Hope in the Midst of Uncertainty

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Hope in the Midst of Uncertainty

August 10th, 2014


If you weren’t here a few weeks ago, I spoke about living life rooted in hope… a life that is anchored in the promises of God.

–      And yet, living a life rooted in hope is something that’s becoming increasingly hard for people to do…

–      as cynicism and fear and worry choke out the life and hope we’re mean to experience in our everyday lives.


The problem is that as much as our bodies were created to live on food & water, our souls & our spirits were made to live on hope.

–      That’s why Proverbs 13:12 says that the waning of hope in our lives, makes the heart sick.

–      You see, if our future is not secured & satisfied in Jesus…

–      if our understanding of the “bigness of Jesus” isn’t greater than the obstacles that may stand in our path… then anxiety will often take root in our lives,

–      Which can lead either to paralyzing fear or a never-ending need to control our circumstances… something we’ve all learned is impossible.


Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision (hope), the people perish.” We saw this happening right before our eyes a few years ago.

–      Just seeing the reality of hope extinguishing in someone’s life is such a terrible thing… especially when it’s your own daughter.

–      We knew that, without hope, her life would take on a fragility that could truly break her.

–      And, over time, that became a reality as she began struggling more and more with suicidal thoughts.


You see, according to Hebrews 6:18, Hope is “a steadfast anchor of our souls.”

–      It’s what keeps us from crashing on the rocks when the storms of life come battering down on us.

–      And so, without it… without being securely anchored in hope, she began feeling as though she was drifting alone in a very dark, unhappy world.


With a lot of courage and a lot of encouragement and help, we watched as that hope was reignited in her.

–      I can hardly describe the impact of rediscovered hope in her life.

–      To some degree, we all need that flame of hope to grow in our lives.

–      But, of course, that leaves us with the question of “Where can we discover hope?”


I mean, where does one find hope when their circumstances don’t seem to be offering any?

–      In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul wrote, I think you ought to know, dear brothers about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed & completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die.”

–      Paul wasn’t just having a bad day here… he was in despair… completely overwhelmed… convinced that they were going to die.


And yet, in spite of all that was going on around him, he was reminded that his hope can’t rest in his circumstances

–      that we can’t pin our hope to any person or to mere wishful thinking

–      Instead, the power of hope to undo despair in our lives isn’t so much because of hope itself… but our loving, powerful God, who is the object of our hope.


It’s why, in Romans 15:13, Paul offers this prayer & admonishment to a group of believers at risk of loosing hope:

–      He says, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

–      You see, Paul’s prayer for them, as well as for us, is that in spite of our circumstances…

–      In spite of the storms that may intrude our lives, that hope would continue to overflow in us as we anchor our lives to Jesus.

In Psalm 42:11, David faced the same kind of situation as Paul. He writes, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you disturbed within me?”

–      But then he responds… “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

–      In Psalm 62:5, He says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.”


You see… no matter how bleak & discouraging everything around you might get, the one who allows the reality of the Father’s love

–      the reality of the presence of the Kingdom of God…

–      To those who allow these truths from God’s Word to take up residence in their hearts,

–      what will spring up from the parched ground all around them is hope. Not just wishful thinking… but HOPE.


So, this morning I want to continue to talk about hope… not the kind of “hope” that can be confused with wishful thinking

–      or the kind of optimism that simply “hopes” something will turn out the way we want it to.

–      Hope is more than that. Ultimately, hope is the conviction that, because God has invaded this world in the person of Jesus Christ, the best is yet to come.

–      In fact, the NT word for hope means “confident expectation”.


For me, no one in the Old Testament wrestled with “confident expectation” more than King David.

–      In Psalm 13:1, for example, he wrote “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?”

–      In the midst of trying circumstances, he found himself loosing hope. And yet, just a few verses later, he writes this…

–      But I trust in your unfailing love… I will sing to the LORD, for He has been good to me.” (Verses 5&6)


You see, even when hope seemed to be growing dim, there was something about David and his experience with God,

–      That allowed him to go through even those most difficult of seasons without loosing hope.

–      It’s why He could cry out to God in Psalm 22, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help?”

–      And yet, one chapter later, say “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength…”


But to really understand how David could walk in hope, even through seasons of great trial and uncertainty,

–      I’d like to focus in, this morning on one particular period of deep discouragement in his life…

–      a season where, for seven years, David really did seem to be living in that “valley of the shadow of death.”


It’s a defining time in David’s life… a season written about in Scripture that I’ve definitely spoken about in the past.

–      It was a painful time… and yet, as we look again at his story here, starting in 1 Samuel 21:10, we’re able to see how it was that David was able to not only experience God…

–      but how he was able to walk out of that wilderness with his soul & spirit in tact because of a heart anchored in hope.


Now, to some people, once David had been anointed by the prophet Samuel as Israel’s next king, it just seemed as though everything he touched just turned to gold…

–      He defeated Goliath, the people loved him, they even sang songs about him. Not a bad life for a teenager!

–      I mean, in just a few years he went from an obscure shepherd kid to the most successful officer in the army of Israel.


But then one day, Saul became threatened and jealous of David… so much so that he set out to kill David… one of those people who probably admired him the most.

–      In fact, in what must have seemed like a foggy dream, David went from being a warrior to being a fugitive.

–      And with that, he not only looses his job, his income, and his security… but he loses his wife as well.

–      If you remember, David had married Saul’s daughter, Michal.

–      But after helping David escape her father’s soldiers, she was taken herself… and was forced to marry someone else.


Then while fleeing from Saul, he learns of the prophet Samuel’s death… the one person who was able to keep him emotionally and spiritually grounded.

–      So David loses his job; he loses his family; he loses his mentor….

–      And then he looses his best friend, Jonathan…the one person in the world that David knew to the core of his being that he could trust with everything.


With all of this loss in his life, we pick the story up in 1 Samuel 21:12: “That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath.”

–      You see, David has not only lost his home… but now he’s even lost his country… and without any other options, he goes to Gath.

–      Anybody here remember who came from Gath? Goliath!

–      David now has no place to go but into the land of the Philistines… where he is taken to Achish, the king of Gath.


And do you remember what he does when he finally meets Achish? We read that David is so afraid of what they might do to him that he pretends to be insane!

–      In fact, the text says that he went around the room scratching doors & letting his drool drip down from his mouth into his beard.

–      Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of maniacs that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me?


So, David is released… and, in 1 Samuel 22:1, goes into hiding in some caves near the town of Adullam,

–      with no explanation of why any of this was happening… and no guarantee that it will ever be over.

–      Truth is, we’ve all faced those Caves of Adullam before… perhaps not as deep and dark as those David was in…

–      but seasons of life that nonetheless, bore the weight of discouragement, pain, and struggle… a season where life where hope could easily fade.


The cave is that place where all of your props and all of your crutches and everything that holds you up, all your scaffolding, gets stripped away.

–      You see, where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present. It’s one of the many fallouts of lost-hope.

–      Maybe that’s where you are now. Maybe your kid is getting into trouble and you wonder if they’ll ever get back on the right track.


Maybe you hoped to be further along in your career and you’re beginning to loose hope of doing what you really want to do.

–      Maybe life is just so over-the-top… so busy, so complicated… and you’re beginning to loose hope that life will ever ease up for you.

–      Maybe you’ve made some bad choices and you’ve come to see yourself as damaged goods… and that you’ve lost hope that you can ever be any more than that.


Maybe you’re beginning to loose hope that an important relationship or your finances or your work situation can improve…

–      Maybe your health has given way long before your spirit of adventure.

–      Whatever it might be, perhaps now or at some point in your life, you’ve found yourself in that cave.


And often, while in those caves, we begin to wonder as David did, “Has God lost track of me? Has God forgotten his promises?

–      Does God even know where I am? Does he even hear me? Is this what the rest of my life looks like?”

–      Truth is, as we live out our lives, we’ll all come to those crossroads where, because of the circumstances,

–      both in our own lives and the world around us, we can begin drifting towards despair and hopelessness.


And so, alone in the cave, David begins to write… and what he wrote can be found in your Bible, in Psalm 77.

–      I can just imagine him sitting there, writing: “I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and think about the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again show me favor? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be kind? Has he slammed the door on his compassion? And I said, ‘this is my fate, that the blessings of the Most High have changed to hatred.’”

–      This was not a good time for David!


And yet, you want to know the truth about caves? In one-way or another, we’ve said it so many times before…

–      that Caves are often where God does some of his best work.

–      The cave is where God often molds and shapes human lives like no other place…

–      Because it’s when all the props & crutches in your life get stripped away, that you’re able to truly discover God’s presence right there with you.


It’s why Paul said, in Romans 5:3-4, that we can rejoice in our sufferings… because suffering produces perseverance; & perseverance produces character; and character produces HOPE!

–      And hope, rooted in the person of Jesus Christ, is what we need to survive in this world.

–      Having already been anointed as king by Samuel, David clearly thought he’d be living in a palace somewhere by now… but he ended up in a cave.

–      But, again, it’s often in those caves rather than the palaces where we really discover God presence & work in our lives.

–      And so, while we’d be crazy to enjoy those seasons spent in the cave, we can be thankful that a more deeply grounded hope can be rooted in our lives as a result of them!


Thankfully, David didn’t have to live out those difficult years alone.   It’s interesting… that when we’re in those wilderness seasons, we tend to feel so alone.

–      I’m sure David felt that as well… And yet, we’re told in 1 Samuel 22:2,

–      “All those who were in distress or who were in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader, about 400 men were with him.”

–      And, over time, many of these men had gotten married and were raising families.


It seemed as though things were looking up… until one day, David and his men had arrived home… and their village in Ziklag was gone.

–      The Amalekites had burned it to the stake, and their wives and children were all taken captive… everything was gone.

–      1 Samuel 30:4 says that, “David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”

–      That sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? But for David, it’s just about to get worse.


Look at verse six, “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him…”

–      Again, here’s David, a fugitive from his own country, his own king trying to kill him, his mentor is dead, his wife’s been taken from him and forced to marry another man,

–      his refugee village is gone, his best friend is gone…

–      And now his ragged little community is ready to stone him! I mean, how could it possibly get any worse than that!


But then comes one of the greatest statements in the life of David… at the end of verse six. It says, “But David encouraged himself in the Lord.”

–      Somehow, through all he was facing, David found strength & hope & encouragement in the Lord.

–      It’s a wonderful thing to be encouraged by other people. It’s a great thing, isn’t it, to be able to come here and worship and interact with one another the way that we do?

–      It’s great to read a book or listen to a CD or podcast that stirs your spirit.


But I’ll tell you, when you’re in the cave and there’s nobody to turn to, and yet you can still find encouragement in the Lord,

–      then you know you’re catching on to the heart of David.

–      When every other resource was gone, every prop kicked out from under him, every crutch removed, David found his hope in the Lord. How did he do that?


I want to share three observations that we see through this season of David’s life that may help us understand how he was able to hold on to such hope in the midst of so much uncertainty in his life.

–      Now, let me just tell you… there’s nothing profound about what I’m about to share here… just the stuff of life that David doesn’t take for granted.

–      So, what can we learn from David? First… in the midst of difficult seasons & challenging circumstances, David would always share his heart with God…


  1. Share Your Heart with God


When we find ourselves in that cave, we need to make sure we share our discouragement openly & truthfully with God. This is not always as easy as it seems.

–      Go ahead and turn to Psalm 142 and notice how this psalm begins… “A maskil of David when he was in the cave.”

–      (a maskil may be a psalm written with the intent of teaching something.)

–      This is a Psalm for cave dwellers… it expresses the cry of David’s heart when he was living in the cave.

–      Look what he says, “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before Him; before Him I tell my trouble.”


Let me ask you… how many of you have ever complained to God? Anybody? How many of you are sitting next to somebody who seems like they’ve complained to God?

–      How many of you have complained to God about the person sitting next to you?

–      How many have gotten pretty good at complaining? If so, then you’re in good company.

–      David says, “I pour out my complaint to the Lord.”


You’ve probably noticed that there are a number of different kinds of psalms… psalms of celebration, remembrance, and wisdom

–      But the most frequent kind of psalm is called the Psalm of Lament, which is just kind of a fancy word for complaint.

–      Does God seem put off by this? What I’ve found in the Psalms

–      is that as long as we remember who God is (especially against the backdrop of who we are)

–      and as long as we allow God to respond, He welcomes our complaints.


Job certainly did this in the Job 17:15, where he cries out to God, “Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?”

–      In chapter 19:10, Job says, “He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree.”

–      And yet, he doesn’t just stop there with his complaints. He continues to interact with God… and through that, He rediscovers the God of Hope!

–      In verse 13, he says, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and that He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God. I will see Him for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes, I am overwhelmed at the thought!”


And yet many people stuff their discouragement down real deep. They pretend to be okay. They throw on their masks and force a few smiles.

–      Or, they vent their anger and frustration at God without even wanting a response.

–      But neither will ever help you… neither will lead you any closer toward healing and peace and restored hope.


But David chooses to express himself to God… and because his heart ached to hear back from Him, he was able to get to the very bottom of his pain & discouragement.

–      So, if you want to be encouraged in the Lord, the first step that you have to take is to just be real honest about the discouragement you’re experiencing in your life.

–      Share it with Him… be open about it with Him.

–      If you find that hope is waning in your life… if you’re finding yourself easily discouraged in your relationship with God… let me ask you, are you expressing your heart to Him?

“O God… It’s been so long since I’ve sensed your presence with me… I’ve been praying and praying but you don’t seem to be answering me?”


For David (for all of us), expressing our hearts to God not only invites God into the cave with us…

–      but keeps us from getting overrun with fear and bitterness…

–      So that, after seven years, David is able to emerge out from those caves with his spirit & soul better shape than when he went in.


In fact, in Psalm 18:1-2, he records those moments when he was first delivered from the caves,

–      I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

–      So, the first thing we need to do when we find ourselves in the midst of waning hope, wondering where God is… is to be open and honest with God about our discouragement.


Secondly, while in the midst of those difficult seasons, it is so important to be aware of… and resist… the temptations we might face.


2. Give Thanks to God (SKIP)


God’s goodness was one of those things David always held onto… even when life was at its hardest.

–      Psalms 107, 118, and 136 all start with David’s calling to “give thanks to the Lord.” And why? “For He is good!”

–      For David, even if he couldn’t understand what God was doing… he was still able to express his thankfulness… because He knew God was good…

–      And he had a confident expectation that He would see the goodness of the Lord through whatever circumstance he was in.

–      In fact, in Psalm 27, he said “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord.”


In Psalm 100:3 David writes: Acknowledge that the LORDis God! He made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture”.

–      In spite of his circumstances, he’s thanking God for his essential character… for His goodness.

–      And now, he’s thanking God for our identity with Him as His children… “We are His people,” he says, “the sheep of His pasture.”


You see, being His was something that moved David to worship… and that we’re His not b/c we chose Him… but b/c He chose us.

–      Twice in just this one sentence David writes that we are His!

–      Malachi 3:17 says that we are His treasured possession…

–      And in Zephaniah 3:17 we’re told that as His treasured possession, “He rejoices over us with shouts of joy!”


It’s not always easy to be thankful through the seasons of uncertainty and pain… but we remembering who He is who we are as His children should always be our starting place.


3. Find Your Ultimate Refuge in God


You know, there are all sort of caves… some are fairly shallow… where, with some effort and reflection on your part… you find that you can navigate out without much struggle.

–      Once in a while, though, you might just experience those caves where no human action can get you out

–      there’s nothing you yourself can fix to make things better… nothing you have control over.

–      It’s then… where all you can do is simply wait on to God… and to hold close to God’s promise in Psalm 9:9 to be our “refuge in times of trouble.”


David so often expresses this in the Psalms. “God, I can’t get myself out of this, I will not let go of you. I will find my refuge in you. I will trust you.”

–      In Psalm 33:20, for example, He says, “We put our hope in the Lord; He is our help and our shield.”

–      For David, finding ultimate refuge in God has to do with leaning in on God as our provider & protector


It’s about abiding in God’s presence… even when you don’t understand what He’s doing in your life.

–      It has to do with holding close to His promises and trusting in His character… His goodness.

–      It means being so devoted to his lordship that you find even the cave to be a safe place for you…because God is there with you.


To the degree we’ve come to trust in the Father’s goodness… to trust in His promise never to abandon us

–      to trust that His intentions for us are always good… to trust that His love and mercies never end

–      To that degree can we experience His nearness in the face of difficult seasons… and find Him to be our refuge in those times of need.

–      It’s why David wrote, in Psalm 146:5, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”

–      Will we choose to trust Him? Will we find our refuge in Him?


Some of you have lived in one sort of cave or another for some time now… and you’re tired… you’re hurt… and perhaps you want to give up.

–      Will you express all those hurts, insecurities, and fears to God?

–      Will you “wait patiently for the Lord” rather than give into the temptations that promise quick relief from your pain?

–      And will you choose to find your place of rest & refuge & hope in Him?


I don’t know about your cave. I don’t know if you’re there now or if it’s coming in the future. I don’t know how challenging it will be.

–      I just know that God often does his best work in caves, and so, even though this season may be so difficult, we can still be encouraged & strengthened in the Lord.

–      Like David, we’ll be able to look back and be able to say, as he did in Psalm 71:5, For YOU have been my HOPE, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.”


There are going to be times when, like Paul, you begin to react to your circumstances in a way that threatens the hope that had once burned so strong in you. But understand this…

–      Wherever you’re most tempted to worry, wherever your future looks most uncertain, whatever might be discouraging you

–      It was Paul who said, in Romans 5:5, that “There is a hope that does not disappoint.”

–      That Jesus in your life is the “hope of glory” who will never fail you… who will never abandon you… who will never leave your side. AMEN