Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes Jr.– No. 9
NO HAPPY ATHEISTS
There are many men today who have never found Christ, and others who have found him only to become discouraged and leave him. To such men Peter’s great question of John 6:68 is a profound challenge. To whom shall they go? There may be young people reading this; people with a whole rich life yet to spend. Where shall they spend it? To whom shall they go?
Peter’s question is the most profound and vital question of the ages. Here Peter turned a corner. Here he moved a notch higher. I want all of you to turn that corner right now. Here Peter cast his lot with Christ for better or for worse, like it or not. Christ was the best he could find.
This is at last a moment all must come to. After we see that the way of Christ isn’t all ease and laughter nor all thrill and pleasure, we are faced with a crisis. We see there are problems to meet even here. There are pains to suffer and grief to endure. But when life gets difficult ‑- when we grow discouraged and are tempted to quit, we must ask ourselves this question, “To whom shall we go?” Where shall we find a nobler example, a more beautiful life to follow, a wiser teacher, or a higher goal?
There Is No Other!
When grief strikes us and our tears flow where shall we go? I heard a man (I have forgotten who) suggest one time that we should take the old song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and try to substitute some other name. I tried it. One after another I tried other names than the name of Jesus in that song. I tried Plato, Socrates, Moses, David, Paul. Then I tried the names of some teachers of more recent times. I tried Bernard Shaw and Bertram Russell. Then I tried some great scientists. I tried Einstein and Pasteur. I tried great statesmen like Roosevelt and Eisenhower and Kennedy and Johnson. I tried great writers like Shakespeare and Milton. I tried great preachers like Phillips Brooks and Leslie Weatherhead. Of course every one of them sounded silly and trite placed in that song. It wasn’t fair to the men. But the point is that it isn’t silly when we leave the name of Jesus there. It fits. Thousands have found that He is indeed a great friend who can bear our sins and griefs, can hear and answer our prayers, can lift our heaviest burdens. And it is an office which he and he alone can fill.
To whom shall we go when we feel the sting of the world’s coldness? There are those who love you, no doubt; but always in human love there is a taint of selfishness. It grows possessive, or jealous, or self-seeking, or unmerciful. Who loves you enough to go to the cross for you? If you leave a lover like this, where shall you find another?
To whom shall we go for hope? Every man alive today is dying. Since you began reading this you are a few minutes closer to death. Every tick of the clock brings you that much closer. Ahead of you a grave is waiting.
“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave
Await alike the inevitable hour,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
There are some reading this who will be dead before another year passes. All who are reading will be gone a hundred years from now. When you go at last into that dread sleep, who can go with you? When you are lying in bed with the faces around you growing dim, and you hang in that instant of time when the last pulse beats down the bloodstream, who then can take your hand and lead you through? Who but Jesus?
Jesus or Hopelessness
When some clever worldling tries to shake your faith with babblings about higher criticism and old fashioned superstitions, remember this. When he laughs to scorn the Bible stories and the ancient beliefs, remember it. When he cracks stale jokes about the untutored dupes of fundamental Christianity, remember it. Ask him what better hope he has to offer. Ask him what noble truth he knows that can outweigh the Christian Faith. Ask him what greater personality the world has produced than Jesus. What loftier wisdom, what holier life can he find? Tell him to quit his wisecracks and high sounding quibbles and offer something finer. If not to Jesus, then to whom shall we go?
Once in my life I brought myself seriously to consider the possibility that Christianity was a fraud, and that Jesus was not Incarnate God. I faced the prospect of believing that what he said about life and death and heaven was pure surmise. It was a terrible experience. I shudder still to think of it. Take away Jesus and you leave nothing but confusion, doubt, and dreary hopelessness. Shrewd atheists there may be–or even decent, kindly atheists. There may even be gay, fun loving atheists. But I challenge you to find me a happy one. They have no basis for happiness. They are men without hope or final purpose. Look at all aliens from Christ. They may be good fellows, or jolly fellows, or lovable fellows, but they cannot be men with hope. They will come to Jesus, or they will die without hope. They have nowhere else to go.
Yet still men seek other goals. Here is a man enslaved by money. He finds himself on a dreary treadmill forever saying, “I’ll be happy when.” Another man seeks only pleasure and ruins his health in dissipation. When he finds the pleasure fading, the strange grip of habit still holds him enslaved. Another man seeks ego satisfaction. He wants to shine. He craves honor. It is an appetite that feeds on itself and is never satisfied.
The Sound Conclusion
Simon Peter thought it over. Where could he go? How dull the old fishing boat would seem now. Would he find another master? What other master could appeal to a man who had walked on water. Peter faced the fact that he no longer had any choice. If he went down to disappointment following Jesus, he still went down with the best he had ever found. It was sound reasoning. Here is the great truth behind sensible conservatism. Stick with what you have until you have found something you know is better. The error in extreme conservatism is that it sticks with that which is not better just because it dislikes change. The error of extreme liberalism is that it changes, not because it has found something better, but simply because it has found something different. Stick to what you have until you find something better. Nothing is better than Jesus. Anywhere Jesus is not is hell. With him, and him only, are the words of eternal life.