Summary: Never consider anyone hopeless. Pray intensely, watch out for the naysayers or for your own negativity, and then participate in the redemption Christ wants to bring.
He’s just hopeless! She is beyond redemption! I am never going to make it! They have no future whatsoever! They are hopeless!
Are you ever tempted to speak like that? Do you ever feel that way about somebody, maybe even about yourself? Hopeless?
Watch out. Because there is nothing more blasphemous than to declare that someone is hopeless. There is nothing more faithless, nothing more unspiritual, than to suggest that someone is a hopeless case. If I insist that someone cannot be redeemed, cannot be reclaimed, if I refuse to acknowledge that someone can be brought back from the depths, I have written God off. I have been faithless, even blasphemous.
One of our key spiritual issues is that we give up too soon. We give up on ourselves and we give up on others; we give up hope too soon. We want a quick fix, and we are not willing to wait and to believe that God in Jesus Christ is able, in His own time, to go to a life and make a difference. We give up too soon; and that is faithlessness.
This morning I want us to think about those so-called hopeless cases. I want us to think about how Christ deals with hopelessness and how we are called to partner with Him. My premise is that when Christ goes about the work of redeeming someone, His effectiveness can either be enhanced or hampered by us. Christ’s effectiveness can either be enhanced by our faithfulness or hampered by our faithlessness. Our attitudes will help determine whether, when He sets out to redeem a life, the final result will be "Give up" or "Get up". If you and I bring a skeptical and negative heart, the result will be "Give up". But if we bring faith, Christ can work "Get up".
Let me tell you about what most folks would call a hopeless case. Let me tell you the story of a desperate man with a dying daughter. Almost a tragic story; one with which several of you can identify in your own experience. This man’s anxiety must have been sky-high. But his faith gave him something wonderful: not a give up but a get up.
LUKE 8:40-42, 49-56
Let’s imagine the scene for a moment. This is a good man; this is one of those pillars of the community. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue; a church leader, an upstanding man, gainfully employed, well-recognized, the kind of person who probably had had things go well for him. If his beliefs were typical Jewish beliefs of that day, well, bad things didn’t happen to good people. No sir, not to him and to his family. Why, we are on the Lord’s side, don’t you know? God and I, we’ve got it all sorted out.
But then the unspeakable happened. Jairus’ young daughter, only about twelve years old, caught some mysterious illness. She became a sick, fussing, unhappy, miserable child. Now you know how it is with us parents: we start out thinking the child is faking, just wants to get attention, just wants to play lazy. But then you feel that brow and you know that, no, something is going on here. This child really is sick. At first you think it will pass with a day or two of bed rest. Then, however, you see that this child isn’t getting better, and you begin to suspect that something serious is happening ... so call the doctor, get some help, do something. Panic!
Can you identify with all of that, parents? My wife and I remember some of those childhood traumas we went through. We remember how worried we got and how we pushed the doctor to do something, right now! Margaret and I figure we personally paid for the Emergency Room at Holy Cross Hospital, because we took so many broken bones and cut heads over there. We got anxious and impatient. That’s just what parents do!
I talked the other day with one of our members, Dr. Cheryl DePinto; her baby is just two weeks old today. She’s been practicing pediatrics on other people’s children for some while; but now the baby doctor has her own baby. Ah ha! Dr. DePinto told me, "Now I understand why the parents of my patients are so obnoxious and cranky!" Anxious, not about to give up!
I’m sure that’s what moved Jairus. It’s just what you do when it’s somebody you love. Jairus came running and fell at Jesus’ feet, begging Jesus to come to his house.
Feel the intensity of this moment. Jairus – the ruler of the synagogue, the elder statesman, maybe sort of stodgy and cautious, dignified –- has left all his dignity down the pike and has come racing to find the teacher Jesus. And when He finds Jesus, there is nothing inhibited, nothing cautious, nothing held back. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, for his only daughter was dying.