Jesus Speaks to Us About Hopelessness
November 3rd, 1985 @ 10:50 AM
JESUS SPEAKS TO US ABOUT HOPELESSNESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-3-85 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled Jesus Speaks to Us About Hopelessness. In an extensive survey made across a vast spectrum of people, the problems they face in their human lives were largely five: one, loneliness; one, hopelessness; one, purposelessness; one, emptiness; and one, fear. So these are five prepared messages concerning these pervasive, pervading problems of human life and the one today, Jesus Speaks to Us About Hopelessness.
One of the sorrows and hopelessnesses of my life is the little brief time I have to preach. So I had to divide the message in two, and I am leaving out the last half of it. One of these days, we are going to have a church and I am going to be called as pastor of it. And we are not going to do anything but meet from 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 in the evening, and I am going to preach all day long. Now that is my idea of a church! [We are] not even going to take up an offering, just going to preach.
In the eighth chapter of the Book of Luke, Luke chapter 8, beginning at verse 49, Luke 8:49, while He was speaking of a marvelous, wonderful miracle:
. . . there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him [Jairus], master, thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.
The daughter of the ruler of the synagogue is dead. And the Lord was on the way to raise her. But no, no, nothing now, no hope now. She is dead:
But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.
And she’s dead!
When He came into the house, He did not allow anyone to go in but Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl.
And they all wept, and bewailed her: but He said, Do not cry; she is not dead, she is just sleeping.
That is a Christian’s definition of death: a koimeterion. When you translate that, spell it out in English, it’s a cemetery. That’s a Greek-Christian word: it’s a sleeping place. That’s what God calls our dead. They are sleeping, and they are laid in a sleeping place, awaiting the great awakening of the Lord.
And they laughed Him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
In a like speaking of a raising, in Matthew 22:29, Jesus replied, “You do greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.”
They laughed Him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
It is hopeless!
But He put them out, took her by the hand, said, Maid, arise.
And her spirit came again, she was resurrected from the dead, and she arose. (And isn’t the Lord thoughtful of us?) And He commanded to give her something to eat.
And her parents were amazed and astonished!
As are all of we. Hopeless, but Jesus brings victory, and life, triumph, glory. There’s no end to the marvel of our Master. So we address ourselves to hopelessness. “They laughed Him to scorn, knowing that she was dead” [Luke 8:53].
Hopelessness, nothing more, nothing further, it is done, over with—despair, discouragement, giving up, no place to turn, and no comfort, and no strength, and no life, just hopeless—all of us experience that, all of us. There’s no exception to that. It is universal.
The Lord closes the greatest sermon that was ever delivered, the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29], He closes it with this word: “There was a house built on the sand. And there was a house built on the rock. And the winds blew, and the rains fell, and the flood rose, and they beat on that house, both of them. Whether it was the house built on the sand or the house built on the rock, the floods rushed against both of them” [Matthew 7:24-27].
That’s life. We don’t build our house, we don’t live our lives, except in the path of that terrible storm, hopelessness, discouragement, despair, no way out. Sometimes it arises on the inside of us, it’s in our hearts; it’s in our souls: despair, hopelessness. Our way is fraught with every kind of darkness and discouragement. We are ambiverts, all of us. There are ambivalences in every area of our life. Our faith is clouded with doubt, and we can’t help it. Our hope is darkened with despair, and we fall into it. Our love is attended by the darkening shadows of hate, and our joys are colored with sorrows. Not only that, but our work and our lives are filled with despair and discouragements and disappointments; it’s universal, I say.
Listen to this cry of Moses before God, Moses, the man of God, who spoke to God face to face [Exodus 33:11]. Listen to Moses:
I am not able to bear all this people, it is too heavy for me.
Please, God, kill me, I pray Thee, out of Thy hand, if I have found favor in Thy sight; let me not see my wretchedness.
Moses, the man of God.
Elijah, the iron prophet, went into the wilderness a day’s journey, sat down under a juniper tree. And he requested for himself that he might die. And he said, “It is enough; O Lord, take away my life; I am not any better than my fathers” [1 Kings 19:4].
Or David, the sweet psalmist, singer of Israel
Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
I will say unto God, Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of my enemies?
[Psalm 42:5, 9]
Four times in this Psalm 42—and 43 is a part of it—does he cry that same lament: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” [Psalm 42:5, 6, 11, 43:5].
Jonah, at the conclusion of the greatest revival the Lord ever gave on this earth—I don’t say that alone; Jesus said that, Jesus said that—the greatest revival the world ever saw [Mathew 12:41]. There were seventeen hundred thousand people who turned to the Lord, under the preaching of Jonah. Let me conclude it:
And Jonah sat on the side of the hill, looking over the city,
and said, O Lord, take, I beseech Thee, my life from me;
for it is better for me to die, than to live.
These are amazing, unbelievable laments. These are the greatest men of God, and they are down in despair: hopelessness.
We have just heard one of the great hymns of all Christendom, from Martin Luther. He lived his life fighting black despair, Luther. The greatest preacher our Baptist people has ever produced is Charles Haddon Spurgeon; he fought depression all of his life.
I was reading a week ago a book by a marvelous, world-famous, present evangelist. Page 224, “I now understand,” talking about himself now,
I now understand a statement that Dr. Billy Graham made recently. He said—and he quotes Billy Graham—“I am tired and lonely. The prospect of death is so welcome. I would be very happy if the Lord would call me home today. I am looking forward to it because of the pressures and attacks of these men. They are too heavy to bear. And I get homesick for heaven.”
Why such despair and hopelessness? Several answers: one is health. God put us in a physical frame made out of the dust of the ground. And health has so much to do with how life is colored before us. That’s the reason I go to the “Y” right over here, every day. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t exercise every day. It is vital what you do with this human frame.
Health: Paul sent Timothy to quell the insoluble problems in Corinth, the church in Corinth. And sickly, anemic, Timothy came back in discouragement and hopelessness, whereupon Paul sent Titus—who I think is the brother of Dr. Luke—and big, strong Titus solved the situation [2 Corinthians 8:16-23]. Sickly Timothy returned in abject failure, health, lending itself to discouragement, and despair, and disappointment; health.
A second: hurt from others, people can hurt us. They do, and the more we love them, the more they can destroy us. Anytime you love someone, you lay yourself open to the most tragic hurts and hopelessnesses of human experience. People can hurt us. In that psalm of David, “As with a sword in my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say daily, ‘Where is your God?’” [Psalm 42:10].
Did you catch this sentence out of Billy Graham? This book was about the enemies of the preacher, and Billy Graham spoke this word of discouragement and despair because of attacks that were made by supposedly men of God and pastors upon him. “I’m looking forward to my death because of the pressures and attacks of these men.” People can bring you low. Why are we plunged into despair and discouragement and hopelessness? Sometimes by the sorrows of life!
When these unthinking and envious brothers of Joseph brought his coat, dipped in goat’s blood, but telling their father it was his blood, that a vicious animal had destroyed Joseph, Israel, Jacob, looked upon the bloodstained garment and weeping said, “I will go down to my grave in sorrow” [Genesis 37:31-35]; discouragement, hopelessness by the sorrows of life, death, or some things worse than death.
And another thing that lends to despair and discouragement and hopelessness is comparing ourselves with others, looking at them, how others are blessed, or affluent, and we; and then we say all kinds of discouraging, despairing things about ourselves. In the seventy-third Psalm:
Behold, these, the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
But verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of Thy children.
When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me.
How is it that I suffer and they don’t? I am poor and wretched, and they are prosperous and happy and affluent.
When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood.
Surely Thou hast set them in slippery places: Thou castedst them down into destruction.
How are they brought into desolation, in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.
As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when Thou awakest, Thou shalt despise their image.
That is the most amazing truth that I know! I stand, or sit, or walk, or look, and these around, so prosperous, and so affluent, and so rich, and so blessed with everything that earth can offer, and I think, “How wonderful. Look! How marvelous. Behold!” That’s not the end of it, and maybe you don’t see on the inside of it. It’s astonishing to me the wretchedness and the unhappiness that accompany affluence and wealth, and these that are so blessed with every endowment that human life could bestow. Here’s one of the strangest poems I ever ran into in my life:
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favored and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning!” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine–we thought that he had everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked and waited for the night,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
[“Richard Cory,” Edwin Arlington Robinson]
Isn’t that an amazing thing?
A bum walked down the streets of a big city, and looking through the window of a palatial home, he sees the rich man in his smoking jacket seated before the fire. And the tattered, ragged, hungry, cold bum says, “Oh, how I wish I were in his place!” What the bum doesn’t know is the rich man is seated there in front of the fire contemplating suicide.
That’s what God says. You think riches and wealth and fame and fortune and success, these bring triumphant glory and happiness and joy to the life. It’s a lie! It never does. It never will. We must hasten. What does God say about hopelessness, and despair, and disappointment, and hurt? What does God say? Does He have an answer for us? The whole Word of God!
First, may I compare it? It is certainly not the answer of men. It just doesn’t move in the same world. When I was in school, I minored in psychology, I majored in English literature. If I had a life—I say if God had given me extra—I’d love to be an English professor, I’d love that. But I minored in psychology, and I read books, and books, and books. And it always intrigues me and entices me, these men who seek to find solutions and to unravel all of the facets of human personality. There are libraries of them. I don’t mean books; I mean there are libraries of psychology dealing with human problems, human depression, human hopelessness, human despair. And they have answers, they say; they write them down in the book. You can go to any library and check them out by the dozens. They’ve got their answers.
I say, when I was a boy, I lived in a little town, little town. And it was a big thing in our little town when a medicine show came in, medicine show. I would think these kids who live in the city have never seen a medicine show. Oh, it was something! Guy put his platform up there, and put his curtain up there, and he’d stand up there, and he sells elixir. And this elixir, what he has in his bottle, cures everything from snakebite to melancholia, and it just, oh, it adds to the beauty and glory of life. And he’s got a little program up there, and a little entertainment to entice you to listen and to buy, “This bottle.”
“What’s in that bottle?”
“Oh, it is from paradise itself.”
It’s selling that bottle of elixir. One of them stood up there, and he said, “This bottle cures not only all of your ills, and all of your problems, and all the things that overwhelm you in life, but it adds to your days.”
“For example,” he says, “look at me. I’m 349 years old, drinking this elixir; 349 years old!”
And a fellow standing there, listening to him, turned to the guy who was selling his bottles, and he said, “Did you hear that? Did you hear that? He says he’s 349 years old, drinking this elixir. Did you hear that? Is that true? Is he actually 349 years old?”
And the helper selling the bottle said, “I don’t know. I’ve only been with him 137 years.”
Oh dear! See, the solutions used to come in bottles. Now they come in books. That’s our modern way, not bottles, something we drink, but books, human solutions to human problems.
God’s solutions move in such different worlds, such different areas. And we’re going to look at them just for a moment in the little moment that I have. What does God say about hopelessness, and about despair, and disappointment, and frustration, and hurt, things that cast us down? What does God say?
All right, the first thing that God says. We may learn more out of the sorrows of life than we do out of the joys of life, far more. We may learn more:
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for His help and the joy of His countenance.
Out of the sorrows of our life may come more to strengthen us, and to teach us, and to help us, than all of the joys that we could ever know.
I was interested about a week ago; there came to my desk here a bulletin from one of our classes. And it says there that at their last meeting, Joy Davis—who is wife of one of our deacons—Joy Davis gave her testimony. And in her testimony she read to them this poem that she had written. And the poem was printed there in the class bulletin. And I couldn’t help but be blessed by the words that that sweet deacon’s wife had written:
Oh, the blessing of the burden
That will cause a man to cry
For the help of someone stronger,
On whose care he can rely!
That will cause a man to grope
For the light from heaven’s windows,
And refreshing rays of hope!
For it’s deep within the shadow
That we learn to look and live.
And it’s down within the sorrow
That we sacrifice and give!
So tomorrow on the mountain
We can say of days now dim,
It was there within the valley
That we learned to lean on Him!
That’s a beautiful thing. If there are no valleys, there are no mountaintops. If there’s no death, there’s no resurrection. If there’s no sorrow, there’s no comfort. If there’s no darkness, there’s no light. It takes the one to make the other. And the sorrows that we know in life but open for us the doors of glory God hath in store for those who love Him and trust Him [2 Corinthians 4:17].
All right, again: it is the helplessnesses of life that teach us to lean upon the Lord, not our self-sufficiency [Proverbs 3:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9]. Why would a man need God if he is strong and able in himself? It’s the weakness and the helplessness of life that cast us upon His care, leaning upon His strong arm.
In my preparing for the message—and I study every day, and now almost every night—I read, and in my much reading I came across the story of two Moravian missionaries in Sumatra, that big island in Indonesia. And cannibals had eaten them. And the years and the years passed, and there was no missionary in Sumatra, not after that. And after the passing of decades a couple came before an English mission board and asked to be sent to Sumatra. In the acquiescence of the board, they arrived. It was a terror for them, they were living among cannibals. And in the passing of time, in agonizing prayer and appeal to God, in the passing of time, the tribal chief and two or three of his men came to see them—the missionary and his wife—and asked to see their guards. And the missionary replied, “Why, we never had a guard. We have no guards.”
“But you do.”
And the missionary said, “Well, search and see for yourself.”
So the tribal chief and his men searched. There were no guards. So the missionary said, “What makes you think we were guarded?”
And the tribal chief replied, “This man, and this man, and this man came at night to seize you. And when they came, they were terrified by brilliant, shining guards. And they came the next night to seize you, and those same guards were there. And they came to me, and said, ‘This night you go with us.’ And when I came with them, I was terrified by the shining guards protecting you and your home.”
And the missionary opened up the Bible and read to the men out of God’s Word, “Behold, the angel of the Lord encompasseth them that trust in Him” [Psalm 34:7].
Angels standing by, guardian angels taking care, what a wonder! And Jesus said each one of us has a guardian angel [Psalm 91:11-12; Matthew 18:10] “Angels Watching over Me,” I love the song.
And one other: it is in our weakness that we find our strength in God. “For this thing,” says the apostle Paul, “For this thing I besought the Lord, ‘Lord, this messenger of Satan that buffets me, this thorn in the flesh that assails me and hurts me, Lord, remove it’” [2 Corinthians 12:7-8].
And the Lord said to me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I thank God for infirmities, for reproaches, for necessities, for distresses . . . for when I am weak, then am I strong.
[2 Corinthians 12:9-10]
That’s God’s messenger to you, any despair or hopelessness or weakness that you ever know; that’s God’s messenger to you, to be strong in the Lord. Look up, not down!
I could not help but think of the difference between God and us in this appraisal of the apostles. We think, “Lord, the weakness I have does not commend me to the Lord. It’s my strengths that commend me to God.” Just the opposite!
This is from the Jordan Management Consultants to the Wood-Crafters Carpenter Shop in Nazareth, Galilee, ZIP Code 25922.
Attention: Jesus, son of Joseph.
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now completed our battery of tests.
We have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant. The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study them carefully. As part of our service, and for your guidance, we make some general comments much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of a staff consultation and comes without any additional fee.
It is the staff’s opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you’re undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons with more substantial education, definable aptitudes, and proven experience in areas of management, marketing, and public relations.
Some specific analyses are as follows:
Simon Peter is emotional, unstable and given to fits of temper.
Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership.
The two sons of Zebedee, James and John, place personal interest far above company loyalty.
Thomas demonstrates a negative attitude that would tend to undermine morale.
We feel that is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Business Bureau.
James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings and had alarming readings on the manic-depressive scale.
One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated and ambitious. We do recommend Judas Iscariot as your comptroller.
All of the other profiles are self-explanatory and we feel confident you will concur with our findings.
We appreciate the opportunity provided our professional management analysis and look forward to assisting you with any subsequent staff analysis.
Jordan Management Consultant
Now isn’t that like us? Isn’t that like us? That’s just exactly like us. Oh dear! You move in another world, you live on another plain, plateau, when you move from human judgment and explanation into, “Lord, what is the word from heaven? What is it God says?” And when we take to Him the hopelessnesses and the despairs and the discouragements of our lives, the answers are like glory itself. He lifts us up, and He sends us out.
Bear with me just to say two things. One is this: when God said to Elijah, “What are you doing here?”
And he replied, “They have slain all Thy prophets; and I, even only I, am left; and they are seeking my life, and I want to die too.”
The Lord said, “Elijah, up! You go back, work to do! You are to anoint Hazael to be king of Syria: And you are to anoint Jehu to be king of Israel: and you are to call Elisha to take your place” [1 Kings 19:13-16]. Up! And out, and back!
That’s the first thing. When I am discouraged, and blue, and despondent, and fall into despair and hopelessness, Lord, give me a job to do. That’s one thing from heaven. Doesn’t matter what it is, “Pastor, let me sweep out the church, or raise the windows, or make an errand in behalf of a little Sunday school class.” It doesn’t matter, just something to do. Do something for God!
The second is: when despair and discouragement come, ask God in it to make you a blessing like that dear woman who was cut down and left invalid. She had a telephone. She could use her hands. She could speak. And she introduced herself, “I am the sunshine lady! I’m the sunshine lady, happy birthday to you.” Or, “I hear of a discouragement, or maybe a sorrow in the home, and I’m praying for you.”
Lord God, that I could be like that, with an assignment from heaven, doing it, lifting up my spirit, and if I’m crushed, that in it, I could bring sunshine, and hope, in prayer and remembrance to somebody else. God has a wonderful way for His people. Now may we bow our heads?
Just for a moment we pray that no one will leave our service. We are going to sing a song in just a moment. And while we sing this song, somebody to give himself to Jesus, a family to put their lives in the fellowship of our dear church, a somebody you to answer a call from heaven, “God has spoken to me.” And in this moment when we sing our song, give the Lord your heart and life. Answer His call for you. Gather your little family together and join with us in our pilgrimage to heaven. It will be the sweetest moment in your life.
And our Lord, these You give us today we welcome as a father would welcome children coming back home, as a mother would weep for joy, seeing these to whom she has given her heart, and love, and life, gathered close by. Make it a homecoming, Savior, in the gift of these, in Thy precious name, amen.
While we stand and while we sing, welcome, as God shall say the word.
SPEAKS TO US ABOUT HOPELESSNESS
I. We all experience it (Matthew 7:24-27)
A. In our inward selves
In our outward work, lives (Numbers 11:14-15, 1
Kings 19:4, Psalm 42:5-7, 11, Jonah 4:3, Jeremiah 9:1)
Martin Luther, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Billy Graham
B. Hurt from others (Psalm 42:10)
C. Sorrow (Genesis 37:34-35)
D. The apparent triumph
of evil (Psalm 73:12-20)
III. There is an answer
A. Cheap answers of the
2. Solutions in a
B. God’s answers
purpose in providences of life
2. We learn more
out of the sorrows of life (Psalm 42:5)
is the helplessnesses of life that teach us to lean upon the Lord (Psalm 34:7)
is in our weakness that we find strength in God (2
IV. God’s work to do
A. In discouragement,
ask God for something to do (1 Kings 19:9, 13,