Pastor David B. Curtis

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Hang On To Hope

Psalm 42:1-5

Delivered 01/21/2001

How many of you have seen the movie "Cast Away"? What is the basic bottom line theme of that movie? I saw it as this, "hang on to hope." Let me give you a quick overview of the movie: Chuck Noland, is a FedEx system's engineer whose personal and professional life are ruled by the clock. His fast-paced career takes him, often at a moment's notice, to far-flung locales - and away from his girlfriend Kelly. Chuck's manic existence abruptly ends when, after a plane crash, he becomes isolated on a remote island - cast away into the most desolate environment imaginable. Stripped of the conveniences of everyday life, he first must meet the basic needs of survival, including water, food and shelter. Chuck, the consummate problem solver, eventually figures out how to sustain himself physically. But then what? Chuck begins his personal journey. After four years, fate gives Chuck a chance to fight his way back to civilization, only to find an unexpected emotional challenge greater than all the earlier physical ones. Once back home, he shares with a friend his experience and says, "I had to keep breathing even when all my logic said it was hopeless. Then one day the tide brought me a sail and all my logic proved to be wrong." Then in speaking of his present emotional challenge, he said, "I have to keep breathing, because I just don't know what the tide will bring tomorrow." That's hope! His ability to hope allowed him to persevere even in the most difficult circumstances.

Is Having Hope a Big Deal?

Who needs hope? I'll tell you who; The single mom who wonders how she will ever make it alone; the college student who feels like they will never graduate; the parent who feels their children will not turn out to be productive members of society; the lonely single person who longs to be married but sees absolutely no prospects; the married person who longs to be single, stuck in a painful marriage they long for a way of escape; the man who has lost his job and doesn't know how he'll provide for his family; the widow or widower who has lost their spouse and wonders how they can go on. I think that everyone, at one time or another, has found themselves in a situation that looked hopeless.

Is having hope a big deal? You bet it is! About a month ago, I shared with you about an interesting Scientific experiment that I had read about. A group of behavioral Scientists put some Wharf Rats in a tank of water, and observed them to see how long they would survive before drowning. The average time was 17 minutes. Then, they repeated the experiment, but this time they "rescued" the rats just before the point of drowning, dried them off and returned them to their cages, fed them, and let them play for a few days, and repeated the drowning experiment.

This time, the average survival time for these rats increased from 17 minutes to 36 hours! The scientists explained that phenomenon by pointing out that the second time around, the rats had HOPE. They believed that they could survive this, because they had done so before.

So, we see that having hope is a big deal. The Bible verifies this:

Proverbs 13:12 (NKJV) Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

In GWT it is stated this way, "Delayed hope makes one sick at heart." Just as the rats gave up when they had no hope, so do we. And just as the rats hope gave them endurance, so does ours:

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NKJV) We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,

"Patience of hope" - the Greek word for "patience" here is hupomone, which means: "endurance." I take this to mean that hope produces endurance, or that endurance is the fruit of hope. We can endure a lot when we have hope.

Where Does Hope Come From?

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

"The God of hope" - this means that he is both the origin of hope and the object of hope. "In believing" - this is the key to hope. Our life must first be a life of faith and from our faith comes hope. If you have lost your hope, it is because you have taken your mind off of God and become focused on your circumstances.

Romans 15:4 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

We see that in one place hope is attributed to the Holy Spirit (15:13), and in another place it is attributed to the Bible. Hope comes as the Holy Spirit enlightens believers to understand and trust the God of the Bible. As we focus on the Lord through the Scriptures, our faith will grow and our faith in God will give us hope.

Psalms 42:1-5 (NKJV) As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, "Where is your God?" 4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.

In this passage we hear, not just the voice of King David, but the voice of Joe Christian as well. For here is the experience of every believer in every age. At one time or another, everybody experiences the feeling of hopelessness. You will have to face, deal with, and fight hopelessness on some level, at some point in your life.

Sadly, most Christians believe in what I would call a quadriplegic god. This god has good intentions, hopes and wishes for everyone but no strength to carry them out. Often times the devil is said to get in His way. More often, however, it is people that foil the Creator. People and their opposition to God's desires and will are said to be the one insurmountable obstacle He can't overcome. They are literally saying that man's will is stronger than God's.

If you worship a quadriplegic god, you can plan on experiencing serious, reoccurring, hopelessness. You will naturally be hopeless, because you are on your own. You must fight your own enemies and solve your own problems; subdue and control your own fleshly desires. People who believe such things about God often find that they grow more weary day by day. Their hands and legs grow weaker, their heart and spirit begins to fail. Often they despair of life itself, and can't figure out what is wrong. They have no God, that's what's wrong!

If this impotent god had been David's god, what might his soul have said to him when he advised his soul to, "Hope in God?" Surely his soul would have plunged deeper into the darkness of depression. For this god is of no use to a man who must face real enemies from within and without. David's soul would have thought him quite stupid to put his hope and trust in such a god. Why are you in despair, oh my soul? David's soul might have answered, "Because the god you worship is powerless." In order to deal with life without being plagued by hopelessness, you must know the truth about the God of hope.

The God of the Bible, is the Creator and absolute Sovereign Ruler of all things. Let me make clear what I mean when I say, "God is Sovereign." Webster does a good job on the definition of sovereignty when he says, "Sovereignty is having the undisputed right to make decisions and the unlimited, absolute, power to carry them out." This is what I mean when I say that God is Sovereign. The God of the Bible, as the Sovereign Ruler of what He has created, has the undisputed right to make decisions AND the unlimited, absolute, power to carry them out. GOD IS SOVEREIGN!"

Psalms 103:19-22 (NKJV) The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. 20 Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word. 21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. 22 Bless the LORD, all His works, In all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

The text begins with a statement of fact, "The Lord, God, the first person of the blessed Trinity, has established His throne in the heavens." God is the Lord and governor of His creation and He is presently sitting on His throne, which means He is an active King. He is presently ruling over, managing, and governing His kingdom.

Secondly, we see that God's rule is a SOVEREIGN RULE. Remember what that means. "God has the undisputed right to make decisions and the unlimited, absolute, power to carry them out". In other words, God has a throne; He is on that throne; He has absolute power, and He is ruling with and exercising that power over all things, right now. This is just another way of saying that our God is in the heavens doing whatever pleases Him. It is just another way of saying that God does as He pleases among the hosts of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth and no one can stop Him. It is just another way of saying that all things are from Him and through Him and to Him. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. God is the sovereign governor of everything that is or will ever be. What should our reaction be to this truth?

Psalms 103:20-22 (NKJV) Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word. 21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. 22 Bless the LORD, all His works, In all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

In light of the fact of God's Sovereign rule and dominion, the angels are commanded to PRAISE THE LORD! His hosts are commanded to PRAISE THE LORD! ALL THE WORKS OF HIS HANDS, in all places of His sovereign dominion, are called upon to praise the Lord! Then finally, in verse twenty-two, the Psalmist calls upon his redeemed soul to "Bless the Lord," or praise the Lord who sits on His throne and governs all He has made. "PRAISE THE LORD"!

In other words, believers, the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God is meant to make us a rejoicing people. It is meant to fill us with hope and strength. For our loving Father, who is strong and able, has ordained whatsoever comes to pass. This God is the God of hope and He is always on duty. He is the King, Creator, Savior, and an ever present help in time of need.

When you have come to believe and apply this truth to your life, you will never be the same again. From this lofty perspective, you will learn to see the hand and will of God in everything that comes your way. You will finally understand that you already have the right husband, wife, children, job and the right boss. You live in the right town and country. You were born into the right family at just the right time. The cancer that was just discovered in your body is no unfortunate stroke of luck. Rather, it is sent from God for your good and His glory. He will see you through this great trial of your faith, and you will be better for it.

If God is sovereign, His children need not be hopeless because of unexpected, difficult, or life threatening circumstances. For our loving Father is the first cause of whatsoever comes to pass. He has designed all things with the good of His children in mind. This knowledge is essential for those who wish to have joy and peace on earth. Understanding theology and doctrine matter more than I have the capacity to say.

We have reason to hope because not only is God sovereign, but he is also Good. The Bible clearly teaches us that God is good.

Psalms 100:5 (NKJV) For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
Psalms 135:3 (NKJV) Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant.
Psalms 145:9 (NKJV) The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
Jeremiah 33:11 (NKJV) 'the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: "Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever"; and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,' says the LORD.
Exodus 34:6 (NKJV) And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,

The goodness of God is that essential perfection of the divine nature which inclines Him to deal bountifully with His creatures. The biblical concept of God's goodness focuses on concrete experiences of what God has done and is doing in the lives of His people. Scripture affirms that God is and does good.

If we had to narrow it down to one quality to which goodness points, it would be the quality of generosity. Generosity means a disposition to give to others in a way which has no mercenary motive and is not limited by what the recipients deserve, but consistently goes beyond it. Generosity expresses the simple wish that others should have what they need to make them happy. God's generosity in bestowing natural blessings is acclaimed in Psalm 145:

Psalms 145:9 (NKJV) The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
Psalms 145:15-16 (NKJV) The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. 16 You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The psalmist's point is that since God controls all that happens in His world; every meal, every pleasure, every possession, every bit of sun, every night's sleep, every moment of health and safety, and everything else that sustains and enriches life is a divine gift. Stop for a moment and think of how good God has been to you. What are some of the good things that God has given you? Have you counted them lately?

We can't see the big picture, so, too often we don't see things as good, but if we understand that our God is good all the time, we will learn to trust Him in every situation of life.

I was reading this week about Joseph and was reminded of God's goodness and sovereignty. I was also reminded that, as Christians, we always have a reason to hope.

Genesis 37 tells us that when Joseph was 17, his brothers hated him and wanted to kill him, but instead of killing him, they sold him as a slave to Ishmeelites. How would you deal with that? At 17, your ten older brothers turn against you and talk of killing you but decide to sell you into slavery. This could have caused most people to lose hope.

Genesis 39 tells us that Joseph is sold to Potiphar, who was an Egyptian. As he was working for Potiphar, Potiphar's wife tried to get Joseph to sin by committing adultery with her. Joseph did what was right, he would not sin against his God. So Potiphar's wife had him put in prison because he wouldn't go along with her plan. Joseph did what was right, he would not sin, and because of this he was put in prison. How would that make you feel? Would you have hope at this point?

Joseph was a slave and in prison for 13 years. That's a long trial. How did he endure it? Hope. He knew the character of God, he knew that God was sovereign and that he was good and he hung on to hope in the midst of a hopeless situation.

After 13 years of living as a slave, Joseph interprets a dream for Pharaoh, and because of this Pharaoh promotes Joseph to the number two man in the most powerful nation on earth at that time. Because of his position in Egypt, he is able to take care of his family, the brothers who hated him and his father, during a severe famine.

Joseph had hope because he knew God was in control:

Genesis 45:5-8 (NKJV) "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 "For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 "And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 "So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

His kingdom rules over ALL. Don't let circumstances discourage you, God is in control. If we look at life from the human viewpoint, we will have nothing but sorrow and hopelessness. But if you look at life from the divine viewpoint, you can rest in God's sovereign care.

Hang On To Hope!

You may be like the man who lay for 38 years beside the pool of Bethesda, who was convinced that it was useless to hope for a miracle. You may be like the disabled man who sat in front of the temple gate day after day begging for money, when what he really wanted was to be healed. You may be like Lazarus, who died thinking that his closest friend wasn't there to comfort him in his hour of death. You may be like Martha, who thought that God waited too long to show up and now her brother was dead. You may be like the woman at the well, whose search for love led her through a series of failed relationships. You may be like Peter, who made mistake upon mistake and who, in a moment of weakness, deserted the one whom he loved more than any other.

All of these individuals have one thing in common. They all had reached the point of being hopeless, and then they had an unexpected encounter with the power of God.

Some of you here today may be overwhelmed by hopelessness. Maybe it's your job, or your family, or your marriage, or your financial situation, or your health - it could be anything. Maybe you're asking yourself, "Why should I keep on? What's the use? Why don't I just quit?" Hang on to hope, believer, because our God is the God of hope. You have to keep breathing, because you just don't know what God will bring tomorrow.

Believers, there is always grounds for hope. Clare Boothe Luce: "There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them." "Other men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope" (Gilbert Beenken). We need hope in order for us to continue with our lives. Without hope, life is seen in the eyes of a pessimist, but with hope, we can all be optimist even when we think that the situation is hopeless.

A main reason many elderly die, especially after losing a spouse is they simply give up hope. Hope can and must be a vital part of your life We cannot make it through life without hope. Anyone who has ever experienced the depths of hopelessness can easily attest to how oppressive and soul-shattering hopelessness can be. On the other hand, those who have drunk deeply from the well of hope know that no odds can hold back the waters of hope, no circumstances will ever be able to drown out the fire kindled by the bright light of hope!

It is hope that enabled a young slave girl who had been beaten, degraded, defiled, continually abused, and eventually had her own children sold - to become a great woman of God. A woman who was able to stand in the face of discrimination, ridicule, and threats and declare that "Jesus is the hope of the world - for all colors of people!" Such is the story of Sojourner Truth.

To most of the employees at Boston Mental Institution, Anne Sullivan looked like a "hopeless Case." Annie was an extreme case and was incredibly violent, she was locked in a cage and placed in the basement of the institution. But one elderly nurse believed that there was hope for Annie. The nurse began to eat her lunches beside Annie's cage as a simple gesture of love. The nurse began leaving brownies for Annie. This started a remarkable process of change. The doctors brought Annie upstairs, and after time, the "hopeless case" was allowed to leave the institution.

Annie then dedicated her life to helping others. She found another "hopeless case" a girl who was blind, deaf and mute. Annie worked miracles with this girl, Helen Keller.

It is hope that enabled a poor inner-city kid from Detroit to rise above the clouds of circumstances and become a doctor. He was raised in a single-parent home. His mother only completed the fifth grade, but she challenged her son to turn the "F's" on his report card into "A's." She worked three jobs to pay the bills and set an example for her son that he would always remember. He raised the "F's" to "A's" and became Dr. Benjamin Carson - who at age 33, became the Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. It is Dr. Carson who performed the first successful separation of Siamese Twins joined at the head.

It is hope that enabled a vigilant young man, who found himself in prison after serving in the White House as the so-called "Hatchet Man" for President Nixon, to rise above his situation of despair and begin a world-wide ministry to others shackled in prison cells. Such is the story of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship.

It is hope that caused a woman injured in a diving accident and sentenced to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic for the remainder of her days to see her wheelchair as a pulpit instead of a prison. Such is the story of Joni Erickson Tada.

I could go on and on sharing stories with you of the hope experienced by multitudes of men, women, boys, and girls who found themselves rising above what appeared to be hopeless situations. There is a common thread running throughout each of these stories. The common thread is hope. Not hope in general. Not some nebulous "I hope things work out all right." Not a Pollyanna wishful thinking. Not even a sheer determination to strive for a positive mental outlook. The hope of those who rise above hopelessness is found in the very specific hope found only in Jesus Christ. This is the hope that endures the tests of the ages and transforms lives!

Our life must first be a life of faith, and from our faith comes hope. If you have lost your hope, it is because you have taken your mind off of God and become focused on your circumstances. Believers, our God is the God of hope, trust Him. You have to keep breathing, because you just don't know what God will bring tomorrow. God is sovereign, and He is good, hang on to hope!

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