If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
As the year ends and a new one is about to begin, many people set goals for the next year. Goals like run a marathon, lose 30 pounds or watch every single episode of Duck Dynasty. I’ve never been very good at setting goals. I write them down and plan how I will achieve them, then I forget to look at my list. This past year I have managed to add a couple small habits to my life, which I was able to do because I tied them to my routine of making my morning coffee. While waiting for my first cup to finish brewing I do a few pushups and crunches. Hey, at least I’m doing something!
Whether you are hoping to achieve a goal, or hoping for a change in your job or that God would heal you or answer other prayers, if you know Jesus, then you have a hope beyond this life. Yes, Jesus blesses us, helps us, guides us, gives us joy and many good things in this life, but let’s remember that in him we have an eternal hope.
It is normal and right to have hopes for this life. I have hopes for my family. Hopes for my church. There are some things I’m hoping I can do. Areas I’d like to grow in. But I’m so glad I have a hope beyond this life.
Paul says that if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. Why? Because this life is temporary. It’s going to end. What good is it to gain the whole world if there’s nothing after this? Why should we pursue Christ? Why try to love others? Why deny ourselves any pleasure or sin? Why should we do good, forgive others, help the poor, give our money to the kingdom if this life is all there is?
Besides that, many of our hopes in this life won’t come to pass. In the words of Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want.” We won’t achieve all our goals. Things break. People get sick. Life takes us on unexpected detours. And sometimes even when we get what we want, it’s not all that satisfying. But if our hope is rooted in Jesus and eternity, we’ll never be disappointed.
It is our eternal hope that stirs us to keep running hard after Jesus:
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)
Someday we’ll see Jesus face to face and be like him. What a day that will be. Some of our loved ones entered his presence this past year. Others have been gazing on his face for a number of years now. Someday we will join them at the throne to fellowship with Jesus forever. That’s our ultimate hope. So go ahead and make your resolutions. Train for a marathon. Plan that trip. Hopefully you’ll get achieve your goals. But if you don’t, remember you’ve got an eternal hope that’s far greater.