On my way out this week, I met two people fighting. A gentleman, who turned out not to be too gentlemanly. A lady who was not behaving lady-like. They were fighting over a minor traffic accident in Lagos, the no-nonsense city of fights. What should have been settled in peace had turned into an all-out war with eyes blazing, mouths wagging and fingers pointing like daggers into each other's eyes.
A crowd had formed enjoying the daylight drama. In the verbal war, the man was firing in all cylinders and the woman was giving it back to him in equal measure. The man was threatening to slap the woman and the woman was daring him to try it, if he would not rot in jail.
'You hopeless woman,' I heard the man say.
'It's your wife, your mother, your children, your grandchildren that are hopeless,' the woman replied, returning fire for more fire. In a war of words, the woman always wins.
Brethren, to be called hopeless is a serious matter. Please, don't ever call any man or woman or child hopeless. Because we are all children of hope. We are all children of life. We are all children of light. Hope is light. Hope is life. To be called hopeless is to be sent to the graveyard, where hope dies and hopelessness lives ever after. A hopeless man or a hopeless woman is as good as dead. Because hope is the oxygen of life. It is what keeps us alive. It is what gives us the stamina to continue to jog as we confront the challenges that life throws on our paths.
Hope is of God. In fact, hope is God. Hope is faith. 'To abandon faith is to abandon God,' I wrote on my Facebook wall this week. Let us all learn to live in faith, hope and love, which is the greatest of them all.
Hope, they say, is the poor man's mantra. 'Tomorrow will be better,' he cries in self-consolation. But tomorrow never ends. Tomorrow is the futuristic world where hope lives. Tomorrow is just like any other day. Tomorrow would come and nothing seemed to have changed. Yet we cling to the hope of a better tomorrow. We look forward to another day, which is not too different from yesterday or today. It's only God who can make a difference in our tomorrow. Let us cling to God. Let us cling to hope. May God give us the hope of a brighter new day.
Ironically, no one clings more to hope than a dying man. The prisoner in the condemned cell knows that any moment death would come, but he doesn't give up hope. A man facing firing squad can see death marching toward him. At the same time, he is hoping that a last minute reprieve would come. From God. From the governor. From the president. From anywhere. He is hoping for the miracle of the blindfold being removed from his eyes and being rescued from the claws of death. He is praying and praying until the last volley silences him.
'Hope springs eternal in the human breast,' writes the poet, Alexander Pope, in his Essay on Man. What he probably means is that people will always look on the bright side of life, on the optimistic side, hoping that things would turn out for better.
Love is fuelled by hope. A man running after a woman, who gives him sleepless nights, never gives up hope. He keeps on praying and hoping that one day she would have mercy on him and change her mind. It has happened in most relationships where the woman pities the man for his persistence and eventually gives him a chance. And they marry and live happily after. In the name of hope. In name of faith. In the name of love.
Apostle Paul is one man of God who attributes his apostolic calling to the hopes of eternal glory. In his famous letter to the Corinthians, he talks of three values that would endure: faith, hope and love (charity). Of the three, he says 'love is the greatest. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.'
Love might be the greatest but love is always hopeful and faith is always anchored on hope of an expectation. The Bible itself is a book of hope loaded with messages of hope. From the biblical point of view, hope is expecting something with the confidence and the faith that you will get it. This is different from the secular view of hope as something that you simply wish for or plan for, even though you are not too sure that you would get it. In the words of one Bible scholar, hope is the 'confident expectation, the sure certainty that what God has promised in the Word is true, has occurred, and or will in accordance with God's sure Word.'
Hope is one of the weapons in the armory of greatness. In the history of scientific breakthroughs, technological advancement and exceptional human achievements, it is those who cling to hope, who keep on working hard, though tired and discouraged, that are able to make the discoveries that have changed the fate of humanity.
All because they never lost hope.
Beloved, don't let us get tired of doing good, because the Good Book tells us that in due season, there is the hope of reaping a harvest, if we do not give up. You will be criticized and hated, but it is those who endure who will be saved, so says the Bible.
In the things of the spirit, all things work for good. Just as I was thinking of how to develop my message of hope, there comes the evangelist Joel Osteen on TV coincidentally preaching on the theme of hope and asking God to make him 'a prisoner of hope.'
My son was surprised to see me jotting down ideas from Joel Osteen's message. I proudly told him that as a newspaper preacher, I need a mentor and I see something in Joel Osteen. Another spiritual role model is Martin Luther King Jnr., a man whose life and rhetorical sermons continue to inspire me. Nearer home, my friend, Pastor Dimgba Igwe, amazes me with his sense of hope and optimism in always saying: 'The best is yet to come. Victory is at the corner. We would make it again, in Jesus' name.' And I believe him.
Hope is what has kept Mandela sane and alive in and out prison. Hope is what liberated South Africa from the stranglehold of apartheid. Hope is what would liberate Nigeria from the claws of corruption, selfish misrule and years of hopeless leadership.
Hope is a prayer said silently from the purity of the heart. A life without hope is a life doomed to failure. My search for hope takes me down to the Cape, to the southern tip of Africa that opens the way to India by sea. The first rounding of the Cape was in 1488 by the Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias, who named it the Cape of Storms or Cape of Torments. But a certain king of Portugal renamed it Cape of Good Hope. Today, the storms in your life shall cease and become the Cape of Good Hope or Goodluck or whatever you hope for.
As I conclude this exposition on journalism of evangelism, let me leave you with hope. Keep it alive. Don't let it go. If you lose it, you lose all. Education is our only hope for a brighter future. The more we invest in our children's educational future, the better the hope of reaping economic prosperity. What we sow is what we are going to reap. President Obama once said that the U.S. would have to take decisive steps to better educate its children or suffer further economic damage. American students, he said, now compete with children from India and China, who 'are coming at us hard, and…they're really buckling down.'
My brethren and fellow Nigerians, let's us go on a voyage to India. Let us learn from India and China. Let's invest in our education. That is our only hope for a better tomorrow. May you be blessed once again.