Easter Weekend, April 11-12, 2020
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Where is God when I’m hopeless?
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! I’ll say “Christ is risen” and from where you’re watching, you can shout, “He is risen indeed.” Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Today, I want to talk with you about hope. Where is God when I’m hopeless? We are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus—does Jesus’ resurrection have anything to say about what we’re going through right now? Does it speak to our despair, our hopelessness, our fear?
Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection are the heart of the gospel—the good news. The apostle Paul clearly says this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7. Please turn there in your Bible, or use the Bible tab on the app. I have some friends who are going to help us read the Scripture today, so let’s follow along as they read.
1 Corinthians 15:1–7
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles…
The gospel, the good news by which we are saved, is that Christ died for our sins and was buried, and Christ was raised on the third day and appeared to many. (His burial showed that He was really dead; His appearances showed that He was really raised!). Why is this good news? Let’s break it down.
Jesus died for our sins. God created a good world, and intended for us to partner with Him caring for it. Instead, we rebelled and threw the entire world into chaos. The penalty for our sin and rebellion is death, and death and decay have spread everywhere in our world—including tiny viruses. Jesus came to die in our place, pay our penalty, and put the world—including us—right again. He died our death, so that we can live again as God intended. That’s good news. But that’s not all.
Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death, and lives forever. His resurrection shows that He is the Son of God.
Romans 1:4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. (NLT)
Jesus’ resurrection showed that He was who He said He was—God’s Son sent to save us and make the world right again. Death is an enemy. But death could not hold him! And now, death can’t hold us either! His resurrection is the guarantee of ours, and we face death with hope. It’s not the end—it’s a new beginning! That’s good news!
So let’s talk about hope. Where is God when I’m hopeless? Lots of people are feeling hopeless these days.
- Feeling hopeless about this virus that has disrupted our lives—many are fearful, living with a sense of dread.
- Feeling hopeless financially—many of us have lost our jobs, our income, our insurance…our hope.
- Feeling hopeless about the future—what does it hold? When will this end and what will life look like when this is over?
Does the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection have anything to say about our hopelessness? Yes! I want to give you hope for today, tomorrow and forever.
First, let me define hope. We tend to use the word in a very weak, watered down way.
“Do you think you’ll get your job back?”
“Well, I hope so.”
Meaning, I don’t know; maybe/maybe not; but all I can do is hope…
Weak, weak, weak.
That’s not how the Bible uses the word. Hope means “a confident expectation of good.” I expect it! I’m confident! I have hope!
“Do you think you’ll get your job back?”
Hope says, “Yep. I’m confident that I will. I expect it! I’m counting on it!”
ILL: A man stopped to watch a Little League baseball game. He asked one of the boys what the score was. “We’re losing 18-0,” was the answer.
“Wow,” said the man. “But you don’t seem discouraged.”
“Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t come to bat yet.”
That’s hope! We’re not discouraged; our turn is coming! Hope is a confident expectation of good.
The Big Idea: Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is a source of hope for us today, tomorrow and forever.
1. Hope for today
Do you feel hope for today? Jesus’ resurrection showed him to be the Son of God. So what would He, the Son of God, say to us about today? Let’s look at:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Please remember that the people to whom Jesus first said this were mostly poor, subsistence farmers, living day to day. They didn’t have savings accounts, refrigerators full of food, or a government willing to help them out with emergency funds. If they didn’t work today, they didn’t eat tonight. They were living on the razor’s edge!
Jesus promised them—and us—that we have a Father who cares for us, a Father who knows our needs and will meet them. So don’t worry—your Father’s got this.
ILL: Most of you know that my mentor and hero was Laina’s dad, Pastor Noel. Noel’s wife, Marty died of cancer when she was 40, leaving Noel with six kids, ages 3-13. Noel had owned a small pharmacy in Eugene, but just prior to Marty’s death, he had to close it and was left with a sizable debt and no job. Can you imagine? No work, no wife, six kids.
Noel found work as a fill-in pharmacist at several pharmacies. He told me that the hardest day of his life was his first day back at work after Marty died. As he rode his bicycle away, he looked back at his six children on the porch waving goodbye, and his heart sunk. “Who will care for my children?” he wondered. And God spoke to him, “I’ve got it.” Noel said that word changed everything. He was able to trust his kids to the Father’s care, and go to work in peace. With hope. God’s got it.
Feeling overwhelmed today? Hopeless? Afraid? Your Father’s got this. Don’t take my word for it. This comes from Jesus, the resurrected Son of God! Take His word for it—and have hope for today.
2. Hope for tomorrow.
Do you feel hope for tomorrow, for your future? Are you worried about getting your job back, or restarting your business? Someone wrote this: “A few years ago, our world had Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, and Steve Jobs; now we have no Jobs, no Cash, and no Hope.” So true! Are you worried about a recurrence of the epidemic—another cycle of sickness and economic collapse? Are you worried about going into another Great Depression like the 1930’s?
The future is always uncertain. How many times in the last 3 weeks have we had to pivot because of another unpredictable surprise? It’s difficult to predict the future.
ILL: I was with some pastor friends—on a Zoom call—and a couple were trying to predict the future for our culture and the church. Afterwards, I told a friend, “Did you know most futurologists have only one best-seller? When most of what they predict doesn’t come true, their career is over. It’s better to be flexible and adapt to what is than to try to predict what might be.” Some of my friends were predicting the end of church as we know it. I doubt that. I think that this will pass, and we’ll gather together again, stronger than ever! But I can’t predict the future either.
Since the future is always uncertain, how can we have hope for tomorrow? Have you heard this? “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future?” I know it sounds corny, but it’s true. My hope is not that I know the future, but I know Who does—and He’s got me.
Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. The apostle Paul had just gone through a harrowing crisis, one that thought might be fatal! Here’s what he wrote:
2 Corinthians 1:8–11
8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. (NLT)
What did Paul learn in this crisis? He learned to stop relying on himself, and rely only on God, who raises the dead. Are you relying on God? Trusting Him with your future? If God can raise Jesus from the dead, He can protect us from danger, from trouble. And even if we die—well, He can and will raise us from the dead.
It’s as though Paul looks at the worst thing that could happen—dying—and says, “Oh…God can take care of that.”
And what happened? God rescued him from mortal danger. This gave Paul hope for tomorrow. “He will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.”
Please hear me: I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying that it’s not concerning or scary. The future is uncertain or even menacing! But I’m saying that your Father, who is caring for you today, will care for you tomorrow. Your future is securely in His hands. Trust Him; rely on Him, place your confidence in Him. He’s got this.
Hope for today. Hope for tomorrow.
3. Hope forever.
Do you feel hope forever? Or does death frighten you? The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope forever; it is called “the firstfruits”—meaning that Jesus’ resurrection is the first, guaranteeing that ours will follow. We read this in Paul’s great chapter on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.
1 Corinthians 15:16–23
16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Jesus gives us hope for today and tomorrow—but also hope forever. Hope for this life. Hope for the life to come. That was guaranteed by Jesus’ resurrection.
ILL: Two men, one of them an international chess champion, were in a European art museum. One of the paintings in the museum caught his eye. The painting was called “Checkmate.” Two people playing chess: one was the devil, the other a human being. The game was being played for the soul of that man. The devil was about to make a move that was going to supposedly checkmate and win the soul of this person.
This chess champion kept studying and studying. His friend was getting impatient. He said, “Wait, something’s not right.” As he was looking a little longer, he finally said, “Whoever painted this either has to change the painting, or change the name of the painting.”
“Because I’ve been studying this, and the king still has one more move.”
When they took Jesus down from the cross and buried His dead body, everyone thought it was over. Checkmate. But the King had one more move.
And when it’s your turn to die and be buried, some will think that’s it. Checkmate. Game over. But the King still has one more move. That’s our hope—our confident expectation!
I finish with one more story of hope.
ILL: A woman had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things “in order”, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible.
Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered. “Wait! There’s one more thing.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“This is very important,” she said. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked.
“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.
The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and dinners with friends, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork’. It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork….the best is yet to come”.
That’s our hope, friends. The best is yet to come. So keep your fork!
Prayer and invitation to say yes to Jesus.
Benediction: Let’s all pray this together. Romans 15:13 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.