Hope Farther Than We Can See? (May-Jun 2003)

By Matt Dabbs

by Mike Jeffress
May – June, 2003

The space shuttle Columbia broke apart in the skies above our little historic town of Nacogdoches, commonly referred to as “Naco-nowhere.” We wish, like everyone else, that the Columbia had jetted across our skies virtually unnoticed and had made its scheduled landing just sixteen minutes later at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But it didn’t, and so we are left to cope with the tragedy and to learn from it.

The morning after the tragedy, our church gathered to lament. Reporters from as far as Canada joined us as we reaffirmed our faith in the “Comfort and Hope” who is “farther than we can see,” to borrow from President Bush’s moving words spoken just hours after the disaster. We read a brief obituary for each of the seven fallen astronauts. We confessed their names before the throne of grace and prayed for their families. Finally, we turned to God’s Word for comfort.

Global events such as the Columbia catastrophe and war as well as personal loss remind us just how vulnerable we are, how fragile. Even a highly sophisticated state-of-the-art machine such as the Columbia, with its untold invested millions and past 27 successful missions, even the brightest and the best trained among us are not invulnerable. Our lives can be snuffed out in an instant.

Just after Mission Control in Houston said, “We did not copy your last,” the response from the shuttle was, “Roger, uh—” then static. The astronauts’ lives were cut off in mid-sentence for eternity. That forever dangling sentence is yet another solemn reminder of God’s wisdom expressed to us in these words:

“I have seen something else under the sun: …No man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them” (Eccl. 9:11-12, NIV).

We live in an unpredictable world and recent events have reinforced this truth to us.

Periodically we need to hear Isaiah remind us, “The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high…He will be the sure foundation of your times” (Isa. 33:5-6, NIV). One Nacogdoches resident interviewed shortly after pieces of the shuttle began to sprinkle the city said, “When I heard the great sound and felt the earth shake, I raised my hands, faced the East and said, ‘I’m ready Lord!’” When God is our sure foundation we can share this lady’s hopeful expectation.

When I heard her statement, I couldn’t help but think that if something as small as the Columbia spacecraft could be seen, heard and felt across four states as it broke apart forty miles above the earth, imagine the impact on earth when the Lord Jesus breaks into our atmosphere. When this happens there will be a trumpet blast and a shout that will vibrate open every tomb and wake the dead (Jn. 5:28). Then the Lord Jesus will appear and all the hosts of heaven with him, a number that will surely fill the sky with unimaginable and inexpressible glory.

The Apostle Paul says that, even though we may mourn the loss of those we love, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with a voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16, NIV). Then he concludes, “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (v18).

Columbia and global events of our generation remind us we are fragile. Scripture reminds us Christ will return. So, we must ask, If what had drawn our attention to the sky on Saturday, February 1, 2003, at 8:00 a.m. (CST) had been the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, would we have been ready? If the shout and trumpet blast of the archangel drowns out the noise of gunfire in Iraq and Afghanistan tonight, will we rejoice to rise and meet the Lord in the air?

President Bush said in his touching address shortly after the accident, “The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.” Truly our hope for arriving safely home in the end lies not in someone offering a prayer that this will be the case (Heb. 9:27) but in our making a conscious decision to place our trust in the Hope and Comfort who dwells in heavenly glory farther than we can see (2 Cor. 6:2).New Wineskins

Mike Jeffress lives and ministers in Nacogdoches, Texas, with his wife Theresa and three children. His 10-year-old son, Ryan, was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and serves as the East Texas MDA Goodwill Ambassador. Mike is a graduate of Harding University Graduate School of Religion and B.M.A. Theological Seminary and recently published his first book titled, My Sins, My Sins, My Savior!: Embracing Your Freedom in Christ.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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