I’d like to tell you the story of hope about a brave Christian who lived 500 years ago, his name was William Tyndale. Tyndale was born in England in 1494 and went to school at Oxford and Cambridge. He was a brilliant student who learned to speak seven languages. He was proficient in biblical Hebrew and Greek. As Tyndale read the New Testament in Greek, he became convinced that a person was saved by faith alone and not by works.
God spoke to Tyndale and gave him the calling to translate the New Testament into English so that everyone could read it for themselves. All of the church authorities in England or Europe warned Tyndale against doing the translation, but he persisted. Finally, he completed the first English translation of the Greek New Testament in 1525. The church authorities did everything they could to stop the distribution of the English New Testament. They did not want ordinary people to be able to read the Bible for themselves.
Tyndale was not deterred and began to translate the Old Testament into English. Tyndale was tracked down in his hiding place in the Netherlands and was arrested. He was accused of heresy and put on trial. Tyndale refused to recant his faith or to repent of translating the Bible into English. Tyndale was found guilty of heresy and was hanged and burned at the stake in 1535. William Tyndale was an example of someone staying true to God’s calling in the face of severe opposition. The New Testament that we read today are largely based on Tyndale’s excellent translation.
My message today is entitled “Find Hope in Difficult Times.” The difficult times in Tyndale’s life do not deter him from fulfilling God’s purpose in his life. So too we need to find hope when we face difficult times in our lives as well.
Philippians 1:27b-28a (ESV) …[I trust] that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.
When we face opposition in life, we must not be frightened, but we must stand firm. We are striving or another translation says fighting for the gospel.
Philippians 1:29 (ESV) For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
I believe that this verse is true for every believer. We are given the grace to both believe in Jesus, but also to suffer for Him. Today in America, we are not facing being burned at the stake. Yet, we do face opposition of many kinds to our faith in Jesus.
Behind the difficult times that we face in our lives is our enemy Satan. He works in other people’s lives to negatively influence us away from God. Satan can also work through circumstances to cause difficulty and problems in our lives. His goal is to weaken or destroy our faith in God. He desires for us to get discouraged and to lose hope.
Today, God wants to give you hope, no matter what difficulty you are in or may encounter in the future. We are going to continue learning from the life of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah encountered great opposition in carrying out God’s calling on his life. So, let’s see how we can find hope when we are …
Jeremiah 19:15 (ESV) “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to hear my words.”
This was the prophetic word that Jeremiah was giving to the people of Judah. The people had rebelled against the Lord and judgement was coming. The purpose of the message was to turn the people’s hearts to repentance. But, as you can guess, this was not a popular message.
Jeremiah 20:1-2 (ESV) Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD.
A priest named Pashhur, who was the chief officer in the temple became incensed with Jeremiah. He had him arrested, severely beaten and fastened with stocks in a public place. Undoubtedly, the people of Jerusalem would come be and ridicule Jeremiah there. It is interesting that just like the case of William Tyndale, here also, the opposition came from the religious establishment. The next day, Jeremiah was released from custody, but he did not go away silently. The Lord gave Jeremiah a prophetic message for Pashhur the priest.
Jeremiah 20:4 (ESV) For thus says the LORD: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon. He shall carry them captive to Babylon, and shall strike them down with the sword.
Talk about Jeremiah’s courage. Just having been released from severe physical beating, possible 39 lashes, Jeremiah boldly gave the word of the Lord to his persecutor. In this prophesy, Jeremiah makes clear that judgement was coming through the Babylonian army. And Pashhur and his friends would either be killed or taken into captivity. Now, we are beginning to see why many think that Jeremiah was the most persecuted prophet in the Bible. He definitely faced great opposition and his ministry was not well received by the people of Judah.
Let’s think for a minute about what Satan was trying to accomplish through the intimidation of Pashhur. He was trying to strike fear into Jeremiah’s heart to prevent him from doing anymore prophesying. But Jeremiah feared God alone and kept on speaking the word of the Lord. In the same way, Satan uses many types of opposition to keep us from letting our lights shine in a dark world.
The simplest intimidation is simply peer pressure. Satan plants thoughts into our minds as to what people will think of us if we let our lights shine. For example, what will someone think if I invite them to church? What will someone think if I talk to them about the Bible or Jesus? I they weren’t interested the first time, should I ask them or share with them again?
God wants us to fear Him only. The fear of man is a trap that can lead us out of God’s purpose and blessing our lives. We must stand firm when facing opposition of any kind. Keep on doing what God is calling you to do.
Jeremiah 20:7 (ESV) O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me.
Jeremiah was not a super hero, he was a human being just like you and me. God had called Jeremiah and warned him at the beginning of his ministry that the people would not listen to him. Yet, I’m sure that Jeremiah hoped that some would listen and repent. Yet, Jeremiah was in despair as no one was paying attention to his prophesy. And worse than that, his own people were laughing at and mocking him. Jeremiah was expressing his frustration and despair to the Lord.
Jeremiah 20:8 (ESV) For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.
Jeremiah’s message was a message of doom and destruction. It was not a popular message to listen to, nor an easy message to give. Jeremiah was obeying the Lord, yet there seemed to be no fruit of his ministry. He was feeling very discouraged as he penned these words. Jeremiah really wanted to quit giving this message of judgement.
Jeremiah 20:9 (ESV) If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
But when Jeremiah tried to stop prophesying the word of the Lord, he couldn’t. He says that the word of the Lord was like a fire shut up in his bones. He needed to speak the words the Lord had given him. He tried to stop because of the opposition, but he could not. He knew that he had to obey the Lord and speak the words that he had been given. So, Jeremiah, in a very human way was dealing with discouragement and despair.
There are times in each of our lives that the opposition of the enemy and the difficulties we face leads to discouragement. How do we deal with our emotions of despair at those times? We’ll talk more about that in the next point, but the first step in dealing with despair is recognizing that God is still with us. We are not facing life’s difficulties on our own. Jeremiah describes the presence of God in his life as a burning fire. He knew that God was with him, giving him the courage to continue the course.
God had promised at the onset of his ministry that He would protect him. God promised that he would reward him for being faithful in his ministry. As we look at Jeremiah’s words, we see that he grew discouraged as he focused his eyes on the difficulties and the opposition. When he focused on the fire of God within himself, the Spirit of God, he was encouraged.
The same is true for each one of us. No matter what difficulty you’re facing in life, behind that difficulty is your enemy. Don’t listen to his lies and his discouragement. Read some of the psalms. Many of the psalms begin with opposition or discouragement, but end with trusting in the Lord. Ask God to help you move from despair to encouragement as God is with you so that you can …
Jeremiah 20:11 (ESV) But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.
In this verse, Jeremiah clearly reveals that the Lord was with him. Not as a some weak presence, but as a dread or terrible warrior. This warrior of the Lord’s presence was there to defend and strengthen Jeremiah in the battle. Because the presence of the Lord, Jeremiah’s persecutors would not overcome him. In fact, they would not succeed in silencing him or in stopping his prophesies.
The opposition that was facing Jeremiah was not of godly people, but of ungodly people pretending to be religious. Jeremiah would be rewarded in eternity and we’ll see him one day. His opponents who persecuted him will not spend eternity with the Lord.
The book of Lamentations, also written by Jeremiah, contains some beautiful verses about the hope that God brought to Jeremiah. Hope despite a difficult calling and life with no apparent earthly success.
Lamentations 3:21-22 (ESV) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
When Jeremiah took his eyes off his difficulties and focused them on the Lord, he found hope. He found hope because he saw that the steadfast love and mercy of the Lord is eternal. That love and mercy was for Jeremiah and for all others who served the Lord. The love of God for him would never stop, it would continue for eternity. The hope that the Lord brings is an eternal hope, a hope that goes beyond this life.
Lamentations 3:23-24 (ESV) they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Jeremiah was able to find new hope every morning, as he meditated on the love and mercy of God. He writes of God’s faithfulness, God is faithful to keep all his promises to those who trust Him. Even though Jeremiah had almost no support by other people in his life, the Lord was there for him. Because of the presence of the Lord, he could have hope. In fact, Jeremiah makes the declaration that “I will hope in him.” He chose hope over despair.
The way that Jeremiah dealt with not just some difficult times, but an entire life of difficulty can help us to regain hope in God. Some people when they go through difficulties get angry at or bitter with God. They say things like “Why me?” or “I don’t desire this.” Some even question if God exists. Why would God put me through this is He’s there? None of those questions or approaches will bring hope into your life. They will make you more discouraged.
We see from Jeremiah that the path to hope is recognizing that God is with you like a dread warrior. This dread warrior is more powerful than any situation or enemy you may be facing. He is there to protect you and to defend, to help you fulfill His purpose for your life. Each of us is in a battle in our lives and battles are not easy. Yet, it’s reassuring to understand that the most powerful warrior in the universe is with us.
Not only is the Lord with us a powerful warrior, He lavishes on us His great love and mercy. He doesn’t condemn you for being discouraged. He encourages you to lift up your head and focus your gaze on Him, not your circumstances. As you do, you will find that the love and mercy of the Lord is new every morning. Every day of your life, the Lord is there to encourage and comfort you. He will help you find hope in Him.
Each of us this morning is facing difficulties of one kind or another in our lives. Behind these difficulties is our enemy who opposes us and God’s purpose. Sometimes we can get discouraged and wonder how we can continue on. God encourages us today to get our eyes off of the difficulties.
Fix your eyes on Jesus, who is with you like a fierce warrior. He will protect you and guide you through the battle. He will remind you of His unending love and mercy. He will be there to help you regain your hope and continue your journey. As you look to Him this morning you will find hope in difficult times.