Thursday, December 25, 2014

How do we have HOPE when it seems that all hope is lost?

Surely that is what Mary and John felt as they knelt and wept at the foot of the cross. 

To Mary, this child had been brought into this world through a miracle. She knew that He was destined for greatness. She knew He was God’s son. When she first felt him kick in the whom, she had to know this was happening, just as the Angel had described. I am sure she prayed like no other expectant mother before or since. Surely she had great expectations for his life. And then he came and began his ministry with so much hope, such promise, so many miracles. And, yet on that day, he was hanging on a cross, beaten, bloody and dying. Her sadness is unimaginable. How could she still have hope? 

A very good friend of mine, whose daughter was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma over 5 years ago, told me HOPE stood for Having Optimistic Prayer Expectations. My friend, was forced to have HOPE when her daughter was diagnosed. And, she did. She and her husband were faced with insurmountable odds. Their daughter was not quite 14 years old. What would God do? How would they make it through this? They had to have HOPE. 

John had been beside Jesus for such a long time. His words in scripture tells us that his faith was strong. Yet, he stood and watched his best friend, his Savior, dying. Jesus’ body had been badly beaten. Some references say he was unrecognizable from the horrific ordeal his body had been put through. John and the disciples were hoping for a kingdom to be established by the Savior and now he was dying on a cross, humiliated before the world. Can you imagine how John felt at that moment? Do you think he had any hope left? 

I had a close friend die from cancer about 6 years ago. He was diagnosed and less than 6 months later, he was gone from this earth. Toward the end of his life, three of his friends were charged with being available via phone or to come over in person, if needed, in 8 hour shifts. I was one of them. I listened to Kurt over the phone, struggling to hang on once when he called me in the middle of the night. From his bedside at his home, I watched as his body wasted away. When his physical death was inevitable, I wondered where my hope had gone. How could God take him from us? He was such a wonderful and faithful man of God. 

And so, on this Christmas Day, we celebrate Hope in His physical form, in His birth. We celebrate, the coming of our Savior in the form of a child born of a virgin, in prophecy fulfilled. We put our hope in Him. We have great expectations today as we pray and we worship. 

But, for some, their circumstances are so horrific that it seems that all hope has been lost. I am reminded of this, not in my own family today, but in a prayer request sent to me from the leader of a prayer group. 

December 21st, this past Sunday, was my daughter’s 15th birthday. As we prepared to celebrate her birth, I received an email around 8:40 a.m. about a young boy named Tyler. He was 8 years old and had been battling cancer. His body was no longer able to fight it off and on Sunday, December 21st, on the verge of one of the most celebrated days of the year, his body gave it’s last breath. And as his Aunt so gently put it in her email to our prayer group,

“What a precious little boy. He brought so many people joy in his 8 years here on           
         earth....A very brave little boy just met Jesus. God is good and merciful.

As my eyes filled with tears, I could hear hope ringing in her words. At a time when so many are celebrating, this family laid their 8 year old son on his death bed. I don’t know them personally, but I can imagine. I have two sons who have a serious health issue and when the oldest was first diagnosed nearly 20 years ago, we thought he was going to live a short and painful life. Today he is fine, but that day we only knew the worst. That is the closest I have come to feeling what this mother and father must have felt that day. How can they have hope at such a time? 

God is good and merciful…God is in control…God gives us HOPE…We must have Faith.

Jesus suffered and his loved ones were dealt a heavy blow. Yet, the Father knew what HE was doing.

Mary had hope, and Jesus rose from the grave. John had hope and he saw his Savior ascend into heaven. And, John witnessed to the world about this miracle.  They made it through their circumstance when it seemed that all hope was lost. Christ's ordeal has changed the world forever. And, so we too must cling to Him and always have HOPE. 

If I have learned anything in the last 48 years on this planet, having to deal with this thorn, we call flesh, I have learned that what we think God is going to do and what we want are very seldom what is best and even less so, what God has in store for our lives. HIS plan for us is just that, it is HIS plan, not ours. HE is in control and HE loves us in a way we cannot understand in our humanness. We must know him in the Spirit. For He is revealed to us in the Spirit. 
In our brokenness, HE can reach us. 
In our suffering, we come to understand HIM.  
This is God’s plan. It has been this way from the very foundation of the Earth and so it will always be. Christ was broken in the flesh, he was restored and he is our only real HOPE for the life he brings us is eternal and not of this world. 

Let us cling to hope when it seems that all hope is lost. 

My prayer today for those that read this message is that God will give you the Faith you need, the Strength you need, to cling to HIM when you are completely broken, physically, mentally, financially, and even spiritually. For these are the times when HE is truly calling out to you to come home. These are the greatest of times when the flesh is no longer holding you back, because it is being torn away. These are the moments when heaven is the closest to you in this world. 

When it seems that all hope is lost, let go of this world and let HIM become your eternal HOPE. HE is good and merciful and HE will never forsake you, even when it seems HE is not there, you must cling to HOPE, for God is with you. Let HIM be your strength, let HIM be your HOPE. 

             Titus 2:13
                      "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of 
                                                               the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ"


Christmas Day

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