Saturday, August 27, 2011

Help for the Hopeless

      For those who are discouraged, God has a word for you.  For those who are feeling a sense of despair, you can claim Psalm 11.  For it is in this sense of hopelessness that David finds himself as he begins the 11th Psalm.  He says, “I put my trust in the LORD” and yet the wicked are surrounding me.  In verse 2 we see that his enemies have, “bent their bow” and their “arrow is ready” and that they “shoot secretly” at me.  It is the picture of a soldier in fierce attack against him.  The threat is imminent and it feels overwhelming.  In verse 3, “if the foundations be destroyed, what will the righteous do?”.  In other words, the rug is being pulled out from underneath me, what should I do?  Even the very foundations of my life are being attacked and I need help.  People are attacking me.  The devil is attacking me.  My emotions are attacking me.  My enemies have flanked me on every side and are moving in quickly.  From where does my help come?  I feel so hopeless, is there help for me?
We all know this feeling of despair and if we live much longer we will know it again.  God speaks very clearly to us this morning and gives help for the hopeless.  He says we must see God above it all.  David answers his question of discouragement in verse 4.  He says, “the LORD is in His holy temple.”  That word holy means that God is separated.  He is not bound by the gloom of this life.  His light outshines the darkness.  His righteousness overpowers transgression.  His holiness is not polluted by the sin of this world.  He is in His holy temple and He is not threatened.  
Isaiah saw Him there.  In Isaiah 6:1, “I saw the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.”  And the seraphim were there and they covered their eyes because of God’s holiness and they cried, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”  God is above it all.  Isaiah spoke of Him there again in 57:15 as “the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy” and God said, “I dwell in the high and holy place.”  God is above all of your problems.  He dwells in eternal holiness.  Though the foundations of this world may quake, God is not moved.  
I cannot think of a man who lived this more than Stephen.  He was the first deacon and the first martyr of the early church.  In Acts 7 he preached to an assembly of Jewish leaders and told them that they killed the Messiah.  He said to them that they were stiff-necked and stubborn people who were resisting the Holy Spirit and that God’s judgment would come upon them.  He spoke the truth.  The Bible says they “gnashed their teeth at him, charged at him and stoned him to death.”  Their bow was bent, and they shot their arrows.  What could be more hopeless than being pummeled with stones?  But Stephen was not discouraged.  He was not hopeless.  His face glowed with the glory of God and he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, do not charge them with this sin.”  How could he do that?  How could he face such hateful opposition, such despair and respond with such love?  He saw Jesus above it all.  For we are told that Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God.  That he saw Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God.  
Dear friends, when you feel hopeless and discouraged.  When the enemy is moving in and the foundations of your life are being shaken.  Look to Christ and see that He is above it all.  Above your fear, above your anxiety, above your despair, above your enemies, above their ability.  Remember that God is above it all.
God gives us help in times of despair by reminding us that He controls it all.  Psalm 11:4 says, “the LORD’s throne is in heaven.”  A throne is a place of authority and God is enthroned in heaven.  He sits in authority over all of the universe.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth.”  Jesus has all authority.  Romans 8:28 affirms that “God works all things together for good to those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose.”  God controls all things in the lives of His children.  God is working these things according to His purpose.  He is sovereign, He is in control.
“Tomorrow morning,” the surgeon began, “I’ll open up your heart...”
“You’ll find Jesus there,” the boy interrupted.  The surgeon looked up, annoyed.  “I’ll cut your heart open,” he continued, “to see how much damage has been done...”  “But when you open up my heart, you’ll find Jesus in there.”  The surgeon looked to the parents, who sat quietly.  “When I see how much damage has been done, I’ll sew your heart and chest back up and I’ll plan what to do next.”  “But you’ll find Jesus in my heart.  The Bible says He lives there.  The hymns say He lives there.  You’ll find Him there.”  The surgeon had had enough.  “I’ll tell you what I’ll find in your heart.  I’ll find damaged muscle, low blood supply, and weakened vessels.  And I’ll find out if I can make you well.”  “You’ll find Jesus there too.  He lives there.”  The surgeon left.  The surgeon sat in his office, recording his notes after the surgery, “...damaged aorta, damaged pulmonary vein, widespread muscle degeneration.  No hope for transplant, no hope for cure.  Therapy:  painkillers and bed rest.  Prognosis:”  here he paused, “...death within one year.”  He stopped the recorder.  “Why?” he asked aloud.  “Why did you do this?  You’ve put him here; you put him in this pain, and now you have cursed him to an early death.  Why?”  The Lord answered, “The boy, my lamb, was not meant for your flock for long, for he is a part of My flock, and will forever be.  Here in my flock, he will feel no pain, and will be comforted as you cannot imagine.  His parents will one day join him here, and they will know peace, and My flock will continue to grow.”  The surgeon’s tears were hot, but his anger was hotter.  “You created that boy, and you created his heart.  He’ll be dead in months.  Why?”  The Lord answered, “The boy, My lamb, shall return to My flock, for he has done his duty:  I did not put My lamb with your flock to lose him, but to retrieve another lost lamb.  The surgeon wept.  The surgeon sat beside the boy’s bed; the boy’s parents sat across from him.  The boy awoke and whispered, “Did you cut open my heart?”  “Yes,” said the surgeon.  “What did you find?” asked the boy.  “I found Jesus there,” said the surgeon.      The LORD is on His throne in heaven.
When you need help for feelings of hopelessness know that God tests His people.  Psalm 11:5 says “the LORD tests the righteous.”  David is in the middle of a crisis.  The wicked bend their bow and shoot their arrows at him.  The only advice he seems to be receiving is to run away, “flee like a bird.”  But he knows better.  The arrows are flying.  The battle is intense.  The foundations are being destroyed.  This could create such despair.  But David is not distracted from God’s glory.  The best thing to do in the midst of this crisis is to trust God and know that He tests the righteous.  
Abraham is considered to be one of the greatest examples of a man of faith in all of Christian history.  We count him as a great man of faith mainly because of this one time in his life in which God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.  Look with me in Genesis 22:2, God said to Abraham, “take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.  3So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place to which God had told him.  4Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.  5And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back’.”  We will come back.  Here is the reason we recognize the great faith of Abraham.  Hebrews 11:17 tells us that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son and he believed that both he and Isaac would return because He believed that God would even raise him up from the dead.  But look further with me at Genesis 22:6, “So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.  7But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’  And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’  Then he said, ‘Look the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’”  Can you imagine anything more hopeless feeling than that?  Can you just imagine the father looking into the eyes of his little boy, knowing that he was about to slay him?  And then he strapped Isaac to the altar and raised his knife as he looked upon his only son as a sacrifice.  And of course God stopped him and blessed him for his faithfulness, but here is the point I want us to see.  In verse 1 we are told that God did all of this to “test” Abraham.  
Now there are many complexities to this narrative with Abraham and Isaac that I do not have time to address today.  But I do want you to understand this, God tests His people.  You must remember this when you feel discouraged.  When you feel hopeless.  God may be testing you.  And the Bible tells us why God tests His people.  James 1:2-4 says, “count it all joy brethren when you fall into various trials (testings), knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  When I was first saved I was discipled by an older man who would always tell me that God was testing me in some way of trial.  It took me awhile to understand what he meant and I’m still growing in my understanding of God’s testings in my life.  But here is what I have learned.  I am on a mission which is really God’s mission.  And the mission is this:  that I become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.  That I become perfect as He is perfect.  That I become complete, lacking nothing, just as Jesus.  The only way I will get there is by the purifying work that God places in my life through tests.  And so it is with all of us who are followers of Christ.  We  see opposition.  It is a test.  We feel hopeless.  God is purifying us.  We feel discouraged.  God is taking us to the next level.
If we will ever find help when we feel hopeless we must remember that God is above it all, He controls it all, and He tests His people in order to purify us and conform us to the perfect image of His Son, Jesus.  Which, by the way, is where true hope is found.  There is nothing that appears more hopeless than the death of Christ.  Yet God is above it all, establishing His kingdom by saving all who will believe.  Nothing appears more discouraging than Jesus taking His last breath on the cross.  Yet God is in control of it all, setting forth His Son as the perfect sacrifice to die for our sins.  Nothing appears more devastating than Christ being crucified.  Yet God is preparing His disciples for a global mission to declare His glory to all nations.  And if you are here this morning and have realized that you have no hope apart from Christ, He is your help.  Come and receive Him by faith, and live with true hope.

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