But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
-- Psalm 71:14
One of the interesting things about the English language is that a single word can mean so many different things. For example, we might say that we'd love to go to a restaurant, we love our children and we'd love for our favorite football team to win the Super Bowl.
The same holds true for the word hope. We say that we hope it will rain in California. And we also put our hope for eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. But why should we hope for that? Isn't Jesus just another popular figure from one of the many religions that are out there?
Not at all! During his brief time on earth, Jesus cured the sick, raised the dead, forgave sins and became a living sacrifice to pay the price for all the wrongs of the world (just as God had planned it long ago). His resurrection from the grave--which was predicted in the Old Testament--proved his ultimate power over death. And 2,000 years later, Jesus' words continue to change lives and deliver hope.
Jesus is literally hope personified. And he's also the only way to God. In John 14:6, Jesus proclaims that no one can come to the Father (God) except through him. And when his disciple, Philip, asked to see the Creator, Jesus reassured his confused follower that God was much closer than he realized. In fact, very close.
"Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?" asked Jesus. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father?'"
This claim, of course, make millions (maybe billions?) of people uncomfortable. It's a claim of exclusivity. And it's also much more than a politically incorrect notion. Popular culture condemns it--and anyone who dares to declare it--as "intolerant."
But the truth in which Christ-followers hope is anything but exclusive. After all, Jesus' death and resurrection make eternal life available for EVERYONE who puts their faith in him and accepts God's free gift of salvation! Christ won't close the door on those who seek and ask. And unlike false religions, the true way to God isn't about keeping certain rules, saying special prayers or eating (or not eating) particular foods. Instead, it's about having a personal relationship with Jesus, accepting what he's already accomplished and letting him live within. Man-made religions are about "do." But Jesus is about "done."
To borrow the title of an old-time gospel song, this news is nothing less than Blessed Assurance. We know without a doubt that Jesus has taken care of our past, present and future through his sacrifice on the cross. And in a world dominated by tragedy, sorrow and uncertainty, he's the only reason that we can choose hope.