A New Year with New Hope

Posted by Ravi Zacharias on December 30, 2016
Topic: Blog

Before I begin my thoughts for the year ahead, on behalf of our entire team based in fifteen countries, may I first thank all who have stood with us through 2016. I pray that our partnership continues and grows. We need you to stand with us. Because of your help, we have had our best year. I wish you a blessed year ahead.

I was intrigued by the comment made by a leading voice in the present administration, discussing the political changes ahead for the nation following the election in November: “Now we know how the loss of hope feels.” Fascinating, considering that the slogan for the past eight years has been “Hope and Change.” What is more, I well recall those who lost the election eight years ago echoing the same dismay.

These are deep sentiments because the loss of hope can easily become a breeding ground for cynicism and apathy on the one hand, or anger and violence on the other. Where morals are relative, hate and violence become alluring absolutes. That is why hope is that necessary posture of the mind to even move forward against all odds.

I recall seeing a painting years ago of a dilapidated violin with broken strings titled, “Hope.” How was such a title given to a worthless instrument? One had to look closely to see that one string still held firmly taut. In the hands of a maestro, even one string gives hope for a melody.

So I ask, how does a thoughtful person describe the present as bereft of hope? There are two possible answers: the first is what I call the reverse of a feared crossing of purposes. The secular critic despairs at the possibility of the politicization of religion. Rightly so. But what has replaced that fear is equally dreaded, if not worse: making a religion out of politics. Yes indeed, politics is the new creed of the faithless, replacing spiritual truths with the hollow hope of political dominance. Power does corrupt when one loses sight of the vertical dimension of life. We endured a blood-letting slugfest of words on the road to the election. Once the electorate spoke, the losers have tried every conceivable trick in the book to malign the victors. Who would have ever thought that the feuding would continue so long after the voting was done? Why is there such bitterness in the loss? I can only conclude that the deepest convictions of the average person are born from their political theory and that this gives them their creed on all choices and values. David Gelernter, Professor of Computer Science at Yale, wrote a powerful article earlier this year with the provocative title “Why the Left Is So Vicious. 

But to the point on hand, how incredible it is to base one’s hope on the shifting sands of politics. “History,” as someone said centuries ago, “is like a drunken man reeling from one wall to the other, knocking himself senseless with every hit.” (Martin Luther said something similar in likening human nature to a drunken peasant falling side to side in his saddle.) So here we are, unable as a people to accept the bounce to the other wall. It reminds me of the comment that a critic once made of a Prussian monarch: “It is not so much that he likes music, as that he likes the violin. In fact, it’s not so much that he likes the violin as that he only likes the violin when he plays it.”

So hope is reduced to the one who holds the power. What a shallow, earthly philosophy by which to live and hold to! Politics is the new religion, and the idolatry is breeding a broken country where we offer up the past as a sacrifice to a valueless future. Evidently, child sacrifice has different expressions.

But there is something deeper. We have become a people bereft of faith. Faith was never intended to be rooted in power and control. Faith was intended to be the commitment of the heart in tune with the intellect, holding certainty as a gift from God who alone holds the pieces to our destiny. The writer to the Hebrews talks about faith as the substance of things hoped for, the essence of things not seen. There you have it, an eternal perspective that is the true essence of time. A life without hope is a life without justifiable faith, a life that rests in a hollow, self-aggrandizing reaction to reality.

The Apostle Paul, living in a world as dissolute as ours, spoke of the three excellencies of life: faith, hope, and love. Genuine faith in the eternal rises above what is seen in the temporal. That combination of faith and hope leans on the heartbeat of God, which is that we love Him with all our heart and our neighbor as ourself. The hate, the division, the bitterness in the loss of this election in those who wished it otherwise are really symptoms of a culture on the high seas of life without chart or compass. They fail to understand that God is greater than our political flirtations.

I call upon every Christian to begin the new year with faith, hope, and love. Live it in such a way as to draw others to see the true values of life rooted in an eternal God who gives us a calendar to understand that though time is fleeting, his purpose is eternal. May 2017 be a year of hope in the right sense because of faith in the one true God. The canvas of time moves on to a new easel. The design of God continues through the hands of those who lift them up to Him.

Loss of hope? Only for those who have made politics their religion and who have lost the true reason for hope.

As a young lad, every New Year’s Eve I remember the choir singing the following hymn by Isaac Watts. At the time my mind would wander because the hour was late. Now in my veteran years, I realize the truths are even more relevant because the hour is late.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home.
 
Under the shadow of thy throne,
still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
From everlasting, thou art God,
to endless years the same.
 
A thousand ages, in thy sight,
are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night,
before the rising sun.
 
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
[Can bring some days of gloom
Only in hope beyond our days
Lies life’s eternal bloom.]*
 
O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guide while life shall last,
and our eternal home.
 

Have a wonderful new year and make it count for eternity.

 

*These three lines substituted by Ravi Zacharias