If in This Life Only

by Charles E. Bryce

Frustration and hopelessness are settling in all over the world as never before. People see no way out of the problems stacking up unabated. More and more are just turning off the news because they are being overwhelmed by it. The economic situation is up and down and unstable to say the least. Average oil prices set a new record in 2011 and some analysts are predicting they may actually reach $200.00 a barrel in the near future. If that happens, we could be paying $10.00 a gallon! It could cost you $200.00 to fill your vehicle up.

How could we do that? How could the truckers do that? How could the farmers handle that? How would food get transported from point A to point B? There are already food shortages in some underdeveloped countries. How much longer will it be before there are food shortages here? You cannot just keep on planting and growing and hauling food if fuel gets so expensive that you cannot buy it. Some are saying that if the oil prices continue to rise, the airline industry will basically go out of business because they will not be able to afford to fly the airplanes.

If you look at the political situation, the word that comes to mind is pathetic. There is corruption from top to bottom and side to side, whether you are talking about local, state, national, or international politics.

There is a breakdown in healthcare. If you have been to the hospital lately, or had relatives go to the hospital, you know that is the case.

Education is in big trouble too. From kindergarten all the way through the graduate level, our institutions of learning are falling into a state of disrepair, confusion and a valueless approach to everything. No absolutes. No right and wrong. No borders or boundaries is the propaganda being pushed in all too many classrooms, in all too many schools.

The trade deficit just keeps going higher and higher, and the dollar keeps going lower and lower against foreign currencies. The United States debt ceiling crisis worried many nations about our willingness to meet or obligations and avoid defaulting on trillions of dollars we owe. The countries that we trade with do not want the dollar anymore. They want the euro and yen.

Our infrastructure is crumbling. Bridges, roads, water mains, sewer systems and electrical lines that have not been brought up to speed for decades are breaking down. The most serious disintegration of the infrastructure is with morals and ethics, values and standards.

It seems like we cannot do anything about this sorry state of affairs anymore. More and more citizens are feeling frustrated and helpless. They sink into hopelessness, finding no solace from their ministers, solutions from their politicians, nor ideas and plans from their colleges, schools and community leaders.

Hopeless?

Will things ever change for the better? I Corinthians 15 provides some valuable perspective on this issue: “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (vv 16–19).

There were skeptics in Paul’s day saying, “Oh, the dead aren’t resurrected. When you die, you are dead and that is the end of it.” There are people today who believe that. Millions of people do not believe there will be a resurrection from the dead, or that God exists or that the Bible is inspired. It is all up to us to save ourselves, they claim. If there is no resurrection, we have nothing left but hopelessness and helplessness and frustration—a miserable existence (v. 19).

But there is hope and surety for all of us! Christ is risen from the dead, which means we will be raised from the dead also. He is the Firstfruits that opens the way for everyone else, in Christ, to be resurrected: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead” (I Cor. 15:20–21).

That is the truth straight from God’s Holy Word! When you know God exists and the Bible is inspired and that what we read there is true, you can be filled with hope, optimism, enthusiasm and peace. Why? Because of this promise: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (vv. 22–23).

Eternal happiness

It is hard for us to comprehend what that passage really means. We all know that every human being is going to die. But do we know there is coming a time when everyone who has ever lived will be resurrected? Can you imagine what eternal life will be like? There will never be any death. Nobody will get sick or be mistreated, ever! Nobody will be isolated, lonely, persecuted or put down.

Consider the happiest time that you have ever had in your entire life and multiply it many times over—that is the life we will have in the family of God, as spirit beings, year after year, forever and ever. We will be busy and challenged and productive. We will be accomplishing and building. Doing only good, experiencing good, enjoying good, and it will all be based on love of God and love of neighbor. That is going to come about because of the resurrection. No more trouble will ever crop up again throughout eternity, after the resurrection into the family of God.

This hope is real. It is alive. It helps us put things in order and context. Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth and nobody can stop Him. Whether people believe it or not, He is coming back—when the Father decides to send Him back.

It makes no difference what science says, or what atheists or evolutionists or intellectuals say. It doesn’t depend on what the majority thinks. It does not matter how discouraging it looks, how frustrating it gets, how helpless it feels or how hopeless it seems. The Kingdom of God is going to be established on this earth and nothing can stop it. The resurrection of the dead will take place: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).

Have you ever done a Bible study on hope? You will be encouraged if you do. Hope really does settle and clarify things. It keeps us from being overwhelmed, frustrated, and sinking into a morass of fear and the unknown. It reminds us that God does exist and the Bible is inspired. God has promises in His word for His people. He is going to carry out His will and what He says is going to be fulfilled. He is always there for us. So our assurance in His word helps us keep moving on through the trouble that goes on all around us.

Keep hope burning

Without godly hope, you can’t understand what is going on. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. You don’t know how it is going to turn out and you don’t count on God’s intervention. Imagine what it is like to be in this world today without God’s help. The arms race is proliferating in every direction. More and more nations are pursuing nuclear weapons, and they are going to get them. Tactical nuclear weapons exist which terrorists can transport in suitcases or load up in the back of a truck and park in the heart of a city and detonate. The death and destruction would be a nightmare!

But here is what we can count on. Here lies unshakeable hope for all mankind: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:21–22).

No matter how bleak it looks and how frustrating it gets in this world today, we have bedrock proof that Jesus Christ will intervene and stop all life from being obliterated from this planet—a guaranteed promise from the Creator Himself! This knowledge brings hope that is vibrant and real. It wipes out all fear and doubt with the sure promise and realization that a better day is on the way!

We must never focus our hope on this life and this world—on humanity’s ability to cope with the problems it faces. We must rivet our hope on Jesus Christ, the only solution to the crises facing mankind, and the glorious changes He will bring about when He comes again.

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