to it that their temple was rebuilt but that the new temple would be greater than the first (Haggai 2:9).
Now the truth is God no longer cares anything about temples, in Israel or anywhere else (Acts 17:24). The dwelling place of God today is in the hearts of those that believe in Jesus, the resurrected Christ. But just as surely as God told the Hebrews to not lose heart at the destruction of the old temple, His Word is the same to believers today, “take courage….I am with you”. Your “future will be greater than your past.”
No Christian should ever live a single minute feeling as if they are without hope or that their life is somehow permanently wrecked. That is never the case. Some of the best teaching on hope in all the Bible came at the hand of the writer of the book of Hebrews. Writing of the resurrected Jesus he wrote “this hope we have as an anchor for life, a hope both safe and secure…” (Hebrews 6:19) therefore “Let us cling to this hope which we confess without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)
What the writer of Hebrews was saying is that we have hope; guaranteed hope, because of Jesus Christ. Not a sense of hopefulness; real, actual, unalterable, immovable hope. No one who has placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ is ever without hope. So take heart, you do not have the ability to ruin a life that the Lord controls. For Christians, the “good ol’ days” are always in the future. “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former.” Tomorrow WILL be better than today.