Hope for the Hopeless
A sermon preached at Elijah Ministries on 23rd May 2010

Good morning brothers and sisters

 

Shall we pray…

 

I read an interesting article the other day written by Lourens Schlebusch, professor of Behavioural Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is a world-renowned expert in the Science of Suicidology – the Study of Suicide, of people taking their own lives. His study revealed some disturbing information.

South Africa is rapidly becoming one of the major suicide capitals of the world. His research shows that two South Africans kill themselves every hour, with an additional 20, attempting suicide every 60 minutes.

He showed that about 10% of all non-natural deaths in South Africa are due to suicide, a figure that far exceeds the yearly world average of 0.16%.

Global figures from the World Health Organisation show that two million people commit suicide worldwide, every year. That’s one death every 40 seconds and one attempt every three seconds. This is a 60% increase in 45 years. So the problem is not only a South African one.

But Prof Schlebusch says that in South Africa, we have a particularly severe problem with self-destructive behaviour. 2 South Africans kill themselves every hour…

One can speculate what the reasons for this astonishing statistic are. According to the experts, the main reason for people wanting to kill themselves at an unprecedented rate, is apparently put down to the stigma and fear surrounding HIV/Aids infection. The other main reason for it, is a feeling of hopelessness, stemming from substance abuse and of personal failure.

While these feelings of hopelessness are certainly the straw that broke the camels back and the final reason for these people deciding to kill themselves, I would suggest though, that there is another much deeper reason. I believe that the root cause of this hopelessness arises from the consequences of a world that has turned it’s back on God. Many would suggest that Aids is a judgement of God. The proper, Godly and only way to deal with the Aids epidemic is for people to return to the values of a God fearing society. Unfortunately, this is not what’s happening out there. Instead, man tries to fix his own problems, with psychology programs and condoms… and God doesn’t even enter the equation…

 

The result is that these emotions of utter despair and hopelessness now swamp our country, and they are the consequences of a society that has rejected God; leading to a phenomenally high suicide rate. The Bible has been taken out of our schools, out of our learning structures and critically, out of our Government.

But we in South Africa, are not alone in our hopelessness, in our despair. How many more thousands and millions of people are there in the world in similar situations, resorting to substance abuse & violence, in a vain attempt to escape reality, to find a way out of their darkness?

How many find life worthless and meaningless, with no way of escape?

And to take this a step further… how many here at Elijah this morning, beneath a veneer of smiles and calm, are frustrated… angry…. Hopeless…
Feeling trapped…

Well I want to tell you this morning that you shouldn’t feel alone, because throughout the Bible, there are stories of those caught in these traps, those feeling despair, those who thought there was nothing worthwhile left in their lives. Righteous men, on the verge of suicide…

 

King David is one who immediately springs to mind, and also Job, Elijah, Jeremiah and Paul… there are many who went through these severe trials, to the point that they wanted to end their lives…

 

And I’m sure most Christians will go through these feelings sometime during their walk, where a feeling of hopelessness seems to take over our beings, leaving us feeling frustrated, trapped, full of despair and with very little hope. 

 

And as Christians, we shouldn’t really ever be, without hope. After all, one of the names that we call the Almighty God that we serve is - the God of Hope. Turn with me to Romans 15. 

 

Romans 15:13  Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

The God of Hope… He gives us all the hope we need through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

But the fact of the matter is, that sometimes it feels as if we are without hope. That there’s no point in carrying on… we just feel…. so hopeless.

So this morning I want to study this a little further and hopefully leave you with the assurance that there most certainly is Hope, despite what you may be going through.

And that’s the title of my message this morning… Hope for the hopeless.

 

To understand this, we first need to find out what Hope is…

 

Turn to Hebrews 11 where we find the Biblical definitions of both faith and hope. Verse 1:

The KJV says: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But a better translation is:

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

 

Faith and hope, we see here, go hand-in-hand.  One needs the other and depends on the other.

 

We think of ‘I hope’ as being synonymous with ‘I wish’.

I wish I had more money or I wish I could find a job.

In the Bible, however, that is not the case; rather, hope in biblical terms is a future fact.  We have faith in a future fact.  Faith is the assurance of our hope – we are assured that it will happen.   

Another way of defining Faith is the confidence that the promises of God are true. If you believe that the promises of God are true, then you will have both faith and hope…

 

Notice too, that Biblical Hope is something that cannot be seen. It says it’s:
the evidence of things not seen.
Turn to Romans 8

 

Romans 8:24  For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopes for what he already sees?  (25)  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance and patience we wait eagerly for it.

 

Even though we cannot see what we hope for, a Christian has the confidence, the assurance, that what we are hoping for is a fact, not a pipe dream, not pie in the sky wishful thinking… but fact. When we read the Word of God, when we see the promises of God that have come true in countless prophecies, we can then rest assured that His promises of future events will also certainly happen… we can see them as fact…

 

The promises of God in the past have all been true – so a Christian’s perspective is that the promises of God for the future will also all be true – the evidence of things not seen, we see them clearly as future fact… and that’s what Hope is….

 

 

Throughout the Bible, there are the glorious visions of God's promises to his children, to those who turn to him and depend upon him. Many passages in the Bible picture a God who will bring light out of darkness, who will cause those who were lost in darkness to shine themselves, and who will substitute freedom for the prisons and cares of this world, that bind us.

 

I want to tell you this morning that there most certainly is Hope. Visions of glory - where all tears will be wiped away, all wrongs righted and paid for, Justice - vengeance is mine says the Lord, and coming is the time when He soon will take vengeance on those who have become His enemy by rejecting Him… a time when God's people will be the delight of the Lord. Moreover, these very people, abused and apparently forsaken in this lifetime, they will become the glory of God -- God himself will be glorified by what we become.

 

Turn to Ephesians 1

 

Ephesians 1:18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

 

Our hope is a glorious inheritance. Our hope is that we become glorified and in so doing, become the delight of the Lord. And we need to be enlightened in order that we actually know this Hope to which He has called us.

 

Turn to Titus 2

 

Titus 2:11  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  (12)  instructing us to deny ungodliness, and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,  (13)  looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,

 

And I hesitate to say, that if this is not your hope this morning:

 

·        that you become the delight of the Lord,

·        that you are constantly looking for the return of the Lord Jesus…

 then somewhere along the way, you’ve lost the plot… you’ve got sidetracked somewhere… you’ve lost your focus…

 

The fact that Jesus will return one day soon, to save us off this God-forsaken planet is our ultimate Hope, our blessed Hope… there is nothing you can do to save yourself… it’s only the Lord Jesus that can save us… if you have lost focus in what our ultimate goal is… then you’re probably trying to do too much in your own power… it’s time to refocus, put your trust in Him, and in Him alone… it’s time to take all your burdens to the cross…

 

Paul says in Romans 8:18: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

 

The glory that will be revealed to us… that’s an awesome promise… the goal that we all should be working towards, with fear and trembling. Paul says that the sufferings that we go through in this lifetime are not even worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed to us. This is not pie in the sky… it’s not a dream… it’s a future fact…

 

Turn with me to Colossians 1:

 

Colossians 1:26  Even the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:  (27)  To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is …. Christ in you, the hope of glory:

 

By having Christ within us, we can then have the Hope of Glory, the assurance that we will be glorified on His return.

 

But how can we be sure that we are to share in this glory?

 

It’s important to understand God's prerequisites for being able to participate in this glorious vision. Hopefully, this morning, through God’s grace, He can help you to see through the gloom and darkness that you may be in, to help you to get a foretaste, just a foretaste, of what is in store for us, God's people. Because I say again, that if you don’t have this hope… this vision of glory at the return of Christ… then you need to ask yourself, is there any point to your Christianity?

 

Throughout life, we work towards a goal, an end-point… a reason for living. And we all need, from time to time, a wake up call, a call to refocus on what’s really important… We need to have Hope, we need to have that blessed Hope…

 

The book of  Isaiah shares with us these visions of Glory. And I hope that we all can catch a glimpse of it this morning!

 

Isaiah talks about Zion… he sees a vision of a wonderful place – Mount Zion - the heavenly Jerusalem. Our heavenly hope. And Paul describes it in Hebrews 12. Please go there…

 

Heb 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,  23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,  24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

 

Thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly to welcome you! Wow…

 

Turn with me to Isaiah 60: This is where Isaiah refers to this place – Mount Zion.

 

Isaiah 60:1  "Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.  (2)  "For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you.   

 

He says Arise! shine! Your light is here! This is a prophecy of light and hope. It is speaking of when the Lord Jesus returns to fetch us. When darkness and evil covers the earth, the Lord will rise upon us, and our light will shine…

Our Hope should be that one day soon, the Lord will return and make us arise, to make our light shine brightly and His glory will descend upon us.

 

But, there are times in a Christian’s life, where it will seem that darkness surrounds us, like we are blind, without deliverance from our trials, without hope, and seemingly, without even salvation. It seems as if the Lord has deserted us.

 

To understand this, we need to look back into chapter 59.

 

Isaiah 59:9

 

9. So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. 10 Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. 11 We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for salvation, but it is far away.

 

Notice first that these people feel lost in darkness. Like some of us this morning, they look around and see darkness; they see no way out, no deliverance, no justice… no hope. Looking for light, but unable to see. They are weak, with no ability to accomplish anything. Anything they do seems to have no decent result. They are weeping and moaning. They lack justice -- wrongs against them continue to be committed, but no one is punished, no one is called to account. They seek deliverance and protection, but it is nowhere in sight.

 

Does this sound familiar to anyone here this morning….?

 

Why me oh Lord? Why me? Why do I always have to battle and suffer, in everything I do? When will I be delivered from my troubles?

 

Why do these people feel this way?

Go back to verse 2:

 

Isaiah 59: 2   But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

 

The conviction of that verse is staggering.

Notice that even though these people have been wronged by others, they are certainly not innocent - they are not only victims. Instead, these are people who have chosen to live lives that result in separation from God. God does not hear their pleas; God does not show his face to these people because of their sins.

 

Now, stumbling in the darkness, feeling that God hides his face, this quickly leads to despair. And in these circumstances, people lash out at the world, to everyone around them. They even lash out at God – they blame him for their troubles.

 

Have you ever felt like this? I know I have.

 

Isaiah 59:2  But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.  (3)  For your hands are defiled with blood And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken falsehood, Your tongue mutters wickedness.  (4)  No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. 

 

 

verse  (9)  Therefore, notice that, therefore, because of your sins, justice is far from us, And righteousness does not overtake us; We hope for light, but behold, darkness, For brightness, but we walk in gloom.  (10)  We grope along the wall like blind men, We grope like those who have no eyes; We stumble at midday as in the twilight, Among those who are vigorous we are like dead men.  (11)  All of us growl like bears, And moan sadly like doves; We hope for justice, but there is none, For salvation, but it is far from us.  (12)  For our transgressions are multiplied before You, And our sins testify against us; For our transgressions are with us, And…. we know our iniquities:  (13)  Transgressing and denying the LORD, And turning away from our God, Speaking oppression and revolt, Conceiving in and uttering from the heart lying words.  (14)  Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands far away; For truth has stumbled in the street, And uprightness cannot enter.

 

It’s important to note here that these people know and acknowledge their sin. In verse 12 it says we know our iniquities… and yet we continue to transgress and deny the Lord by turning away from Him. And if this was to continue… there would be dire and eternal consequences. If we don’t at this point acknowledge our guilt and repent, there is a terrible judgement that awaits us.

 

Isaiah paints a horrible picture of this judgement in Chapter 63

 

Isaiah 63:1  Who is this who comes from Edom, With garments of glowing colours from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel, Marching in the greatness of His strength? "It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save." 

 

Who is mighty to save? There’s only one person mighty enough to save, and that’s Jesus Christ.

 

(2)  Why is Your clothing red, And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? 

Jesus Himself answers:

 

(3)  "I have trodden the wine trough alone, And from the peoples there was no man with Me. So I trod them in My anger And trampled them in My wrath; And their blood is spattered on My garments, And I stained all My clothing.
 (4)  "For the day of vengeance was in My heart, And My year of redemption has come.  (5)  "I looked, and there was no one to help, And I was astonished that no-one gave support; So My own arm worked salvation for Me, And My wrath sustained Me.  (6)  "I trampled the peoples in My anger And made them drunk in My wrath, And I poured out their blood on the earth." 

 

Then Isaiah speaks again:
(7)
  I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, According to all that the LORD has granted us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has granted them according to His compassion And according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses.  (8)  For He said, "Surely, they are My people, Sons who will not deal falsely." So He became their Saviour.  (9)  In all their distress He too was distressed, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. 

 

In His loving kindness, mercy and compassion The Lord redeemed them, but then look what happened…

 

(10)  But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, and He fought against them.

 

Do you want to fight against God? Become His enemy? I don’t think so…


But some might say, no He is a God of love, He would never do this… and besides it’s just the Old Testament… it doesn’t apply to us…

 

Keep your place in Isaiah and turn with me to Revelation 14

 

Revelation 14:14  Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.  (15)  And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe."  (16)  Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.  (17)  And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.  (18)  Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe." 

(19)  So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.  (20)  And they were trampled in the wine press outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, rising as high as the horses' bridles, for a distance of three hundred kilometers.

 

Horrific pictures of Armageddon…

You see, the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our God is not only a God of love, mercy and compassion, but He is also Sovereign, He is also a righteous God, full of Justice and wrath for those who reject Him.

 

But back to Isaiah 59… and the People lost in darkness….

 

When we are in this position, lost in darkness, it is easy to be angry with our circumstances, to be angry with God, and to blame Him and other people for all that we suffer.

Oh we might acknowledge some "minor" personal offenses, but in our minds those look so small compared to what has been done to us! We are quick to play victims…

 

The right thing to do is what these people in Isaiah 59 did. And it’s something we all need to do. Instead of blaming everyone else for the darkness they found themselves in, they acknowledged that they themselves were responsible for creating that darkness. And this is vital.

 

The first step in escaping from darkness is to acknowledge your own role in creating your own darkness. Let me repeat that, because for most of us, it’s a seemingly impossible thing to do…

The first step in escaping from your darkness is to acknowledge that you, and only you, are responsible for creating the darkness that surrounds you.

 

This is so hard for us to do, yet it is the key to escaping! We need to take responsibility! Acknowledge and confess before the Lord that you are a sinner, that YOU have caused this separation. Not to point fingers and blame others. You may have been wronged by others, but those wrongs are small in the eyes of God, when compared to the wrongs you have committed before Him. The wrongs you have committed before Him, have actually caused Him to hide His face from you!

 

This need to accept responsibility is the key to resolving so many of our problems.

 

Consider problems in marriage, or problems between parents and children -- and even problems between us and God. In fact, any relationship problems. We are all so quick to assign blame, to point fingers:

 

Never forget that in every dispute it takes 2 to argue.
In every story there are 2 sides.
In every relationship, you have a 50% stake in it. Therefore, you have 50% of the responsibility for it’s problems.

By being responsible for your own actions, instead of compounding the problem by always blaming someone else, you then become part of the solution.

 

We need to be like these people in Isaiah 59, and confess to God, confess to those loved ones that we have aggrieved –

not to falsely assume all blame, or to become a scapegoat, but to acknowledge that we are at fault, that our own sinfulness is the root of the problem, to agree with God when he says that our iniquities have separated us from Him.

 

So we have seen that these people are suffering in darkness, that they are responsible for their own lost state, and that they have confessed to their role in creating the darkness that surrounds them. They admit their faults.

 

But what is God's response?

59:1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. . . .

 

Does God hear, does He care? Can He save me? Can He deliver me?

This chapter assures us that God does care, and that He is able to save:

 

The second part of verse 15: The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him,

 

Does the Lord care? YES! Does he see the injustice and hurt and pain of those suffering from Aids, does He see the injustice and hurt and pain that you suffer from this morning? YES! What does he do about it? The loving and almighty God works salvation for those wallowing in darkness who have confessed their own sinfulness.

 

In verse 20, the prophet writes:

20 "The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD. 21 "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD.

 

The redeemer will come for those who repent.

 

We who are Christians today, are the heirs of this prophecy; we are able to respond to God’s will and distinguish between good and evil because of the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us.

 

 

And when we repent, the great Hope in this lifetime, is that the Lord God will substitute Light for Darkness, and Joy for sorrow, and Righteousness for Sin.

 

And in the lifetime to come, Grief, humiliation, sorrow and weeping will all be removed, and we will be overwhelmed with joy and gladness and glory.

 

The apostle John gives us a similar picture in Revelation chapters 21 and 22, where he describes the new heavens and the new earth that God will create.
In Revelation 21:4, he says:

 

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.

 

This is God's promise to those lost in darkness: "Repent, confess, turn to me and I will substitute joy for your sorrow, I will wipe every tear from your eyes, joy will be yours for all eternity."

 

Go on a bit to Isaiah 60

Isaiah 60:20  "Your sun will no longer set, Nor will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be over.  (21)  "Then all your people will be righteous; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, That I may be glorified.

 

There is also a glorious promise that the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus will come and proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners.

 

Go on to Isaiah 61

Isaiah 61:1  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And freedom to the prisoners;  (2)  To proclaim the favourable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,  (3)  To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

 

 

Are you feeling like a prisoner this morning? Broken hearted and hopeless perhaps?

 

As I said earlier, don’t feel alone – some of the great men of the Bible felt this way.

 

A good example of a righteous man who lost his focus and was filled with hopelessness, was Jeremiah… Turn with me to Lamentations chapter 3. It’s just after Isaiah and Jeremiah.

I’ve covered this story before, but it’s worthy to mention it again here…

 

The lamentations of Jeremiah, chapter 3

Verse 1: I am the man who has seen affliction because of the rod of His wrath.  (2)  He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not in light.  (3)  Surely against me He has turned His hand repeatedly all the day.  (4)  He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away, He has broken my bones.  (5)  He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship.

(6)  In dark places He has made me dwell, Like those who have long been dead. 

(7)  He has hedged me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy. 

(8)  Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer.  (9)  He has blocked my ways with carved stone; He has made my paths crooked.

 

Here Jeremiah clearly describes the feelings of someone who has been cast down to the very depths: that trapped feeling; that feeling of hopelessness  – it’s the same feeling that David had, the same feeling that Job had, the same feeling Elijah had and the same feeling Paul had; the burdens that feel like chains getting heavier; walls of stone surround you, in every direction an uncertain road, a crooked path.

 

And what I want you to keep in mind here, is that this is the same Jeremiah who Jesus Christ so often quoted. How could a prophet of God who thundered against kings and nations fall into such deep turmoil and despair? Great kings and captains of mighty armies hung on his every word. This is the same prophet who kept mighty kings and all their armies, waiting for ten days while he sought God for their direction.

 

Again and again the Lord had spoken personally to this humble prophet.

He knew what it was, to hear the clear instructions from the Lord…

 

But now, he is down, way down, desperate and hopeless. Lonely, feeling rejected, thinking God had stopped answering his cry. On the verge of suicide, he even curses the day he was born.

Then slowly, that old root of bitterness begins to spring up, and, as a result, he begins to lose focus, to lose his joy, to lose his peace and happiness…

and then in v15 he cries:

 

He has filled me with bitterness, He has made me drunk with wormwood. 

(16)  He has broken my teeth with gravel; He has covered me in ashes. 

(17)  My soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. 

 

Does this sound familiar to anyone this morning?

 

Jeremiah, the great prophet Jeremiah, loses sight of God's hand in his life and is now verging on blasphemy. How sad, yet how very common to all people of God - Jeremiah hit the very bottom. He had come to the very end of his rope.

 

Listen to his pitiful hopelessness in verse (18) 
So I say, "My strength has perished, And so has my hope from the LORD."

 

Are you at this point in your life where you have practically given up, and your hope is about to perish? Do you wonder if the day will ever come when you will be happy and carefree again? Do you worry that your trial has already lasted too long, and you are not going to be able to hold out if it continues? Do your hopes and dreams keep falling apart? Is your life filled with misery and trouble?

 

Well thank God - there is an answer to it all in His Word. We have been given a message of hope and assurance and encouragement.

 

In his very darkest hour, Jeremiah discovered a glorious truth that brought new hope and assurance to his mind. It was something he already knew about God, but it didn't touch his soul until he came to the very end of himself.

 

He discovered that at the very bottom, at the very end of himself - there was only one thing left, and that was……… God!

The more broken and humble you are, the more God can be discovered and the more God can work with.

 

I mentioned earlier that if you have lost your focus, then you’re probably trying to accomplish too much in your own power… God cannot work with a proud person, someone who is trying to save themselves…

 

The principle here is… The less of you, the more of God.

 

And Jeremiah found this precious truth:-

 

Verse (20)  Surely my soul remembers And is humbled within me.  (21)  This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have…. hope.  (22)  It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  (23)  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, new every morning. great is thy Faithfulness oh Lord, Great is thy faithfulness.

 

And even though we deserve to be consumed and destroyed, the Lord’s mercy and compassion allows us to live. And for a Christian, that compassion and His forgiveness is made new every morning – how GREAT is His faithfulness!

 

Verse 40 Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD. 

(41)  We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven;

 

What it all means is simply this: Get your eyes off your problems and afflictions, LOOK UP and have hope. Remind yourself that the promises of God are still all true, that He is faithful and that His compassion and tender love is yours for the taking.

 

Despite what you’re going through, God is still God! He is still on His throne, hearing and answering your prayers. It might not seem that way, but God will act on your behalf, not one minute too soon, nor 1 minute too late..

 

Right now, even though you are down and hurting, He is a lot closer than you think.

Remember that God is much, so much bigger than your problem!

 

When you get to the point of losing all hope -  wait quietly on the Lord … God is too holy to fail you. His promises have not and cannot fail. That is our blessed assurance.

 

We were once slaves to sin, but one of God’s greatest promises is that He, in his great mercy frees us from that slavery, and makes us righteous before him.

 

Righteousness for Sin! Mercy instead of judgment! Joy for sorrow! Light for darkness! This is God's perfect plan of salvation, salvation for us individually, available for all who turn to him, broken and contrite, admitting their sins and falling on his mercy. This is God's perfect plan of redemption for all creation, as he creates a new heaven and a new earth, replacing this creation that mankind through its sin has so thoroughly destroyed…

 

 

And if you think you’re not worthy or not good enough to receive this amazing mercy, I want to quickly show you just how wrong you are, by considering just a few people in Scripture.

 

You don’t have to be perfect to receive this mercy. If you think your sin is too great or your personality not good enough, or your character too weak, then you need to think again. When you read about some people in Scripture you will find that most of them had severe character flaws of some kind.

 

Hebrews 11 is known as the Faith Chapter of the Bible. In it there is a list of people commended as righteous by the Lord, because of their great faith. This Chapter is often called the Hall of Faith.

 

Consider a few of these mentioned in Hebrews 11…

Consider Noah – he had a drinking problem and passed out naked in his room one day.
Abraham – not once, but twice – was willing to give his wife over sexually to another man.

Sarah laughed at the promises of God.

Moses himself, was a murderer – He killed a man in cold blood with his bare hands. And smashed the Tablet of the ten commandments in a blind rage.

Moses had a temper that was probably worse than mine.

Rahab was a whore, a full blown prostitute – but she was commended for her faith.

Gideon was probably the greatest procrastinator and doubter in history.

 

Then consider Lot…

Not in your worst nightmare, would you conceive to do what Lot did. Something so despicable that it boggles the brain. Yet, 2 Peter 2:7 says that Lot was a just man, a righteous man. But, in Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot was prepared to give up his own two virgin daughters to be raped by a horde of despicable homosexuals. Then as if this wasn’t bad enough, later on, Lot got drunk and made both of his own daughters pregnant, after committing incest with them.

If there is hope for Lot, a righteous man… then there is hope for all of us.

 

Then, consider King David, who is the Old Testament shadow of Christ as the Good Shepherd as well as the King; he is the archetype of what a shepherd and a king should be like.  In Kings and Chronicles David was always the ultimate yardstick – David is always looked upon as a type of Christ.

 

Yet, David sinned many times. But if you look at his first sin – now I’m telling you that not on the worst day of your Christian life could you even begin to contrive what David actually did.  He took a righteous man, Uriah – which means ‘My light is Yahweh’ – and set him up to be killed in order to steal his wife.  Uriah was loyal to God, to his country, and even loyal and faithful to David himself as Captain of David’s army, yet David had him killed so that he could steal his wife and conceal their adultery. 

 

Not on your worst day, could you contemplate doing what David did.  And even once he had done it, he failed to realize the seriousness of his sin.  When the prophet Nathan came to him, his reaction was to shrug it off, as if he didn’t even know he had done anything wrong.  Yet this is the man who became the shadow of Christ!

 

This is the man about whom the Lord even said:
Acts 13:22  'I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.'

 

But the critical thing with all these people is that they repented and turned to the Lord.

 

I tell you what, if there’s hope for David and Lot, then maybe, just maybe, there’s even hope for me. 

 

God took David and made him the standard, the type of Christ. 

 

Scripture says ‘For by faith these men of old gained approval’ –

·        how could these sinful, depraved people gain approval? 

·        How could God forget what these people did? 

·        How could God treat these people as if they had never done anything wrong? 

 

Well, God can treat them as if they never did wrong, for the same reason that He can treat us, as if we never did wrong.  The reason God can treat them, and us, as if we did no wrong, is because He treated His own Son, as if He had done it all.

 

That is the beauty of the Gospel, and as Jacob Prasch once said:

 you have to be a complete idiot to reject it.

‘How shall we escape if we reject so great a salvation?’  

 

Hebrews holds these people up as our role models, not because they were perfect, not because they didn’t get it wrong all the time, but precisely because they did! 

There’s hope for them, therefore there’s hope for us. 

Noah – had a drinking problem?  Abraham told lies?  Sarah doubted God?  Moses, Rahab, Samson, Jephthah, Lot – look at what they did! 

And then there is David.

 

Yet if there is hope for these people, then there is hope for us too. In fact, there is even more hope for us… because unlike the Old Testament saints, we have been given the pecious gift of the Holy Spirit living inside us.

 

God is saying to us that if you have a sin problem that you cannot conquer –there is hope for you.

 

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; not the possibility, not perhaps, not maybe, but the assurance.

 

People use ‘hope’ as a synonym for ‘wish’; but faith is the assurance of what we hope for.  I don’t wish; I know… 

 

Though you may be at the end of your rope,

you are never at the end of your Hope.

 

There is hope for the hopeless.  Amen.