The Fears Men Struggle With
BCC Breakfast March 23, 2018
Well, good morning. Before I start, I told Todd Liscomb that I would say this, in fact, I think this was my idea, but he reminded me this morning, that there’s a really great movie that’s out right now, and my wife and I and my youngest son saw it the other day. It’s called “I Can Only Imagine.” It’s terrific, a really good movie, I would recommend you going, you take your spouse, maybe your kids. You don’t see a lot of really good quality movies today, and when they’re out there, I love to see us support them. Dennis Quaid stars in it. So, I just thought I’d share that as we get started.
You know, we normally have an Easter message. We normally meet on Good Friday and this year, unfortunately Good Friday falls in the middle of spring break, and so, for that reason, we’re having it today, and the message is titled, what I’m going to be speaking on this morning is, The Fears That Men Struggle With, and what you’re going to see, that it does have an Easter theme component towards the end. What I’d like to do is just start by sharing with you how I came upon this message.
As Steve says, we do a lot of one-on-one meetings. I probably meet with, at this time, maybe 15 different men, and one of the guys that I meet with, he’s in his mid-30s, he’s a very sharp young man, very well-educated, very articulate, and he shared with me, confided in me, that he struggles with fear in his life, and we’ve talked a lot about those fears. And there’s another guy that is a good bit older, and who’s very, very wealthy, and has done very well in his life, and he shared with me how he wakes up in the middle of the night and he’s got all these fears running wild in his mind, in his imagination, and he can’t sleep well. And from that, and other discussions, I’ve concluded that – let me say this, if you met either one of these men and interacted with them and talked with them, you would never in your wildest dreams think that they had any worries because they seemed to be “so together” – and I’ve concluded how easy it is for us as men to fake and pretend that we have no worries in life, because, you know, men aren’t supposed to worry. We’re not supposed to. We’re supposed to be fearless, and yet, what I’m realizing is that, that’s not the case in most of our lives.
And I want to start by reading you some words from a Dr. Richard Swanson, a very fine counselor, he wrote this wonderful book called Margin. Listen to what he says. He says, “People have always been stressed. It’s simply part of living. There’s always been change to cope with, there have always been economic problems, and people have always battled depression, it’s the nature of life to have ups and downs, so why all the fuss? Well, I’m not the one who’s making the fuss, I’m only writing about it. I’m only being honest about what I see all around me. I sit in my examining room and I listen, then I report what I hear. Something is wrong. People are tired and frazzled. People are anxious, they’re fearful, they’re depressed. People don’t have time to heal anymore.” Listen to this. He says, “There is a psychic instability in our day that prevents peace from implanting itself very firmly in the human spirit, and despite the sceptics, this instability is not the same old nemesis recast in a modern role. Something has truly changed.”
I think he’s right. There seems to be an instability in peoples’ lives, particularly with men. Modern people don’t seem to be able to really find a real peace and equilibrium in their lives. And so, I think it would be helpful for me just to talk for a few minutes about fear, that we might better understand it. If you think about it, fear operates in the realm of our imagination, and fear is all about the future, and the uncertainty over the future, and it always involves circumstances and events that have the potential to turn out badly, and therefore, it can create all kind of havoc and pain in our lives. Even though, as you look out into the crowd and you look at men’s lives, you never see it. And what I found is that our fears easily become amplified in our minds, as they can run wild in our imagination, and you know when they run wildest, and you know this, is when you wake up in the middle of the night, and you begin to think about what’s going on in your life, and what happens is these proverbial mole hills can truly become mountains. What I find interesting is 13 years ago, Jerry Leachman, who many of you heard, in fact, hopefully he’ll be here again in the fall, and he spoke about this issue of fear, and he said something I’ve heard a number of times. I had somebody share this with me a week ago. I’ve never verified it, so I need to say that but, Jerry says, you know, that if you look at the Bible, the number one imperative from God to man is to fear not, is to live without fear. He says, you see it in various words or languages. Be anxious for nothing. Be not afraid. Let not your heart be troubled. In other words, this is God’s Will for each of us, as we sit here today, is to live our lives without fear. And I’ve wondered, why is that? Why is it that basically He wants us to live this life with a peace in our hearts, and to live without fear, and I think the answer is pretty simple. It’s because it can devastate a man’s life and a man’s relationships. You see, fear is a powerful emotion, and when you consider the causes of fear, you know, you really can, I think, categorize them into four different areas. Now, there may be a fifth that I haven’t thought of, but I’ve spoken on this before, and I’ve thought about this a lot, but you can pretty much categorize your fears into four different areas, and there’s overlap between them.
The first is basically business and financial concerns. You know, you think about your career. There’s so much you can do to contribute to a successful career. So much of it falls on your shoulders. So much of it is truly your responsibility, but you know what? There’s so much that you and I have no control over. None of us have control over the economy. None of us have control over the stock market. None of us have control over interest rates. I mean, think about it, even the greatest retailers in the world never anticipated Amazon and online selling. I don’t think they ever realized that it could threaten their business. And so, there’s a lot of fear today out in the world of retail over something that retailers have no control over. I think one of the greatest fears that I’m finding, particularly with men in my age group is, will I have the financial resources to be able to retire? Will I have enough money to live on? Will I have enough? Will I have enough so that I don’t run out when I get to the end of my life? It’s a huge concern and fear. So, that’s the first category.
The second, and this is most obvious to all of us I think, is that we fear the well-being of our family, and our loved ones, and even our own lives. I’m talking about safety. I’m talking about your health. My oldest son was on a mission trip over spring break. He went to Haiti with a group, and I didn’t know anybody that was with he was with. He was there for a week, and I’ll tell you, there were a couple of times then when I’d think about him, and there were some fears. Is he okay? Is he going to make it home all right? You know, these things that just continually, fears about our children, I think, are very common, and I think parents do experience their greatest fear and anxiety over their children. Bryan and I were just talking about this. I mean, think about this, and I know this is true, but for some of you you’re going to have to think back, but do you remember when one of your children maybe tried out for basketball, or cheerleading, or something that was so important to them, and you end up with this great fear of wondering if they’re going to make it because we have, we fear and worry about our children and the pain and the disappointment that they experience in life. I think part of the problem is that is that we deify our children’s success, and I’m finding that so many parents even have unbelievable fear and anxiety over how their adult children and their adult children’s lives are turning out.
And then there’s a third category, and this is a biggie, and this just cascades all throughout our lives, and that is, and I don’t think sometimes we’re consciously aware of it, but we worry about what people think about us. Which is ultimately about the fear of rejection, the fear that my life doesn’t matter in the eyes of other people, that I’m just inconsequential in the eyes of the world, I don’t measure up as a man, and this explains what I believe is one of men’s greatest fears. And that’s the fear of failure, and the pain and the shame that comes from the potential, or the possibility that I might fail. You see, the fear of failure, for so many men, is like a psychological death, and so, it causes us, and this kind of explains how we approach life. You see, for most men, life is all about what I do, and how successful I am at what I do. And the problem comes out when I begin to think about this, think of it in these terms. What do you think about what I do? How do you rate what I do? How do you rate my life? And what if I fail at what I do? What would you think of me then? Would you value me? Would you think I’m a real man? You see, the fear of rejection is a powerful force in the life of every man. I was reading an interesting article as I was doing the research on this and the article was titled, “What Men Fear Most”. It was by a guy named Damien Ference. He teaches at some seminary up in Ohio. I could never get the name and find the name of the seminary, but he says something very interesting about rejection. I never thought of this. Listen to what he says. “If you ask a man why he watches pornography, you get certain obvious answers, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find something much more serious at work in a man’s heart and mind. The most secret, and perhaps the most real reason that men use porn is because porn can’t reject you, and a man’s worst fear is being rejected.” Wow. I never would have thought that. Do you see how the fear of rejection, I could, I wrote a book on this, you can buy it today, The True Measure of a Man. It’s all about the fear of failure, fear of rejection, but you see, it can just cascade into your life and create all kinds of problems, and then, of course, we never talk about it. Because if we talked about our fears, what would you think about me? What would you think about me as a man?
Now, finally, our greatest fear is why Easter is so important. The fear of death and dying. Armand Nicholi, who is one of my favorite authors, even though he hadn’t written many books, his book, The Question of God, is probably my one of my all-time favorites, he’s one of the great psychiatrists in our country today, he teaches at Harvard Medical School, and he says, “As we begin to grow up and realize this life is temporal,” these are his words, he says, “this realization is extraordinarily painful. The unbelievable brevity of our lives conflicts with our deep-seated yearning for permanence, and with our lifelong fear of being separated from those we love. It’s a fear that haunts us from infancy to old age.” And we probably don’t know this because, again, this is something we don’t ever talk about. It sure isn’t fashionable to talk about death and dying.
Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician, he says that most humans, deep down, experience unhappiness, and he says, the reason for our unhappiness is quite clear. He says, and these are his words, “It’s because of our mortal condition. Death is the most obvious fact of life. It slaps us in the face when we realize our own helplessness at overcoming it. Deep down, we are haunted by the notion that when we die, we experience the loss of everything in life.” And he said this, this is pretty interesting, particularly for our culture today. He says, “you can tell how much a culture fears dying based on how much they love pleasure. Because pleasure is what keeps us from having to think about our mortal condition and the loss of our very being at death.”
About 30 years ago, I had a conversation with a man and he told me something really interesting. He said, you know, I’ve had the opportunity in my lifetime to work with one of the wealthiest men in our country. He said, I worked with him daily, I interacted with him, I had the opportunity to interact with him daily, my office was right next door to his, and he said, you know, this man had everything, everything you could ever want. He said, the one thing he didn’t have was peace. He had no peace in his life, and, you know, I as I think back to this, I wish I’d asked him some more questions, because that comment has always kind of been there whirling in my mind, and I suspect this man’s lack of peace was because of what Pascal had said. Though he had more money than he probably could ever spend in his lifetime, deep down, I’m sure he knew that when he died he would suffer the loss of everything. You see, there’s fears in our lives that often we’re not even aware of, and we don’t talk about, and yet, they’re there.
But I want to go back to what Swanson said. What’s changed? Why is there so much more fear in men’s lives than there were maybe in previous generations? Well, as I studied this, and as I read a lot, I think it goes back to the 1950s, when W.H. Auden wrote a famous poem called, “The Age of Anxiety.” And this was a time, he says, where sociologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists agreed that people were much more fearful and anxious than their parents’ generation, and the reason for this, according to Tim Keller, he says, “We have drifted away from our foundation. The beginning of fear is when we conclude that we don’t need God.” I think that’s true in our land today. That I can live better my life better without Him. I can live autonomously, I can live on my own. And when we do that, Keller says, we throw up on the door for fear to infiltrate our lives, and the reason, this is a great insight, please listen to this, this is a great insight, he says, “As we move away from God, we begin to experience a real sense of our finiteness here on earth, and we are trying to take on a position in the universe that is too big for us.”
I remember in my own life, it’s hard to believe, I’m 64 years old, but I can remember this so vividly, and I was probably five or six years old. We lived over in Crestline, our family did, and it was Halloween night, and I wanted to go trick-or-treating with older kids in the neighborhood, you know, who were 8, 9, and 10. This was a time before you worried about your children and what they might, what might happen to them out in the neighborhoods. And I begged my parents, and they finally said, okay, and so, off I went with all these older kids, and they moved fast, and we got into parts of the neighborhood I didn’t know, I really didn’t know where I was, and I couldn’t keep up with them. And I got separated from them, and I remember I was terrified, because I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know where to go, and here I am wandering around, I may I may have even cried, I can’t remember, and I’m wandering around the neighborhood trying to find my way back to my house, and then, I can remember the spot today, right over near Honeysuckle Lane, I saw my father. He was looking for me, and the moment I saw him, all my fear left me. It all left me. And you know what had happened? You see, I had tried to take on something that was way too big for me to handle as a young boy.
Please hear this, men. Modern people believe that I can run my life better than God, and when it gets right down to it, I want to be in control of my life, and that’s what so many of us are trying to do, but please hear this. God is telling each of us there is nothing more foolish than to think that you have life under control, when it’s not controllable at all. And a simple way to understand this is to see and understand ourselves in this life. You know, God uses a lot of great metaphors to help us understand ourselves in the Bible, and one of the metaphors He uses, He says, we are like sheep. That’s the only animal He uses to compare us to. He doesn’t say we’re like great big beautiful stallions, He says we’re all like sheep. And, you know the problem with sheep? They’re not very smart. I guess you could say they’re dumb. You know, sheep will follow another sheep and if that sheep goes off the cliff, they’ll follow that sheep right off the cliff, or into a ditch. If a sheep rolls over on its back it can’t get up, and they are prey to all types of danger, whether it’s a wild animal, a thief, whatever, in other words, sheep are pretty helpless, and God says, we’re all like sheep, and unfortunately it says, we’ve all gone astray, and therefore, it is essential that sheep have a shepherd. This is so simple, because, if a sheep has a shepherd looking after him, they can flourish, life is good. When a wild animal comes along, the sheep can just rest in the care of the shepherd. All a sheep is asked to do is stay close to the shepherd. You see, the problem is, when sheep go astray, when they go astray from the shepherd and they encounter something that basically could harm them, they can’t depend on the shepherd anymore, because they’ve gone their own way. And you know, this is so true of us as people. It’s so hard for us as humans to live in great peace unless we live close to the shepherd, the good shepherd, it’s what Jesus refers Himself to.
Now, I want to share with you a second perspective that I think you can really relate to. You know, when we experience real peace in our lives? When we feel a real sense of security. When you feel like you’re really safe. You know, I love this definition of security. “Security is when you build your life around something that can’t be taken away from you.” And if that’s if that’s a good definition of security, think about this, what is insecurity? Insecurity is when you build your life around something that can be taken away from you, and that’s kind of what we’ve done. You know what the key phrase there is? “Build your life upon.” Every single one of us is building our lives upon something, and if it’s something that can be taken away from you, you will consistently be fearful. You know Augustine said, “your fears tell a lot about yourself.” He says, “You can always follow your worries to that which you have built your life around.” You can always follow your worries.
Rollo May, who is a very, very famous therapist, he was not a Christian, but he made this observation from all the patients that he met with over the years, he said, these are his words, “Anxiety comes when something that you have put your real security in, something that made you feel in control, something that made you feel like you had an identity, anxiety and fear comes when that is threatened or if it implodes.” And Stephen Covey, I think, really puts this in perspective in his book, The Seven Habits. He says we all, every one of us, has what he calls a personal center. C-e-n-t-e-r. And he says, “whatever is at the center of your life is the source of security in your life.” And the question that, as I think about this, the question that comes up in my mind is, is there an ultimate security, a true foundation that you can build your life on? You see, the Bible tells us that Christ should be at our personal center because He desires to walk through life with us, to guide us, and give us wisdom, so that we might have that ultimate security, and the person, as far as my reading, that really got this, and spoke on it so well was C.S. Lewis. You know, he firmly believed that until you allow Christ to be your personal center, he says, you’ll never learn who you really are, and life will be full of fear. And he says, “In my search for spiritual truth, I moved from atheism to theism, and finally to the Christian faith,” and he said, “I thought I was finally coming to a place of truth, only to find that the truth was a person. Jesus.” You see, in Christ, Lewis found the one single person who could unify and guide his life. He found the very center from which all of life flows. And I might add this. Once Christ is truly at your center, once He’s your personal center, this is what’s so important to know guys, that’s when everything else in your life will fall into its proper place. You know, your marriage is important, raising your children is important, your work is very important, but when you put Christ as your center, all of these other, they fall into their proper place, and you don’t have all this fear over them. You see, this is the way God designed it. This is the key to see your life really flourish.
Now, let me share one final thought, and then I’m gonna move to an application that will be really helpful, and then I’ll wrap it up. You know, I think we all recognize that living with fear robs us of joy and peace, and so, it’s essential that we deal with our fears so that we can experience the full and vibrant life that we all long for. But you know, this is something I learned, and this is important, this is critical, you really can’t live this life very well without hope. Now, I know hope is kind of, not a very meaningful word to modern people because we used it as a verb. I hope that it doesn’t rain today. Which does not give you much certainty. But you know in the New Testament, the word hope is used 80 times as a noun. If it’s used 80 times, it seems to me it must be important.
Listen to what hope as a noun means and think about how important this is for your life. “Hope is a life shaping certainty of something that has not yet happened, but that we know one day will.”
Keller says, “We underestimate how profoundly our character and our daily lives are shaped by what we believe our future is going to be.” Now think about this. Hope has to do with the future. Fear operates also in the realm of the future. Viktor Frankl was a very famous Jewish psychiatrist that spent several years in a Nazi death camp, and he was fascinated by the fact that so many of these prisoners, who seemed to be so strong and so together at one point, just gave up and died, and yet some remained incredibly strong and they survived, and he tried to, what’s the difference? And he said, it was all about the hope that they had about the future. These are his words. Listen, this is powerful, guys. He says, “Life in a concentration camp exposes your soul’s foundation. Only a few of the prisoners were able to keep their inner liberty and inner strength.” And then he says this. Please hear this. He says, “Life only has meaning, in any circumstances, if we have a hope that neither suffering, circumstances, nor death itself can destroy.”
Question. Do you have that in your life? Do you have a hope that neither suffering or circumstances nor death itself can destroy? And if not, you have to ask yourself this question. What is my ultimate hope in life? What is it that I’m hanging my hat on? Keller goes on to say this. “If you put your ultimate hope in anything in this life, into your job, into money, into your family, into your health, into your status, then suffering and circumstances can take it away and your life will be always be characterized by a ground note of anxiety. You’ll always be anxious and fearful. The only way you’re going to be able to face life under any circumstances is if you find a way to put your ultimate hope into something suffering and even death can’t take away, something that is eternal.”
You know, if you think about it, when it gets right down to it, guys, there is a hope that God calls each of us to. There is a future that He has for your life, and if you connect your heart and your life to that hope, you will experience an incredible life. You’ll experience a life that’s not characterized by fear and this is what God has for each of us. It’s the hope that the writer of Hebrews says, that will be an anchor for your soul. Do you have that anchor?
Now, before I wrap this up, and this is a little unusual. We’re in good shape, timewise. I want to share two bits of wisdom that came from my research, my study, as I prepared this, and I think both of what I’m going to share, will be very, very helpful to all of you. The first has to do with an NBA basketball player. You may be familiar with the name Kevin Love. He plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Back in November, he had this major anxiety attack. He had to go to hospital. He was overcome with fear, and there was an article written about him, and about this event where he’s very open, and it was titled, listen to this, I love the title, it’s “Everyone Is Going Through Something That We Can’t See.” Every one of us is going through something that we can’t see. Let me just read to you a couple of sentences from this article, and these are his words, he says, “I’ve never been comfortable with sharing much about myself. I turned 29 in September and for pretty much 29 years of my life, I have been protective about anything and everything in my inner life. I was comfortable talking about basketball,” just kind of like we’re comfortable talking about business, “but that came natural. It was much harder to share personal stuff and looking back now, I know I could have really benefited from having somebody to talk to over the years, but I didn’t share, not to my family, not to my best friends, not in public. Today I’ve realized I need to change that. I want to share some of my thoughts about my panic attack and what’s happened since.” And then he says this. Listen to this. “If you’re suffering silently,” you know, Thoreau said men lead lives of quiet desperation, “if you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it. Partly, I want to do it for me but mostly, I want to do it because people don’t talk about mental health enough, and men and boys are probably the farthest behind. Not talking about our inner lives robs us of really getting to know ourselves and robs us of the chance to reach out to others in need. So, if you’re reading this article and are struggling, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you are going through.” And I might add, and these are my words, that when you share your struggles and your fears with other people, it’s like shining a bright light on them, and when you shine a light on them, they begin to lose their power over you.
Now, the second piece of wisdom that I, this is really important guys, because I really do believe that so many of us are paralyzed by the fear of failure. For most men, it’s like a psychological death. It’s incredibly painful, and most men carry it around silently, but I ask you to think about this. Have you ever thought about how God sees failure? We see it as something horrible. You know, He sees it in a different way. I contend, guys, that failure, when and if it ever does come into your life, has the potential to be one of the greatest blessings you’ll ever experience, depending on how you respond to it.
I love the words of the great Swiss psychologist Paul Tournier. He says, “Only rarely are we master of events, but along with those who help us, we are responsible for how we react.” In other words, we are accountable for the way we respond to the struggles we encounter. Tournier believed that a positive, active, creative response to one of life’s challenges will develop us, while a negative angry one will only debilitate us and stunt our growth. Listen to what he says. This is crucial. He says, in fact, that “the right response at the right moment might actually determine the course of a person’s entire life.” He says that he found that quite often humans are presented with the rare opportunities to develop and grow through hardship and trial, particularly failure. You know, the Bible is quite clear about this. You know, one of the great character qualities a man can possess is perseverance, because it shapes you, and shapes your character, and the best example of this I’ve ever heard was in the life of Abraham Lincoln. Some of you have heard this. Lincoln, as a young man, started a business. He went bankrupt in 1833. Three years later, and maybe because of this, he suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1843, he was defeated for nomination to Congress. In 1846, he was elected to Congress, but two years later, he lost his seat. In 1854, he was defeated in trying to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. In 1856, he was defeated for nomination to be Vice-President in his party. In 1858, again, he was defeated for the U.S. Senate. And then, in 1860, he was elected to President of the United States, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest presidents we’ve ever had. And Lincoln was a Christian. From what I remember, he was a student of the Bible, and I have to wonder, do you ever think that he considered himself a failure? A loser? I don’t know. But look at how he responded to defeat. This should be instructive to us all. Failure can be a blessing in your life if it ever comes, depending on how you respond to it. Most men, so many of them, never recover. I’ve seen it, and what a blessing they missed out on by not persevering.
I want to close our time with just a few words about Easter. You know, Easter is ultimately about death and resurrection. Yesterday, I met with a guy, he’s in his 30s, and he shared with me, out of the blue, he said, you know, when I was in the second grade, I had this incredible fear of dying. Second grade. Have your children ever talked to you about death and dying? A couple of months ago, we were having lunch as a family, and I said to my children, I was talking about something and I said, now I know you guys don’t ever think about death, and they stopped me, and said, oh no, Dad, we do think about it. We think about it a lot. Do you know that? I remember a good friend and I were talking, this was back when we were in our 20s, and he said, I’ll never forget it, he said, I have a great life. The only thing that spoils my life is I think about death and dying all the time. And then, I remember when we had just started The Center for Executive Leadership, we’d had a breakfast here at the Club, and I’ll never forget an older gentleman came by my office to get a copy of the CD. I think he was in his early 70s. He’d retired. He’d had a great life. He’d done very well in business, he’s very well known in this community, and he got the CD, we had a little small talk, and he was leaving my office, and he stopped and turned around, and he said, Richard, do the men your age, and I guess I was probably at the time around 50, you know, do the men your age struggle with the same things that me and my friends are struggling with? I said, well, it depends on what that is. He says, I struggle with a profound loneliness. He said, I watched my friends get old. I watched my friends go into nursing homes. I watched my friends die. He said, every day, I wonder, when am I gonna die. How am I gonna die? He said, it’s a very lonely experience, and he walked out the door.
You know, I share this because I’ve concluded that everyone thinks about death and dying, and for many, it’s quite harrowing, but again, we don’t ever talk about it. Well, this morning I want to close by just talking about it for a moment, because again, this is what Easter is really all about. Death, but also resurrection. I find Paul Zahl’s words about this to be very interesting. Paul, some of you may know, or not know, was at the Advent for a number of years, was the priest there, and he says, “There’s one question everybody is asking. What’s going to happen to me after I die? The dying man or dying woman does best when they’re able to let go of their lives because they know they’re going somewhere. The fear you see in the faces of the dying, and I discern fear there much more often than acquiescence, is because they do not know where they’re going. It’s a pervasive fear. People want to know what’s gonna happen to me when I die. What’s gonna happen to me when I die?” I think every man here this morning agrees, but I’m here to say, every single man in this room is going to die one day, and the question is, what’s going to happen to me. Well, basically, there’s one of three possibilities. I share this, I studied comparative religion in college, and so, I’m going to say this, and I don’t have a lot of time, so I can’t be real comprehensive, but there’s three possibilities. The first is, you’re going to die, your body is going to rot, and you’re going to cease to exist. You’re going to everlasting nothingness, and guys, if there is no God, that’s what’s gonna happen to you. And if that’s the case we’re all in the same boat, but what you’ll find interesting, and most people don’t know this, most atheists, when they get to the end of their lives, begin to waver.
I wrote a book a number of years ago, in fact, I think is probably for sale back there called, Safe Passage. In it, there’s a chapter where I document famous atheists who were deeply concerned when they got to the end of their lives that they might be wrong. In fact, one of them said, I’m an atheist who has lost his faith, and the reason, it gets back to kind of where we started, uncertainty. Uncertainty. When it gets right down to it, they had no one who could validate their atheistic belief. It’s something that they came upon, basically, they formed for themselves, but nobody could validate it. It’s like Epicurus said, maybe there is annihilation when we die. But then, maybe there is not.
The second possibility of what could happen to you is what is called the transmigration of your soul. That’s what the Eastern religions, Buddhism and Hinduism call reincarnation, where, when you die, your soul transmigrates into some other thing. It might be a sacred cow, it might be somebody on the other side of the world, it might be a squirrel, but this is what’s so odd about it, it could be an inanimate object. You might come back as a shrub or a rock, which makes no sense. How can a rock back up the caste system and live, how can you be a good rock? You know, one of the great philosophers the last century was a guy by the name of Mortimer Adler. He was an atheist until he was 80 years old, and then he became a theist. And, as he studied the world’s religions, he says, the problem with Eastern religion and reincarnation, it’s just totally illogical. He said it can’t be true. It’s a philosophy. Buddhism doesn’t even believe in God. Eventually, Adler became a Christian. He says, only Christianity really makes sense.
And the final option is that you continue living, that you have an eternal existence, eternal life, and this is what the Bible teaches, and it’s validated by a historical event, the Resurrection. You see, Jesus’ Resurrection shows what happens after we die. If you’ve read the Bible, you realize His central teaching is about eternal life, that we have eternal life, either in the presence of God or separated from Him, and His Resurrection is what validates, more than anything else, His teaching about life after death. The Resurrection points us to the reality that there is life after this life. And so, the big question is, as we leave this morning is, did He rise? Did He rise? And I believe that He did, and the reason is because the evidence for the Resurrection, guys, is so compelling. If you read my blog that’s coming out this Monday, I talk about it. In fact, these are, I’m going to just read, these are a couple of words from that blog.
“A number of years ago, I was working on a presentation that I entitled “Jesus, Divine or Mythological?” As I was doing the research, I began to notice just how many men had set out to debunk Jesus and Christianity. Through the study of the historical record they were convinced they could demonstrate how preposterous this claim of Resurrection really was. Yet, so many who set out on this journey, through their research, were eventually led to change their minds and become Christians.
Since I did that study that list has grown. J. D. Anderson, Lee Strobel, William Ramsay, Josh McDowell, Frank Morison, Gilbert West—each of them exceptionally reliable scholars.
Each of these men were skeptics who set out to disprove the Resurrection, only to change their minds because they found the evidence to be so compelling. They could find no other explanation to account for the empty tomb, the radical change in the lives of the disciples, and the remarkable explosion of the early church. In their search for historical truth, they all come to the same conclusion: Jesus in fact had risen from the dead.”
And guys, if that is true, what does that mean to you and to me? It means everything. It gives us the hope that we all so desperately need to find, real peace in this life. We’re told by Peter in 1st Peter 1:3, that God has given us, I love this, a Living Hope through the Resurrection. Paul speaks of trusting not just in any god but the God who raises the dead. He says, it is He on Whom I’ve set my hope.
So, the question is as we leave this morning, what about you? Who is your hope? Who is your hope? Where is your ultimate security in life? What unifies and guides your life? What is the center of your very being? Because guys, until you come to terms with this, you will never, ever, find the peace that your heart so desperately longs for. And if you’re looking for that and searching for that, we want to help you. That’s what we do. That’s why you have those cards. We have all kind of options. I’ll gladly meet with any one of you individually, or these other guys will, as well. So, I hope you’ll give that some thought as we leave this morning, and I’m going to close this with prayer, and when I’m finished, you’ll be dismissed.
Let us pray. Father, we thank You so much for Your Glorious Resurrection and the hope that it gives us as we face our mortality. We thank You that You want to deliver us from the fears that just paralyze us, that leads to such unhappiness and despair. We’re grateful that You haven’t just left us alone here in this world, but that You give us the hope of the Resurrection, and we thank You for it. Lord, I pray your blessing on each of these men, their lives, their marriages, that You would give us eyes to see Your truth, and that we would seek to stay close to our Shepherd. We pray all of this in the name of Christ. Amen.