Depressed? Practice Hope!

Making Life Work
Read: Psalm 42:1-11
Focus: Psalm 42:11

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

I’m not a mental health expert, so don’t go throwing away your meds if you are under the care of a medical professional. And please don’t take this as the final word on clinical depression. So with that caveat out of the way, let me just say that I think the authors of this psalm, the sons of Korah, David’s worship team, are on to something.

And since we believe this sacred book, the Bible, is God’s perfect revelation of himself and his will for mankind, then let’s lean it to it as our perfect and only rule of faith and practice. Let’s treat it as we should—as the first, highest and best authority by which we will live our lives!

So when it comes to the ups and downs that we commonly experience in our daily existence, this psalm reminds us that the sure path to emotional balance and inner joy is to practice hope. The psalmist says, “put your hope in God.” The Apostle Paul said it a bit differently—but he had the same thing in mind: Put on…hope.” (I Thessalonians 5:8)

Practice hope! How? Start by dwelling on the love and kindness that God has for you. Dwell on all the things he has done for you for which you are grateful. Dwell on all the promises he has made to you in Scripture. Dwell on the promise of heaven. Basically, just do some reverse worrying. What do you do when you are worried? You dwell on the negative. So just turn that around and dwell on the truth of God’s Word. Do that—practice hope—and watch it “rock your world.”

Don’t believe that will work? Well, let me give you just one example of how hope can change you. Suppose you were to receive a phone call later today from an old friend who enthusiastically says, “Friend, I have good news. You can take a 7-day trip to Hawaii with my company that won’t cost you a dime. We have room for two more…but here’s the catch: we leave tomorrow evening at 9:00 PM. The boss is taking us on his private jet, and we’ll be staying at his beachfront villa in Maui.” You tell him you’ll call him right back, and the minute you get off the phone, you and your spouse, who was listening in, start thinking and planning. Out comes the pen and paper, and you begin to prioritize what you need to do to make this happen. Then you call the friend back, and tell him you’re in.

If that were to happen, I guarantee that you would then begin to ruthlessly align your life over the next 24 hours to pull off that all expenses paid trip to paradise. You might say that the hope of Hawaii tomorrow changed the way you lived today.

There’s something even better and more permanent than Hawaii. It’s called heaven. So why don’t you live like you are going there tomorrow—everyday! Here’s the deal: You’ll be amazed at how hitching your hope to the promise of heaven (or the love of God, or the blessings of salvation, or any other truth of God’s Word) will change everything you experience today—even your emotions.

Practice hope!

__________________

“He that lives in hope dances without music.” (George Herbert)

 

Making Life Work: So why don’t you give it a try! As the psalm says, “Hope thou in God!”

Keep Hope Alive

Read: Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Hope is an incredible motivator in life, a powerful sustainer of love, and arguably, it is the most effective instigator of spiritual growth. On the other hand, the loss of hope is arguably the greatest devastator of life a human being can experience.  That’s how profound powerful hope is.

The Contemporary English Version translates our proverb this way: “Not getting what you want can make you feel sick, but a wish that comes true is a life-giving tree.” That’s so true, isn’t it?  We’ve all been there—the loss of a job, the breakup of a relationship, the crushing of a dream—it takes your legs right out from under you. It tempts you to give up, shrink back, curl up in a ball and just quit on life.  There is no pain quite like the loss of hope.

But when you have hope you can survive and actually thrive through just about anything. When hope is stoked, even when what you’re hoping for is still a far off expectation, suddenly there is energy, drive, focus, and patient endurance.

That’s how powerful hope is, and that’s why we’ve got to practice it.  Huh?  Practice hope? Yeah, that’s what the Bible says.  I Thessalonians 5:8 says we’ve got to exercise hopefulness…we’ve got to practice being hopeful…we’ve got to put on hope:

“But since we belong to the day let us be sober
and put on the breastplate of faith and love,
and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation.”

You see, hope is not just some vague and lofty concept, it’s actually a very practical thing. Just like a football player puts on his helmet for the game, or a soldier puts on his helmet for battle, we’ve got to put on the helmet of hope, particularly the hope of our salvation, because it is what enables us to endure life’s battles and come out victorious at the end of the day.

So how can you literally put hope on as a helmet?  First, quit being passive about hope.  It’s not just going to happen for you, you’ve got to practice it.  Then second, develop and nurture patterns of thinking that are founded in hope. The fact is, not only are there ways of thinking that will kill hope, there are ways of thinking that produce hope.

Let me illustrate:  Suppose you were to receive a phone call today from an old friend who enthusiastically says, “Friend, I have good news.  You can take a 7-day trip to Hawaii with my company that won’t cost you a dime.  We have room for two more…but here’s the catch: we leave tomorrow evening at 9:00 PM.  The boss is taking us on his private jet, and we’ll be staying at his beachfront villa in Maui.”

You tell him you’ll call him right back, and the minute you get off the phone, you and your spouse, who was listening in, start thinking and planning. Out comes the pen and paper, and you begin to prioritize what you need to do to make this happen.  Then you call the friend back, and tell him you’re in.

Now here’s the deal: I’ll guarantee that you will begin to ruthlessly align your life over the next 24 hours to pull this off. Am I right?  You see, the hope of Hawaii tomorrow will change the way you live today.

There’s something even better and more permanent that Hawaii.  It’s called heaven.  The most important hope of all—the hope of your salvation—is promising you a better tomorrow.  So start aligning your life today for eternity with Jesus—and be ruthless about it—and watch what hope will do for you!

“We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure.”
Hebrews 6:19

Your Assignment, Should You Choose To Accept It:

For the next seven days, right before you go to sleep and then again when you first wake up, think about what heaven will be like.  That’s practicing hope.

Psalm 42: Depressed? Practice Hope!

I’m not a mental health expert, so don’t go throwing away your meds if you are under the care of a medical professional. And please don’t take this as the final word on clinical depression. So with that caveat out of the way, let me just say that I think the authors of this psalm, the sons of Korah, David’s worship team, are on to something.

hope

Read Psalm 42:1-11

Depressed? Practice Hope!

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
(Psalm 42:11)

I’m not a mental health expert, so don’t go throwing away your meds if you are under the care of a medical professional. And please don’t take this as the final word on clinical depression. So with that caveat out of the way, let me just say that I think the authors of this psalm, the sons of Korah, David’s worship team, are on to something.

Since we believe this sacred book, the Bible, is God’s perfect revelation of himself and his will for mankind, then let’s lean it to it as our perfect and only rule of faith and practice. Let’s treat it as we should—as the first, highest and best authority by which we will live our lives!

So when it comes to the ups and downs that we commonly experience in our daily existence, this psalm reminds us that the sure path to emotional balance and inner joy is to practice hope. The psalmist says, “put your hope in God.” The Apostle Paul said it a bit differently—but he had the same thing in mind: Put on…hope.” (I Thessalonians 5:8)

Practice hope! How? Start by dwelling on the love and kindness that God has for you. Dwell on all the things he has done for you for which you are grateful. Dwell on all the promises he has made to you in Scripture. Dwell on the promise of heaven. Basically, just do some reverse worrying. What do you do when you are worried? You dwell on the negative. So just turn that around and dwell on the truth of God’s Word. Do that—practice hope—and watch it “rock your world.”

Don’t believe that will work? Well, let me give you just one example of how hope can change you. Suppose you were to receive a phone call later today from an old friend who enthusiastically says, “Friend, I have good news. You can take a 7-day trip to Hawaii with my company that won’t cost you a dime. We have room for two more…but here’s the catch: we leave tomorrow evening at 9:00 PM. The boss is taking us on his private jet, and we’ll be staying at his beachfront villa in Maui.” You tell him you’ll call him right back, and the minute you get off the phone, you and your spouse, who was listening in, start thinking and planning. Out comes the pen and paper, and you begin to prioritize what you need to do to make this happen. Then you call the friend back, and tell him you’re in.

If that were to happen, I guarantee that you would then begin to ruthlessly align your life over the next 24 hours to pull off that all expenses paid trip to paradise. You might say that the hope of Hawaii tomorrow changed the way you lived today.

There’s something even better and more permanent that Hawaii. It’s called heaven. So why don’t you live like you are going there tomorrow—everyday! Here’s the deal: You’ll be amazed at how hitching your hope to the promise of heaven (or the love of God, or the blessings of salvation, or any other truth of God’s Word) will change everything you experience today—even your emotions.

So why don’t you give it a try! As the psalm says, “Hope thou in God!”

Good Grief!

Read I Corinthians 15

“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood
cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does
the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
(I Corinthians 15:50)

Food For Thought… I suppose I have conducted close to a hundred funerals as a pastor. You have been to your fair share of them as well—or you will by the time you reach the end of your journey. Death is simply a part of life. It has been ever since the fall of Adam and Eve when sin entered the human race. And the fact of the matter is, you and I will die someday, too, because the last time I checked, the death rate was still hovering around 100%.

What is so profound is the amazing difference in the funerals I have conducted for non-believers and memorial services that I have led for Christians. I use the terms “funeral” and “memorial” as a very purposeful distinction. And I can sum up the difference in three words: hope, joy and peace.

Funerals don’t have much hope; there is not much deep and lasting joy at the death of an unbeliever; people don’t leave a funeral service for a non-Christian with much peace—if any at all. I am not saying that a non-Christian didn’t leave good memories. In many cases, they did. They just didn’t leave eternal hope, joy and peace.

To be sure, in a memorial service, there is grief at the loss at the passing of a Christian. But there is an amazing and undeniable sense of hope that pervades the atmosphere and sustains those who are grieving. It is the hope that Paul describes here in I Corinthians 15 that the dead body of that Christian has been transformed into a eternally living, spiritual body. As the wife of the great preacher R. A. Torrey said at the death of their twelve-year-old daughter, “I’m so glad Elisabeth is with the Lord, and not in that box.”

There is also a special kind of joy that just doesn’t make sense in the natural. I have often sat in amazement at such services as songs of praise and gratitude are lifted to the God of all comfort. That just doesn’t happen at the funeral of a non-Christian, where typically, wailing rather than worship fills the air. But at a Christian’s memorial, it is not untypical for worship and wonder to drown out the sounds of death.

And then there is the peace that passes all understanding that accompanies the believer’s death. It is the kind of peace that guards the hearts and minds of those whose lives have been touched by loss. It is God’s gift of peace, and it makes such a loss endurable. It is the kind of peace that comes from knowing that our gracious God is in control—even in the death of a loved one—and that our God does all things well, and will bring good out of loss and glory out of grief. It is peace that the world cannot give and the world cannot take away.

Of course, there is grief at the loss of a Christian loved one—but it is a good grief. How can that be? One word: Jesus. Sin and death entered the human race because of Adam, Paul says in I Corinthians 15:45-48, but through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the power of sin and the sting of death has been neutralized. Thanks be to God for our resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus. Through him, we can defiantly declare to death,

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?

Prayer… All thanks to you, Father God, for you have given me victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ my Lord.

One More Thing… “Death stung himself to death when he stung Christ.” —William Romaine

The Right To Be Happy?

Read Romans 5

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that
tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character;
and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint…”
(Romans 5:3-4)

Food For Thought… Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that each American, and I assume, every human being on earth, ought to have the right to the pursuit of happiness. That is a good thing, depending on the definition of happiness—which I suspect, is an inexhaustible subject that we are still trying to work out to this day, nearly 300 years later.

Jefferson said, mind you, the pursuit of happiness, but he didn’t say we had the right to be happy. Popular culture, driven largely by the modern media, has fed us the line that we have a “divine right” to be happy for a generation or two now, but I think we who follow Christ would be much better off if we were disabused of that notion.

We do not have the right to be happy! We do, however, have the right to a far better attribute: The right to be holy. Jesus Christ died on the cross to make sure of that. That is what Paul is spending a great deal of time describing here in Romans 5. In fact, Paul begins this chapter with these great words:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

We have been justified by our faith. That justification came by Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, by which his righteousness was imputed to us. Since we are righteous through Christ by his death and through our faith, we are declared holy in the sight of a holy God, and therefore secure for all eternity. By this, we rightly glory in this unshakable hope—which we might say is what true happiness is all about.

But there is more. Not only do we rejoice in this hope of the future glory of salvation soon to be realized, we rejoice in the glory of our present sufferings. Why? Because as Paul says, those tribulations loosen this present world’s grip on our loyalties and produce in us the stuff of heaven: perseverance in our faith, Christ-like character, and the unshakeable hope of eternity.

It is time we redefine happiness. True happiness is the imputed righteousness of Christ. True happiness is the hope of the glory of God. True happiness is the very tribulations that would make the normal earthling unhappy, but reminds the heaven-bound believer of that very thing: that they are bound for heaven.

That’s the happiness I want to pursue.

Prayer… Lord, help me to embrace my present sufferings as temporary reminders of your grace and my future glory.

One more thing…
“If we really believe that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home,’ why should we not look forward to the arrival?” — C.S. Lewis

Being God’s Friend

Read Romans 4

“God’s promise of eternal life is received through the same kind of faith demonstrated by Abraham, who believed in the God who resurrects the dead and creates new things out of nothing.”
(Romans 4:16)

Food For Thought… I don’t know if you’ve done much thinking about Abraham, but what a true hero of the faith! Here’s a guy who was saved by faith even before there was a Bible or the Law or Christ’s death and resurrection or a community of faith. God appeared to Abraham one day—we’re not even sure if he’d had any previous interaction with God or if this was simply an out of the blue encounter—and Abraham said, “Okay God—I’m on board. What’s next?”

Abraham then went on a life-long journey with God in which he became known as a friend of God—a pretty cool designation, I’d say—and the father of God’s people.

Obviously, Abraham was a very special man, and the Bible holds him up as an example to emulate for believers like you and me. We all ought to be Abraham-like in the spiritual dimension of our lives.

But is that even possible? Is there even the smallest chance that I can develop that same kind of Abraham-like relationship with God? Can I attain a walk with God that will be an Abraham-like example to others? And if it’s possible, then how?

Well, it is possible! Paul goes on to say in verse 24, “God will count us righteous too if we believe in him who raised from the dead this Jesus who died for our sins and was raised to make us right with God.”

How can we attain friendship with God? I can sum up the “how” in two words: Faith and hope—technically, that’s three words, but work with me!

First, you’ve got to make resurrection the foundation of your faith.

That’s what Abraham did! Romans 4:17 says, “Abraham believed in the God who brings back the dead to life.” Abraham was a little ahead of his time—like a few thousand years—but he believed in the God of the resurrection. What Paul is referring to here is the story of God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac on the altar (you can read the story in Genesis 22), and Abraham’s willingness to actually go through with it. Why would Abraham be willing to do such a thing? Because he had faith in the God of the resurrection—the God who could, and would, raise Isaac back to life again.

The truth is, to have that kind of Abraham-like faith, you and I have to have that same Abraham-like level of trust in the God of the resurrection. If you don’t have a foundational and resolute belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and his promise to resurrect you from the dead, your faith will not only not develop to Abraham-like proportions, it will be meaningless. Paul teaches us in I Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”

In other words, if we have no faith in the God of the resurrection, then I am wasting my energy writing this blog…and you’re wasting your time reading it…and you’ll never come close to living an Abraham-like life of faith. But the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead proves that God is who he said he is and will fulfill what he has promised to do. And the faith you place in the God who resurrects the dead will empower you to live the kind of God-honoring faith that Abraham had.

Second, you’ve got to claim resurrection as the basis of your hope.

That, too, is what Abraham did. Romans 4:18 tells us that “even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept on hoping”…believing in God’s promises that one day he would be the father of many nations when his only son, through whom his lineage would continue, was about to die. In other words, Abraham didn’t let his circumstances dominate his life; he allowed God’s promises to dictate his life. Abraham believed that if Isaac was going to die on the altar, God would raise him to life. That was his hope.

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but the exercise of that kind of hope is arguably the most powerful discipline you can engage as a believer. Count Bismarck said, “Without the hope of [Christian resurrection], this life is not worth the effort of getting dressed in the morning.” He was right! Christian hope is that important, and that powerful.

Karl Marx proclaimed that religious hope is the opiate of the people. But Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure.” And Paul writes in Romans 5:5 that this “hope does not disappoint us!”

Do you practice hope? I’m not talking about the breezy kind of optimism that Mary Martin sang about in South Pacific when she crooned, “I’m stuck like a dope with a thing called hope.” I’m talking about the exercise of hope that declares that you are choosing to believe in God’s promises, not just in spite of the evidence, but in scorn of the consequences. We’ve been called to practice that kind of hope.

Faith, hope and the resurrection…that was Abraham’s secret. I have faith that it will be your secret too…at least I hope so!

Prayer… Lord, I believe! I believe in you. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. I believe that his resurrection guarantees my resurrection from the dead. In you I have placed my faith and in you I have put my hope. My prayer is that the exercise of my faith and the practice of my hope will lead to the kind of relationship Abraham had with you—he was your friend, God. That’s what I want!

One more thing… “For a mere legend about Christ’s resurrection to have gained circulation and to have had the impact it had without one shred of basis in fact, is [unbelievable].” —William F. Albright