Sunday, March 8, 2020

Lord Build Me in Hope

“The school system in a large city had a program to help children keep up with their school work during stays in the city's hospitals. One day a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child. She took the child's name and room number and talked briefly with the child's regular class teacher. "We're studying nouns and adverbs in his class now," the regular teacher said, "and I'd be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn't fall too far behind."

The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one had mentioned to her that the boy had been badly burned and was in great pain. Upset at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, "I've been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs." When she left she felt she hadn't accomplished much.

But the next day, a nurse asked her, "What did you do to that boy?" The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize. "No, no," said the nurse. "You don't know what I mean. We've been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back, responding to treatment. It's as though he's decided to live."

Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?"
Bits & Pieces, July 1991.

Let me ask you this question: Have you decided to live? Have you truly embraced your own life? Or have you lost hope? Life can be really hard sometimes. And crazy things happen. We wonder if we can keep going. But I’m telling you today that if you’re here, then it’s not over yet. You still have a chance. And you can still have hope.

Don’t give up. Believe that things can be different. Believe that God can change anything. Any addiction can be removed. Any pain can be healed. It’s not over yet. In fact you’re just getting started. Now is the time to have hope. And to embrace change.

Pray my friends. Cry out to God. Go into your quiet place, in the living, in the bedroom, and cry out to God. Let your tears speak your words. Our scripture today posed the question: Is anyone among you suffering? And it answers: Let him pray.

And then it says, “Is anyone among you cheerful?” Let them sing songs. Life isn’t always hard and painful either is it? There a good times too. There are happy times. There are joyous times. I remember growing up playing in the woods,and loving every minute of it.

Are you struggling? Then pray! Very simple. But how often do we forget to pray? We worry about it. We stress. We get angry. We complain about it to our friends. We go and try to force things to go our way. But we forget to pray! Prayer is powerful my friends. In fact the word of God says “pray at all times” and “pray without ceasing” and “don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything, making your requests known to God.”

Even Jesus our savior, when he was in the garden of Gethsemane, so afraid and miserable and stressed about going to the cross that he was sweating blood, what did he do in the garden? He prayed. If Jesus had to pray, how much more should we pray when we are in need?

Then verses 14 and 15 answer the question of sick and illness. It says, “ 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

That’s pretty powerful. If you are sick, you should have others pray for you. I often ask for prayer, sometimes I’ll ask people personally, text somebody, or I’ll even post on Facebook, here’s my prayer request, please pray! And tons of people will comment and pray for me.

But we also see this biblical practice of gathering the elders of the church, those who are in authority over the body, and then someone who is sick will gather with them, and they’ll anoint their head with oil, and pray for them, and they’ll be healed. And not only that, it says if they’ve committed sins, they’ll be forgiven. Something about the gathering of the body of Christ, brings about healing, which of course comes from the Lord himself, but God works through people. He works through us.

Now very often God will heal you when another prays for you. But sometimes he doesn’t heal us, when it’s not His will for us to be healed. I recall when it came out that Nabeel Qureshi had stage 4 cancer. A talented young apologist, with a wife and kids, about my age. At the time I prayed, and I fasted, and if you fast when you pray, it adds power to the prayer. But in any case, I fasted and prayed several different days. But God spoke to me one of the last times, and it was just clear that there was a block there. It was Nabeel’s time to return to Jesus. So sometimes we have some sort of ailment, and we’re supposed to have it. Sometimes it’s our time. But perhaps God is calling you to have another Christian or group of Christians pray for you today. Come see us about that.

Our scripture continues today: 16 [j]Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, [k]fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

And it gives this example of someone who prayed, and what they prayed for really it happened. It says,”Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”

There have been so many times that I’ve prayed, and then God answers the prayer. And there have been times when I’ve prayed and God says, nope. Not yet. Or he just say no, not at all. His will, not my will be done. I remember five years ago I was in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin and I was waiting to hear back about an internship with the salvation army. And I kept praying Lord, please, anywhere but upper Michigan. I did not want to go to upper Michigan. Guess what? I got the call, and she said, You’re going to Escanaba, Michigan. And I loved it there. To this day, I love that town so much. And the people there. God knows what he’s doing.

I prayed fervently that God would help me quit smoking. And a year later I was able to quit.

I remember I prayed for a car, when I was newly sober back in 2013, and I got a car.

I remember I was working on my bachelors degree at liberty university. And I had every single class done except for the minimum math requirement. And it seemed impossible. I was going to have to take 3 math classes just to get to the minimum requirement class. But you know what I did? I prayed. And prayed. And God somehow got me through it. I petitioned the degree board, to be able to take the final class, and I was able to pass it!

I remember I was attending new day church, way back in 2013, and I knew God was calling me to ministry. But where? I didn’t know. I prayed for a long time. Where do you want me to serve? And God was so silent. I was getting very frustrated. But then bam, The Salvation Army shelter in town had an opening, and a friend said I should apply. The rest is history.

I remember I prayed right before I would go to Chicago for training college. And I said Lord I can’t possibly do this. But you can make this possible. And I survived it all, graduated, and now I’m a lieutenant.

We’ve gotta look back at how God has been faithful guys. We so often look at all the things we don’t have, and we start to lose hope. We look at everything that hasn’t changed, but look at everything that has changed! Wow!

Imagine what God is going to do in the future, as long as we stay with him. We’re people that are prone to wander away. I don’t see most of you every Sunday and that worries me. Make your faith a bigger priority in your life. That’s my job as your pastor, to call you to real faith in Christ. Take it seriously, and put real work into it. Because salvation is real. Heaven and hell are both real places, and we are going to one of them. So please take this deathly seriously. Many of my friends tend to take Christianity lightly, at least from my perspective. I don’t take it lightly at all. I have fun, I enjoy life, but I also have a deadly earnestness about the faith. This is literally life and death for me, I almost died. I was dead, essentially, in the grave of addiction, and Chris called me out of that grave.

Reminds me of that Christian rock song, and it says, “I was buried beneath my shame
Who could carry that kind of weight?
It was my tomb
'Til I met You

I was breathing, but not alive
All my failures I tried to hide
It was my tomb
'Til I met You

You called my name
Then I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day”

Our scripture concludes today by saying, “19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save [l]a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” So my job as your minister is to call you from wandering, back to the truth, time and again. Don’t give up. Don’t fall away. Stay the course. Don’t give up. Keep praying. Keep studying the word. Keep seeking the face of God. And you will share in eternal life. Never give up. Keep fighting. Because there is great hope. Take heart and have hope. Because God is building us in hope. He is training us to always have hope, even in the darkest of circumstances. No more games with God though guys. No more games. No more living in sin. It’s time to live free or die. Have hope. Christ will set you free. Have hope. You will find healing. Have hope. There can be a brighter day. Have hope because Jesus Christ loves you. It’s true.