As you stand at the bow of your boat floating on the sea of life, what do you hope to see as you scan the horizon with your spyglass? When the existential questions are asked, what do you want the answers to be? When you think about God, do you want Him to be real? And what about Jesus? Do you desire a belief in him or would you prefer that he be a myth, legend, or lie? For a moment, set aside all of your presumptions, opinions, and even your interpretation of the facts of life as you see them. Put away any disillusionment you have with religious beliefs or the idea of God, and try to view life from the perspective of a clean slate, with nothing to skew your motivations or desires. From that starting point, we can all agree that this world is a broken place filled with death, pain, tragedy, and disappointment. In a world such as this, what would be the obvious yearning of the people who live there? Wouldn’t it be to fix the problems they encounter in everyday life? Wouldn’t it be, at the very least, a hope that things could be made right—if not today, then at some point in the future? If someone told of a way to right the wrongs and heal the pains, wouldn’t everyone want that to be true, even if it seemed improbable? Would anyone reject this good news, not just because of its believability, but because they did not want it to be true? Is it reasonable to reject a possible solution to a problem just because you would prefer that it was not the solution?
Christians, informed by God’s Word, are proposing the answer to all of life’s hurts. That answer is Jesus Christ. Once you understand the Christian view of the world, you should want it to be right, even if you cannot fully accept it at first glance. For if the Christian God has truly revealed Himself to us as Jesus Christ, we have great reason to celebrate.
When it comes to the debate about the existence of God and His role in the world it seems that many people do not want certain good things to be true. For the modern atheist, Christianity is rejected not only because the evidence is not convincing to him, but also because he does not want it to be true.
“It is our preference that decides against Christianity, not arguments.”
There is not a sense of disappointment on the part of the atheist because he really wants to believe in God but can’t. Rather, there is hostility against the desire to believe in the first place. For the most committed atheists, Christianity is not true and they don’t want it to be true. The atheist has no hope when it comes to God. For him, the only role hope can play is the hope that he is right about this life being meaningless. Thomas Nagel is a professor of law and philosophy at New York University, and this is what he has to say about hope:
“It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God! I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
It is one thing to doubt the existence of God; it is another thing entirely to hope He does not exist. Imagine a shipwrecked sailor lost at sea, drifting on a life raft, looking over at his weary companion and saying, “I hope there is no rescue in sight, no more food in our supplies, and no approaching rain to wet our tongues. I hope this random drifting is all that there is and all that will ever be.” Even though the fatalistic sailor may be correct about all that he said, it sounds ridiculous because nobody hopes that way. And yet that is what Thomas Nagel and other atheists like him will turn to us and say: “I hope we are just drifting through a random and directionless void with no chance of meaning or purpose for our lives.”
“I hope this random drifting is all that there is and all that will ever be.”
Seeing all the trouble in this world, why not hope that there really is something more than this brief and painful life? If evidence did exist that hope is out there (and it does) would you not do everything in your power to seek it out, optimistically examine it, and give it the benefit of the doubt? If those lost at sea saw a faint glimmer in the sky, would they not hope it was a search plane, or if they saw a shadow on the horizon, would they not hope it was a ship? I believe they would do everything they could to verify that rescue may be on the way because they would want that rescue more than anything else.
In each and every debate with Christian believers, the atheist should hope the Christian wins. For if the atheist is correct about this life, we humans are a pathetic lot indeed, milling about trying to gain a degree of pleasure in this fleeting and pointless blip of existence. Not only should the atheist hope the Christian is right, he should hope that his own position is wrong. For who in his right mind would desire the kind of reality that atheism presents us with? But that is not what we see. Instead we see hardened skeptics not only sharply questioning those who hold a Christian view, but hoping with all they are worth that this amazing God—who would sacrifice His own Son so that we could be rescued out of this cursed world—is a lie.
“But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent. . . .”
What is it that causes this diamond-hardness of heart? The Bible says that people who are hostile in their fallen nature to the things of God suppress the truth even though it is evident (Romans 1:18; Colossians 1:21). What causes this hostile nature? It is sin: the desire to be the final authority over our own lives and the seeking of satisfaction in anything other than God Himself. We would rather be little kings and queens in our own temporary kingdoms than to surrender our will to the King—even if that means embracing a hopeless atheistic view of life. It is extremely hard and humbling to bend the knee before God, admitting that we are not sufficient in ourselves. Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those such as children, who have yet to develop a defiantly proud heart. It is only by the grace of God, who opens the eyes, and by an open heart willing to receive, that anyone can accept the gospel message. In our state of fallen degeneration, no one seeks for God; He is the One who seeks us! In the end, there is nothing we can do except to cry out, “Lord, make me a believer!”
Whether or not you are convinced by the evidence for Jesus, you should hope with all of your heart that He is everything He claimed to be. Why wouldn’t you? Why cling to a meaningless existence if there is even the slightest chance there could be something more? And if the Christian message is true, there is overwhelmingly more! Jesus Christ is such an amazing gift that no human could have thought Him up. The Christian gospel is the best news the world has ever heard. And it’s not too good to be true; it’s too good to be false! It is so far-fetched that it has to be true, because no one would dare to invent it. And the gift is entirely free! The Bible says that if we accept the new life that Jesus offers, we are adopted as children of God and therefore entitled to all that heaven has to offer (Romans 8:16-17). We get to share in the riches of Christ as heirs of God. We will spend eternity with Jesus with flawless bodies, no pain, no tears, no strife, and no death. All that is wrong in this world will be made right, and we will have an everlasting peace. What is it that we have to do to earn this? Nothing! Christ has done the work, and we are accepted completely by grace through our faith in Him.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Whatever you want in this life, you should want Jesus to be real, because no adjective could describe how wonderful He is. If He is not real, and there is no hope for life after death, then we find ourselves in a very dark place indeed:
“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
1 Corinthians 15:19