1 Corinthians 15:19
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
The apostle does not say that all men are now miserable if there be no hope of the world to come. There are very many who never think of another life, who are quite happy in their way. But he speaks of Christian people, who are known by this, that they have hope in Christ — hope in His blood for pardon, in His righteousness for justification, in His power for support, in His resurrection for eternal glory.
I. WE ARE NOT OF ALL MEN MOST MISERABLE. He who shall affirm that Christianity makes men miserable is an utter stranger to it. For see —
1. To what a position it exalts us! It makes us sons of God. Shall His foes have mirth, and His own home-born be wretched? We are married unto Christ, and shall our great Bridegroom permit His spouse to linger in grief? The Christian is a king, and shall the king be the most melancholy of men?
2. What God has done for us! The Christian knows that his sins are forgiven. And shall the pardoned offender be less happy than the man upon whom the wrath of God abideth? Moreover, we are made temples of the Holy Ghost, and are these dark, dolorous places? Our God is a God of love, and it is His very nature to make His creatures happy.
3. Their actual joy and peace. Our joy may not be like that of the sinner, noisy and boisterous. "As the crackling of thorns under a pot" — a great deal of blaze and much noise, and then a handful of ashes, and it is all over. The Chiristian's joy does not depend upon circumstances. We have seen the happiest men in the most sorrowful conditions. Every Christian will bear wines that he has found his sad times to be his glad times, his losses to be his gains, his sickness means to promote his soul's health. We can rejoice even in death.
II. WITHOUT THE HOPE OF ANOTHER LIFE WE SHOULD BE OF ALL MEN MOST MISERABLE. This is true, not merely of persecuted, and despised, and poverty-stricken Christians, but of all believers. Note that the Christian —
1. Has renounced those common and ordinary sources of joy from which other men drink. We must have some pleasure. Well, then, there is a vessel filled with muddy, filthy water which the camels' feet have stirred: shall I drink it? I see yonder a cool, clear stream, and I say, "I will not drink this; I will drink of that." But if it be but the deceitful mirage, then I am worse off than those who were content with the muddy water. So the Christian passes by the pleasures of sin, because he says, "I do not care for them, my happiness flows from the river which springs from the throne of God and flows to me through Christ — I will drink of that," but if that were proved to be a deception, then were we more wretched than the profligate.
2. Has learned the vanity of all earthly joys. We have chosen eternal things which are satisfying to the soul. Bat it is the most unhappy to know that this world is vain, if there be not another world abundantly to compensate for all our ills. There is a poor lunatic in Bedlam plaiting straw into a crown which he puts upon his head, and calls himself a king. Do you think that I would undeceive him? Nay, verily. If the delusion makes the man happy, by all means let him indulge in it; but you and I have been undeceived; our dream of perfect bliss beneath the skies is gone for ever; what then if there be no world to come?
3. Has had high, noble, and great expectations, and this is a very sad thing for us if our expectations be not fulfilled. I have known poor men expecting a legacy, and the relative has died and left them nothing; their poverty has ever afterwards seemed to be a heavier drag than before. Poverty is infinitely better endured by persons who were always poor, than by those who have been rich. The Christian has learned to think of eternity, of God, of Christ, and if indeed it be all false, the best thing he could do would be to sit down and weep for ever.
4. Has learned to look upon everything here as fleeting. Well, this is a very unhappy thing, if there be no world to come.
III. OUR CHIEF JOY IN THE HOPE OF THE WORLD TO COME. There is —
IV. THUS THE FUTURE OPERATES UPON THE PRESENT. Here is a man who has a machine for his factory. He wants steam power to work this machine. An engineer puts up a steam engine in a shed at some distance. "Well," said the other, "I asked you to bring steam power here, to operate upon my machine." "That is precisely," says he, "what I have done. I put the engine there, you have but to connect it by a band and your machine works as fast as you like; it is not necessary that I should put it just under your nose." So God has been pleased to make our hopes of the future a great engine wherewith the Christian may work the ordinary machine of every-day life, for the band of faith connects the two, and makes all the wheels of ordinary life revolve with rapidity and regularity. To speak against preaching the future as though it would make people neglect the present is as though somebody would say, "There, take away the moon, and blot out the sun. What is the use of them — they are not in this world"! Precisely so, but take away the moon and you have removed the tides, and the sea becomes a stagnant, putrid pool. Then take away the sun, and light, and heat, and life; everything is gone. Do you believe that apostles and martyrs would ever have sacrificed their lives for truth's sake if they had not looked for a hereafter? In the heat of excitement, the soldier may die for honour, but to die in tortures and mockeries in cold blood needs a hope beyond the grave. Would yon poor man go on toiling year after year, refusing to sacrifice his conscience for gain; would yon poor needle-girl refuse to become the slave of lust if she did not see something brighter than earth can picture to her as the reward of sin? The most practical thing in all the world is the hope of the world to come; for it is just this which keeps us from being miserable; and to keep a man from being miserable it is to do a great thing for him, for a miserable Christian — what is the use of him? But the man who has a hope of the next world goes about his work strong, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.
V. THIS WILL LET US SEE CLEARLY WHAT OUR FUTURE IS TO BE. There are some persons here to whom my text has nothing whatever to say. Suppose there were no hereafter, would they be more miserable? Why, no; they would be more happy. Do you see, then, this proves that you are not a Christian; for if you were, the taking away of a hereafter would make you miserable. Well, then, what have I to say to you? Why just this — that in the world to come you will be of all men most miserable. "What will become of you?" said an infidel once to a Christian man, "supposing there should be no heaven?" "Well," said he, "I like to have two strings to my bow. If there be no hereafter I am as well off as you are; if there be I am infinitely better off."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.