Don’t Lose Hope
October 30, 2016
I was working on a sermon for today, was about 3/4 done, and then I was prompted to throw it away. I really don’t like it when God does that to me. It usually happens a few times a year. I thought I had a really good start to an election oriented message. God said NO! I don’t always like to listen! Then I finished my 2nd sermon and God said NO! Put that one away for another day . . . so . . . I started writing my 3rd sermon of the week!
As I thought about how to proceed, I could think of no better opening than to look at the Chicago Cubs. Yes, I’m a Chicago fan! Raised on the north side, went to countless games as a kid, and I even had a neighbor who was a Cubs player and took me to games.
As I write this, the series is tied 1-1. As of now, the series is ________ . Win or lose, the Cubs have made a huge impact on Major League Baseball. They’ve been loveable losers for so many years, that it kind of became cute to become a Cubs fan, it was fun to attend games to see the park, but not the game. That’s not the case any longer. Now, if you want to attend tonights game, the cheapest ticket, for standing room only is $ __2,170__.
The best value tickets are selling for an average of $ __8,000__.
And if you just want to spend money, you can spend up to $ _75,000__ for one ticket.
So, how did all of this happen? NOW, work with me. We’re using the Cubs as a metaphor for the church.
They took some risks. They wanted to get to the Promised Land, but after so many years of futility the ownership said enough is enough. We’re going to get creative, we’re going to shoot for the moon and if it does not happen, nobody will be able to fault us for trying and doing some things that shocked people.
Now, I think the church, as a whole is stuck in futility. The world looks at us as pretty weak, ineffective, and wonders what good is the church. That’s how I looked at the Cubs for years!
They stole away Theo Epstein, this young upstart of a General Manager from the Boston Red Sox. He was 28! The youngest in history, by far. The Red Sox were like the Cubs, mired in futility. The red Sox, the Cubs and the White Sox had the longest drought of wining the World Series. But he made bold, daring, risky moves, and he helped lead the Red Sox to 3 World Series Championships.
Epstein came to Chicago and began to make bold, daring and risky moves. And the Cubs steadily improved. They made some risky moves this post season. They have a young kid, Kyle Schwarber, who played 2 games in April, make the World Series roster and has become a sensation. How do you know to play a kid who had major knee surgery in April, who is not even medically cleared to play the field, but you have him bat and run the bases?
It’s an easy answer, you take some risks. OK, you’re tired of hearing about the Cubs, what does this have to do with church? Glad you asked!
Jesus’ ministry was marked by a great deal of dissension. He chose people nobody thought would succeed. He chose people who were more on the outside, than the elite. He chose a tax collector like Matthew. He chose fisherman, like Peter, Andrew, James and John. He chose a religious zealot in Simon. Some of the others we’re not sure of. It’s a strange mix of people that Jesus chose.
They followed Him and served with Him! Each man made the choice to follow Jesus. When Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me!” Matthew got up from his tax collecting booth and followed Jesus. When Jesus called the 4 fisherman, they dropped what they were doing and left.
We may not realize how much of a risk we take when we follow Jesus. That’s just the beginning. When we follow Jesus we are called to a different way of living. It’s a risk! It means we should not be
lying, cheating, gossiping, backstabbing, stealing, coveting, sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness and on and on.
Instead we are called to ~
2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:2-4
Add to that we are to be filled with the Fruit of the Spirit ~
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
We can keep adding to the list of how we are to act. I think you get the point! I hope you get the point about how we are supposed to act when we are followers of Christ.
You see, I believe it is easier to act like a non-Christ follower than it is to act like a follower of Christ! You know what I mean? To follow Christ means I must change who I am. As many of you know change is not an easy thing to do or to accomplish. We don’t like to change things in our home, in our personal lives, at work, or in the church!
We like the same, even if we rail against the same old life, we know what that same old life represents. But when we change, when we are the cause behind change, when we try to promote change, even when we believe it is part of God’s plan, it’s risky! Not everyone will like it, not everyone will like the new you!
Now when you’re in school – – – you seem to be that goody two shoes – whatever that means. You’re nice to the kids nobody is nice to. You show respect to other kids, even to the teachers you don’t necessarily like. Some of your old friends don’t want to hang out with you. After all, you no longer use words everyone else uses.
Change at work, and people wonder who you are! Can they still trust you with their secrets and gossip? Will you still go to the bars with them? Will you still mark their time sheet as they want, not as it really is? Will you continue to make fun of those employees who are not quite as good as you?
Change . . . it’s risky! That’s what the Cubs did! You thought I forgot about them. They tried to change their identity. They were tired of being called “Loveable Losers! They were called the wait til next year team . . . before the season even started!” No longer can they be called that. Win or lose the world series, they’ve shed that identity. But it took a lot of risk. Some good business decisions and some that didn’t work out as well.
Change takes a great deal of energy! Besides the risk involved in change, change takes a great deal of courage! Courage to become a new you, to lead an organization to become a new organization. To have a new value system, a new way of doing whatever it is you’re doing.
How many of us really, if we were to be really, really honest want to be humble all the time, to place others interests ahead of our own. To have no selfish ambition or arrogance, to look out for the interests of others before my own.
That’s not easy. It takes courage! It’s risky business! And when we try to do something new . . . it does not always succeed as we hoped for. But that is not failing, that’s just not succeeding as much as we hoped for.
We can become downcast and give up when things don’t go our way. I have felt that way many times. Then God does something. He brings someone next to me who reminds me God has a plan. They hug me, they let me know I am loved and I sense the Spirit of God and I am energized, I’m renewed.
It’s because someone took a risk. Someone was vulnerable. Someone cared enough to love and risk. That’s what is available when we say YES! I mean a whole – hearted YES to Jesus. Too many of us are willing to give a small piece of our heart to Jesus, just so we can have control over our lives and those around us.
That’s not who we are called to be in Christ. We must learn it’s not about us, it’s about Him. It’s about the Kingdom of God, the kingdom in heaven and the kingdom here on earth.
You see, in the midst of troubles, in the midst of our struggles when not all goes as we planned, we are reminded the same happened for that ragtag group of disciples Jesus called. They left their families, their occupations, their friends.
I wonder how many thought they were absolutely crazy to follow this itinerant preacher. This guy who supposedly walked on water, mass produced bread and fish, turned water into wine, healed the sick, raised the dead . . . but couldn’t defeat His enemies. Even Jesus’ family struggled to make sense out of who He really was.
When Jesus went to the cross, we read in Luke 23 ~
47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”
48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.
49 And all His acquaintances and the women who had followed Him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. – Luke 23:47-49
Everyone went home, they had no hope! Jesus was dead. It wasn’t a story on the news that you wonder if it’s real or is it a hoax. It was real and they witnessed it. They returned to their homes, they went into hiding, they were afraid they would be next.
What do we do when we lose hope!?
We fall into a depression, we fall into despair, we see no purpose in life or in doing anything. We fall back into our old habits.
What I want you to understand and what I want you to believe in – – – is this . . .
6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where He lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. – Matthew 28:6-9
You see, even in the midst of uncertainty, in our times of despair, when we have given it everything we have and the outcome is not what we wanted . . .
I want you to never, never lose hope! Because my Christ is risen! He defeated death! He defeated satan. My Christ is bigger than anything and everything life can throw at Him. One of my favorite images of what God does for us is a passage Phyllis Goodyear said last week . . .
It’s from Ephesians 1 ~
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,
19 and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength
20 He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms,
Understand . . . we have the very same power available that the Father used to raise Jesus from the dead and to seat Him in heaven!
Do you get that!?!?!? That is the power available to us. But we must be willing to say yes to Jesus and even to risk everything for Jesus – – – otherwise that power is useless!
Are you willing to risk for Jesus! Are you willing to say yes to Him! Not to me, not to this church! Not to anyone other than Jesus! He is our only hope! It’s time to say yes to Him – – – as individuals and as a church!