The Antidote to Despair - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM


Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Antidote to Despair

Despair.  Sorrow.  Anguish.  Grief.  Hopelessness.  Desperation.  It’s difficult to be grateful, to live in gratitude, to rejoice in thanksgiving when you are down deep in the pit.  One author proclaimed in a news article this past summer as the opioid crisis hit unprecedented numbers, that young Americans are literally dying from despair.[1]  When people are consumed by despair, only pain and suffering are left in the wake –   Despair doesn’t only take root in an addict’s heart.  It can find a resting place almost anywhere.  Many mistakenly believe there is no cure for this deadly virus.  But let me tell you there is. It’s demonstrated in the lives of Biblical characters, even modeled by Jesus.  It’s a prayer, heart deep and hope-filled.

The cry of the people, the cry of every hurting soul in the universe is well known to God.  We can read the words of the ancients, recorded in Job, recorded in the Psalms, recorded by Jesus Himself who lamented in the Garden the night before the crucifixion.  When we only focus on the victory of Jesus and forget the psalms of sorrow – we miss out on the fact that victory is forged through pain – and more importantly, we miss out on the fact that Jesus laments alongside with us.  Yes, he sits with us in silence. Yes, he shoulders our burdens.  Yes, even Jesus weeps.

The message today looks at the human side of God’s plan. Yes, the side where there is sorrow, pain, despair, desperation, and depression.  As Christians, we know that the end is written.  We know that there will be a day with no more tears and no more pain.  Yet we live in a world where there is way too much sobbing… way too much hurting.  Some raise the question “is there still hope?”  Others ask this – “Can we still hope while we hurt?”  This is the question King Hezekiah brings before God.  I’m hurt, but I’m still hoping.  I’m down, but I’m not out.  Let’s join his story in 2 Kings 19: 10-11, 14-15, 19-20. Please stand in body or Spirit as you are able as we read together from God’s Holy Word.

10 “Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. 11 Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered?
14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
19 So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.”  
20 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Your prayer to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.

King Hezekiah was in a no-win situation.  A predicament. As a child, he saw his cousins to the North, the ten tribes of Israel, defeated and taken off into captivity by the King of Assyria in 722 BC.  Now, seven years later – he is the King of tiny Judah – essentially the city of Jerusalem and the land around it.  He has seen his countrymen in pain for 7 years – and he knows he’s next.  The fact that the surrounding world power of Assyria has his tiny city in its targets is not an overnight surprise.  I’m not quite sure he really wanted the crown – because everyone knew he would have to deal with this issue.  Who takes a no-win kingship – either submit to slavery or die in rebellion – not the greatest of choices.  But there was a third option.  Hezekiah remained faithful to His God.  He was in it for the long haul.

Hope inoculates for the long term.  Hope is like a vaccination.  Once God has rescued you once, your entire being resists despair.  Even in the depths of darkness, the Hope of Glory pushes you towards the light and rejects false hope.  Do you want to know what false hope is?  False hope preys upon our desire for a quick fix for an instant cure.  Too many times it is false hope that believes the miraculous supernatural intervention of God – must be instantaneous.  Praise God when it is!  But that is extremely rare and the Bible doesn’t promise that!  You know how does?  The deceiver – the one who wants us to give up on real Hope found only in the loving arms of our Savior Jesus Christ.  It’s the REAL HOPE that took our pain and suffering upon Himself at the cross.  It’s the REAL HOPE that wants us to endure the race to the finish line where we receive our crowns of Glory.  It’s the REAL HOPE that wants to determine if we are in the game for the moment like some of Job’s friends, or if we are going to stick it out and never curse God.  REAL HOPE recognizes the prolonged days of pain.  1 Thessalonians 5:8 reminds us that “since we belong to this day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the HOPE of salvation.”
Yes, this is our day.  This is the day ordained from before creation.  We are meant to be here.  Even though this prolonged day of suffering and pain is upon us, this is exactly where we are to be to play our role in the story of redemption.  I know -- I don’t long this day either.  But our Hope, Our Jesus is just as much Sovereign God on these awful days as he is on the Awesome days.  The circumstances may change, the feelings might be fleeting – But our God is always there, walking with us, giving us hope while we are hurting, so we can endure.
Seven years is a long time.  Some of you may have suffered longer than that – a wayward son or daughter.  A broken relationship.  A lingering illness.  How many times have you asked God to intervene NOW!  Many I’m sure.  And that’s OK.  You should ask God to intervene.  But do not get stuck in that mode.  Press on further – because part of the human story is to develop the endurance, the patience needed to see the hurts in others and become the balm of Gilead – the healing salve.  When God chooses to heal, it may not be the cure you were thinking.  When Hezekiah was at his wits end – at the end of his prolonged days – knowing full well what probably awaited him – that was when God did something no one else expected.  God gives hope for the hurting.
But hoping is hard.  Fighting cancer is scary, losing to cancer is even scarier. Facing the next years without a helpmate by your side is mind-boggling.  Mending broken relationships are daunting.  Standing up to a bully can be frightening.  Yes.  Those are real emotions.  The adrenaline kicks in, the endorphins surge.  Fight or Flight – sometimes the best answer is to be afraid and flee.  Especially when you are outnumbered, outmanned, and outgunned.  But REAL HOPE says this… do NOT be afraid. 
HOPE neutralizes the grip of toxic fear.  Anti-dotes work by finding the toxic, binding to it, and depriving it of its strength.  When we pray a hope-filled prayer, we bind the effects of toxic despair.  Prayer is a counter agent against paralyzing fear. The context here doesn’t mean that the butterflies will go away in your stomach…. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you make light of an intense situation. It doesn’t mean that the situation has changed.  The pain of loss is still there.  But it means literally – FEAR is gone.  Just like flipping on a light switch dispels the darkness from a room, when the presence of REAL HOPE enters – Fear flees.  The powers of darkness cannot remain in the presence of the y God!  When the world comes crashing down, it is God who catches you.
Hezekiah has been well trained.  He’s been well mentored.  He’s torn down the idols and he worships God in the temple – and when he hits the brick wall, limping in pain, with only one detrimental future option available to Him – he turns to the prophet Isaiah – and the messenger of God, hears the message of God.  And the message is “Do Not Be Afraid of the words you have heard.”
  • ·         Do not be afraid when the doctor says cancer.
  • ·         Do not be afraid when your child says I hate you
  • ·         Do not be afraid when your boyfriend says, I don’t love you anymore.
  • ·         Do not be afraid when the bill collector comes around for the 16th time.
  • ·         Do not be afraid when gossip wheezily threatens with foul empty words.
  • ·         Do not be afraid when your family member departs from this life into the presence of God.

There is only ONE WORD you need to hear.  Only ONE WORD that gives hope for the hurting. 
Because there is ONE WORD that spoke Creation into existence.  There is ONE WORD that rose Jesus Christ from the dead.  There is ONE WORD that promised the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon the church.  There is ONE WORD that returns at the sound of the trumpet.
And that ONE WORD’s name is Jesus – DO NOT BE AFRAID.  We have the Blessed Hope within us.
King Hezekiah heard the murmurings.  He heard the words.  The entire known world was out to get him.  They gave him good advice – Do NOT be deceived.  That’s great advice.
But great sounding advice may not be the greatest advice. Consider the source.  Consider what the source wants.  The serpent told Adam and Eve –don’t be deceived.  Take the fruit of the tree.  God is just trying to make it so you aren’t like him.  That was deception.  And it worked.  3) BUT HOPE REJECTS DECEPTION
Just as we know the stories from early Genesis, so did Hezekiah.  When Sennacherib said don’t be deceived, I have a better plan for your life – because your God won’t save you, Hezekiah recognized what it was.  Another ploy of the serpent.  Another design of the enemy.  Another attempt at falsehood.  But Hezekiah knew the scriptures… Hezekiah knew God…. Hezekiah didn’t fall for it.
We don’t need to believe the lies of the enemy either. Scripture is our standard.  Romans 15:4 records -- For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have HOPE.  King Hezekiah kept hoping through his pain.  He kept hoping through his hurts.  HOPE REJECTS DECEPTION. 
Church – never believe the enemy when he tells you God is deceiving you.  Our God is not mocked.  His promises are true and Amen.  God hears you – he brings you hope in the pain.
King Hezekiah drew a line in the sand.  Actually, probably a line in the temple. He laid out all of the negativity, all of the deception, all of the reality of the situation.  He put it all on the table in the temple.  And he prayed.
A simple prayer really.  There comes a time in our hurting and our hoping that the long prayers are voiceless.  Our spirit groans when our lips cannot. 
In the face of no hope, Hezekiah still had Hope.  Like Job, he never cursed God.  With the enemy at the gate, he still worships.  In the middle of deep pain, long death, and eternal sorrow, he still cries -- God you are my God.  God, you are my Creator.  God, you are Sovereign over all of creation – including me, my family, my country, my world.  If so, incline your ear, tilt your head, open your eyes.  The clock has ticked down to 1 second left.  I’ve got nothing.  My friends are gone, my kids are gone, my family is gone.  – the only thing I have is Hope in You.
So, God… save us.  4) HOPE anticipates the Outcome
Wait a second, you say – The outcome is inevitable -- Hezekiah’s army will be crushed, he will lose!  The inevitable outcome is I am condemned to a lonely life.  The inevitable outcome is that the bill collectors will take away my possessions.  The inevitable outcome is that the storms of life will flood my home.
False my friends – You forget who HOPE is.  You forget the one who sees you in pain is the one who took your pain upon himself.  You forget that he has the authority of legions of angels at his disposal.  You forget that he has cobbled together the body of Christ to be his hands and his feet to do the works of righteousness and thus make great the name of the Lord.  There is only one outcome.  That every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! 
Do you want to develop hope in your life when you are facing incredible pain – then start praying the simple prayers like King Hezekiah did.  God – save me.  God, I need your help.  God give me your outcome.  Folks, Expect God!  Anticipate God!  Get ready for the Inevitable in this church, in your family, and in your life.  Hope anticipates the incredible, inevitable, story of God made real in your life.
So, when you scream, I’m hurting and I’m hoping, and I need you desperately -- That’s when God answers.  That’s when he says, Yes, I do hear you; yes, I will comfort you, Yes, I will be with you so you are not alone.  Verse 20 -- Thus says the Lord Your God – I hear your prayer to me.

God ALWAYS comforts those who pray hope filled prayers.
Several years ago, I was sitting in a local café, praying and writing, when I looked up and saw an older gentleman I had not conversed with in a number of years.  As I went over to him and chatted, he talked about hope.  We talked about his wife who passed away just a few months prior. Yes, the tears still swelled up in his eyes as he thumbed through pictures on his phone recounting their last days together in this life.  I knew that many had prayed hope filled prayers that she would recover. 
Then he talked about his son who was born with some complications and endured over a dozen surgeries over the years.  He talked about his pain, his grief, his time upset with God’s timing, when he demanded a miracle.  And then years later, upon successful surgeries, the doctor asked him – Why are you upset?  Look around you – You’ve had your miracle!  It was at that moment he realized God weaves together his timing in a way that often confounds us through sources we never would have thought of.  Yes, hurt and pain are still fresh and raw emotions – but prayers filled with hope are always answered by God – even in ways we would never expect.
            By the way, Hezekiah’s prayers were heard, the people were comforted and the Assyrian army was conquered without Hezekiah’s armies having to lift a finger.
            Your prayers are also heard – even if they are not the answer you want right this moment.  Death is as much of life as all the events that mark a journey on this earth.  The departure of one so loved often weighs heavy on hearts.  But as believers in the resurrected Christ, we know physical death is merely an entrance into the eternal kingdom.
N.T. Wright, in his book, “Surprised by Hope” writes this…
Our task in the to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.”
As Christians, we exude hope for the hurting when we live as people who know the full power of the resurrection. 

As a resurrected person, is my life a hope-filled prayer for others?
.   In what ways can I share the Love of Jesus with someone in pain.  How can I encourage others who are hurting that they too can have hope?  The Bible says for us to lift up each other’s burdens.  Why? Because the reality is we are all hurting, we are all hoping.  Together, as a community of Faith, we can cry our lament, plead our case, be heard by our God, and receive the comfort that we need.  Jesus is our Hope – Jesus is the Antidote to Despair. 
 Shall we pray.