Pulpit Today Sermons
Robert D. Pace
Charles Dickens wrote the book, A Tale of Two Cities. His composition began with the famous words, “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.” That statement characterized nineteenth century Europe and they explicitly describe America today. As “the best of times” our technology is extraordinary. The inventions, discoveries, and medical breakthroughs have taken a quantum leap. For example, consider the achievements birthed during the twentieth century that were unknown to preceding centuries:
- In unwitting fashion 1902 cooled the climate by constructing the air conditioner.
In 1903 the Wright brothers launched their first successful flight with the airplane.
The automobile was mass produced from assembly lines in 1908.
In 1917 freezing was developed as a means of preserving food.
Perhaps the most important year of this century was 1924 when the television was created.
1937 brought the development of photocopying.
1942 witnessed the construction of the nuclear reactor.
The 1990’s brought worldwide use of mobile phones and computers.
From the start of the 21st Century the communications industry has continually improved. From desktop computers, to iTablets, smartphones, and mobile devices designed to slip into your pocket. It’s an industry whose emerging technology runs ahead of its assembly line. This is a post-modern generation that lives with unparalleled comfort and affluence. Yet this century, which was to birth an age of Utopia, is riddled with distress. Somehow these achievements have been plagued by considerable calamity. These “best of times” have incurred “the worst of times.”
America employs 800,000 law enforcement workers but despite this enormous workforce the number of arrests for criminal infractions continually rises. Listen to some statistics furnished by the F.B.I. reflecting what happened in 2007:
- 1,400,000 violent crimes
78,600 forcible rapes
789,200 aggravated assaults
11,000,000 arrests each year.
State and federal institutions house 800,000 inmates
Each day, 89 Americans commit suicide. That equates to 32,600 suicides annually. Reports estimate there are 400,000 unsuccessful attempts.
Crime isn’t the only American scourge. Sexually transmitted diseases ravage the world. The HIV virus was unknown until 1981. HIV neutralizes the body’s immune system and makes it impossible to counteract viruses and diseases. It’s been described as the most dreadful disease of the twentieth century because, to date, science has no cure for it. In 1981, eighty-three HIV Positive cases were discovered in the U.S. Today, it is estimated that 1,000,000 Americans live with HIV. And it’s a global problem. AIDS is in more than 162 countries and some experts believe some African nations are underestimating their accounts as much as 90%. The World Health Organization estimates that ten million people are carriers of the AIDS virus.
These are “the best of times, and . . . the worst of times.” Technology has made life easier but not better. Flight has given man speed but not direction. We have convenience without contentment. Never has an age of such modernism combated such overwhelming problems. And this is the precise picture Christ and the Prophets painted of the Endtime. Jesus said the last generation would be marked with dilemma, discord, and despair.
Matthew 24:21 says: “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”
Notice what Solomon said would happen when knowledge escalated: “with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (ECC 1:18).
We can’t expect a world cursed and impaired by sin to correct itself. Scripture says conditions will worsen before they improve. Jesus said immediately before His Return that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (7) . . . the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (MAT 24, NIV). What a foreboding of earth’s last days! Despite these perplexities there’s good news! The Bible promises hope and help for this troubled world. And there are valid, biblical reasons for this hope. That’s what I want to talk about today.
(Transition) First, there is hope because Jesus overcame the world.
I. There is Hope because Jesus Overcame the World
Jesus said in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Here’s the Pace Translation: “I’ve told you that life will be chaotic and perplexing. But be encouraged! I’ll infuse you with peace and power that conquers all you confront.” The reason we know this promise is true is because we have the record of how Jesus handled life:
He never succumbed to temptation.
He cured every sickness confronting Him.
He calmed every sea raging before Him.
He ended every controversy aimed at maligning Him.
He conquered every demon contesting Him. As the Captain of our salvation He was unacquainted with defeat.
At His crucifixion, He faithfully died for our sins and three days later rose from the grave to offer us eternal life.
Christians have hope today because Christ conquered life yesterday! That’s what Jesus meant when He said “I have overcome the world.”
When life is without direction “lean not unto your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
When friends and loved ones abandon you He “will never leave you nor forsake you.”
When sickness strikes remember: “By his stripes you were healed.”
And when death knocks at your door remember that Jesus Christ conquered the grave by rising from the dead. And “because He lives we will live also.”
(Illustration) The story is told of Joseph Screven who was engaged. Unfortunately, she drowned the day before the wedding. For months this young man was bitter and discouraged, but during that time someone shared the message of Christ and he became a Christian. An unusual peace flooded his soul and under divine inspiration he composed these words:
All our sins and grief to bear;
What a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer.”
(Transition) There is hope for every circumstance because Jesus has overcome the world. But not only is there hope because Christ overcame the world, secondly, the Word of God offers hope.
II. The Living Word of God Offers Hope
Many extraordinary books have been written, but the Bible is the book of the ages! The writer of Hebrews describes the Bible as “living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword.” Isaiah said “Heaven and earth would pass away, but the Word of the Lord would not return void” (55:11). No other literary manuscript rivals this Book! It offers hundreds of promises, the assurance of guidance, the surety of salvation, and the hope of heaven.
The grand feature of Israel’s Old Testament heroes is this: The placed firm, confident faith in God’s Word! Abraham, Moses, Job lived with total reliance in God’s Word. King David is no exception. There was no king of Israel that placed higher affection and hope on God’s Word than David. And though David’s biography reveals extraordinary character, talents, and genius, one of David’s most notable qualities was his ability to hope in God’s Word.
As a youth he slew a lion, bear, and a Philistine giant. He was a superlative military leader—even fearless in battle! Unknown to many people is David’s benevolence. As a philanthropist, he donated a billion dollars to the construction of the Temple. But David’s greatness did not rest in his natural qualities. The grand superlative of David’s life was his whole-hearted devotion to God and His Word. And the Word that sustained and empowered David is the Word that does the same for us. It answers every dilemma and circumstance. Isaiah 55:11 says: “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” The sheer power of God’s Word can transform any situation:
One word from Christ’s lips exorcised 6000 demons from a man name Legion.
Three of God’s Words, “Lazarus, come forth,” rattled the grave, unhinged its gates, and snatched a dead man from the clutches of eternity.
Four of God’s Words, “Let My people go,” crushed the repression of Egypt and liberated Israel.
One sentence from Elijah’s lips sealed the heavens and for three and a half years the ground cracked and shriveled with a draught.
Christ’s Word opened the blinded eyes of a Jericho beggar and it shut the eyes of a sorcerer in Paphos.
And God’s unchanging Word offers hope and help today and no other book matches it.
(Illustration) The words of hope inscribed on the Statue of Liberty provide a sharp contrast with the hope God’s Word offers. Its inscription reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe freely; The wretched refuge of your teeming shores; send these. The homeless, tempest toss to me.” That sounds hopeful and certainly American democracy with its system of free enterprise offer more than most nations offer. But need I reiterate the turbulence and pain America presently experiences?
I appreciate the welcome America has offered to impoverished and suffering people. This nation has been exceedingly benevolent and compassionate. But the truth is, the world’s real hope does not reside in America! Man’s ultimate source of help and well-being doesn’t come from earthly institutions; it comes from God and His Word.
(Illustration) Shortly after the United Nations was established the eminent German theologian Karl Barth addressed that organization. Since 1948 the primary pursuit of the United Nations has been world peace. It has expended billions of dollars towards this goal. But it forfeited any chance of appreciable success at its inception. In an effort to appease atheistic countries the United Nations refused to invoke God’s Name in its charter. That was a doomsday decision because Jesus said in John 15:5, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Realizing the U.N.’s flawed foundation Karl Barth prophetically remarked, “This international organization [the U.N.] could be an earthly parable of the heavenly kingdom, but real peace will not be made here on this earth, although it may seem to approach it.” The United Nations has floundered for 65-plus years at harnessing hope.
In contrast to the world’s offer of hope Christ says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Unlike many of the world’s failed promises, Christ’s promises are not vain. They are sure, steadfast, and eternal! You can rely on them.
(Transition) Thirdly, not only is there hope because Jesus overcame the world and through the power of God’s Word, finally, Christ’s Coming offers hope.
III. Christ’s Return to Earth Offers Hope
Titus 1:2 says Christians have “a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” Titus 2:13 stresses that Christians should “wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” The Church’s unrivalled hope is Christ’s Return. That’s why Paul called it the “blessed hope.” It marks the day when the enervations of life will be subsumed by Christ’s glorious Appearance and His Reign of Peace will begin. Love, peace, joy, and the “knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
(Illustration) Some years ago one noted Gospel composer wrote the song: “If Heaven Was Never Promised To Me. Listen to the words:
Neither God’s promise to live eternally,
It’s been worth, just having the Lord in my life,
Living in a world of sorrow,
He came along and brought me new life.
I believe the composer meant well, but he failed to understand the purpose of suffering and th promise of heaven. Notice what the Apostle Paul said about this in 1 Corinthians 15:19. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Paul said the struggles and pain of life would not be worth it without the promise of Heaven. Heaven is the place of a Christian’s crowning reward.
Notice how John the Revelator viewed heaven: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (2) I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (5) He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Amen! The New World Order won’t come through Peace Pacts, Peace Agreements, Peace Organizations, or an international military. Peace Pacts are broken before the ink has time to dry! Real hope will be realized when Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, returns to this earth and establishes His eternal kingdom.
Regardless of civilization’s progress life remains exacerbated with problems. But when your soul is anchored in Christ there is hope. The Apostle Paul prayed that “the God of hope [would] fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). One day, the redeemed of the Lord will hear God’s words: “Well-done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of the Lord.” In that day, Heaven will no longer be a hope, it will be a reality “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior, do so now. He’s waiting to infuse you with the hope of eternal peace and happiness.