BELIEVE, BE LIKE JESUS
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
June 11, 2017
Text: Hebrews 6:18-19
(Begin with a children's sermon that is similar to this.
Good morning! I am glad to see all of you here. It was a great week at Vacation Bible School, wasn't it? I know I had a lot of fun and learned a lot too!
This morning - we are going to learn more things about how incredible God is!
So - I want you to look at the screen before you. Can you tell me what that is a picture of? That's right. It is an anchor. Anchors come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some of them can be pretty small, if the boat is small. But then they can get bigger and bigger as the boat gets bigger. Look at this last anchor. It is huge! It is 75 tons!! It is for a big ship.
Now the question is - what does an anchor do?
A boat anchor is made to keep a boat from drifting away at sea. People use them when they are not sailing in their boats to keep them near the dock. If they didn't use an anchor, when they go out to go sailing, their boat wouldn't be there anymore! Sailors also use anchors in bad stormy weather to keep their boat from drifting off course. The anchor keeps them safe and secure.
Now if a boat was using an anchor, you wouldn't be able to see it, because it is hidden under the water, but you would notice that the boat stays firmly secured.
The Bible tells us that the anchor can help us understand a lot about God and the hope we have in Him. We can't see God either - but you know what, when we put all our trust in Him - He will hold us securely, even in the storms of life. When tough times come in your life, and they WILL come, God's love and peace will hold you securely. When we put our trust in God - just like sailors put trust in their anchors - we can know for sure that God will carry us through each day, no matter what happens.
This week we learned a lot about the great hope we have in God - and the promises we can count on. Can you remember them? God made you. God is for you! God will never leave you. God will always love you. God made you for a purpose. (Wow God!)
Always hang on to those promises! As we trust in God and anchor our lives on Him - we can have hope for each and every day!
(pray and then have children be seated)
Hope - that's our word for today! Hope is our focus as we continue on our journey towards thinking and doing and being like Jesus. We proclaim this day that we can cope with life's hardships because we have hope in Jesus Christ. As it says in Hebrews 6:18-19 - "We who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold on to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us."
Anchors. How many fishers do I have here today that have used an anchor? I know Nick Rose has in all the boating he has done. I am sure he could teach me a thing or two about anchors. I must admit, I am truly a novice when it comes to anything nautical - but I do know that there are a variety of anchors but most are thrown out from a boat into the water, in an effort to find a firm place to hook onto on the sea-bed or ocean floor. The claws on the sides of the anchor, sinks down deep into the sea bed or ocean floor that firm and solid foundation. And once that anchor has been hooked and connected to that solid rock - it has two purposes: one is to keep the ship from drifting in the shifting water currents and the other is to keep it strong and secure during storms. If you don't have an anchor, your boat can drift off into unsafe waters - and it can also run the risk of being destroyed through the windy and stormy seas. Thus, each vessel needs a strong and secure anchor.
Well the same is true for us as well, isn't it? In this boat/this vessel- called life - we tend to drift in the shifting currents. We can drift away from God - or from our spouse - or friends - our church. We drift away - depending on what is happening in life. We get busy and put off our Bible reading or our prayer time - we just don't get to church as often. We work too much and worry too much - or other things like sports - or social media - or financial worries takes precedence. And then just daily stress is added in and they all can create changing currents, circumstances in life that we allow to drift us away from the true rock - our refuge and strength.
And then there are those storms in life - those moments when you hear bad news about a family member - you have a falling out with a friend or relative - your doctor calls with a bad report - you don't get the job you were hoping for or you don't know how you are going to pay the bills. During those storms - we can fall apart and crash, if we don't have a good anchor set in a firm and solid rock for our life.
So, the question is - where are you going to get this anchor and where will you place the anchor? Many times, when people just throw out an anchor - any old anchor will do and they just dangle it in the water and they latch on to nothing. They have nothing to hold onto - or for that matter, nothing to hold onto them in the changing and stormy times. They are just drifting - with no purpose, no security, no hope.
Other times, an anchor is thrown to a boat of a friend or family member - or maybe to our money or our jobs. It may be a boat of alcohol or drugs, affairs or pornography. Hooking your anchor to those boats will not hold you safe and secure during the storm. None of them will bring you the guaranteed and dependable happiness and hope you so desire.
Max Lucado challenges us to ask it this way: "Is what I am hooked to stronger than what I am going through?" That is - what is it that you turn to, to give you hope? What do you think will get you through the next storm?"1 Is whatever you are hooked to - stronger than what you are going through? What is your anchor hooked onto?
Max Lucado goes on to say: "Everyone is hooked to something or someone. Maybe you are anchored to your retirement account or your university degree, your profession" - maybe your marriage or your friends. "If you are hooked up to something - someone - other than Jesus Christ, you are setting yourself up for despair. You don't anchor to something that will go down in the storm."2
What we need is to anchor ourselves to something that is greater than us - to a solid rock. We need to place our anchor into a rock that is cannot be moved and will hold us steady and secure when winds are howling and the storms are threatening to break us in two. We need an anchor that is trustworthy and sure - and cannot be shaken. And the Bible says that anchor is the hope and the promise we have in Jesus. Hear our passage again from Hebrews 6:18-19, as written in the Message version: "We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us."
The hope we are looking for - the hope that will keep us steadfast and keep us from drifting - that hope is to be anchored in Jesus Christ. Lucado says, "Anchor to Jesus Christ. Do what the Hebrew writer says and anchor yourself to the one behind the curtain - in the inner sanctuary where the devil has no access and where the demons cannot speak. You take your anchor and hook it on to the leg of the throne room of Jesus Christ. You just hang onto it there and you will know for certain that once He has ahold of you, you are in good hands. You trust Him to get you through. This is where hope begins and where hope endures."3
And once we embrace this hope in Jesus, grabbing on with both hands and never letting go - it will have a dramatic effect on our daily lives.
Hope in Jesus Christ definitely gives the strength we need to get through whatever storms come our way. We know that God is right there with us through every storm and trial. He will never leave our side. We can have peace in the midst of the storm, knowing that He is right in the boat with us!
We can cope with every difficulty and persevere through every trial and suffering because Jesus will be there - empowering us and carrying us in His everlasting arms. He is our refuge and strength - and ever-present help in times of trial.
Everything may be falling down around us - we may feel like peace has disappeared. BUT, as it says in Lamentations 3, BUT we can still dare to have hope when we remember this: "The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, "The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him." (Lamentation 3:21-23)
When we put our anchor of hope in Jesus Christ, not only will it have an effect on ourselves and our own personal journey, it will also affect others around us. They will notice and be blessed - they will be lifted up and strengthened by the hope that is within you and me.
I read this week about a Christian man who made a trip to Russia in 1993. He felt conspicuous walking down the streets of Moscow and could not figure out why. He wanted to blend in, but it was obvious that people knew he was not Russian. He asked the group of Russian educators with whom he was working whether it was his American clothes; jeans and a Chicago Bulls t-shirt. "No, it is not your clothes," they said. "What is it then?" They huddled together and talked for several minutes. Then, one, speaking for the group, answered politely, "It is your face." "My face!", he laughed. "How does my face look different?" They talked again and then on of the teachers quietly said, "You have hope."4
As Christians living in a world that Paul describes as "having no hope and without God" (Ephesians 2:12), we should stand out as people of hope. The certain hope of our future salvation is the anchor that God has given us to steady our souls - and to share with a watching and hurting world.
And what a difference it makes, in anchoring our hope in Christ, for those times when we face death. Sorrow is truly a part of life - as we each must face throughout life the death of a loved one, at some point. But we do not grieve as those that have no hope. Rather we have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We have hope that our life here on earth is NOT the end of the story. Jesus has an inheritance - a place for us in heaven - that can never perish, spoil or fade. We have this hope we can cling to. (I Peter 1:3-5; I Thessalonians 4:13-14).
I think that my mother knew this kind of hope all her life. She was raised as a Christian - but it wasn't a very easy life. My grandfather left the family when my mother was born and my grandmother, for a variety of reasons, was a sad and bitter woman, in many ways. Since she was unable to hold down a job, my mother became the sole support of the family when she was 16. When my parents were married, they knew they would need to continue to take care of my grandmother, so she moved in with them and lived there until the day she died, when she was 89. And it was not an ideal situation. My grandmother could be pretty demanding and irritable. My mother struggled to keep her happy while at the same time trying to care for my father and us 3 kids. It was not an easy life for my mother. And I know many times she was discouraged and wanted her life to be different.
And yet, down deep inside, was a deep faith in Jesus Christ. She didn't anchor her soul to the bitterness or pain in her life. Rather, she anchored her soul to the hope she knew in Jesus.
One way she was able to "restore her soul" many times by sitting down and playing the piano. While she did know how to play other songs, she always seemed to play one particular hymn. I think this hymn calmed her soul and gave her hope in the midst of her struggles. The hymn was an old one called "Whispering Hope." The words go like
Soft as the voice of an angel, breathing a lesson unheard
Hope, with a gentle persuasion,
Whispers a comforting word.
Wait till the darkness is over, wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, after the shower is gone.
Whispering Hope, oh how welcome thy voice
Making my heart in its sorrow, rejoice.
My mother put her hope in Jesus - and that hope, whispered in her ear - helped her keep going as she went through the various trials and struggles of life. That anchor of hope kept her strong and steady.
During the last 8 years of her life - she faced a different kind of storm as she battled breast cancer. But again, and again, she would put her faith and trust in God - and listened for that whispering hope that kept her going and carried her through. During the last couple of months of her life, she lost her eyesight in one eye and was rapidly losing it in the other. It frustrated her greatly not to be able to read.
But amazingly that didn't stop her. She was so happy to receive her own copy of the Chalice Hymnal that had just been published that year by our denomination. Apparently, during the last couple of weeks of her life, she decided she would try to learn, on the piano, a new song to her that had become a favorite. Imagine---she could barely see, but she wanted to learn a new hymn on the piano---a song that whispered hope for her.
If you will turn to page 77 in your hymnal you'll find it there. It is called, "On Eagle's Wings". It is a great hymn that quotes Psalm 91. The chorus of the hymn goes like this:
"And he will raise you up on eagle's wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of his hand."
I am confident that those words gave my mother hope as she prepared for her death. Again, and again, as she played those notes, she was reminded that she was kept and held in the palm of God's hand. And yes - we had that hymn sung at her memorial service - a reminder to us all the true anchor of hope we have in Jesus.
Dear friends, where have you placed your anchor? It will make all the difference in the word - in life and in death.
1MaxLucado. Oak Hills Church Sermons. Believe. Chapter 25: Hope. March 6, 2016. http://media.oakhillschurch.com/default.aspx?page=3679&item=513