Thursday, February 7, 2019

Finding hope when all you see is despair

Imagine a pineapple.

On the outside, it's prickly.  Spiky.  If you were seeing this pineapple for the first time, you wouldn't think much could come out of it.  You wouldn't think that inside this pineapple is a sweet, juicy taste.

Imagine a coconut.

On the outside, it's hairy. Brown. Rough. If you were seeing this coconut for the first time, you wouldn't think it was edible on the inside. You wouldn't consider making yourself a cup of coconut juice.

See, the message today is about Hope.  It is about finding opportunity amidst opposition.  It's about finding a breakthrough amidst the barriers.  It's about finding faith, when all you can see is a prickly pineapple, or a rough, hairy coconut.

Just take a look at the stories within the Gospels.  How many times do you see the disciples looking at a situation and thinking there is no hope?

In Matthew 14:13-21, we read about the feeding of the five thousand.  Jesus is attending to the crowds of people following Him, healing the sick well into the evening.  The disciples, noticing how late it is, tell Jesus to send the crowds away so that the people can buy food and eat.  To their surprise, Jesus tells the disciples to feed the crowds themselves.  The disciples' focus was not on what God could do in their situation, but on what little they had - five loaves of bread and two fish.  Jesus took the loaves and the fish, and thanking God for what they had, broke the food up, dividing it amongst the entire crowd with 12 whole baskets of food remaining.

The disciples failed to understand the provision of God.

Later in Matthew 15:21-28 we read about a Canaanite woman, whose daughter had become possessed by a demon.  She cried out for mercy and healing from Jesus, but the disciples urged Jesus to send her away.  Jesus told them that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, and granted the Canaanite woman's request because of her faith.

The disciples failed to understand the compassion of God.

Even further in Matthew 16:21-28, Jesus is explaining to the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the authorities, and that He must be killed and raised to life on the third day.  Peter took Jesus aside and told Him that this should never happen, yet Jesus' response is quite abrupt - "Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns".  Jesus added that whoever wants to be His disciple must deny themselves, that whoever wants to save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for Him will find it.

"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"  What we gain in life - objects, status, wealth - will ultimately perish.  The soul is what's important, for that will never perish in Him.

Peter failed to understand the plan of God.

There is Hope for us, and it's related to having the mind of Christ.  1 Corinthians 2:11-16 teaches us that we have been given the Spirit of God; we have the ability to understand God and the gift that He has given us, if we are open to the Spirit.  We can speak in words taught by the Spirit, to explain the truth of the Spirit.  Those who are not open to the Spirit of God consider things that come from the Spirit foolish and incomprehensible, yet those who are can understand because these things are discerned by the Spirit.

Then you can look at situation the way the Spirit of God would. You look at circumstances with faith. We know that, 'Faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see' (Hebrews 11:1).

You can look at a lack of provision and realise that God can surely cater for all your needs.

You can look at a sickness, and understand by faith that God can bring healing into that illness.

You can look at the plans and purposes of God for your own life, and realise, that even if things are going bad-to-worse for you, God still has a plan to bring hope and a future.

Jesus can provide.  Jesus can deliver, and He can set free.  Jesus knows the plans He has for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.

So the next time you look at your circumstances, you can ask God to help you find hope amid the despair.

And hopefully you won't just see a prickly pineapple or a rough, hairy coconut. But you'll see hope. You'll see potential. You'll see an opportunity.

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