Summary: When you’re done, God is not done.
Hope for the Hopeless
Rev. Brian Bill
One of our substitute Sunday School teachers was upstairs and was struggling to open a combination lock on the supply cabinet. She had been told the combination but couldn’t remember it so she went and found Pastor Dick to see if he could help. He went upstairs and began to turn the dial. After the first two numbers, he paused and then looked heavenward while his lips moved silently. Then he looked back to the lock, quickly turned to the final number, and opened the cabinet. The teacher was amazed and said, “Wow. I’m amazed at your faith, Pastor Dick.” To which he responded, “It’s really nothing. The combination is on a piece of tape on the ceiling.”
Pastor Dick has helped us find the combination that unlocks Ezekiel’s message in the early chapters of the book. I’d like to draw our attention to a few more lessons that we can learn from this often-ignored book.
In Ezekiel 22:30, we are told that God is searching for a man who will stand in the gap for Him: “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” God is still looking for guys who will stand in the gap. One of the laments of many of our ministry leaders can be summed up with this question: Where are the men who are willing to serve in ministry? Guys, it’s time for us to step up. Or to say it another way, “It’s time to man-up, men!”
The Men’s Ministry has captured this theme for our Men’s Breakfasts: Stand in the Gap. Geoff Trembley does an incredible job teaching and this Saturday the focus will be on how men can live out their biblical role as husbands. By the way, the men’s ministry is sponsoring a showing of the movie Fireproof on Saturday, February 21st because it deals with how a marriage can be mended. I hope you can come – whether you’re a teen, or you’re an adult and single, or married and doing well, or if you’re married and struggling – this movie’s for you.
In a related sense, God is looking for people who will stand in the gap in a variety of ways – we are looking for more people to serve in the Nursery, in Preschool, in the Sound Booth for both Promiseland and Sunday mornings, and to join our newly formed Assimilation Team.
Feeling Dry or Dead?
In chapter 37, Ezekiel is transported by the Spirit of the Lord to the middle of a valley. God wants to show him how to have hope in a hopeless situation. Drop down to verse 11: “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone…” Their spirits were shriveled up inside them. Do you ever feel that way? As we discussed last week, it’s very common for those facing an addiction to lose hope. While this chapter is dealing specifically with God bringing the nation of Israel out of Babylon and putting them back in the land of Israel, there are at least four things we can do when we’re feeling hopeless. Here’s the main point: When you’re done, God is not done.
1. Assess the situation. Check out this graphic picture in verses 1-2: “…It was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.” Like an image from Auschwitz or Kosovo or Rwanda, Ezekiel is forced to encounter how hopeless their situation is – they’re destitute, dry and dead. They were long past help. Notice that the valley was “full” of bones and he is forced to walk back and forth among them, seeing a “great many” that were “very dry.” The bones have been scattered and bleached by the sun. As Ezekiel takes inventory, the picture is one of deep despair.
Friend, as hard as it is, the first step is to do an honest assessment of your situation. Face it squarely. Job declared his discouragement in Job 7:6-7: “My days…come to an end without hope…my eyes will never see happiness again.” Too many of us minimize our true state or blame others for all our problems. A funny thing happened on Thursday when I was serving lunch at Pontiac Christian School. The students there are very well behaved but as I walked around the tables I saw various kids poking each other. When the guilty party would look up and see me he or she would immediately point to the other person, as if to say, “It’s his fault that I’m poking him.” They reminded me of me when I was that age. Us adults do that all the time, don’t we? “I drink because you drive me to it. I’m cheating on you because you don’t meet my needs. I lost my temper because you made me mad.”