Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Jesus Offers Hope Resources on sale now.
About this series
Jesus Offers Hope
We all put our hope in something or someone. Hope is the oxygen of the soul! At some point, though, most of us experience hope that never pans out. What then? Is it possible to hang on to hope when life doesn't make sense or when things go from bad to worse? Or, maybe you've received exactly what you hoped for, only to realize that it doesn't satisfy! In this series, Chip draws from New Testament parables to reveal how to experience and safeguard unshakable hope, in spite of your circumstances.More from this series
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if You’d been here, my brother would not have died.’”
What’s her response? This is the second time. It’s: I thought You loved me. I thought You cared. If You would have showed up, You could have fixed my life.
Then, notice Jesus’ response to her hurt and to her pain. “When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”
Here’s what I want to remind you. It may be hard; you may not understand it; it may be difficult; but I’ll tell you one thing I learned Jesus was crying with me. And He had not abandoned me.
He loves you and He’s for you. And He may not turn the switch and fix the problem; remove the cancer; give you your house back; cause your marriage to come back all at once; find the person you’re looking for, as a single person; give you the job that you’re always looking for.
In the midst of what you can’t understand, if like Martha and Mary, you’ll come and then be honest and tell Him: You know what? This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. And shoot it really straight and then sit and listen, He says: I’ll meet you here. I do love you. Your pain elicits the heart of God.
Then notice His response: “’Where have you laid him,’ He asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied.” And then you have this short, powerful, “Jesus wept.”
God’s purposes are bigger than fixing my problems and your problems and getting your life to work out and my life to work out when and how we want. Its way bigger, but He cares deeply.
“But some of them said, could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” This is the third time. What are they basically saying? Well, yeah, it seems like He really cares and He’s crying now, and He’s very compassionate, but if He was really compassionate, He’d have been here four days ago and helped the guy.
In the midst of our difficulty, our temptation is to begin to believe that God doesn’t really care. I got a letter from a lady. I never know how God does all this but it came in the mail yesterday and she’s a listener to Living on the Edge.
And she says, “I’m a Romans 12 school teacher. And I continue to get down on my knees in my classroom and I pray each morning for each of my students. Since last year, we’ve joined a Bible teaching church with community groups,” or small groups, “and my marriage has been restored. And that’s no small accomplishment on God’s part since we buried a teenage son and both of us are recovering from addiction. Our son, Chris that we lost, died of leukemia. He was diagnosed when he was ten years old. At the time there were no books out there for children with cancer.”
As you read the whole story, you find a woman who is in a really, really difficult, painful life that doesn’t make sense--a ten year old boy gets leukemia and they go through a journey to his early teens. And if you know anything about what happens when you lose a child, over 80% of people that lose a child end up in divorce.
In the journey and the pain, as they were trying to deal with those things, they found that alcohol would relieve some of the pain. And both she and her husband become alcoholics. Somewhere along the way she began to listen and ponder and seek after God. She realized that she needed to draw near to Him and she got in a good Bible teaching church. She began to seek after God. Then she had this dream that maybe God could use this difficult painful thing with her son to help others.
She said she tried for two years to get a publisher for her book. She titled it, The Bald Headed Princess. You get it? You know when you go through chemo and you lose all your hair? It was a book about dealing with it as a child. “And eventually I got discouraged so I surrendered it to God and I asked Him to teach me whatever I was supposed to learn from that experience.” Do you see the process God takes us through? Martha - surrender; Mary - surrender; you - surrender; me - surrender.
A horrific losing of a child. Finally, wanting to do something good and saying: God, what’s the deal? I don’t understand. And finally, it’s, Okay, I’ll tell you what. Your agenda, Your way, Your timing. I’m going to surrender it to You. Do you see a theme here? Surrender. Just believe. Believe. Do you believe? Do you trust Me?
“Then, one special day I received a phone call from an interested publisher. They wanted the book and the day they called, it was our son, Chris’ birthday.
God was telling me that He has the perfect timing for everything. He knows how impatient I am and He wants me to trust Him and have faith in Him even when it seems like nothing is working out. Just like my marriage and my alcoholism. Since last year I’ve been reading the Bible daily and I came across Hebrews 11:1 - Now, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. I am certain that our Chris is in heaven and that God will continue to use my writing to help others.”
See the journey? God doesn’t always show up and wave the magic wand of answered prayer to take us “out of.” Sometimes He delivers us through it. His purposes are beyond. If you never begin to look at life through the lens of eternity, you will never be able to make sense of this life, through just the “now.” God’s purposes are bigger. And His love is greater.
Notice what happens now. Jesus decides, in this case, He’s going to go ahead and solve the problem.
“Jesus,” verse 38, “once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ He said. But,” ever the pragmatist, Martha, “the sister of the dead man said, ‘By this time, there’s a bad odor for he’s been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone and Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe [Circle it] that You sent Me.’ When He had said this, Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face and Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’”
Now, did you notice how Jesus chose to solve this problem? What’d He do? What’d He do? Did He touch him? He spoke. He spoke. In the midst of your pain, He speaks. When we talk about life in Christ and BIO: Before God, In community, On mission – this is about: In the midst of your pain and hurt you end up living in the Psalms; you live in the gospels and you say, God, this doesn’t make any sense. God, I hurt. God, I want this to be fixed. God, I want her to come back. God, I want him to change from this addiction that he has. God, do something with one of my kids. God, please, you know I’ve been single. Oh, God, please, I need a job. God, turn my house around.
Through all that you draw near to Him and He draws near to you. But I will tell you, He speaks life through His Word. David followed Him and in Psalm 119 would say, “If Your Word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”
I do not understand how it works, but I will tell you its living and active; a two-edged sword piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of joint and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
It’s a written word but in the heart of a person, who is desperate and hurting, it will become the living Word and the Spirit of God will take the Word of God and it’ll begin to give you promises and hope.
And by the way, it’s not hope for next week. You know, when you have thoughts like, I can’t take this. I can’t do one more week like this. God says: Absolutely not. You can just do the next ten minutes. I’ll give you grace for the next ten minutes. I can’t live one more day like this - You’re absolutely right. Grace comes tomorrow for the pain that you feel when you get to tomorrow. But God will be in the tomorrow. All you have to do is say: I don’t know how but I’m going to hang on. I’m going to hope. I want to meet You.
And what’ll happen is, He’ll speak. And often instead of solving or fixing your problem or making your life work out, or mine, the way I want, when I want, He’ll begin to reveal Himself to you in ways that you never dreamed. He will reveal things about you to you that you never dreamed and in that process a transformation occurs.
The Apostle Paul would take this same truth in Romans chapter 5 and I put it in the discussion questions, so you don’t need to write it down. But he says, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God.”
He says, and then in verse 2 of Romans 5 he says, “And not only in this but we exalt in our tribulation,” or our difficulty, our pain, our adversity, “knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance” - hupomeno. “And perseverance brings about character and character brings about hope and hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God is poured out in our heart” - in the midst of that process, when it’s so difficult there’s nowhere to go. And there’s nowhere to go and you know what the will of God is? You just don’t give up and you don’t give in.
And what happens is that perseverance produces a character change - a level of trust and when you see that kind of change you realize there’s hope forever and there’s hope now.
And in the midst of that you feel the compassion of God. He pours His love into your life and your heart. He does it through His Word and you heard He does it through community. He does it through the lives of others. And He does a purging, purifying, supernatural thing through you.
I will guarantee the most loving, kind Christ-like people that you will ever meet in the world have suffered deeply. It’s part of the agenda.
The epilogue is two responses: “Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did put their faith [you can circle that phrase – it’s the same as “believe”] put their faith in Him.”
They watched them suffer. They watched what happened. They watched Jesus. In the midst of your pain and my pain and our struggle and how we respond, that’s the most powerful thing in the world.
Many people around you will believe, not because, God shakes the magic wand and “Wow!”, but they watch you go through the process and not give up hope.
But there’s always the other group, the skeptics. No matter how much evidence, they respond the same: “But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” They’re little tattle-tails. “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. ‘What are we accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here, this man is performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him. The Romans will come and take away our temple and our nation.’” One translation says our place and our nation.
Put a box around “temple.” Put a box around “nation.” These are the two enemies of your faith. Now, imagine this. Someone reports: This guy was dead. He was dead for four days. This Jesus, Rabbi guy, you know, the controversial guy, we watched Him. He really loves these ladies. He prayed and He wept. Then He just went and He just spoke words and the guy came out. You know? Like Mummy, the first movie. They peeled off this stuff - and they run, “Pharisees, Pharisees, Pharisees! Did you see what He’s doing?”
Their response, instead of bowing down saying: What more evidence could anyone ever need that this man is God? Instead, what? If everyone believes in Him, we’ll lose our place - the temple - and our nation.
Our place, or the temple, is your position. Our nation, you can write, power.
They knew that if Jesus reigned and was identified as the Messiah, that their role, their status, their position is going to change. And they knew the Romans would come in and they would change their nation. And so, they would lose their power. They’d lose their control.
And your desperate attempt to hang on to your position and your power or control over your life and your circumstances, and your family, and your job, and your world, and your self-made security in home and money, are the things that prevent you from simply believing. They prevent me.
Somehow we’ve grown to believe that unless there’s so much money in some account somewhere; and we own our own home; and our marriages, if we’re married, are deep and intimate and wonderful; and our kids are getting into the right schools; and all these little circumstances are lined up, then life is good and God is faithful. That may pass for 20th or 21st century evangelical American and much Christianity around the world, but it has little or nothing to do with the Gospel or the New Testament of Jesus Christ. God never promised that.
God promised that He’d be with you. God promised that He’s good. God promised that you would have an eternal hope. And God promised that regardless of what you go through in a fallen world, He’ll never leave you or forsake you. And, that He loves you.
And that you and I need to surrender and ask: How do I fulfill Your agenda? That’s what that prayer is: Your kingdom come. Your reign and Your will be done. How? On earth as it is in heaven. And every time we get to see that kind of a person, that Romans 12 kind of Christian, what you find is life – in them and around them.
At the very bottom I put a couple questions that I’d like you to ponder. Sometimes we - God lets our problems go from bad to impossible so we - can you fill it in? – might believe. Jesus said, “This is the work of God that you might believe in Him, who He has sent.”
Well, what are you supposed to believe, exactly? Two things: Believe in the depth of His love for us. And second, choose to believe in the extent of His power available to us.
He is the resurrection and the life. He can bring life; He can change circumstances. He can do anything, but He does it to us according to our faith.
So, I would ask you, where in your life do you have a bad or impossible situation?
I’d encourage you with a family or friend or in your small group to read out loud Romans 5:1-5. And kick that around: If this is the process God takes normal people through…
I’d encourage you, question three, to read 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 and realize that people who’ve loved God with all their heart that are far more holy than we will ever be, ask God specifically, like the Apostle Paul, for some deliverance and God said, “No.” And told him that His grace is sufficient for him. And that He does supernatural, amazing things in our difficulty and our weakness.
And then I would encourage you to ask yourself who you need in your life to make it through your present difficulty. God doesn’t want you to go through it alone. For some of you, you’re sitting here going, I don’t have one of those right now. Then, ask the next question. Who, in your network, might need you to jump into their life and say could I help you through this? I really want to love you. I want to be the Christ that will sit with you; cry with you; pray with you. That’s how the body works.