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When You Hit Rock Bottom, Part 1

From the series Jesus Offers Hope

Are you in need of hope today? Are you longing to find that sense of purpose, or experience the joy you once knew? Chip begins this series with a message designed with you in mind. We all need to be reminded the Jesus Offers Hope!

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Message Transcript

Hope is the oxygen of the soul.  And so, I want to begin with a visual image that I hope you’ll keep in your mind. And it’s a little scientific experiment. You’ve probably seen this done before, but I have a candle here that I want to light and I want you to think of this candle as the hope in your life; the hope in your heart. Everybody puts their hope in something or someone.  For some, that light is a job; it’s money; it’s your looks; it’s finding that person someday and for others that hope is your family.

I mean, we all have different things that we put hope in.  You always know, you always know where your hope really is placed when it gets removed and how you respond.

People can endure pain, adversity, trauma, difficulty, relational chaos, depressions, but as long as there’s hope, as long as there’s a -- in their mind and heart— a probability that it will get better tomorrow… something’s going to happen. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. That’s hope.

But when hope is gone what you find is the light begins to go low and it’s actually burning the oxygen out of that little spot - and little by little by little.  What you find is that candle goes out because it’s sucking the oxygen out of the little tube.

And that’s how it happens, little by little by little, and then it gets to the very bottom. As it gets to the bottom, people say, you know something? I give up. I’m out of this marriage.  I’m tired of helping this kid; my boyfriend left me, my girlfriend left me.  I’ve tried.  I’ve been to rehab, twice. I can’t lick this. Just forget it.  And when they give up, devastating things happen.

I put a teaching handout, if you’ll pull that out, it says: Jesus Offers Hope. Tonight, we’re going to look at when you hit rock bottom.

Hope, as defined by Webster’s, is that feeling that what is really wanted is likely to happen. It’s that sense inside that what you really want to happen, is going to happen.

We hit rock bottom when what or who we hoped in cannot or will not come through for us. You hope to have a family and you can’t have kids. You hope to get married and you find yourself single or single again. You hope for a job and you lost yours. And, you’ve tried and tried and tried and you still don’t have one.  You don’t get into the school. You don’t make the team. That person or that thing that you were trusting to come through for you doesn’t, and then you lose hope.  And you get discouraged.  And you get despairing.  And then you get despondent.

We hit rock bottom, usually it happens it’s interesting, in two predictable places. We hit rock bottom in the pit and also in the peak.

In the pit, you know, you’re in an addiction; you’re in the middle of a divorce; you’re in the ICU; you get cut from the team; you lose your job. I mean, you just start going down, down, down.

But the other time is when people peak.  And their hope is in “if I ever” was this successful.  If I ever married this person; if I ever became a star; if I could ever….and then, there’s an emptiness that goes with that.  And honestly, some of the most successful, pretty, well-paid people in the world are among the most hopeless.

Who have the highest percentage of divorce; the highest percentage of drug addictions and rehabs, as we check out Entertainment Tonight or whatever one of the shows that come on all at the same time tells us who is breaking up with whom or what rehab center they’re coming out of.

This is Sports Illustrated. And they did a little article on people we lost. You know, great sports heroes that died. Some were ninety-nine years old, some were seventy-two, and some were twenty-three and as I read through it, I noticed there were a number of younger people who died.

The first one was Antonio Pettigrew. He was a gold medalist on the 400 meter in 2000. He won the World’s in May of ‘08. He later confessed that he used performance enhancing drugs and in August, he committed suicide. Forty-two years old.

Erica Blasberg, twenty-five years old, two time All-American at Arizona, freshman of the year went directly to the LPGA. Now, she’s only twenty-five. She got completely discouraged because she only made the top ten in one tournament.  She struggled with her golf; struggled with her personal life, she committed suicide.

Andy Irons, from this part of the country, you know, surfer.  Two great surfers, the big rivalry between he and Kelly Slater? And Slater retires and Andy, sort of the young buck and he does wild, crazy stuff.  Slater comes out of retirement and we have we have this amazing thing for about the last eight or ten years.

Andy Irons says, my whole driving force right now is to take this little pretty picture - it’s of Slater, his competitor - and crush it. And then he won the world championships in 2003 and again in 2004.  It went back and forth.

He left the tour in 2009, was burned out, his wife got pregnant. They found him in a Dallas hotel room dead.   They found Xanax, Methadone, and Ambien. Xanax is for panic attacks. Methadone is what you use when you’re trying to get off of heroine, and Ambien is for trying to get some sleep.

So, he rides the biggest waves and he’s on top of the world. His wife’s ready to have a baby, but his hope’s gone.

Some of you older guys remember Mel Turpin.  He’s a forty-nine year old, big Kentucky star with about six years in the NBA.  He averages about fourteen points a game--huge guy.  Well, he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in July shortly after his wife suffered a stroke.  He’s got money. He’s got fame, but the person he put his hope in is gone. And he thought, You know what …. ? And his light goes out.

The last one was from Venezuela.  Edwin Volero, 28-years-old.  His first seventeen fights, he won in the first round with knockouts. How’d you like to fight that guy? Six seconds and - Boom! - you’re gone.

In his first 27 fights, they were all knockouts.  He was undefeated, a fiery competitor. He won one world championship; has his belt; and was ready to fight the number one fighter in the world, but he had this problem with anger. And he took out his anger on his wife and stabbed her to death, and then hung himself in jail.

A lot of people would probably say, you know something, if I would ever… could be famous or pretty or be the greatest surfer in the world or be 25 years old and on the LPGA, I mean, I’d have it made.

When you hit rock bottom, the only direction you can look is up.

Some people get there because their life falls apart and some people get there because they hit it on top and they realize there’s not enough money or looks or fame or people or stuff to fill the gaping hole that God made and designed for Him.

So the question I want to ask and answer is: “Where is God when you hit rock bottom?” Where is God when in your personal life the flame, the hope, for whatever reason, whatever relationship, whatever job, whatever difficulty, and whatever peak – when that flame is going down, when you feel like: I can’t take one more day of another day like this, when I don’t think things are never going to change. I don’t think they’ll never change in this marriage; I’m never going to get a good job again, I didn’t get into the right school. I worked all this time and never quite made to -  and… you fill it in.

Where’s God?

Jesus answers that question in Luke, chapter 15.

And as we get there, here’s the occasion. Luke, chapter 15, let me just read the first verse. It says, “Now the tax collectors and the sinners were all gathering around to hear Him” - Jesus. “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.’”

Those who had hit rock bottom; those who had failed morally; those who were the outcasts; those that no one cared about. All of a sudden this itinerant preacher without any formal training begins to teach and heal people and raise people from the dead.  And they’re attracted to him.

He offers them forgiveness and he looks them in the eye and He doesn’t say they’re second-class citizens. He doesn’t approve of their behavior.  He knows they’re very, very far from God, but it’s like, if you’ve ever watched moths at night where they try and find the light, these broken people who have hit rock bottom.

Some of them were wealthy, like tax collectors that had lots of money and lots of success that were empty inside. They found that He was easy to be around.  The words that He spoke and the care that He had and the reality of who He was.

So, they start hanging out with Him and He would even go to their house and hang out in some places that “good religious people” should never hang out.

And so, the religious establishment, that’s the Pharisees, they’re thinking: This guy could not be from God. He’s not credible. There is no way this could be a man sent from God because no one that really loves God and who is holy would hang around with prostitutes and sinners and drug-addicts and people who have been through a marriage or two or had an abortion or abandoned someone. That couldn’t be from God.

We pick up the story in verse 3. Follow along. In verse 3, it says: “Then Jesus told them this parable.” Notice its singular.

He’s telling them this parable, why? The occasion is because He’s hanging out with people that are lost and irreligious and immoral.  And He’s being discredited as a messenger from God.

This parable is to address the Pharisee’s notion of what God is like and how He feels about people that are struggling; who have failed; who’ve hit rock bottom.

Here’s the parable:  “Suppose one of you has a 100 sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the 99 sheep in the open country and go after the one lost sheep until he finds it?  When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and he goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, rejoice with me, I’ve found my lost sheep.”

Application: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Story number two:  “Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and saying, rejoice with me, I’ve found my lost coin. In this same way, I tell you, there is more rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Singular parable, story number three:  “There was a man,” Jesus continued, “who had two sons. The younger one said to his father give me my share of the estate.  So the father divided the property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all that he had and he set out for distant country, and there he squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he spent everything, there was a severe famine in the whole country and he began to be in need.  So, he went and he hired himself out to a citizen of that country who sent him into his field to feed his pigs.” not a great job for a Jewish boy.

“He longed to feed his own stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything to eat.” Translation: rock bottom.  “When he came to his senses he said, how many of my father’s hired men have food to spare and here I am starving to death.  I will set out and go back to my father and I will say to my father, ‘I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired men.’  So he got up and he went to his father, but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. And, he ran to his son and he threw his arms around him and he kissed him.”

Literally, it’s in a tense of the verb, that he kissed him repeatedly. “The son said to him ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to the servants, ‘Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.’”

Reason: “’For this son of mine was dead and is alive again. He was lost and he’s found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

The scene changes. That’s the younger brother, now the camera moves to the older, faithful brother.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field working. When he came near the house, he heard the music and the dancing so he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on?  ‘Your brother has come home,’ he replied. ‘And your father has killed the fatted calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in so the father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look, all these years I’ve been slaving for you, I’ve never disobeyed your orders, yet, you haven’t even given me a goat to celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fatted calf for him?’  ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you’re always with me. And everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and now he’s found.’”

The point of this parable is to understand how God feels and how God responds to people who have hit rock bottom.  Immoral, irreligious people who, by their own work or by the work of others, find themselves absolutely without hope.

In your notes, if you’ll pull out a pen, I’ve made some observations that I think will help you understand it.  First of all, this one parable has three mini stories. Did you notice that?

The first story is about the lost sheep.  He tells this story because sheep were very important. They use their wool; it was a part of the landscape. They understood. It would be a valuable thing.  Everyone knew you would leave--in this open country it was safe--the ninety-nine. Everyone knew, you would go get him.

The second story is about the lost coin. This one takes it from something that’s important to even more important. The woman sweeps because in that day women who were married, as a sign of being married, they would take ten silver coins to form a headband, would put it around their head.  Then, in public people knew they were married.  It was worth about one day’s wage but the sentimental value was even more. It’d be like losing your wedding band. I mean, she says, “I gotta find this!”

The third story goes from a sheep that’s important to something very important like a reminder of who you are and what you have--not to mention a full day’s wage work. And then there’s the lost son, and we hear this story of a lost son who disrespects his father, runs away, and then is found.

Each story has five things in common. If we were doing Bible study together, sitting around a living room, we might do some observations. And, at the end of our time, we’d come up with five observations about these three mini-stories.

One: something valuable is lost. Two: there’s an intensive search that occurs. Three: that which is lost is found. Four: a great celebration follows. I mean, there’s a party. There is music. There is dancing. There’s excitement each time.

Five: the spiritual application is explained - more rejoicing in heaven. God rejoices. The angels in heaven.  Each time, it says, these are many pictures that explain how God the Father feels. How heaven rejoices when one sinner repents.