High Hopes In Low Times

Bible Book: Lamentations  3 : 19-24
Subject: Hope; Trust; Faith; Troubles; Trials; Hardships
[Editor's Note: Please find 7 additional illustrations at the end of this sermon]

High Hopes in Low Times

Dr. J. Mike Minnix
Introduction
Lamentations 3:19-24

Jeremiah was living in a day of unprecedented sorrows, for the nation of Judah had sinned greatly and was suffering for her rebellion. Circumstances had grown so desperate that people resorted to cannibalism to have food to eat. No wonder Jeremiah was called The Weeping Prophet, yet in the midst of the terrible conditions, right in the middle of Lamentations, Jeremiah records for us a record of his High Hopes.

Alexander Pope, the great poet, penned the words, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” The question is, what kind of hope is it that springs eternal from the human heart? Biblical hope is no mere wish, for biblical hope is linked to the God of the Bible. The word HOPE in the Bible speaks of the trust of the believer in the integrity of God. If God be true, every hope we have based upon His promises is sure. Since God cannot lie, your hope in the Lord is never in vain.

Now all of this is easy to say during normal life experiences but how do we keep hope alive when all the foundations are falling from beneath us? Jeremiah had hope in a time when the bottom was falling out of the world he and the people around him had known. I want us to see how to have that same hope, that same peace that passes understanding.

There are three steps that Jeremiah took which swept away the dark clouds hanging over his head. These were the three elements of hope that Jeremiah possessed. Look at those with me. Let us first read the text for today.

You will notice that Jeremiah recalled his sorrows, then suddenly he recalled his Savior. In remembering the Lord, he recovered his peace. The three steps he took to overcome his circumstances are found in that which he remembered.

I. He Remembered the Lord’s Deeds

At first Jeremiah was focused on his problems and those of the people around him. This led to depression and anguish. What you think will affect the way you feel. Jeremiah had to change his concentration before he could change his desperation to adoration! In what way did Jeremiah change his thinking in order to overcome wrong wrong thoughts?

A. The Deliverance by the Lord

First Jeremiah thought about the deliverance of the Lord. Note that he said, “We are not consumed.” The word consumed means to be utterly destroyed, to be crushed, to be wiped out. Jeremiah thought of how the Lord had delivered him more than once.

Every true believer has known deliverance on many occasions.

You have been delivered from the wages of sin.

You have been delivered from the hand of Satan

You have been delivered from death more times than you can count.

You have been delivered from a meaningless life.

You have been delivered. If you begin to think of how the Lord has delivered you, you will burst into praise that will force the clouds of doubt and doom away from above your head and your heart.

I love the painting which portrays Daniel in the lion’s den, with the lions all around him. Daniel is pictured as standing in the lion’s den looking up toward heaven. Ferocious lions pace around him but do not touch him. A great beam of light comes down from heaven unto Daniel’s face in the painting. Daniel was delivered from any doubt concerning the lions before he was delivered out of the lion's den.

Joseph was delivered from the pit and the prison.

Jacob was delivered from the famine in Canaan.

Moses was delivered from the Pharaoh.

Noah was delivered from the flood.

Lot was delivered from Sodom.

Jonah was delivered from the great fish.

And you my friend have experienced you own sweet deliverance at the hand of the Lord. Look up from your circumstances and remember what the Lord has done for you. The songwriter said:

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Also, note that Jeremiah had...

B. The Dependability of the Lord

Also, Jeremiah recalls the dependability of the Lord. Note that he is aware that the Lord’s compassion never fails.

A certain clergyman was called by a church to become its pastor. Having been strongly influenced by critical scholars who downgraded portions of the Scriptures as myths, he himself doubted the authenticity of the whole Bible.  About two years after his coming, the pastor visited one of his members who was very sick.  When he learned that the man had a terminal illness, he suggested, "Perhaps you would like me to read and pray with you?" The sick man replied,  "Yes," and handed his own Bible to the minister.  When he opened it, he was somewhat shocked at what he saw.  Many of the pages were torn away, some of the chapters were missing, and a number of verses were actually cut out!  It was a terribly mangled volume. Reluctantly the pastor asked,  "Haven't you got a better Bible than this?"  The dying man replied, "When you came to our church, I believed the entire Book, but as soon as you told us that certain sections were not true, I removed them. When you said that some stories were probably fiction and referred to them as fables, I tore them out.  I think if I had another year under you teaching, I would have nothing but two covers left."

We can depend on the Lord and on His Word. Jeremiah had confidence because he placed in the veracity of God and God's promises to Him.

Now, let's consider that ...

II. He Remembered the Lord’s Devotion

One might well say to all of this that Jeremiah deserved such deliverance, while thinking that we cannot have such hope, for surely we do not deserve it as this great saint must have. Think again!

Jeremiah does not speak of deserving anything from the Lord. Jeremiah is aware that all that God has done, is doing and will do for him is based on the Lord’s grace and his undeserved. Jeremiah speaks of three special gifts from the Lord to us:

LOVE

MERCY (COMPASSION) AND

FAITHFULNESS.

These three blessings from the Lord point to God’s character. He is loving, He is merciful and He is faithful.

The first speaks of His PASSION - FONDNESS (love)!

The second speaks of his PARDON - FORGIVENESS!

The third speaks of his PROMISES - FAITHFULNESS!

In all three we see His devotion to poor sinners like us. Note three things about God’s devotion.

A. The Need of it

Without the devotion of God to us, we are hopelessly lost. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast.” Jeremiah was in need of God’s love, mercy and faithfulness just as you and I are.

I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Every one needs God's love and forgiveness and not one of us deserves the blessings he gives. You can trust God as much as Jeremiah trusted Him. He loves you and does not favor one person above another. "What he's done for others, he'll do for you," the songwriter said.

Also note...

B. The Nature of it

The nature of God’s devotion is seen most clearly in Christ, especially in the cross. John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” How can you measure the love of God? You cannot! Don't limit God's love by questioning whether He is willing to help you. The nature of His love is seen in the cross and the words of Jesus when He said, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."

Let's consider also...

C. The Nearness of it

His love and devotion are as near as you breath!

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

1 Corinthians 1:7-9, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

The naturalist S. L. Bastian tells of a certain kind of spider that builds its nest in the branch of a small tree or bush.  In this delicate enclosure the baby spiders are hatched. If the nest is disturbed in any way, the little spiders will all rush out in fright. At once the mother goes to their side. She is alerted to their potential danger in a most unique manner. Each of the young ones has a thin silky strand attached to it, and all of these threads are joined to the body of the mother. When the babies are threatened by an enemy, they naturally scurry off, giving their lines a sharp tug. This is instantly felt by the adult spider. Within seconds she pulls them back to the nest where they are protected from harm.

However thin the thread of faith you possess, God is attached to the other end. He feels when you tug on it. He knows the sorrows, fears, troubles and worries you face. Tug on Him with faith and prayer, and He will be there to ward off your enemies. He is near to us when we draw near to Him!

Now, let's consider this about Jeremiah:

III. He Remembered the Lord’s Demands

Jeremiah took the third step to real peace in the storms of life, he remembered the Lord’s demands. Note three important elements in the commitment that Jeremiah made as he remembered the goodness of God.

A. Faith

Without faith it is impossible ot please God! Jeremiah made the commitment of faith. Questioning God does not deliver us but believing does. We must trust Him.

Someone long ago said, "Don't doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light." Jeremiah acted on that kind of thinking and that kind of faith. It was dark in Jeremiah's world, but the prophet recalled the truths he had learned with the sun was shinning on him. He determined to act on those things he knew by faith to be true even if the entire world around him denied it.

Then, he added to faith...

B. Faithfulness

Jeremiah made the commitment to faithfulness. Now, let's be sure about this, just being good does not ensure relief from all troubles and hardships. What I mean by faithfulness is that we must be faithful even when it seems that everything nailed down in our world is coming loose! My faithfulenss must not be measured by my immediate blessings, but rather I must be faithful even when all the evidence around me seems to indicate that God has forsaken me. Faith in the sunshine days requires faithfulness in the storms of life.

Note also that Jeremiah maintained...

C. Focus

He mentions that God is pleased with those who seek Him! Indeed, to keep our peace we must keep our perspective! We must turn from the problem and look to the person of the Lord.

Someone said, "No man ever injured his eyesight by looking on the bright side of things." Certainly this is true of concerning our attention to the focus we must have upon the Light of the World.

Years ago the English steamer Stella was wrecked on a rocky coast. Twelve women were put into a lifeboat, but the boisterous sea immediately carried it away. Having no oars, they were at the mercy of the winds and the waves, and they spent a fearful night being tossed about by the raging tempest. They probably would have lost hope if it had not been for the spiritual stamina of one of the ladies, Margaret Williams, who was well know for her work in sacred oratorios. Calmly she prayed aloud for divine protection. Then, urging her companions to put their trust in the Lord, she encouraged them by singing hymns of comfort. Throughout the dark hours her voice rang out across the water. Early the next morning a small craft came searching for survivors. The man at the helm would have missed the women in the fog if he not heart Miss Williams singing the selection from Elijah, "Oh, rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him!"  Steering in the direction of her strong voice, he soon spotted the drifting lifeboat. While many others were lost that night, the ones who could sing in the darkness were rescued.

Extra Illustrations
Extra Illustration 1

THE LOVE CORDS

The naturalist S. L. Bastian tells of a certain kind of spider that builds its nest in the branch of a small tree or bush.  In this delicate enclosure the baby spiders are hatched.  If the nest is disturbed in any way, the little spiders will all rush out in fright.  At once the mother goes to their side.  She is alerted to their potential danger in a most unique manner.  Each of the young ones has a thin silky strand attached to it, and all of these threads are joined to the body of the mother.  When the babies are threatened by an enemy, they naturally scurry off, giving their lines a sharp tug.  This is instantly felt by the adult spider.  Within seconds she pulls them back to the nest where they are protected from harm.

Extra Illustration 2

According to Henry Jacobsen, six Scottish miners were forced to make a heart-rending decision.  While they were working some 1,500 feet below the surface, a shaft collapsed.  Debris trapped one of their companions.  Then mud and water began to rush in.    The miners realized that soon all avenues of escape would be closed to them, and they all would perish unless they fled without delay. With great agony the six men decided to let their coworker die rather than be entombed in that shaft while attempting to save him.  They were compelled to abandon him.    In contrast, God is never forced to forsake one of His children.No matter how desperate the situation may be or how great the problems we face, the heavenly Father stays by our side to meet our deepest needs with His infinite wisdom and power. Under no circumstance and at no time will He give up on those He has purchased with the blood of is Son.  We may at times feel abandoned, but we will never be abandoned.

Extra Illustration 3

A man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out. A Christian Scientist came along and said: "You only think that you are in a pit." A Pharisee said:  "Only bad people fall into a pit." A Fundamentalist said:  "You deserve your pit." An IRS man asked if he was paying taxes on the pit. A Charismatic said: "Just confess that you're not in a pit." An Optimist said:  "Things could be worse." A Pessimist said: "Things will get worse!"   Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.

Extra Illustration 4

Someone once asked a little boy if he had found Jesus. He looked up and said, "Why sir, I didn't know he was lost, but I was, and he found me." H. A. Ironside  _Commentary on John_, p. 1

 Extra Illustration 5

Isaac Asimov tells the story of a rough ocean crossing during which a Mr. Jones became terribly seasick. At an especially rough time, a kindly steward patted Jones on the shoulder and said, "I know, sir, that it seems awful. But remember, no man ever died of sea-sickness." Mr. Jones lifted his green countenance to the steward's concerned face and replied, "Man, don't say that!  It's only the wonderful hope of dying that keeps me alive." Well, as believers we do have a wonderful hope ahead of us even at death. Just the thought of that first glimpse of heaven, keeps us motivated to live for our savior.

Extra Illustration 6

 Other men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in annendless hope. Gilbert Beenken

Extra Illustration 7

During the football season, the college bookstore at Iowa State puts a big sign in the window saying "Kill Kansas" or "Whip Washington" or something like that, depending on the name of the upcoming foe. In 1983, just before Iowa State was devastated 72-29 by the nation's top-ranked team, the wording was altered a bit. The sign read:  "Maintain Dignity Against Nebraska."