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When hope is no longer needed

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ALBUQUERQUE (BP)–How many times have you heard, “There’s always hope.” Some would promptly reply, “You’re wrong,” when, in fact, they’re the ones who are wrong. When the Lord is part of the equation — and He is for every truly born-again child of God — there’s hope every single moment of every single day … until, that is, the arrival of that day that Paul spoke of in Romans 8:18-25, when we no longer will need hope.

In those verses, the apostle wrote about “hope” of that day when “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (verse 21). That is the day for which we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (verse 23b). But then Paul said that it is hope because it is something we do not yet have. “But hope that is seen is no hope at all,” he said. Then he asked, “Who hopes for what he already has?” (verse 24). Paul concluded by describing the incredible value of hope in verse 25: “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” What we can wait for patiently is that day when hope is no longer needed, because of the blessed reality we are experiencing.

So you see, there will be, indeed, for every believer a day when there will be no hope, and it doesn’t have to be one of those days when things finally get so bad that any optimism on your part is unrealistic. Paul linked that day, when all you hope for is fully realized, to the most amazing event of human history, which Christians around the world will be celebrating this weekend (and, actually, what the first Christians celebrated every Sunday, which they named the “Lord’s Day,” to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection.)

Paul wrote the church in Corinth, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). He then immediately affirmed the reality, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (verse 20). The historical fact of His resurrection guarantees our own. That makes hope a whole lot more than simply wishful thinking; that for which we hope is an absolute certainty.

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I am certain that many of you find yourselves in situations that have been so difficult for so long, and you’ve hoped that they would get more bearable for so long, that you’re determined to do everything you can to refuse to even consider the possibility of things getting better because, frankly, you’re worn out from having your hopes dashed day after day after week after month after year.

Millions of families, including my own, were transported in time a couple of weeks ago back to that time when they — like Elizabeth Edwards and her presidential candidate husband, John — heard those ominous words “not curable but treatable.” That means that barring some medical breakthrough, the family member battling breast cancer will more than likely sooner rather than later breathe her last and slip into eternity, and all the finest physicians in the world can do is to try to prolong her life a matter of days or weeks or months and, hopefully, enhance the quality of her remaining days. Hope of survival beyond just a few years is virtually non-existent (though in my wife’s case, our doctors never dismissed the possibility, albeit extremely remote, of a miracle).

Thankfully, when we traveled that road a few years ago, we still had the hope of heaven for my beautiful wife and the hope that a full and meaningful life would still be possible for a 48-year-old man who was single for the first time in his adult life and two lovely young adult women who could no longer spend time with their mother. I am happy to report that all those hopes have been realized in our lives and, I know, in the lives of countless others who know the Risen Christ personally.

As long as we have breath, we have hope in Jesus; it is only when we breathe our last that things are hopeless — but it is then that we need no hope, because all we could ever hope for will be fully realized in our Risen Savior.

Hallelujah! He is risen!
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John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, the newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.