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The Hope Stealers

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The Hope Stealers

[Thanks]
And today, we are thankful not just for those who led us in worship, but for those who have led us to safety and comfort. Those who were willing to give, and those who gave, their lives for us.
Those men and women, who saw that the days were evil. They heard the whispers of those who hated. The knew the division that was running through the world would tear humanity apart, and they rose up.
Men and women, who like those mentioned in Chronicles, “understood the times and knew what [they] should do.”
And what did they do? They did what was asked. What they could. But bigger than that, they rose up against oppression. They didn’t just give empty platitudes; words that never rise in importance enough to cause action. No, these men and women, rose up to seek good, and not evil, as Amos tells us. They were chasing after justice. They were willing to give up everything for fairness and equity, and more importantly, for peace to reign throughout this world.
You see, they understand that words alone aren’t enough sometimes. God calls us to action - not necessarily to fight, but to action. He demands that we do more than just talk about it.
Amos 5:21–24 NIV
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
And veterans know that deep down. That is why they go. They want justice to roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream! And they want it, church, so much that they are willing to be a part of the tools needed to make it happen.
How grateful we are for you, Veterans. How grateful for your example of sacrifice, and service. How grateful to know that you loved us more than yourself. How awesome it is to see someone follow God’s example.
[intro should setup idea briefly while moving to honor veterans…use 1 Chron and Amos text there…maybe use slides.]
So, as you are able, if you have served, please stand for a moment.
[pause and clap]
Now while you are standing, if anyone in your family has served or is serving, would you stand as well.
[pause and clap and seat]
Thank you. Thank you all. From the bottom of my heart.
You have, in some small way, given this world hope. And for that, we could never repay you.
[pray]
[picofboyin hospital]
There was this school system that had a program where they would send a teacher to the local hospitals. They did that to help with students who were sick or injured and would miss substantial portions of time.
On one of the visits, a teacher was asked to go see this boy, with instructions to help him with his work. The regular teacher told this woman, “We are studying nouns and adverbs in class right now, and I’d be grateful if you could help him with that so he doesn’t fall too far behind.”
So the hospital teacher went to go see the boy. When she got there, though, she was shocked to find a boy badly burned and mostly non-responsive. She pushed through, though, and through her shock she managed to introduce herself, and began teaching the boy.
The next day, a nurse met her, and questioned her. “What did you do to that boy?” she asked.
The teacher was nervous, and thought that she did something wrong, and she hurriedly responded with apologies.
“No, No, you don’t understand,” the nurse said. “You don't know what I mean. We've been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back, responding to treatment. It's as though he's decided to live."
Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?" 
[hope]
Hope.
It is the quintessential human emotion. Simultaneously the source of our greatest strength, and our greatest weakness.
Our greatest strength, because it is the very fuel that we seem to need to be able to get through this life. It is the carrot on the end of the stick. It is our cause. It is our call. It is, at times, everything.
But it can be our greatest weakness too. Not because those who hope are weak! No. It can be a weakness because hope can expose the uglier sides of the human condition.
Think of it this way - what do you think those people who watched Noah built that Ark said? Do you think they saw the hope in Noah’s actions, and praised him for his hope, or did they likely mock him and try to steal that hope?
What about Daniel? When Daniel decided he wouldn’t eat what the other Babylonian’s were eating, do you think that they were excited for him? Clearly not! They mocked him, and thought that his plan was crazy.
And later, as the administrators and prefects set the trap for Daniel, we see it all too clearly! Daniel hoped in the Lord. Daniel was willing to follow that hope, in fact, as far as it would go!
But those others, they didn’t like the hope Daniel had in God. So they plotted to steal it. But even so, Daniel saw his hope realized in that lion’s den.
[pickofjudgementalpeople]
And church, we can be just like those people. We really can.
Just think about it in your own life. When was the last time you heard of an acquaintance, not a friend mind you, a coworker at best - when was the last time you saw them prepping for an interview and hoped with them that they would succeed?
When was the last time you heard of someone feeling blessed and then felt a little jealous? Or maybe you were talking to a friend who got a new boy/girlfriend and they hoped that it worked out this time, but you replied, either in your head or out loud, that they shouldn’t count on it?
We do stuff like that all the time, don’t we?
We see the hope that someone has, and then we decide to level those expectations with a good ole dose of reality. Or so we think.
But that isn’t really what we are doing. What we are doing is far worse than that. You see, in those moments, we are the Hope Stealers. I say that, because we aren’t really trying to make someone’s life better, but rather, we are responding negatively to the hope that seems to be strengthening them!
That is why hope is the source of our greatest weakness.
You see, hope seen in the lives of another, causes us to examine the hope in our own hearts! And unfortunately, when we have none, all we can do is steal it from another. And what’s worse, when we couch it as bringing them back to earth, or being real, or bringing them back to reality, we fundamentally alter the person’s perception of what hope is!
[hope - child]
[picofsoldiers?]
Think of it from the view of a child, like in the story moments ago. If that nurse, or a parent, or a teacher - whomever - if we look at a child and tell them that the situation they are in, whatever it might look like, is as good as it gets, then it is likely that they will stop trying for anything greater than what they have!
I mean, would you tell a child who isn’t good at something to just give up? Would you tell a child who desperately wanted to be a dancer, but wasn’t coordinated to stop trying?
What about that kid who tries hard in sports, but just isn’t as good as the others? Would you tell them to just quit?
No. No matter what the dreams of our children are, we always give them the hope they need to get there.
And we do it for one simple reason: Their life could depend on it.
[premibaby]
There was a mother in Australia who can relay that feeling all too well. While giving birth to twins she was told that one would make it, but her son would not. After trying to get the boy to breath for 20 minutes, they said there was no hope.
So this mother took the child and laid him on her chest. And they cuddled. She spoke to this seemingly dead baby. She did that for 2 hours.
She held on to hope, and more importantly perhaps, made hope manifest in the life of that child. Just through the warmth of her touch.
You know the ending. The baby lived. She gave it some Breast milk on her finger, and he started to breath, and is now alive and well.
Hope gave her strength. Hope brought life. Even in the midst of death, hope sustained enough to provide the fuel for actions.
Hope is enough.
2 Corinthians 4:10 NIV
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
Now understand, I don’t mean to say that hope alone can bring someone back to life. I am not speaking to the medical reality at all, in fact. What I am saying, though, is that because that mother was allowed to have those moments of hope - they weren’t stolen from her by those looking to bring her back to reality - because of that, this boy lived.
And I am sure that, just like us, there were moments when they wanted, or felt like they needed, to steal that hope. I have no doubts about that! I know, because I have those moments too! Moments when I feel like I need to drop a truth bomb. Moments when phrases like, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” are on the tip of my tongue.
We all always carry that feeling in our bodies. The negative. The thoughts that remind us of our sin and our shortcomings in life. Our mistakes. Our jaded view of reality.
We always carry that death around in us! And because we carry it, it seems to be the thing that we think we should share!
BUT IT ISN’T! We don’t carry it so that we could spread it! NO WE CARRY THAT WITH US ONLY SO THAT THE LIFE AND LIGHT OF JESUS CAN SHINE THROUGH THE FLAWED AND BROKEN VESSELS OF OUR LIVES, AND GIVE LIGHT TO THOSE WHO, LIKE US, DESPERATELY NEED HOPE!
[givinghopepic]
But that is a bit of a lost concept in our world today. Giving hope seems to be the last thing on our minds! But church, the lesson that we learn from our Veterans, and more importantly, from the Bible and from our Savior, is that we need to be in the business of giving hope every single day!
But that is a bit of a lost concept in our world today. Giving hope…[talk about our bent towards squashing hopes…maybe frame against children…not wanting them to get hurt…need some story in here to really make it work.]
But that is a bit of a lost concept in our world today. Giving hope…[talk about our bent towards squashing hopes…maybe frame against children…not wanting them to get hurt…need some story in here to really make it work.]
…Jesus examples…?…others...
Jesus, our savior, our light, our life, our greatest example - He wasn’t in the business of squashing hope! In fact, Jesus was in the business of looking at the hopeless, the destitute, the dreamers - those we marginalize and to whom we dole out “truth” and “reality” - Jesus went to those people and said “follow me!”
JESUS HEALED THEM! JESUS PICKED THEM UP FROM THEIR PITS OF DESPAIR! JESUS WENT TO BE WITH THEM SO THAT THEY, AND EVERYONE LIKE THEM, WOULD KNOW BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT THAT LIFE, TRUE LIFE, BEGINS AND ENDS WITH OUR ABILITY TO PLACE OUR HOPE IN SOMETHING BIGGER THAN OURSELVES! IN SOMETHING BIGGER THAN SOCIETY! IN SOMETHING BIGGER THAN ALL THAT WE COULD EVER SEE, THINK, OR IMAGINE! OUR LIFE RESTS ON OUR HOPE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONE AND ONLY SON OF GOD!
AND JUST AS IMPORTANT, CHURCH, WE MUST BRING THAT HOPE TO THIS WORLD! WE AREN’T CALLED TO BE HOPE STEALERS, WE ARE CALLED TO BE HOPE GIVERS!
WHEN GOD FORMED US, WHEN HE THOUGHT OF THE PEOPLE NEEDED TO BRING HIS WORD INTO CREATION, WHEN HE THOUGHT ABOUT MAKING YOU AND ME - HE DIDN’T THINK OF MAKING SOMEONE WHO WOULD FIND FAULT, BUT SOMEONE WHO WOULD FIND HOPE! AFTER ALL, YOU HAVE FOUND JESUS! SO YOU KNOW WHAT HOPE IS!
Isaiah 43:1–3 NIV
But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
BUT THIS IS WHAT GOD SAYS, CHURCH. THE GOD WHO CREATED YOU. THE GOD WHO FORMED YOU IN YOUR MOTHER’S WOMB. THE GOD WHO CREATED EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING! THIS IS WHAT HE SAYS TO YOU TODAY!
DO NOT FEAR! YOU HAVE BEEN REDEEMED. YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED BY NAME! YOU ARE HIS!!!
WHEN LIFE IS OVERWHELMING, AND IS CRASHING IN ON YOUR LIKE RISING WATERS, HE WILL BE WITH YOU! WHEN LIFE SEEMS TO BE PUSHING YOU DOWN, AND MOVING TOO FAST TO KEEP UP; SO MUCH SO THAT YOU ARE OVERCOME WITH DESPAIR AND FEAR - HAVE HOPE! THOSE WATERS, THOSE SITUATIONS, THEY WON’T WASH OVER YOU!
THROUGH EVERY FIERY TRIAL OF THIS LIFE - EVERY STRUGGLE, EVERY PAIN, EVERY CHALLENGE - YOU WILL NOT BE BURNED! YOU WILL NOT BE CONSUMED BY IT! YOU CAN GLADLY LOOK IN THE FACE OF ALL THOSE SITUATIONS, AND ALL THE PAIN, AND ALL THE HURT, AND YOU CAN HAVE HOPE!
YOU CAN HAVE HOPE, YOU CAN GIVE HOPE, YOU CAN LIVE HOPE, YOU CAN BE HOPE, BECAUSE YOU, AND EVERYONE ON THIS PLANET, HAVE A SAVIOR! YOU HAVE BEEN REDEEMED! YOU ARE LOVED!
YOUR ARE GOD’S!
[closing pic thing]
The ultimate hope giver. Our only Savior. Our only hope.
But what a hope it is church.
And what a blessing it is to know that hope, and to be able to bring that hope to this world.
Church, if you just follow our Savior, you will find you are following hope, and at the same time, you will bring hope to this world.
Invitation
[SEQUE AND READ SCRIPTURE…THEN CLOSE HAPPY LIKE…]
[sermon needs to continually ramp up until a celebration style ending…we aren’t hope stealsers, we are hope givers…keep hammering us offering hope TANGIBLY and SPIRITUALLY until we get to our scripture…read it (edited slightly) and parallel it with our walks and lives.]
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