Strengthening Faith in Midst of Challenging Times

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Synopsis of     Strengthening Faith in Midst of Challenging Times

We’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from part of the telling of the Crossing the Red Sea.                                                                  EXODUS 14: 8-13     The Lord continued to strengthen Pharaoh’s resolve, and he chased after the people of Israel who had escaped so defiantly. 9  All the forces in Pharaoh’s army – all his horses, chariots, and charioteers – were used in the chase. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon. 10  As Pharaoh and his army approached, the people of Israel could see them in the distance, marching toward them. The people began to panic, and they cried out to the LORD for help.  11  Then they turned against Moses and complained, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? Why did you make us leave? 12  Didn’t we tell you to leave us alone while we were still in Egypt? Our Egyptian slavery was far better than dying out here in the wilderness!”  13  But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand where you are and watch the LORD rescue you. The Egyptians that you see today will never be seen again. 14  The LORD himself will fight for you. You won’t have to lift a finger in your defense!”

My recent messages have been expounding on the punishments from God coming to America, and other countries, due to our separating ourselves from the ways of God that this country started in it’s beginnings.  So, today I want to bolster the hope of our faith in God-our-Father can and will bring if we born again Christians follow His plans of action.

Fear pounded in the hearts of the Israelites. Ahead of them lay the seemingly un-crossable waters and behind them the chariots of the Pharaoh’s enormous army. They panicked  with complaints to Moses.  This was desperation in their hearts. They were free for a few glorious moments then they faced returning to slavery or drowning in the Red Sea.

We too are living in desperate times, with life throwing daunting challenges at us causing us to begin to feel we are trapped. Families facing loss of jobs, young people facing uncertainty of finding employment, education seemingly lost on serving coffee, donuts, hamburgers, etc. Some face loss of livelihood, some life threatening illnesses, or natural disasters and others struggling to make relationships work.  Oh, God, how do we respond to these desperate times?

The question becomes, “How does a follower of Jesus act?”  Think about this. What does our reactions say about the significance of our faith to those who notice us?

In recent downturns I have noticed how communities around the world were affected by dire evaluation of an impending global financial crisis.   I then began to take notice of followers of Christ when those topics were being discussed.

I saw that our fears and frustrations echoed the outlook of the rest of the populace around us. Our moods, our concerns seem to be a screenplay of the news media, or the internet, or other fearful non-Christians.

I heard fearful, angry tones making us seem hopeless. I’m afraid that all of this loss of confidence points to the idea that our core beliefs in God have been pushed aside, not by ourselves, but by the worldly attitudes of the non-believers. Have we been robbed by their convincing us that it is all in the hands of the politics of our world?   Or, is God still in charge

Today, we need a better definition of the word “hope.” Not only do we need to understand what real hope is, we also need to understand what the hope of Christ gives us …. is not !

Far too often hope is consigned to the level of wishful thinking, or a positive approach, or mere optimism. What we think when we hear “hope,” is “I shore hope the economy improves.”  or  “Here’s hoping the Braves win the pennant.”  or even,  “My doctor hopes that they’ve got all the cancer.”

These statements mean it simply is the concern of someone’s heart. This, in itself, is not wrong. But, it is not the kind of hope the Bible offers. Hope reduced to that level is like soap bubbles that look beautiful, but, don’t reach for them they allude you. That reminds me of King Solomon’s comment in Proverbs 13:12:  “Hope deferred —- makes the heart sick.”

Hope must have a strong foundation or it is only wishful thinking. So, what is hope? One dictionary defines hope as: “a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.”  I think hope is more than that.

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Strengthening Faith in Midst of Challenging Times

Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from part of the telling of the Crossing the Red Sea                                            EXODUS 14: 8-13       The Lord continued to strengthen Pharaoh’s resolve, and he chased after the people of Israel who had escaped so defiantly. 9  All the forces in Pharaoh’s army – all his horses, chariots, and charioteers – were used in the chase. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near              Pi-hahiroth, (pee-higher-ath)across from Baal-zephon.10  As Pharaoh and his army approached, the people of Israel could see them in the distance, marching toward them. The people began to panic, and they cried out to the LORD for help.  11  Then they turned against Moses and complained, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? Why did you make us leave? 12  Didn’t we tell you to leave us alone while we were still in Egypt? Our Egyptian slavery was far better than dying out here in the wilderness!”  13  But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand where you are and watch the LORD rescue you. The Egyptians that you see today will never be seen again.  14  The LORD himself will fight for you. You won’t have to lift a finger in your defense!”

My recent messages have been expounding on the punishments from God coming to America, and other countries, due to our separating ourselves from the ways of God that this country started in it’s beginnings.  So, today I want to bolster the hope of our faith in God-our-Father can and will bring if we born again Christians follow His plans of action.

Today’s message is titled Strengthening Faith in Midst of Challenging Times. That is why I chose today’s slice of the bread of life. Fear pounded in the hearts of the Israelites. Ahead of them lay the seemingly un-crossable waters and behind them the chariots of the Pharaoh’s enormous army. They panicked  with complaints to Moses, yelling, 11  Then they turned against Moses and complained, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? Why did you make us leave? 12  This was desperation in their hearts. They were free for a few glorious moments then they faced returning to slavery or drowning in the Red Sea.

We too are living in desperate times, with life throwing daunting challenges at us causing us to begin to feel we are trapped. Families facing loss of jobs, young people facing uncertainty of finding employment, education seemingly lost on serving coffee, donuts, hamburgers, etc. Some face loss of livelihood, some life threatening illnesses, or natural disasters and others struggling to make relationships work.  Oh, God, how do we respond to these desperate times?

The question becomes, “How does a follower of Jesus act?”  Think about this. What does our reactions say about the significance of our faith to those who notice us?

In recent downturns I have noticed how communities around the world were affected by dire evaluation of an impending global financial crisis. Analysts forecasted troubled times. I felt the emotional weight of problems no one seemed able to solve. I then began to take notice of followers of Christ when those topics were being discussed. I saw that our fears and frustrations echoed the outlook of the rest of the populace around us. Our moods, our concerns seem to be a screenplay of the news media, or the internet, or other fearful non-Christians.

I heard fearful, angry tones making us seem hopeless. I’m afraid that all of this loss of confidence points to the idea that our core beliefs in God have been pushed aside, not by ourselves, but by the worldly attitudes of the non-believers. Have we been robbed by their convincing us that it is all in the hands of the politics of our world?   Or, is God still in charge

My recent messages did bring out the condition this country is in and what the our blessing or curse due us according to the Bible’s history of similar nations sanctification or demise. In each message of warnings came an uplift of hope. Hope, given to us by no other than the Lord, our God. With that hope we are also given with instruction to His plan of action for each of us individually. Wake up – brothers and sisters in Christ. Where is our hope

In fact let’s talk about the meaning of hope. I began to understand hope and the loss of it at quite a young age; about nine. I had great hope that I would find under the Christmas Tree the item I spoke of openly for at least a month prior….. a B B Gun !  Instead, on Christmas morning, instead, I found a beautifully wrapped “Erector Set.”  Yes, one of those, “You can build anything on the kitchen table, kind of keep-em-busy toys. It’s hard to put into words the disappointment I felt. Thank goodness the birds were safe and so were the neighbor’s window panes. Later in life I realized the wisdom of my parents; but I still remember the disappointment.

But, today, we need a better definition of the word “hope.” Not only do we need to understand what real hope is, we also need to understand what the hope of Christ gives us …. is not !

Far too often hope is consigned to the level of wishful thinking, or a positive approach, or mere optimism. What we think when we hear “hope,” is “I shore hope the economy improves.”  or  “Here’s hoping the Braves win the pennant.”  or even,  “My doctor hopes that they’ve got all the cancer.”

These statements mean it simply is the concern of someone’s heart. This, in itself, is not wrong. But, it is not the kind of hope the Bible offers. Hope reduced to that level is like soap bubbles that look beautiful, but, don’t reach for them they allude you. That reminds me of King Solomon’s comment in Proverbs 13:12:  “Hope deferred —- makes the heart sick.”

Hope must have a strong foundation or it is only wishful thinking. So, what is hope? One dictionary defines hope as: “a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.”  I think hope is more than that. I think it is an expectation and anticipation that rests in what we believe. That means that for a child of God, hope can be as strong as what we have learned about God’s goodness and His faithfulness.

Paul had a good handle on the meaning of hope when he spoke to the Romans in chapter 15: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Now, my friend, if you are not yet a born again Christian that comment should have you running to a minister to lead you to do so.

This marvelous verse reveals two significant reasons why hope is such a priority. First, God is the God of hope. So our hope, in the form of expectation, is not without foundation. It is not a theory or a philosophy, it is a person. Second, Paul wants them, and us, to “abound in hope.”

Think about this…… genuine hope is the distinguishing characteristic between believers and those who do not know Christ. By saying “know Christ” I’m speaking of knowing him personally or experientially.

When Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus he reminded them what their life was like before they received their salvation. He said to them, in Ephesians 2:12 “You were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

He said to them and I say to you who have not yet become a born again Christians…. and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

One scholar says that for those who don’t know Jesus, hope is a verb. But for the Christian, hope is also an noun. This is an important distinction. Hope is not simply something we do with gritted teeth and fingers crossed. Hope of joyful expectation is something we have.

Why is there so much confusion about the true nature of hope? One reason is because hope, like faith, and love looks different to different situations.

In 1st Corinthians 13:13 the apostle Paul wrote, But now faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Al these three great pillars of joyful living are critical.   But, realize that the three adapt appropriately to changing conditions..

It is also said, in 1st Thessalonians 4:13, In times of abundance, faith can express trust in God by smiling with grateful humility. In times of loss, it will grieve – but not like people without hope.

As it works, faith can express itself through great effort and urgency. At rest it can relax in the presence of the One who says, “Cease striving and know that I am God,”  said in Psalm 46:10.

Love too is adaptable. To seek the good of others, sometimes it must be gentle and patient. At other times, it must be firm – even tough. Likewise hope can also flex to fit to various situations. Because it relies on the goodness and faithfulness of God, it has many faces to respond fully to the different experiences of life. Paul noted that hope is courageous, in 2nd Corinthians 3:12 he stated: Having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech.”  He also said, in 1st Thessalonians 1:2-3 “We give thanks to God always for all of you… constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.”

You see, hope is expectant. We are, according to Titus 2:13 “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to re-deem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”  Please note the phrase to “….purify for himself a people for His own possession.”

All that we’ve just read indicates to me that hope is remarkably versatile. With hope followers of Christ can confidently engage the world, when we see the world through the lens of God’s character. So, the question becomes how do we cultivate such a resistant and adaptable hope? And…. where does it come from?

Well, from here let’s examine the source of hope. We will remember that the psalmist recognized that God is the source of our hope, when it says to us in: Psalm 39:7,

And now, Lord for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” But, Bro. Dick, just how does God bring hope into our lives in times of pending calamity?  Well, let’s check out: Romans 15:4: For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of Scripture we might have hope.”  Hey, hey… that’s good advice, but how does that give us hope?

I’ll answer that question in just a moment, but first let’s examine a phrase in the last verse: “…perseverance and the encouragement of Scripture we might have hope.”  Persevere??

Yes, how much time do you persevere by spending time not just reading but studying scripture looking for the answer to your question… “Lord, where do I find what you are wanting me to know in my moment of concern of the impending conditions around me.”  That, my friend, is perseverance.

Now, to answer the question, “…. But how does that give us hope.” When Paul wrote about the relationship between perseverance and hope, he was referring to the kind of patience motivated by seeking the good of others. Christ Himself endured pain on behalf of others to demonstrate the heart and goodness of God. History shows the worthiness of such perseverance. In the late 1700’s a small but growing movement to abolish slavery from the British Empire needed a voice in the British Parliament. The abolitionist pursued a young Member of Parliament named William Wilberforce/

(I believe I spoke of him in a recent sermon.) His Christian faith proved to be fertile ground for seeking freedom for all. But the path to abolish slavery did not come easily. The abolitionist faced discouraging odds. Repeatedly, Wilberforce introduced bills to abolish the slave trade, only to have those bills emphatically defeated

Over time He and his growing team continued to wear down the opposition. It cost him a large part of his fortune and had a devastating impact on his health. But he persevered. Finally the King gave royal acceptance to the Slave Trade Act — after 20 years of perseverance on the part of William Wilberforce and his supporters.  They showed us how to have hope. It is through perseverance.

Paul understood this long before Wilberforce came into the world’s eye; as he said in: Romans 5:3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  5  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

All of this is nothing but looking for the answers to where to find, and how to use, hope. It is to be found …. where? …. IN THE ANSWER BOOK !  Scripture !

And, when found we are to add it to the Grace of God. In what we are not able to do our inadequacy God responds with lavish grace. Paul understood this and has tried to pass it on to us. Three times he had asked God for deliverance from certain trials. He records God’s response for us in 2nd Corinthians 12:9 – My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Wow! – thank your Lord!  That I can add to the equation, weakness I have plenty of.

Now notice what Paul’s response was to verse 12:9…. I most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Hey, hey… I believe I’m beginning to catch on!  I’ve got to get me out of the equation and pray for the power of Christ might dwell in me.  And, I just thought of something…. He already does. He left to go back to the Father’s right hand, but He left his spirit in me; it’s called the Holy Spirit.                  I guess I can just stop trying to muster up this hope I need and ask the Spirit in me to lead me to the proper direction I should take in this moment of impending calamity. Boy…. I sure do have hope now. I have hope in the Holy Spirits ability rather than my own. Boy… am I glad I’m a born again Christian !!

You know, this clears up something else in my mind. I’m referring to David’s confident expectation. That is why his Psalms center on hope. He understood what I just realized and passed on to you.

Not only David, but Daniel also. When he and his three young Hebrew captives were facing calamity the knew they were armed for battle. They were armed with the remembrance of God’s deliverance of them when their conviction were challenged in the book of Daniel, chapter 2. Their past experiences with God prepared them to trust in Him in this challenge as well. They were not super-heroes; they were ordinary people facing the challenges of life. With such hope they faced challenge with hope; so that the dread and apprehension turned to confidence and expectation.

My friends, their God of the Bible then is our God of now. Think about it…. as we are told in Ephesians 3:20 He is still able: “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask to think, according to the power that works in us.”  Wow… there’s my hope… there’s your hope,          “the power that works in us.”

One of the characteristics that should distinguish followers of Christ from those who do not know Him is that we should be people of hope. Not only should we be people of hope, we should exhibit hope in all that we do, and in all that we say. Yes, we must speak of the forthcoming calamities we read and hear about. We are responsible to share with others that we prepare them of what’s impending that they may prepare themselves. But, we must be always conclude such sharing with the hope we have as Christians. We should not merely offer an alternative religion, worldview or philosophy. We must offer hope to a world desperately longing for it. In other words, we need to re-establish hope in a desperate world.  Our mission, as disciples, is not only to share the message of God’s forgiveness and the offer of a relationship with Him, it’s also to share the hope that this relationship with Him generates. Such discipleship communication may bring a non-believer to seek the Christ we have.

Peter said it all in 1st Peter 3:15: But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.  Or as stated in NLT versio …. 1st Peter 3:15  Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.  16  But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way.n

 

Peter is trying to to teach us that there’s a catalyst in an evangelistic opportunity – a trigger. There is something that sets the encounter in motion. And what is it?  There is no better trigger to launch an opportunity for sharing our faith than the presence of hope in our times. In this we find a progression that leads to effective outreach – and it requires more than the attainment of the Bible knowledge.

In plain old school-boy English Peter is saying:

·       We are to live as people of hope;

·       Hope is to mark out our lives as distinctive

·       People living without hope and enduring a hopeless world will see the difference that hope makes in our lives.

·       They will ask us where our hope comes from;

·       Then, we can be ready to make our defense.

 

Voila !  They will see the hope in us and want it too.

Keep in mind: Unless our lives are characterized by a true, living, confident hope, the distinctive is not seen, and no one ever asks.   Un-hun !  So the bee is on our back !

My friends, we can train in outreach strategy and theory. We can have a passion for the hearts and lives of people searching for truth. But without the evidence of hope in a hopeless world, we won’t show desperate people that we have something different from the despair they already know.

 

In Christ, we have real hope, not a naïve attitude that fails to see the realities of live. At first, the people around us may think it strange – this mysterious hope that marks our lives as different. But in a world starving for hope, men and women will be drawn to it and to the Christ whose resurrection makes hope possible. Hope and the resurrection is intimately linked.

 

The title of this message is Strengthening Faith in Midst of Challenging Times.

Throughout the message we’ve discussed, examined, cross-examined, found in Scripture all of the following: fear — faith – strength – hope – confidence – trust in God – witnessing and being a disciple.

With all of that in mind may try to give you a “take-home message.

 

 

Psalm 34:3-4
O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together! I sought the Lord and He heard me
and delivered me from all my fears.
1. TRUST: riverbed of God’s love, and, -trust is a choice

2. LOVE: river from God’s throne that our roots of HOPE drink from

3. HOPE: root system that searches out His unfailing love everywhere and in every situation—hope is a pregnancy…with anticipation”…you carry it until faith delivers it. Then, -faith is a birthing

4. FAITH: the tree that is seen –the action you are stirred to take because you have seen through His eyes of love and perspective of hope

 

WHY HOPE?  It brings you closer to God and people and into your purpose, so you don’t get stuck.

AND because hope is

1.     Like a GPS- “recalculating!”  When a curve ball comes, you just find a better plan!

2.     Hope is not a wish or dream…it is desire accompanied by the expectation of fulfillment.

Hope must be CULTIVATED, Salvation is free, but hope must be cultivated.

¨ No matter what it looks like, we are always advancing!

¨ Hope sees that evil is only here for a moment!

¨ HOPE BRINGERS are those who will calm others and put their hands in God’s hand because they know the need for friendship with God above all else.

HOPE CENTERS: are places where we…

¨ Overcome discouragement with encouragement

¨ Overcome fear with faith

¨ Overcome the apparent loss with a view of the God of supply

¨ Overcome the lack of abundance with enough to give away

¨ Overcome offense with a love view

Hope in God: means you put all your trust in God in a way that heals and expands your view of God.
You begin to see God really is enough! His presence is always the answer!

¨ THE reward of all of life is the opportunity to gain  a friendship with God!

God won’t give the treasures of His heart to those who won’t cultivate friendship with Him and see Him as a real God with a real heart. He’s not Santa Clause who we stop in to see, sit on His lap, and ask Him for things in the same old way.

Let’s talk about HOPE in the Next Generation
PARENTS:

¨ Enjoy your children

¨ Don’t water down your role and simply become a prison guard for rebellious children or referees for petty fights

¨ Make a heart connection with them and draw them out

¨ Speak with the hope of God into who they are and who they will be in the future.

¨ Be proactive for your young, know them by the Spirit  and speak about who they really are and who they will be.

Tell them “You’ll be the ones who will help change this world…”

In other word, give the next generation permission to be who God has called them to be… ones of great worth!

America Bless God                  and             God  will  Bless America

 

 

 

 

 

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