Waynedale United Methodist Church
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January 21, 2018 Sermon

“HOPE for the Heart!” Plan
Nehemiah 2:17, 18

Ted Jansen  January 21, 2018

 

1.)        HOPE begins with an honest assessment of our current situation, then moves to considering options.  Then hope leads to a plan of action, and then the plan is executed.  Hope improves life. 

            When you face a situation with a hopeful attitude your sense of well-being and healing will increase.  Hope brings healing faster to the mind and body.  There have been studies that have shown this to be case.  Your mind does affect your health in many ways.      

As we look at our third word to experience hope, the word plan, I invite you to listen to the words of Leah, a young woman who struggled with and attempted suicide and how a plan gave her a new sense of life.  These words are from an article entitled “From Rock Bottom.”  I am reading a part of her story.  (Leah from the site suicidepreventionlifeline.org.  “From Rock Bottom.”  I added italics for emphasis.)  

 

2.)        “After explaining the events, thoughts, and emotions preceding the hospital stay as well as my thoughts and emotions in that moment, my therapist leaned back in her chair and said what continues to be the most hopeful statement given to me throughout this entire experience:

“I want this to have been your rock bottom.”

I never used to believe in a true “rock bottom” because every time I thought I’d felt as low as I could get, I was proven wrong. When my depression takes over, it feels like my emotions spiral down a never-ending black hole with no bottom in sight. I always felt like what’s bad could always get so much worse, and even when it didn’t get worse, the possibility of it made every step I took seem so pointless. People would tell me “it gets better”, but I always knew that it would get worse again. It always did. It probably always will, but I think that the idea of my rock bottom having already happened has so much hope in it.

It’s hard to believe that anything could feel more painful than what I endured this summer. Maybe it can, but maybe that was it, and the vast space that is “maybe” was the closest to hope I’d been in a long time. And during a time when hope is so hard to find, that is everything. Maybe the only way to go is up. Maybe it can only get better from here, and never worse than what it just was. Maybe there actually is a bottom, and maybe that was it. Maybe that can be it. Maybe nothing can hurt me as badly as I was. Maybe if I decide that as truth, maybe nothing will, and that makes my future so much less scary.

Choosing to believe that I’ve already lived through what could be the worst days of my life makes the days in my future immensely less daunting. It makes them feel doable. It makes them feel bright. At the very least, brighter than the dark that was my rock bottom. I know that pain is inevitable in my future; I know tomorrow could very well be a terrible day. I know that there are many stressful and negative experiences that I’ve still yet to live through, but that’s the thing: I will live through them. I’ve already made it past the worst when I truly thought I had nothing left in me.

When I finally saw my therapist after my hospitalization and explained everything to her, I felt lost. How does one go on with life after having their mind set on death for so long? We started with a worksheet. What transpired from that was the evaluation of every piece of my life, for which I created goals. A game plan.

Somewhere in between then and now, my perspective changed. It was a strange, gradual transformation when I gained the intention to live again as opposed to settling for the necessity. I swallowed the reality of what my life entails, and I’ve learned to accept it and do the very best I can. “

            Leah’s journey of hope, her way back to life, included a plan, a game plan in her own words.  Goals that were set to give her a direction for her future. 

 

3.)        Nehemiah, needed hope when he heard the walls of Jerusalem were torn down and destroyed.  He had a broken heart.  He tried to hold his hurt inside of him but after four months his sadness was seen by the King.  The King asked him why he was sad and Nehemiah told the King about the condition of Jerusalem.  The King then asked him what he wanted to do and Nehemiah said he wanted to go and rebuild the walls.  So, the King sent him on his journey. 

            It would have taken over 4 months to travel the 900 or more miles from Babylon to Jerusalem.  So, after 8 –10 months, or more, Nehemiah is finally in Jerusalem.    

            Nehemiah observes the condition of the wall.  He has had an honest assessment, he has considered options.  We read these words about his hope journey.  

            “Then I said to them, You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.  Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and we will no longer be in disgrace.  I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the King has said to me.”  (Nehemiah 2:17, 18)   

            Let’s discover some key words in what Nehemiah speaks.    

 

4.)        The first key words are “you see.”   He directs their vision to what is before them.  They have seen the wall for years but he wants them to “see” it.   He has seen it but they need to look again and see the actual condition of the wall and gates. 

            The next word is “trouble.”  He wants them to know that this is not good.  It is trouble.   They have lived with trouble for years.  Nehemiah’s leadership is stirring them.  He names the condition of the wall.      

            The next phrase is “we are in.”   He brings this truth that we are in this together.  We are the ones who accepted this condition and now “we” need to do something.  Nehemiah has skillfully made them see and accept that we are all in this together.   It is not one person’s job or task.  Nehemiah has only been here for several days but he is creating vision, he is stirring hope, and he is moving the people towards action.    

             

5.)        Then Nehemiah speaks words that have been inside of his spirit for months.   “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and no longer be in disgrace.”  

            I want us to focus on words “us.”  He is bringing the people together.  Then he clearly tells them it is time to “rebuild” the “walls.”   Nehemiah encourages them when he tells them how God has been with him and the King has given his approval.   His words give the people so much hope!    

            The people are ready to go and they respond with “Let us start!”  Hope was strong at that moment. 

We can see the actual plan in chapter 3 that Nehemiah shared with the people.  It was having different families taking different section of the wall to rebuild.  Each person had a section that they were responsible for.  The people were not to focus on the big project but the little section right in front of them and making it strong and working with the person next to them.                

 

6.)        We read that something happened after the people are ready to build.  Hope was challenged.  Hope was tested.  Listen to verse 19 of chapter 2.  “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem, the Arab, heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us.  What is this you are doing?  They asked.  Are you rebelling against the king?”

            Resistance and ridicule came when the plan was announced.  They wanted to keep the Israelites in an attitude of disgrace and without hope.  Nehemiah responded to these officials with hope and confidence in verse 20.     

            The people had hope because they had a plan.  They knew that there would mock and ridicule them and push against the plan but they would hold on to hope.  Hope is what they had!    

 

7.)        Hope is vital.  Hope gets tested and there are times when we lose hope.  God is working in our lives to bring hope to you today and to your family and friends.  

Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

            God is working things out for you, for your family, for your situation.  God has a plan to give you and your family a future and hope.   

            We might not understand what the plan is, we might even struggle to believe that there is a plan, but God is not absent from your life.  God might be even using you to bring hope to someone else, someone you know, or someone you don’t even know. 

 

8.)        Here is a story written in Guideposts Magazine about hope.   (“How a Heartbreaking Story Inspired Hope” A beautiful gift revealed the power of a true story—one that nearly wasn’t told.  by Adam Hunter Posted in Stories of Hope, Mar 2, 2017)

            On the surface, it was a simple, miraculous story that arrived in my mailbox this time last year. A little boy had fallen from a second floor window onto the concrete driveway below; his parents prayed by his hospital bed, told by doctors to prepare for the worst. Then the boy rose, mysteriously unbroken, despite x-rays taken moments earlier which had indicated otherwise. It was a miracle that happened decades ago, but one that Wes, the boy’s father, would never forget. Which is why he sent it to Mysterious Ways.

            There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into preparing every story for publication. The first thing we do is call up the authors and get the information they may have left out—those little details that provide context and help the reader better understand what the author experienced. I called Wes, and after we spoke for a while, I asked if I could speak with his son, Paul. The other editors and I wanted to include his perspective on what had happened to him when he was just a boy, hoping it could add a different point-of-view to the narrative.

            That wasn’t possible, Wes said. I could hear the pain in his voice; he was reluctant to go on. Finally, he revealed what was missing from the story he sent us. He hadn’t spoken to Paul in years. His son struggled with alcoholism and had been in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous. Wes now helped raise Paul’s young daughter. He wasn’t even sure where his son was.

Yet, with all of his son’s struggles, Wes still held out hope that Paul could find healing. He’d seen it once before, against all odds, in that hospital room.

That became the story we told in Mysterious Ways. And it was the story that so deeply moved one of our readers, 77-year-old Sara Thomas of Alpharetta, Georgia.

Sara lives in an assisted living facility. To pass the time, she’s an avid scrap booker and cross-stitcher—and a reader of Mysterious Ways. Sara had been “drowning in negativity” when she picked up the June/July 2016 issue. Then she read Wes’s story. His experience and outlook resonated with her.     

Turning the page, she saw the image we’d chosen for our “Comfort & Reassurance” section, a boat on a beach beneath a stormy sky, with a rainbow in the background. Inspiration struck—she was determined to do a cross-stitch that combined Wes’s favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 43:2, and the photo. She called to ask permission. “The storm clouds reminded me that into each life some rain must fall,” Sara said. The grains of sand made her think of the sands of time. “Like the patch of bright blue, better days are right behind the bad ones.”

Four and half months—and 63,000 stitches later—Sara sent us her masterpiece, which we forwarded to Wes.

“I read the letter from Sara and decided to give her a call and we spoke for a while on the phone,” Wes wrote to us. “Isn't it amazing how God works? He inspires a lady in Georgia, after reading my story, to create a cross-stitch just for me.” He hopes his story continues to touch others, including his son.

“Perhaps someone who subscribes to Mysterious Ways may read the story, show it to Paul—and who knows from that point, what God would choose to do in his life, once again.”

 

9.)        How many of us have a Paul in our lives?  Someone that we carry in our heart that we hope for and pray for?  We hurt for them and we hope for them?  We pray for them and we want to help them.  We believe that God is working things out in their life!   

            We hear the story of a woman who took months to create a cross stich to give to Wes and it reminds us of God’s plan.  His story of hurt and hope for his son inspired Sara to do something.  Sara put a plan of action together of something she could do.  Sara was inspired and thought, “I can cross stich!”  That is what she did and sent it to Wes.  It brought him hope! 

When we allow God to inspire us to action we never know how that plan will be used by God to bring hope to someone.  God is bringing hope by something you can do today!   God is bringing hope to you by something someone has done for you.  See the love of God and have hope!