God can turn your life around because He is “The God of Great Reversals.” We can see God work in Hannah’s life in the book of 1 Samuel.
Did you know the story behind the well-known song “It is Well With My Soul”? The song has comforted millions over many years.
You and I know people whose faith has failed. Perseverance can be hard.
Joseph in the book of Genesis sat in a prison cell for well over a decade, but he eventually became a ruler in Egypt.
In the 1600s, John Bunyan sat in a prison cell for twelve years because of his preaching, but it was there that he wrote one of the greatest Christian classics of all time, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”
And there are perseverance examples outside the church world.
In history and archaeology, King Tut was almost not King Tut. What I mean is today he is known around the world…but only because one guy persevered.
In 1904 at the age of 31, Howard Carter had no job and no money, so he left the field of archaeology. In 1907 a series of fortuitous events got him connected to the wealthy Lord Carnarvon.
At the same time another archaeologist, Theodore Davis, assumed there was nothing to be found in his search and gave up his rights for his digging area. Carter took over the spot and began years of digging.
In 1922 Lord Carnarvon told Carter he was done. You have to have money, so Carter pleaded with him to reconsider.
Carnarvon agreed to ONE MORE SEASON.
So on November 1 they started digging again. And on November 4 they found the stairway that led to King Tut’s tomb!
One of the greatest discoveries of all time was made possible ONLY BECAUSE OF PERSEVERANCE.
How do you handle it when your life is a mess? Especially when it’s not even your fault. Do you hang on or do you bail? The Old Testament story of Joseph gives us a great example of what to do.
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The NBA Playoffs are in full swing. Some are trying to predict who will be upset and who will make it to the finals.
I write this after the first days of the playoffs. Many have predicted that the Cleveland Cavaliers will be in the finals. Time will tell. But you have to win to get there.
In Cleveland’s first game they were humiliated, losing 98-80. It was a lopsided game from start to finish.
Yet Cleveland has Lebron James, who is considered to be the best player in the NBA. Without a doubt he is the King of Basketball.
So why did Cleveland lose?
Simple. No help. Winning is a team effort. You could be the best at what you do, but if you are not getting help from the people around you, it’s a no-win situation.
That’s how it is in sports and in life. Unfortunately, many will never reach their potential because they don’t have the help of others. Which means we all have the opportunity to help someone go further in life.
Today, this week, you can help someone win. Who will it be?
For some reason it’s a natural tendency for human beings to make easy things hard.
I’m not sure why we do that, but we do.
Let me illustrate. When I played football as a kid, there was never an argument over whether or not someone caught the ball. We all knew what a catch was. Simple. He either caught it or he didn’t. No middle of the road, no guesses.
Well, the NFL doesn’t agree. Today no one seems to know what a catch is.
Just recently in a huge game between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers there was just such a play with 28 seconds left on the clock. The Pittsburgh receiver made a catch just over the goal line for the game-winning score.
Oh. But it was ruled a non-catch.
I will not take the time to explain the various nuances of a catch in the NFL, but most of us that day simply assumed he caught the ball. And it gets even odder. Later a spokesman for the NFL referred to the non-catch as a catch, only it wound up being a non-catch. Go figure.
Seems to me there was a time when we all knew what a “catch” was. Somehow over the years a catch was no longer a catch. Instead, it all has become incredibly and confusingly complicated.
Isn’t that what we do on a regular basis in many areas of life?
Let’s go a step farther and see how we tend to make the Bible more complicated than it really is.
Think of all the confusion around some of the words and topics in the Bible over the last couple of decades.
Just a few short years ago, no one was confused over the meaning of gender. Male and female. As soon as a baby was born, we all knew whether it was a boy or a girl. Now some want to wait until the child grows and decides which gender it chooses to be. Now that’s confusing.
Marriage is another word. Growing up there were no discussions as to what it meant.
From the time of Adam and Eve all the way through most of the 20th century, no confusion. It was always between a man and a woman. Now marriage has taken on new meanings. In fact, some have even expressed a desire to marry their computer.
I guess because they spend so much time with it.
One more example. In Exodus 20 Moses wrote that we should follow the example of God who “worked”–that is, created the earth and all that is in it over a period of six days. Pretty clear. Work six days, and then take a day off.
Not so fast. Along come some scholars to muddy the waters. All of a sudden Moses didn’t mean six days as you and I understand six days. Then why did he say six days? Now I’m confused.
Why can’t I pick up my Bible, start in Genesis 1 and read it as a ten year old? My guess is if you had a ten year old read Genesis 1 and Exodus 20 and then gave a pop quiz asking how many days it took God to create the earth, the answer would be six days…without hesitation.
Those two chapters are not complicated unless you want them to be. All the words are rather clear, that is, unless you choose otherwise.
For me, I am sticking with the simple and obvious.
And yes, I may be biased, but in that particular game, the catch was a catch!
In the recent American League series funeral arrangements were being made for the N.Y. Yankees. And of course, the blame would land on the shoulders of Joe Giradi, the manager. Which meant that his days of managing the Yankees was coming to a close.
After all they were down 2-0 in a five game series. And they were playing the hot and heavily favored Cleveland Indians. Yes, the situation was bleak.
Which reminds me of David in the book of 1 Samuel. After killing the Giant and serving King Saul his career went south. Saul was on a giant ego trip and was not about to share the spotlight with someone else. It got so bad that Saul began to make plans for taking David’s life. We find David living in a cave. Not the best living conditions, but what is interesting is how bleak David’s situation was. Notice those with him. “Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain to them” (1 Samuel 22:2 NASB). Clearly the odds were stacked against David. Yet we all remember him as the great king of Israel.
Back to the Yankees. They won game three. But the chance of them winning three in a row to win the series 3-2 was slim at best. While I am not personally a Yankee fan I became one. I love classic comebacks. And I love cheering for the underdog.
Just as David’s comeback has gone down in history so had the Yankees. General Manager, Brian Cashman, said after game 2, “We just have to keep batting. Nothing is over yet.”
One other thing to keep in mind. One of the Yankees’ top hitters struck out 16 times over the five games. In fact, he only got one hit! That in itself is a recipe for disaster. That’s where the team picked up the slack. It truly does take a team.
Four Quick Hits
One of the better known verses in the Bible is Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Occasionally we get to see it played out right on our own TV screens.
The opening night of the NFL season was at New England–last year’s winner of the Super Bowl.
Fans were greeted with a huge, over-the-top intro hyping how great the Patriots were.
Not sure who gets the credit for the idea, but let’s just say it seemed odd. It certainly didn’t reflect the attitude of the coach or the quarterback. The intro was clearly out of character.
It was way too much pride in their Super Bowl win. They had already celebrated that back in February.
But then, why not just rub it in. Maybe it will intimidate the opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs. After all, New England was favored to win, and some were already talking about a perfect record all the way to another Super Bowl win.
Let’s just say that the Chiefs didn’t get the memo. They easily handled the Patriots that night.
For New England it was utter humiliation. The celebratory intro made it worse.
To be fair, they could have done a pregame celebration with more dignity.
In fact, pride is not always negative. For instance, we appreciate people who take pride in their work. So pride can be positive.
The pregame celebration could have focused on the fans, the attitude of some of the players, the hard work put in at practice, and a host of other things. Yes, the team was down 28-3 late in the game, but why not take pride in the fact that the team never gave up?
At any rate, the whole thing seemed to promote more arrogance than gratitude.
At the end of the day, you have to wonder if all the pregame hype had not actually worked against the Patriots. We’ll never know. After a few games they are still struggling.
But we do know that it’s good advice to let someone else toot your horn.
Pride in the form of conceit and arrogance is never appropriate. To others it’s always out of place.
Now keep in mind that we are talking about one the greatest sports franchises ever to come along. Even they seemed to be oblivious to their uncalled for boasting and pride.
Which is a reminder to us that pride is never far away and does indeed precede destruction.
Let’s wrap up our short discussion on H.O.P.E. To recap, stories are one of the most valuable ways to regain hope. That’s why we listen to them, read them, and why God put them in the Bible.
It’s History now, but stories still inspire. In my last post I introduced you to Hannah and her story. We left off with her feeling hopeless.
She had done all she could. She was out of answers. However, she could pray, believe, and wait. In short, if God didn’t show up and do something, then she would never have a child.
That’s what she did. Like the Psalmist she poured out her complaint to God and told Him all about her trouble (Psalm 142:2). Her prayer led to personal peace for we read, “And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad (1 Samuel 1:18, ESV). Soon after she experienced…
Omnipotence. That is, God stepped in. “They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her” (1 Samuel 1:19, ESV).
Perhaps you are thinking, “I can only take so much.” “Or how long will it take?” Or “What’s the purpose in all my mess?”
That’s when you need…
Promises. Not a promise that your pain will go away. Not that the sun will shine brightly on your life tomorrow. You need to know that God is always working, despite what you see and feel. In the present things don’t make sense. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), ESV).
Or do we? We’re beginning to doubt. So right now maybe a lot of problems and predicaments are weaving their way throughout your life. Everywhere you look there are dark clouds.
There is another great story about Joseph. Note what he said about all that he had gone through: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20, ESV). The phrase you meant evil against me could be translated you weaved evil into my life. Which they did.
But what did God do? He re-weaved all the bad stuff and turned it into one spectacular finish. I realize happy endings are not automatic. But what I want you to see is the promise that God is working. That’s what we need to know.
That should lead you to our final letter…
Encouragement. Hope and encouragement. Those are found throughout the Old Testament. Even the apostle Paul was aware of the value to be found in the Scriptures, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4, ESV).
H.O.P.E. can be a reality in the midst of your own pain. Is it?
In my last post I talked about needing hope. Fortunately hope is available.
In the Bible. So let’s get started, using the acrostic H.O.P.E.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Which means we need to go back to the Old Testament and read some Bible stories. And you thought Bible stories were for kids.
Hang with me. One of the great treasures in the Old Testament are the stories. Stories of hope. Many who lost hope experienced miraculous turning points. And chances are if you need hope, you need a miracle.
We will come back to that thought, but for now let’s go back some 3,000 years. 1 Samuel chapter 1 gives us the details. Hannah is married with no financial worries. Her husband attends church with her, and to top it off he loves her unquestionably.
Now you may be thinking, “Must be nice. So what could possibly be her problem?”
In spite of all this, she was deeply depressed.
In her culture it was not uncommon for a man to have two wives. The other wife had no problem getting pregnant and flaunted all of her kids.
Hannah could not get pregnant. She is not the first barren woman in the Bible, but you need to feel her deep emotions.
Get the picture. The husband loved Hannah, which no doubt did not sit well with the second wife, Penninah. So you can imagine how Penninah loved to talk about all her kids. And how many times did Hannah have to hear “I’m pregnant again!” Or “Look at all the kids running around the house.”
Hannah felt hopeless.
She lived under a continual cloud of depression.
Now what? Things looked bleak. Can you identify?
History is helpful especially when you think your situation is unique. Perhaps.
In my next post we’ll get to the last three letters O.P.E., because Hannah did find hope, and so will you.