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The Hope Stealers
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.
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 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.
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?"
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!
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?
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.
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!
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