Your Hope in Times of Trouble

May 19 Day 139

Your Hope in Times of Trouble

However difficult your situation may be – however much ‘trouble’ you are facing in your life, you can have hope. Hope is the confident expectation of God’s ultimate blessing in this life and the life to come, based upon the goodness and promises of God. With Jesus, there is always hope.

Like Lazarus in our New Testament passage for today, some parts of the church have been prematurely declared dead. In his book, The Death of Christian Britain, Callum Brown writes, ‘This book is about the demise of the nation’s core religious moral identity. As historical changes go, this has been no lingering and drawn-out affair. It took several centuries (in what historians used to call the Dark Ages) to convert Britain to Christianity, but it has taken less than forty years for the country to forsake it.’ We often read headlines such as, ‘Crisis in the Church’, ‘Dramatic decline in attendance’ and ‘Church attendance figures fall again’.

At the same time, we are seeing the results of a society that is attempting to shut God out. Every day, in Britain, at least 304 couples are divorced. Somebody calls the Samaritans every six seconds. The pornographic industry is worth billions of pounds. There are 30,000 Christian clergy of all types, and more than 80,000 registered witches and fortune tellers.

Britain is not the only nation in trouble. Many other nations are going through times of trouble. As well as national troubles, all of us are likely at some point to face times of trouble in our own individual lives. ‘Trouble’ can take many forms. What is your hope in times of trouble?

Hope in the ultimate triumph of good over evil

Psalm 64:1-10

Do you ever feel terrified by something you are facing in your life? David faced ‘the terror of the enemy’ (v.1b, AMP).

He went through times of real trouble, ‘the conspirators out to get me’ (v.2, MSG), ‘evil plans’ (v.5a) and ‘traps’ (v.5b, MSG). Yet, he is confident that God will triumph over evil. What should you do when you face similar troubles? The psalm today gives us some clues:

  • Cry out to God
    David prays, ‘Listen and help, O God’ (v.1a, MSG). David asks God: ‘protect my life from the threat of the enemy’ (v.1b).
  • ‘Rejoice in the Lord’
    ‘Rejoice in the Lord’ (v.10a). As the apostle Paul puts it, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ (Philippians 4:4).
  • Stay close to the Lord
    ‘Take refuge in him’ (Psalm 64:10b). ‘Fly to God’ (v.10b, MSG).
  • Keep praising God
    ‘Let all the upright in heart praise him!’ (v.10c). ‘Make praise your habit’ (v.10c, MSG).

Lord, thank you that I can be confident of the ultimate triumph of good over evil and that I am never alone. Lord, I praise you.

Hope in the resurrection of Jesus 

John 11:1-44

Do you fear death? Many people are afraid of death. But if you put your faith in Jesus, you do not need to fear death. Jesus has defeated the power of death.

I once heard the English comedian, Russell Brand, say, ‘Laughter is addictive because of the inevitability of death. It gives us a temporary escape – for the moment it stops the fear of the inevitability of death.’ Every human being will face the ‘trouble’ of death. Where does your hope lie?

In today’s passage we see the full humanity of Jesus in the face of death. Lazarus was his friend. Jesus loved him (v.3). He was ‘deeply moved’ and ‘troubled’ by his death (v.33). In the shortest verse in the Bible we read, ‘Jesus wept’ (v.35).

Yet Jesus is also, uniquely, the answer to death. Jesus said to Martha, ‘“Your brother will be raised up.” Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”’ Jesus’ response was: ‘You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all’ (vv.24–26, MSG).

There is life beyond the grave. Jesus died and rose again. Everyone who believes in Jesus will rise again from the dead. As a foretaste of the future, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

The story of Lazarus is the story of each one of us. Jesus calls you to rise up and become fully alive in order to give life – to bring hope to your family, friends, work colleagues and the world.

This resurrection power is within you. Paul writes to the church of Rome, ‘If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you’ (Romans 8:11). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis of your future hope.

Christianity is the largest movement of all time. It is the only one that never loses a member through death. I remember one of my sons, when he was a little boy, saying, ‘When you die, I’ll be sad. Then I’ll see you in heaven and I won’t be sad anymore!’

Mother Teresa was asked shortly before her death, ‘Are you afraid of dying?’ She said, ‘How can I be? Dying is going home to God. I have never been afraid. No, on the contrary,’ she said, ‘I am really looking forward to it!’

This passage also indirectly provides a picture of hope for the church. There is a sickness in parts of the church and many are declaring its death. Some parts of the church seem to have ‘fallen asleep’ (John 11:11). And in some cases there seems to be a ‘bad odour’ (v.39).

This passage reminds us of Jesus’ power to bring even the dead to life. This resurrection power is still at work in the church today. The same Jesus who said over Lazarus ‘this sickness will not end in death’ (v.4), also promised that he would ‘build [his] Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18, KJV).

Some parts of the church seem to have been prematurely buried. Jesus said about Lazarus, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go’ (John 11:44c). Maybe Jesus would say something similar to parts of the church today. The Brighton and Hove Argus described what has happened at one of our church plants – St Peter’s, Brighton – as ‘the Lazarus-like recovery of the city’s “unofficial cathedral”’. We have called our church planting programme: ‘Project Lazarus’!

Lord, I pray for your church. Forgive us where we have fallen asleep and are giving off a bad odour. We know you are deeply moved by the situation, that you weep over the church, and that you will act out of love.

Please bring new life. May we see the church come alive all across the nations.

Hope in the word of the Lord

1 Samuel 2:27-4:22

Do you realise that God wants to speak to you? You can say, like Samuel, ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening’ (3:9).

These were times of trouble, not just for the people of God, but for everyone (4:7). It was a time when it seemed that God was almost silent. ‘In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions’ (3:1).

It must have been heartbreaking for Eli to see his own sons dishonouring the Lord. They slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting (2:22). They dishonoured God who has said, ‘Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained’ (v.30).

As a result of the dishonouring of God, the people of God are defeated (4:1b–11). Eli dies heartbroken (vv.12–18). His daughter-in-law gives birth to a child with the name Ichabod: ‘The glory has departed’ (vv.19–22).

Yet, in the midst of these terrible times of trouble for the people of God there is hope. The Lord called Samuel (3:4). God revealed himself to Samuel and he listened to the Lord (vv.9–10). He said, ‘Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen’ (v.9, MSG). The Lord said, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle’ (v.11).

Samuel was prepared to pass on the message in its entirety, however unpopular, embarrassing and difficult it was (v.18). He did not hide anything. As a result, God was able to use him greatly: ‘The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground’ (v.19).

‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’ (v.9). Help me to listen carefully to the word of God and then pass it on so that others too may hope in the word of the Lord.

Pippa Adds

1 Samuel 3

I long to hear God’s voice more clearly. God started speaking to Samuel when he was a child. Maybe I would hear God more if my head was not so cluttered with so many things to do. Samuel didn’t have life’s usual distractions. He had less of the world and more of God.

 

Verse of the Day

‘Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”’ (John 11:25).

References

Callum G. Brown, The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation 1800–2000, (Routledge, 2009).

Divorce Statistics from Office of National Statistics, accessed here 

Samaritans statistic from Samaritans.org, accessed here 

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.