Proclaiming Hope for Hopeless People

Proclaiming Hope for Hopeless People

We have been looking at how to preach in a pandemic.  Here’s the first in the series of posts.  In this post we will consider that proclaiming hope for hopeless people as they face the trauma of this time is a key to effective preaching.

One Small Push

world about to fallRecently, I came across this picture.  I thought of a time when I was cutting down a large, dead tree with my chainsaw.  When cutting down a tree, you are supposed to cut a notch on one side, then cut on a downward motion on the opposite side until there is only one inch of wood left to the tree.  Once I had done that, the tree was wobbling.  All it took was one small push to get the tree to topple over.

Many people feel that way about this time that we are in right now.  It feels like the world is about to crash off some precipice and disintegrate, doesn’t it?  And many people feel like they have already gone over.  So how do you go about proclaiming hope for hopeless people at such a time?

Remind Them That The Bible Says…

The Creation Groans

The Bible never downplays the problems in the world.  Consider what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:20-21:

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in

Creation groans

Creation Groans

hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

When Adam and Eve fell into sin, as described in Genesis 3, the whole creation was impacted.  It became twisted, no longer working the way God intended.  Some describe it as “bent”.  As a result, we have hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, hordes of grasshoppers, wildfires, etc.  When I read the news these days, I can almost hear the groaning of a world that isn’t working right, and the groaning is getting louder as climate change accelerates.

But notice that this subjection of the creation to frustration was done “in hope”.  In other words, there is a positive future to look forward to, when God will create a new heaven and a new earth.

And So Do We

Paul goes on to say, in Romans 8:23:

“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”

We experience groaning as well.  Our groaning comes from many sources: natural disasters that destroy our homes and possessions, accidents that steal our health, pandemics that make us weak, our own sinfulness, and our physical decline.  There’s a lovely t-shirt that says, “Body Under Construction”.  You’ll see it occasionally on a body builder who is fully muscled as he lifts a weight.  Someone came up with a contrasting t-shirt that says, “Body Under Deconstruction”.  That’s the one that I think I should be wearing.  As I write this, I’m scheduled for two surgeries to correct things that went wrong in my body.

But There’s Hope For The Hopeless

Paul goes on to say, “For in this hope we were saved….”  What’s our hope?  That God one day is going to change it all, make everything new.  Things are not just always going to get worse.

The Megaphone of Pain Can Give Hope to the Hopeless

God's megaphone of pain

God’s megaphone

C.S. Lewis, a noted Christian author from a previous generation, described pain as God’s megaphone to us.  Pain, in other words, gets our attention, and helps us get our focus off our pain and onto our faith again.

One of the most shameful times in the history of the US is our time of slavery.  Men, women and children were kept in bondage, and many times were treated horribly.  About the only thing that came out of that period that was good were the heartfelt spirituals.  Here’s a link to the great spiritual, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.   In their pain, the slaves looked forward to a time when the pain would end.

Proclaiming Hope for the Hopeless

You will be a good preacher if, in this time of pandemic, you practice proclaiming hope for hopeless people in your congregation.

Here’s Dr. John Piper reflecting on how God is the God of Hope.