Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 ( NIV )
In the modern evangelical, and even fundamentalist Church today, there is an attitude of watching and waiting! Thus, many such churches seem to be waning rather than waxing. Oh sure, the numbers game played by the corporate officers may seem to be bolstering the local economy, and the members may seem, on Sonday anyway, to be 'on fire for the Lord', but it doesn't take much seeking, usually, to find that's what it's all about; the numbers!
Obviously, and quite reasonably, just like a lie, the more it festers, the more it grows! If you are only after numbers, which too many congregations these days seem to be, the entertainment value that brings them in must continually grow in order to keep them coming. Entertainment only goes so far, and as the wisest king of Israel found, 'hope deferred makes the heart sick'. How often, do you think, do those who are entertained with the utopic return of Christ, the so-called 'second coming', have to be disappointed with a false hope and crushed with a 'no-show', before they will turn their backs on His so-called church and say, with the crowds, 'crucify Him, crucify Him'?!
These same 'Christians' acknowledge to an individual that Christ is in their hearts, that they are indwelt by the Spirit, but they lure some in with the unreasonable hope that He is going to return in the person of Jesus Christ, ushering in a utopian dream called 'the new heavens and new earth'. Many of these 'Christians' have missed, ignored, or otherwise 'glossed over' the gravitous fact of 'Christ in us, the hope of glory' ( Colossians 1:27 )! The fact that they are still waiting for their hope seems rather absurd, given their acknowledgement that Christ IS in us!
The Kingdom of God, or Heaven is a reality that Jesus said, in His day, was near, and that the apostles spoke of as 'about to be', 2,000 years ago! If Jesus has not returned yet, which, to be precise, is what the apostles prophesied, then neither has 'The Lord's Prayer' been answered. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, 'Thy Kingdom come.......on earth as it is in Heaven'. If this prayer has not been answered and Jesus has not come, then maybe they are right and this is not 'Our Father's World'!
The belief that Jesus has not come ( repeatedly ) when prophesied, and that we are not living in the Kingdom which He said was near almost 2,000 years ago must be very disheartening. To live your life as if everything for which you have labored and spent your life's blood, sweat and tears, could all be washed away tomorrow, burnt up along with the rest of the physical universe when Jesus returns, must take the wind out of your sails ( if ever wind there was ). The old saying, 'why polish brass on a sinking ship' has new meaning! If all our works will be reduced to a pile of ash anyway, why bother beautifying what God has so graciously bequeathed to us?
Thankfully, 'NO'! Many, in fact, more and more Christians who believe like this, live their lives rather inconsistently with their stated belief, building things that last, acting as if this is 'Our Father's World' and living as if there is no tomorrow!
They live as we ought to live, being Jesus to a desperately seeking world, a Father's Creation, His children who, through whatever means, have been estranged from Him, and are seeking that necessary relational communion. Many seek that communion in the wrong places and find only a temporal relief and shelter ( at best ) from the storms of Life! They will never find the True and Lasting Communion till they seek solace in the Only True Source, in the Body of Christ! If the Body of Christ does not provide that necessary communion, they will continue to seek it elsewhere, and they will die! If we, as the Body of Christ, will share in the Communion, the relational blessing that we have been given, they will live, the Body of Christ will continue to grow, rather than stagnate, and the Kingdom of God will expand!
We must find our joy again!
The Body of Christ, or the Church as we know it, must realize their hope has been fulfilled ( filled up to the overflowing ). If Solomon was right, and he was rarely wrong, and 'hope deferred makes the heart sick', then it's no wonder that so many of our 'churches' have lost their touch. No wonder that so many seem to be sick & dying among us!
The realization that the Kingdom has come ( 'on earth as it is in heaven' ), that our Hope has been 'filled up', and that the 'new heavens and new earth' is not some utopian Paradise, must come as quite a shock to some Christians! We have labored all our lives, to a greater or lesser extent, under these false assumptions.
Believing that we are the Body of Christ, living in the Paradise ( remember the snake in the Garden? ) that has been Restored to us, gives us much Joy! Knowing that we live in Perfect Communion with our Creator and Father helps us to live our lives to the fullest, and encourages us to love as we are loved!
Charles Haddon Shank