By Jerry Harris
Some years ago, a church member phoned and asked me to make a hospital call on their distant relative who was dying in the hospital. This relative had a terminal brain tumor and no relationship with Jesus. I had not been invited by the immediate family and so I figured it was going to be a bit awkward.
I stepped into the hospital room with complete strangers and introduced myself. I wasn’t greeted warmly. The person in the bed was Benny Robertson, and he appeared to be close to death. He was in a half-seated position and making the motions of eating except nothing was there. His family told me he was on a high level of morphine.
I sat next to his bed and asked him if I could share a few words about Christ. In a moment of lucidity, he replied, “I’m going to go where I’m going to go.” I then asked if I could pray with him, to which he said, “Get it over with.” I offered a short prayer and then exited the room and headed back to my car.
I was angry . . . angry with the rejection, angry with the family, angry with the dying man, and angry with the church member who put me in that position. As I drove away, I tried to put the negative experience behind me.
After a couple weeks, I called the church member to ask if Benny had passed away, and I was told he was still lingering. About a week after that, on a Sunday morning, as I greeted people in the lobby between services, I glanced out the windows to the parking lot. What I saw defied all logic. Benny Robertson was walking into our worship service! I greeted him at the door with astonishment on my face. I asked him how he was doing. He responded, “I’m dying, but I’m here.”
As he left that day, he asked me if I would pray that he would live another week so he could come back. We prayed for that together. The next Sunday, I was in the lobby again and saw Benny walking toward the door. When I finished the sermon that day and offered an invitation from the floor, Benny came forward and knelt at our platform steps. I knelt beside him and asked why he had come forward.
“I don’t know,” he said.
I asked, “What do you want, Benny?”
“I don’t know what I want.”
“Do you want Jesus to be your Lord and Savior?” I asked.
“That’s what I want!” he said.
I asked Benny if he wanted to be baptized. He asked if I would pray he would live another week because he wanted his whole family to be there to see it. I said we could pray for that together.
The following week, he was there with his entire family, and when I gave the invitation, Benny came forward to be baptized. I shared our story from the baptistery that day. When he came up out of the water he exclaimed, “It took me 46 years, but I did it!” There was thunderous applause and such joy in that moment! He passed away the following Wednesday.
That experience reminded me that there is always hope. It may be hard to believe and impossible to see, but as long as God is there—and he is—there is always hope! It is one of the most powerful treasures we have in the Christian life. Hope isn’t an empty wish, but a calm assurance, and it reminds us that God is in control. Hope requires room in our lives.
The day I visited Benny in the hospital, I didn’t have hope because I didn’t have room for it. We need to ask ourselves what is taking up all the space in our hearts instead of hope . . . we need to make room for hope. When we pray, we need to identify our blessings, for this reminds us that God has done it before and he can do it again. It will quell the spiritual amnesia that sometimes can set in, and it will build confidence in an always faithful God. Every day we can look forward and upward knowing we are one step closer to home.