Summary: How to live in hope rather than despair, depression or discouragement.
We begin a new series today - "Does God Care?" We're going to utilize the New Testament book of Hebrews because it was initially written to a group of people pondering the care of God.
Times were hard for the Jewish Christ followers in the First Century of the church. They faced persecution and misunderstanding. Consequently they thought about leaving their lifestyles of following Christ and going completely back to Jewish worship.
This letter was written to encourage them by showing them how very much God cared about them.
If you were with us in December 2007 you'll remember that we already covered the first five chapters of Hebrews in the series "Finding Calm in the Chaos." If you didn't get to hear those messages you may read them on Sermon Central.
We begin this series in Hebrews chapter 6, verses 11-20 in The New Living Translation.
11 Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you HOPE for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those are going to inherit God's promises because of their faith and endurance.
13 For example, there was God's promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying:
14 "I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number."
15 Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.
16 Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question the oath is binding. 17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the HOPE that lies before us. 19 This HOPE is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. 20 Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
HOPE! The original readers of the Hebrew letter wrestled to maintain HOPE in the midst of pain and suffering.
We do to.
How can I remain a hopeful person when times are hard?
KEEP ON LOVING OTHERS
Verse 11 - Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you HOPE for will come true.
When we're stressed we often take it out on those nearest to us. In order to be a hopeful person I must learn to fight that natural inclination. I've got to love others instead of becoming myopic (nearsided) and only thinking about my own problems.
When facing difficult stuff in life we often ask "Does God care?" when we ought to be asking ourselves, "Am I loving others?"
Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York City. He tells of one Easter Sunday when he was so tired at the end of the day's worship that he just went to the edge of the platform, loosened his tie and sat down and draped his feet over the edge.
It had been a wonderful worship gathering with many people coming forward to pray about spiritual needs. The counselors were talking to these people when Cymbala looked up the middle aisle, and there about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. Cymbala writes, "He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, 'Could I talk to you?'
He continues, "So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, 'What a way to end a Sunday. I've had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here's a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.'
"He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I'd never smelled in my life. it was so awful that when he got close,I would inhale by looking away, and then I'd talk to him,and then look away to inhale, because I couldn't inhale facing him.
I asked him, "What's your name?" "David." "How long have you been on the street?" "Six years." "How old are you?" "Thirty-two." He looked fifty - hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
"Where did you sleep last night, David?" "Abandoned truck."