LIVING HOPE 12-3-17

LIVING HOPE

December 3rd, 2017

 

                How many of you are familiar with the classical literature of Dante’, in particular Dante’s “Inferno”?  “Inferno” tells the journey of Dante’ through hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil.  At the gate of hell, there is an inscription ending with the famous phrase "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

          Hell is the one place where hope does not exist.  It is lost forever.  The Bible describes it as a place of outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  In the place of eternal death, we truly must abandon all hope.

          But while we walk in the light of the living, there is hope.  And true hope is found in our Lord, Jesus Christ; for only in Him is the hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, in heaven, where joy and love abound without measure. Where there is no darkness at all, and all our hope becomes reality. 

          One would think that given this promise, this hope, that Christians would never suffer from depression or despair.  But unfortunately that is not the case.  Satan, in his hatred for Christ and Christians, carefully targets any weakness in our faith in an attempt to exploit it and steal our hope, and our joy along with it.

          Picture your joy in Christ as inner sunshine, warm and beautiful, radiating throughout your spirit and out into every corner of your life.  Then the dark cloud of doubt slowly glides across the sky, at first blocking only a few rays.  As you ponder the thoughts Satan is putting into your heart, the doubts of God’s goodness, the doubts of His truth, and maybe even the doubts of His existence, the sunlight starts to dim.  God says, “For I know the plans I have for you… They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).  But then Satan says, “If God’s plan for you is good, why did you get sick?” or “why did you get divorced?” or “why did you lose your job?” or “why did your child die?”.  And your world grows darker.  The Bibles says, “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  But Satan counters with, “God cannot possibly use this sorrow for good.  Your life is only going to get worse.  You and I both know that.  So just give up.”  And you enter into a dark tunnel where you can no longer see the sunlight at all.  Your heart grows cold.  Your hope is gone.  And Satan is laughing.

          Some of us know people that have gone so far into that tunnel that they passed the point of no return, and Satan stole not only their hope and joy, but their earthly life as well. 

          But all things are possible with God.  He can reach anyone, no matter how far they have journeyed down that dark road.  The limitless light and love of our Lord can enter into the blackest heart, lift the most despairing spirit out of the hole they have fallen into, and bring back those teetering on the edge of the cliff.  If you feel yourself starting to lose hope, if your world is growing dark, turn to Christ.  Pray.  Pray hard.  Ask God to restore the joy of your salvation, ask Him to renew your hope and show you the purpose He has for you.  He has a reason you are here.  He has something for you to do. 

          I know, because when I was 17, I tried to commit suicide.  But God said it was not my time to come home yet.  Since then I have been through many more dark tunnels, but God never abandoned me in any of them.  I truly believe that all I have experienced in life was to prepare me for the calling that has placed me in this pulpit.  Without the trials I suffered through, I would not be able to relate to the trials others are now experiencing.  Without knowing what it feels like to lose hope, I would not have the compassion I need to reach out to those who are struggling to keep theirs. 

          The apostle Paul wrote about this in his second letter to the Corinthians.  He said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which accomplishes in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we experience.  And our hope for you is sure, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort.  We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the hardships we encountered in the province of Asia.  We were under a burden far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, we felt we were under the sentence of death, in order that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us.  In Him we have placed our hope that He will yet again deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the favor shown us in answer to their prayers.”  (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).

          So if you are struggling with depression, remember that even the apostle Paul suffered, and despaired of life.  But Christ delivered him, and Christ can deliver you. 

          And if you know of someone else that is living under a dark cloud, pray for them.  Paul was helped by the prayers of Christians, and our prayers will make a difference in the lives of those whose hope is fading. 

          Share the living hope we have in Jesus Christ with someone today.  Amen. 

     CHILDREN'S MESSAGE: 

          Do you have a Christmas list

          Of presents you hope to receive?

          That Santa promised if you’re good,

          And in your heart believe?

          The best gift isn’t from Santa,

          But was born on Christmas Day,

          It is Jesus Christ our Savior,

          Who took our sins away.

          So we could live in heaven,

          When our time on earth is through,

          There is no better gift than that,

          So Jesus, we thank you!