There is a painting that shows the charred debris of what had been a family’s sole possession. In front of this destroyed home, standing in deep snow, stood an old grandfather dressed only in his underclothes with a small boy who is clutching a pair of patched overalls. It was evident that the child was crying. Given the way they were dressed and the fact that nobody else was around you could tell they didn’t have anyone else or anything else except the clothes that were on their back and each other. No Red Cross person was going to drive up and offer them food, clothing, and shelter. Now, if you were the grandfather, what would you say to the weeping child to comfort him? All is lost. We’re done for. We’ll never make it. Or would you just start crying yourself?
The artist of this particular picture wasn’t much on despair, because beneath the picture were the words which the artist felt the old man was speaking to the boy. They were simple words, yet they presented a profound theology and philosophy of life that exhibited true hope. The grandfather said, “Hush child, God ain’t dead!”
From our Gospel, Jesus had appeared to the disciples, but Thomas wasn’t there. When the others tell him that they have seen the Lord, Thomas becomes upset and agitated, “I won’t believe the Lord is risen unless I see him myself and place my hand in his side.” Did he doubt the power of God? Did he not believe Jesus when he had said, “I will rise again?”
No. I don’t believe that was the way Thomas was looking at these events. Instead, I think Thomas had looked upon the blood-stained cross, he had seen or at least heard of the gaping wounds that had pierced Jesus’ body, he had placed all his hope in Jesus, and now without question, he knew Jesus was dead. All was lost. We’re done for. I can’t possibly believe that he is raised from the dead unless I see him myself, because I can’t get my hopes up again. I can’t be hurt like that again. Someone needed to lovingly turn to Thomas and say, “Hush child. God ain’t dead.”
In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. According to Leon Jaroff in Time, the satellite’s primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter’s magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. cScientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target.
But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet in November 1973, Jupiter’s immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; Neptune at nearly three billion miles; Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun.
And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. “Perhaps most remarkable,” writes Jaroff, “those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth.”
The Little Satellite That Could was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years. But it kept going and going. By simple longevity, its tiny 8-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible. After more than 30 years, the venerable Pioneer 10 spacecraft sent its last signal to Earth on Jan. 23, 2003, having traveled 7.6 billion miles.
So it is when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord. God can work even through someone with 8-watt abilities. However, God cannot work through someone who quits.
That is not saying that there are no times when the wise decision is to quit. There are our bad habits. There are times when we realize that we are in the wrong. Sometimes it just makes sense not to continue in a direction and at other times it is a matter of coming to peace with a situation. There are all sorts of legitimate reasons for quitting a particular activity; however, fear, despair, disappointment, level of difficulty, and so on are not. Why? Because “God ain’t dead” and if God ain’t dead, then there is always hope.
Imagine, after trying something once, we say, “I’ll never do that again!” What about falling in love? What would happen after the first time you fall in love and had your heart broken you said, “I’ll never do that again.” What would you miss out on? How lonely would you be?
What if the first time you said a prayer and God answered by saying, “No.” How would things work out if you were to say, “I’ll never do that again?”
What if the Lord had not appeared before the disciples again and Thomas had remained in his denial? “I’ll never do that again. I’ll never believe unless I see him.”
In truth, we can find ourselves in similar situations all the time. It happens to us personally. It happens to us in our jobs. It can even happen in the church. Along with Thomas, we say, “All is lost. We are finished. I’ll never do this again. I quit.” But God responds, “Hush child. I’m not dead!” In other words, there is hope.
What do we mean when we say, we have hope?
Václav Havel, the first president of Czechoslovakia following the fall of communism, wrote
“Either we have hope within us or we don’t. It is a dimension of the soul, and it is not particularly dependent upon some observation of the world. It is an orientation of the spirit, and of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond horizons. Hope is a deep and powerful sense and it is not the same as joy that things are going well or the willingness to invest in opportunities which are obviously headed for success. But rather, it is an ability to work for something because you believe in it. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that it makes sense regardless of results. It is hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and to continually try new things.”
That is what we mean by hope. It is the kind of hope that declares, no matter the situation, “God’s not dead.” When I find myself in a position of losing hope, I recall a certain incident with Jesus. There was a father whose child was very sick. The father brought the child to Jesus’ disciples, but they could not heal the boy. Finally, Jesus arrives on the scene and the father says, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus responds, “‘If you can?’ Everything is possible for him who believes.” In other words, “Hush child. God ain’t dead.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
When you find yourself in times of losing hope then let that be your prayer, “‘I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.’ Help me to regain or to hold onto my hope that is in Christ Jesus the Risen Lord.” In the midst of that prayer remember—God ain’t dead!
Let us pray: O God, in whose image we all are made, give us hope that through the work of our hands, and with Jesus as our model, we may glorify you now and always. Amen.