Sense of Life. Articles in English. “The Hope That Does Not Disappoint” (Rom 5: 5).
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“The Hope That Does Not Disappoint” (Rom 5: 5)

Hope gives man the strength to live. One of Christianity’s tasks is to bring hope to the world. Needless to say, in order to give someone hope, we must have it ourselves.

Chapter twenty-seven of the Acts of the Apostles recounts the adventure of a ship bound for Rome with the apostle Paul on board. Despite Paul’s warnings, the ship puts out to sea in late autumn and runs into a storm. At first the sailors try to save the ship. Then they are forced to jettison the ship’s tackle and cargo, and after a few more days they begin to lose hope (verse 20). There is nothing more they can do. No hope of a change in the weather or of being rescued.

It is at this point that Paul speaks to the sailors and gives them courage. At first glance there is nothing hopeful about his words. He begins with an admonition and assures them the ship will founder. We must not forget Paul was a Jew. He could well have told them — and this with a sneer: “Listen, I have good news and bad news. The ship is doomed, but you will not perish.” But first he had to remind them that they had been wrong and urge them to admit their mistake. If they had listened to him, there would have been no problem in the first place.

To whom does the centurion listen instead? Verses 11 and 12 tell us he pays more attention to ship’s pilot. After all, isn’t he the expert? Pilots ought to know about the weather conditions. He also listens to the ship’s owner. Aren’t rich people are always right? In the end the centurion yields to the majority view, for surely the majority cannot be wrong. But as it turns out, neither riches, nor experience, nor democratic vote can save the ship in the raging storm. The centurion would have done better to listen to God, who speaks through St. Paul.

That today’s world acts like the centurion is easy to see. Ignoring God’s word and Biblical solutions to human problems, we recognize only the authority of money and success and the voice of the majority. We seem to have forgotten the final goal of our earthly pilgrimage. We confuse this goal with the means. Money, science, and technology become ends in themselves. Thus, faced with economic crises, “global warning,” cataclysms, pandemics, and other “storms,” we place our hope in our own efforts. But Paul directs us toward real hope. In themselves our efforts are useless. The ship will sink. But we need not perish.

Before Paul can show his fellow travelers this hope, he must give them a stern reminder: you ought to have listened to me in the first place. Before we can see the hope that God gives us, we must first admit our mistake. We must confess we were wrong in listening to men, then change our attitude and listen to God. When my fellow Jews hear that I believe in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, they often ask me: “Do you mean to say you are right, while all us sages and rabbis, who do not believe in Jesus, have been wrong for two thousand years? To this I reply: “That is exactly what I mean. We have been mistaken, but now is the time to admit it and begin listening to God more than to men!” The sooner we do this, the smaller will be our losses.

But to return to the Acts of the Apostles. Whence came Paul’s certitude? He tells us himself when he speaks of the God whom he serves and to whom he belongs. Paul’s reason for being is in serving God through Jesus. The goal of his voyage is the evangelization of Rome in accordance with God’s plan. God’s plan cannot fail. This is simply inconceivable, and St. Paul refuses even to consider such an eventuality. What God has planned, must be fulfilled, regardless of the actions of men. Neither man’s stupidest mistakes, nor his greatest resistance can prevent God’s designs from being realized. Paul’s reasoning is simplicity itself: I have an appointment in Rome and therefore I must get there. And since you are with me, you will also get to Rome with me. The mission entrusted by God to His servant Paul determined the survival of the ship’s crew and passengers.

We today also have God’s word — the Truth. This word gives us “the hope that does not disappoint.” This hope is eternal life, which Christ gives to all those who believe in Him. So a crisis ruins our economy! So rampant immorality destroys our society! So our bodies age and sicken. So what! These are only “the ship that must sink.” But we need not perish along with our economy. We need not die with our bodies. If we will only confess our sins, admit to our past mistakes and trust in Jesus, we will be saved. Moreover, we receive a hope we can share effectively with others. We can give courage to the discouraged. We can show them the way out of the most desperate situation. That way out is Jesus.

Indeed, our hope is not to be enjoyed alone. It is our duty, as it was St. Paul’s, to proclaim the word of hope to those who put their trust in false authorities that lead to destruction.

Avy Snyder, Director of “Jews for Jesus” in Europe

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The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in August 2016.

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