Prioritizing Our Hopes

When you go through a trial, especially an extended trial that disrupts or even destroys your earthly hopes and dreams, you either learn to focus and depend more on your eternal hope or slide further into despair.

I imagine that every Christian that has gone through an extended trial will remember coming to this difficult crossroad and facing this choice. In truth, seek firstit’s a decision we should have made when we committed to follow Christ – whether or not we were going through a trial at the time. By definition, a Christian is someone whose primary hope is an eternal hope in Christ.

“…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” (Hebrews 6:18-20)

I know that God wants us to have hopes in and for this life, but, for the Christian, those hopes must be secondary to our heavenly hope. Our heavenly hope must govern our earthly hopes. This is the only formula that leads to the “Abundant life” that the Bible talks about. If Jesus is not the Christian’s primary hope, he or she will have a really difficult time when (not if) a trial comes. Even when everything is going great (by the world’s standards), the Christian that does not have his or her hopes in order will not be experiencing the inner joy and peace that the Bible tells us we should have.

Unfortunately I speak from experience. If asked, I probably would have said that eternity was my primary hope before being diagnosed with ALS, but aim at heavenlooking back now I really don’t think it was. It’s so easy to get caught up in our career, our marriage, raising kids, our homes and so many other things involved in day-to-day life that, without even realizing it, our earthly hopes and dreams can become our primary focus.

In this context, I think it’s fair to say that hope and love are synonymous. If Christ isn’t our primary hope, He is not what the Bible calls “our first (most important) love” either. I remember when I began reading the Bible, I had a real hard time with the following verse: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)

Probably because I didn’t understand Christ’s nature at that time, His demand seemed harsh and even narcissistic. After reading the whole New Testament and getting a better understanding of His selfless nature, I realized that His demand had nothing to do with harshness or ego; it is a simple matter of priorities. It’s only by loving Christ more than anyone or anything that we are able to demonstrate His unconditional love to and for others. Likewise, it’s only when Christ is our greatest hope that we are able to fully appreciate and enjoy our earthly hopes. And, it’s only when Christ is our primary hope that we will know if our secondary hopes are also God’s hopes for us.

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on September 3, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 149 Comments.

  1. I find this so profound. Especially in our country, we are focused on worldly “success” — achievements we can see and touch and quantify. We see images of models, actors and actresses, athletes whose lives — from a distance at least — seem idyllic. Many of us have no hope of meeting that standard. But God views things differently, on the far grander scale of eternity. By His measure, comforting a child is much more important than flaunting a Ferrari. What He requires from us is love…which is not dependent on our economic status, physical attributes or abilities. Love Incarnate, He is our ultimate hope.

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  2. Tuned first to the source. All else follows.x

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  3. Reblogged this on Empowering Thought for Today and commented:
    I love this! The pic is gorgeous and the saying is true! And I like the name of your blog

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  4. Wonderful post! I’m looking forward to reading of your blog.

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  5. “It’s only by loving Christ more than anyone or anything that we are able to demonstrate His unconditional love to and for others. Likewise, it’s only when Christ is our greatest hope that we are able to fully appreciate and enjoy our earthly hopes. And, it’s only when Christ is our primary hope that we will know if our secondary hopes are also God’s hopes for us.” – Bill (Unshakable Hope)

    Thank you. This is so perfect. This is my hope/prayer for the whole world. I’m printing your quote and framing it on my bedroom wall. God bless your heart and soul!!! 😀 😀

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  6. Thanks for this inspiring message.
    Christ’s life and first love was only in the Father, all the way to the Cross.
    Hope, love, and true eternal life always found when we keep our eyes on the Father, through Christ. Numbers 6:24-26 to you, Bill. Your always in my prayers.

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    • Thank you for your encouraging words, the blessing and for your prayers. Hoping the same Numbers 6:24-26 blessing for you – “The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.”

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  7. There is a story about a man refining silver. A woman was watching him hold the silver in a pan over a flame, his eye never leaving it. Knowing that leaving it over flame too long would spoil it, she asked the man how he knew when the silver was ready. He replied “when I can see my face in it”. So it is with trials; God knows what he’s doing and his aim is that we become like Jesus. Thank you for this encouraging word, Bill.

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  8. Bill . . . I am always encouraged by your words. God is glorified through your writing and sharing!

    Such a powerful reminder for me {to look in the mirror}

    Look forward to more from you 🙂

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  9. I have nominated you for the Liebester Award. To accept go to the link and follow the instructions. May God continue to bless you! http://gwwministry.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/my-first-award-liebester-award-nomination/

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  10. As always, you’ve given me a fresh perspective on something I haven’t really thought about for a very long time. Thank you.

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  11. This is so true and it’s the reason why I love the name of your blog “unshakeable Hope”.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Warmest blessings to you my brother 😉
    JC

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  12. Kind sojourner ~ I speak from experience too… 43 yrs with muscular dystrophy has lifted me to hopes beyond earthly hopes & centered my attention on what matters most as you appropriately wrote. But if it were merely hope we had in Christ we would be very impoverished ~He brought the assurance that we shall one day resurrect and enjoy glory; that today is temporary and, that all these things will give us vital experience as well as, sanctification which satisfies & assures us a place at His right hand. Everything WILL work out for your good & to his deserved & earned glory. Thank you for an inspiring post &, God seal you his. Sincerely Deborah

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  13. Thankyou.  What better way to spend a sleepless night than learning how to be a better Christian.

    Doug

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  14. This is just one of the most rewarding posts I’ve ever read… My wife has been battling cancer for the last 20 years and she does it with the calmest of demeanor’s, she says she is actually twice blessed, if the Lord decides to take her now she knows she will be sitting at his feet, and if it is His wish for her to remain on earth she gets to see her Grand Children grow up… she is always telling everyone of the Jesus hugs she gets every-time a new cancer is discovered and she has to go through all the treatments, operations etc. again, she says it is such a distinct feeling of being hugged that it has to be Jesus as she becomes very calm and comforted by it… I love you blog and am now following it…

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    • Thank you so much for your comments! Your wife sounds like she’s one tough lady, and a hope-giver too – a real survivor! God bless both of you as you try to enjoy retirement between battling this horrible disease!

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  15. Reblogged this on Life of a Minister Mom and commented:
    Hope in Christ never fails!!

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  16. This is a fantastic, and as always, timely, encouragement Bill. A few months ago I did a study on this very topic of hope, as part of a Bible study I led discussing 1 Thessalonians. Having the clear and uninhibited understanding of our hope unequivocally being in Christ does wonders for our perspective. In no small terms, it literally changes everything!

    I just wanted to share this definition with you: hope, Greek – elpis, Strong’s #1680 -Hope, not in the sense of an optimistic outlook or wishful thinking without any foundation, but in the sense of confident expectation based on solid certainty. Biblical hope rests on God’s promises, particularly those pertaining to Christ’s return…

    Amen and amen!!

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    • Thank you so much for your encouragement, Patricia. That Greek definition of hope is awesome! I try to stay away from mentioning Strong’s definitions in my posts because I’m not a theologian and don’t want to get too deep etc. But I have always learned a lot from studying the original Greek and Hebrew definitions. So much so that it almost became an addiction for me years ago; I couldn’t get any Bible reading done because I kept stopping to research words:-)

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  17. A very powerful message that I couldn’t agree with more. Thank you for sharing that!

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  18. Great post! I just linked it on my blog. Thank you!

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  19. I love it when all else and everything fades in light of His glory and grace. Not just sometimes – I want it all the time… a single minded focus on the most important thing – eternity. From that vantage point, everything else falls in their rightful place.

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  20. Reblogged this on Elaine's Random Thoughts and commented:
    Wonderful post as are all that Bill writes. I encourage everyone to visit his blog! I find it very encouraging.

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  21. I have nominated you for the Liebster Award! To accept it go to, http://kristenzuray.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/liebster-award/.

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  22. Hi Bill,

    I really enjoy reading your letters. This one I believe is one of your best. What a great letter to share with everyone along with many previous ones.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us all.

    Tim M

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  23. As always, Bill, you point us to a deep and sincere walk with our Lord. I am sharing this on Twitter. 🙂

    Blessings ~ Wendy

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  24. Bless you for testing hope and encouraging us by what you have discovered and personally experienced to be true. “Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5 Amplified.

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  25. Beautifully written! I agree totally! Thanks for sharing.

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  26. Very true about where we place our primary hopes on, in regards to eternity. So guilty of that here myself. If we’re all honest, we can probably all concur with ya. Even though I’m not really seeking for a lofty position, fame, or a new home, it’s almost crazy that I seek to at least accomplish the little things that irk me: like being a better driver or being able to buy a ticket on a subway in Korea and know where the heck I’m actually going to (and being confident I’m not gonna get lost again). Great post! You sure are a great writer with lots ‘o spiritual or innermost thoughts many can relate with!

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  27. Such wisdom, Bill: “Only when Christ is our greatest hope are we able to fully appreciate and enjoy our earthly hopes. And, it’s only when Christ is our primary hope that we will know if our secondary hopes are also God’s hopes for us.” Profound truth there! Thank you for continuing to write. You are ministering to so many–the large group of commenters here are surely just a fraction!

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  28. I’m always humbled by your posts but more than that…by your attitude 🙂 . It is really tough to let go of our dreams and aspirations but honestly, they aren’t going anywhere 😉 . We just have to wait until we get to the other side to realize them. Bill, thanks for being such a positive role in my life. Continue to be blessed, always. Take care! – Amy 😀

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    • Thank you so much, Amy. You’re right, it is hard – heartbreaking – to let go of our earthly hopes and dreams. I think that’s why it’s so vital that we cling harder to the one hope that cannot be stripped away by the trials and tribulations of this world!
      I hope you’re doing well.

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  29. I have often wondered about the fact that so many people suffer terribly before taking that final breath and entering heaven’s gates. I think they forget ALL of it at the moment that they first see Jesus.

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  30. So much truth here! Thank you.

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  31. I had missed reading your post lately. You and your family have been in my prayers. I thank God for such a meaningful and plain spoken message you shared…I will be pondering this….bless you!

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  32. You speak straight to my heart. I will never be able to convey to you how much you bless me.

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  33. Thank you, Bill, for that wonderful post. Matthew 10:37 is such a great reminder on how we need to put Christ first in our lives. It took me a long time to realize I was putting people before God. I didn’t think I was, but relational idolatry was was causing all sorts of problems in my life. I wanted love and acceptance from people so I often mistakenly tried to please them first. The Lord finally showed me over time the importance of finding eternal love and hope in Him. Then I have been learning to trust Him first to guide me towards having more healthier, lasting relationships with His people.

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    • Thank you for your comments, Danielle. Your phrase “relational idolatry” is right on – anything we put before God is by definition idolatry. In his book “The Great Divorce,” CS Lewis has a great example of what you rightly called relational idolatry. A woman is forced to choose between heaven and her son. He’s making the point that even love for a child can become idolatry. Of course, if she chooses heaven (God), she can then truly love her son. (I love that book).

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  34. Thank you, Bill! I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 2:9 “but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”

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  35. I’ve also found that when I try to fill myself up with anything other than God, I never get enough to satisfy, and I’m always discontent. So loving Him above all else is the only thing that really works.

    And also the only thing that works in all situations – for the rich and the poor, the healthy and the unhealthy, the person with a great life and the person with the not-so-great life.

    He is the only One who truly satisfies. I’ve found in Bible studies on trials, that people often think trials automatically bring us closer to God. I agree with the beginning of your post – they only bring us closer and more like Him if we head toward Him.

    I’ve also noticed that when praying with thanksgiving during troublesome situations, the tendency is to think of things in this life to be thankful for. And while that is also good, I find it more effective to think about who God is in the midst of the difficult situation and start thanking Him for who He is, all His attributes, all He’s done in the past, all He’ll do in the future, and why He is more than enough to see me through the situation.

    Sorry, this is a ramble. And I’m just rattling because your post made me think. Love your wisdom and your testimony. You are blessing many people. Thanks for the post. 🙂

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  36. Love your post! You give me so much encouragement! 🙂

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  37. Reblogged this on Wanton Disregard for Safety and commented:
    The abundant life — the true abundant life Christ spoke of — is found not in earthly stability but in eternal security.

    My hope is fixed on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

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  38. Beautiful post and so timely for me. This past Sunday, my pastor focused his entire 45-minute sermon on Luke 14:26 – “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

    What??? Did Jesus really say we are to HATE our father and mother, our kids and our spouse?? When I first read that, I could not stop focusing on the word hate. Aren’t we commanded to LOVE our neighbors and honor our father and mother?

    Needless to say, my Pastor said the same thing you’re saying here in your post. The only difference is that you gave me a deeper understanding and a different perspective. Thank you and God Bless. I will repost your blog because everyone needs to read this.

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    • Thank you, Kim. That was another verse I have struggled with in the past. Do you ever get the feeling that there are some passages that seemed designed to force us to reexamine who Jesus is and whether or not we want to continue following Him? I think the best example of this is in John chapter 6 where Jesus was explaining that, to be saved, you had to eat His flesh and drink His blood. We understand what He meant now, but to them it sounded like cannibalism. It was as if He was purposely weeding-out those that didn’t have “eyes to see and ears to hear.” Many turned away from Him that day –
      “At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you going to leave, too?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life.” (John 6:66-68)

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  39. What a great reminder to refocus. I was just thinking today how grateful I am that the Lord hasn’t always given me things I’ve hoped for, but I still struggle sometimes with having certain desires, hopes and dreams and allowing them to distract me from my aim at heaven. Thank you for the reminder, Bill. 🙂

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  40. I just was forwarded a link to your blog, and found it very encouraging to my hurting soul. thank you!

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  41. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing such an inspiring post. This one really spoke to me. As I go through my daily trials, I try to keep in mind that God knows what he is doing. It’s so hard to trust in him sometimes, but that is what I must do.

    God Bless you my friend.

    Nancy

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    • Thank you, Nancy. Your comment reminded me of something I heard a preacher say recently; he said, “If we are in Christ, than so is our situation.” I like that quote – God knows what He’s doing, Nancy.

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  42. You are spot on, Bill! I recently read Ted Dekker’s, The Slumber of Christianity. He feels that the church, as a whole, has fallen asleep because we have forgotten our future hope. If we were to truly meditate on and grasp the wonders that await us, if we would focus on the promises of an eternity of bliss–well, it would change everything about how we see today. Whether we are in the midst of a trial or not, I think this is not an easy or natural tendency. We must be deliberate about focusing on our hope, and deliberate in living the abundant life that follows. Very good message!

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    • Thank you, Rebeca. I agree with that completely; not focusing on eternity leads to spiritual complacency. There is a hope of heaven, but, as Jesus warns repeatedly, there is also a hell. Not being eternally focused is the ultimate two-edged sword.

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  43. Thank you for not only the inspiration provided in this post but also for All of your “likes” on my own posts. You encourage me in ways you may never know. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my blog which motivates me to write more. You are a great writer and keep doing what you do! God bless you my friend.

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    • Thank you very much for your encouragement! Sorry I haven’t read your latest post, it’s still in my email in box along with about 25 other blog posts I haven’t yet had time to read, but I will today or tomorrow.

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  44. You have taught me how to sit still and listen and read the verses that I read in context. To read the whole new testatment in context is such a blessing not many can say that they have experienced. YOU my friend are the VESSEL that HE has sent those who’ve been blessed knowing you!
    xoxo
    Diane

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  45. Hi Bill
    I am praising your hope to give you and your family the deepest of our Lord’s life in Romans 5:5, I reblogged your post to my blog today with the following comment:
    Dear Readers, here my new friend, Bill speaks of hope.
    Romans 5:5
    and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
    This is a hope difficult to embrace, it is so big, we just cannot get our arms around it. Hope is something I struggle with daily, no that’s not fully honest, hourly. But what Bill shares in his post, calls us to sit in the puddle of it, taste the tantalizing spice of life in it, discuss it feverishly as if our life depends on it (for it does), hold it in prayer until it melts in the warmth of His love, pursue it with every hair of passion we can put forth, dare to place the fire of your faith it, believe it with a depth that digs deeper than any misbelief you carry and trust it to be more of our reality than your own hand before your face. I have shared his poignant post with you today. Be Blessed in, with and for the hope that does not disappoint. Thank you Bill! twe

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    • Thank you for your comments and for the re-blog, Tracey.
      I hope I didn’t make choosing between hope and despair sound like it was a one-time thing. Like you, I also face this crossroad daily and sometimes hourly. But faith is a journey, not a destination, right?
      I hope you’re doing well.

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  46. I think many struggle with “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37). HE is the unconditional love that makes all other love possible.

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  47. Reblogged this on twewordplay and commented:
    Dear Readers, here my new friend, Bill speaks of hope.
    Romans 5:5
    5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
    This is a hope difficult to embrace, it is so big, we just cannot get our arms around it. Hope is something I struggle with daily, no that’s not fully honest, hourly. But what Bill shares in his post, calls us to sit in the puddle of it, taste the tantalizing spice of life in it, discuss it feverishly as if our life depends on it (for it does), hold it in prayer until it melts in the warmth of your love, pursue it with every hair of passion we can muster, dare to place the fire of your faith it, believe it with a depth that digs deeper than any misbelief you carry and trust it to be more of our reality than your own hand before your face. I have shared his poignant post with you today. Be Blessed in, with and for the hope that does not disappoint. Thank you Bill! twe

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  48. Thank you Bill for your insightful post birthed in the trenches. In Christ, we move and have our being! It is all about his incredible love for us!

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  49. Bill, Clearly and with true insight well said. This is the hope that does not disappoint, the Truth our Lord wants us to embrace, so difficult to get our arms around. I’m going to put this as my post for today. Thank you. twe

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  50. …and WHAT an anchor!

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  51. Hi Bill,

    Hope is what makes life bearable and enables us to take another step when otherwise we would collapse beneath the load.

    Amen and amen to this insightful post. Thank you for the optimism you exude from your blog.

    Billy Graham says he has hope for America because of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the fountain for every hope and the foundation thereof.

    I appreciate your stand for Jesus Christ and for making a difference. Your life matters and is precious in the sight of our Lord. I am glad you have this venue to express yourself and to bring hope to those who read your blog.

    My prayer is that the Lord will bless you in a special way this day and everyday as you continue to let your light shine in the darkness.

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  52. Thank you for sharing. Your perspective on hope is spot on, especially when we have no hope that our earthly circumstances will change. That’s why trusting God is fundamental to the Christian faith. A friend of mine who has chronic pain issues said, “Trust is something we can’t manufacture or imitate when we’re in the pit of despair. So learn to trust God NOW.”

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  53. So rich, so deep, so true. Thank you for writing brother.

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  54. Beautiful post ~ as always, you inspire me. ♥

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  55. Thank you for this, Bill. It really spoke to me and I know you know why.

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  56. Every word resonates. Such a gift to come home from ten days with my husband in the hospital, my being scheduled for a biopsy next week, and now having to put our wonderful house on the market so at 77 he won’t have to work six days a week and get to read this.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. And thank God for your words.

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  57. Matthew 10:37 is indeed a hard scripture to live by if taken at face value…thank you Bill for what you share and explain here. It is so true isn’t it that if Jesus isn’t first in our lives (and thus giving us the desires of our hearts) we can’t love in the way we should or hope in the way we should. I know that I don’t focus enough on our eternal hope and so can begin to slide into despair. Bless you for your encouragement and reminder of what is our prime importance…the love and hope of Christ 🙂

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  58. Great reminder and challenge as I start my day. Thanks!

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  59. You’re so right. I feel the trials in life have purified my hope in Him if that makes sense. Though I don’t want to go through them again–I can’t imagine my Christian walk without them. It is encouraging to read your testimony of the same but on an even more challenging scale. I’m sorry that ALS is a part of your story but I am very thankful to read of a brother in Christ’s response to it. Your testimony challenges and inspires the body of Christ. I’m sure God is pleased with how you glorify Him in the midst of tragedy. God bless you in your weakest and strongest moments…

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  60. Reblogged this on The Narrowing Path and commented:
    A timely reflection from a faithful saint, who knows suffering all too well and yet still rejoices in the eternal hope he has in Christ.

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  61. Thank you Bill, there are so many helpful thoughts in this post. I am in an ‘extended trial’ at the moment. Not life-threatening, just painful. I agree, Christ is our greatest hope, and focussing on him transforms what we hope for in this life too! Your witness is a blessing to me, and I pray that the Lord will continue to bless you and your family with his grace and loving kindness as you seek to glorify Him.

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  62. Thank you for the re-blog, Kim.

    Like

  63. Thank you for the re-blog.

    Like

  64. Thank you for the re-blog.

    Like

  65. Thank you for the re-blog, my friend.

    Like

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