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The Season of Hope
Isaiah 40:28-31; Psalm 40:1-3
Angela and I are thrilled to be here today—your hospitality and friendliness has made us feel very welcomed.
I can imagine that this Christmas season has been a busy one—for all of us.
With all the stressed-out “stuff” that we have to do this season, I think most of us can identify with this video clip:
/Illustration: 12 Days of Christmas Video Clip/
Many of you (in fact, some studies suggest over 80% of you) can easily find yourselves overwhelmed by the busyness of the season:  gifts to buy, families to visit, and parties to attend—just thinking about it takes your breath away.
Add to this all the pressures, worries, and responsibilities of normal, everyday life—and unless you are gifted in multi-tasking and managing chaos, you get that overwhelming, “where-can-I-hide” kind of feeling.
Life, no matter what day of the year, can be difficult to manage.
I wonder how many can identify with the Sons of Korah, in Psalm 42:5, as they said: *“Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?”*  Reality is that life can be tough—it is a challenge to understand.
It seems that once you get your footing, another wave of problems crash over you with a vengeance.
When you read the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:4-7: *“Rejoice in the Lord always…”* or *“Do not be anxious about anything…”* or *“the peace of God will guard your hearts…”* those words seem distant and unattainable.
They sound good, but experiencing them, well that’s a different story.
And yet, God’s Word is clear—God has a promise for you.
The prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:11) declared: *“This is what the Lord says:…For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”*
“What, God has a plan for me?”  Yes.
“God wants me to prosper; He wants to give me a hope and a future?”
“What do I need to do?
Where do I sign up?”  Good question.
And, I think the best way to answer your questions is to visit ancient Israel.
It was somewhere between 605 and 538 BC—the people of Israel were in exile—captives of Babylon and Persia.
They were in despair.
The city of Jerusalem was in ruins, the Temple broken to bits—all seemed lost.
Israel paid a high price for their continued sin and rejection of God’s Law.
Although they may have reflected upon the ancient words of God to Abraham: *“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make you name great, and you will be a blessing”, *those words now seem to be an ever dimming, distant memory.
I would imagine that the people felt lost and alone.
Hopelessness set in.  Discouragement seemed to reign supreme.
But, God does not forget His promises.
Years before Babylon defeated Israel and led them into captivity; God raised a prophet by the name of Isaiah.
God gave the prophet a word – and word for the people in exile—His people.
A word that would inspire, encourage, and give hope for the future.
What was this word?
Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV) *Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 **He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
30 **Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 **but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.*
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All was not lost—the people of God were not forgotten.
He reminded them that He is God the omnipresent, God the omnipotent, God the omniscient—the God who can and will secure and hold safe His people.
But, nestled in this incredible declaration of God is a revelation of man’s responsibility to receive God’s grace and mercy.
What did Israel need to do to receive God’s blessing and receive God’s strength?
What do we need to do?
In verse 31 we find the answer: *“but those who hope in the Lord.”*
What does it mean to *“hope in the Lord?”  *The word translated “hope” in the New International Version of the Bible is from the Hebrew word: “qavah.”
The King James Version and the New American Standard Bible translates “qavah” with the word “wait.”
It means to wait with patient, eager expectation of what will surely come to pass.
What happens when a person waits for God with patient, eager expectation of what will surely come to pass?
What happens when a person trusts in God for the answer to their problems?
And this is the question I want to answer through God’s Word this morning.
What happens when a person patiently, eagerly, and confidently waits for God is wonderfully illustrated in a Psalm of David.
King David was discouraged.
Maybe it was because of sin.
Maybe it was because of the taunts and ridicule he was receiving from his enemies.
Whatever the reason, David waited; he “qavah” for the Lord:
Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV) *I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 **He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 **He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God…”*
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When David waited—when he patiently, eagerly expected from God what would surely come to pass—well he experienced an amazing transformation in his life.
*“I waited patiently for the Lord…“He turned to me and heard my cry.”*
David said he:
* *
He Heard Me – Cry
What David is saying is that God is not some aloof, disinterested, uncaring entity.
God is not some human creation, a figment of man’s imagination—a notion promoted by Christopher Hitchens’ book /God Is Not Great/ and Richard Dawkins’ book, /The God Delusion/.
The holy, infinite, transcendent God, by His will and purpose, has reached down into the hearts and lives of people, and has declared His love and compassion for us.
What David is declaring is that God is personal, and He cares about you.
What ever your struggle, what ever your pain, God knows and cares.
Doubt, fear, uncertainty, confusion, frustration, stress, grief—God cares about you and wants to enter the affairs of your life.
When you cry—he hears.
When you pray—you have His attention.
Even when you are trying to hide from Him, He is calling out to you.
In the Old Testament of Scripture, there was a man who was running from God.
He finally came to a place in his spiritual life where he could run no more.
His name was Jonah.
Listen to his testimony of God’s desire and power to intervene in our lives:  Jonah 2:2 (NIV) *He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.*
When we pray, God does listen.
Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NIV) *Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
13 **You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.*
And again, we are given this promise: Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV) *‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’*
This is incredible!
The God of the universe, the Creator, the Lord of Life—He cares about us.
/Illustration: /Sometimes in the very early morning hours at the Walker Home, I am awakened to the whimpers of my eight-month old son, Matthew.
I will immediately go to the boys’ room to see if there is a problem.
Maybe his leg got stuck through the wooding bars of the crib; or that he may be cold; or that he may be just lonely.
I must confess, that against all the advice from the experts, I find myself reaching down, and lifting him up close to my chest, and reassuring him that everything is going to be ok.
If I am considered a good father, what about God?  Jesus gives an answer to this question in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:9-11): *“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 **Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
11 **If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”*
God is the God who hears.
But, He does not just hear.
David, as he waited patently—eagerly expecting God’s grace—passionately hoping for God’s inevitable intervention said: *“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire.”
*He did not just hear me, he…
He Lifted Me – Out of the Pit
We see that David was going through a very difficult time.
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