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DANIEL, GOD’S MAN IN THE FIELD (PART XXI) and OUR CHRISTIAN WITNESS OF OUR HOPE IN CHRIST'S SECOND COMING
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
10 DECEMBER 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Romans 15:4)
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
To have hope is to have an inner joy of expectation that what is to come is better than what we have now.
Our preparation Bible verse for this morning, Romans 15:4, says,
4. For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Therefore, "hope" is an action word, and just doesn't happen by itself. To have hope requires that we are to be persistent in a course of action, no matter how bad or good a situation may be.
And our encouragement to do this will come from God's word, our Bible.
Do you remember how Daniel was persistent in prayer and that he didn't give up, even after fasting and praying for three entire weeks?
Daniel was seeking an answer to the problems of his day that would bring the hope and assurance of a better tomorrow. God answered him, and the awesomeness of the answer caused Daniel to faint.
Listen carefully as God's answer continues, and the reason he had to wait three weeks for it, as we look at Daniel 10:10f –
10. Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.
Yes, sometimes in our hope for something better, we may encounter some fear, but we are to hold fast to our hope and continue through that fear. And if we do, there will be further encouragement.
11. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you." And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.
Daniel still had fear, like some of us may have, but he is listening to what he is being told, and this will get him through his fear.
12. Then he said to me, "Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words.
If God heard Daniel's prayer on the first day, and answered it, then why did it take three weeks to get to Daniel?
13. "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.
The angel Gabriel was delayed because of spiritual warfare in the heavenly places that neither Daniel nor any of us can see.
Satan doesn't want us to have hope, and he does what he can to steal it from us.
But if we wait upon God, He will fight off the enemy and bring our answers, so that our hope will always be with us.
14. "Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future."
See, because Daniel waited, God is giving Daniel even greater hope, so that he in turn might encourage others, even you and me; that we also would have hope in a better tomorrow, even if there are troubled times in between.
Some of the youth of our community experienced this kind of hope from, Junior, a former inmate in one of our local correction facilities, and we heard a touch of it, too.
I pray that we all will get a chance to hear more from him in the near future, and that our receiving of the hope he left with us will also encourage him and build his hope as well, for unfortunately the majority of paroled inmates go back to prison.
Christians cannot be islands unto themselves; we must come together in love, and encourage and strengthen each other in our hope for a better tomorrow where there will be true peace on earth, and good will to all humans and animals.
But not everyone is willing to accept this. Some will let fear take over before God has a chance to show us that our hope is still there, if we are willing to reach out for it.
One of these people is named, Teddy. And Teddy is like a big lovable bear. But Teddy is in jail.
Unlike Junior, Teddy had loving parents who tried to do their best for him. But Teddy didn't want any part of that life, so he got involved in drugs and some serious crimes, and was sent to prison.
While in prison, Teddy came to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and set a very Christ-like example.
And that example led to Teddy's being paroled. Teddy went back with his parents, got a job, and even did some work in the ministry; but he was afraid of the future, and that he was responsible for his own life; thus he violated his parole and was sent back to prison.
This is when I first met Teddy, and he wasn't like most of the inmates. His love for God and for his fellow human beings seemed to just flow out of him.
But as the time for his second release from prison neared, something else began to flow out of Teddy. It was fear. He, at the age of 35, was afraid to go back outside.
Again his parents opened their hearts and home to him, and he went to live
with them. He had several job offers, took a job doing home improvements, and
was doing quite well.
But again, Teddy's fears came to the foreground, and he ran away. He violated his parole again, committed some small crimes, was arrested again, and went to jail.
Once again he had a job offer and a place to stay; but on the very day that we went to pick him up, he ran away again. He committed some more minor crimes, was again arrested and went to jail where he is now.
He has been writing and again talking about all that the Lord is doing in his life, but this time I haven't been answering. In his last letter, he said if I didn't answer, he would come and sit on my doorstep.
And all I could think of was that before, he didn't have the hope to hang onto or strength to wait on the jailhouse steps. How then could he have the strength to travel 150 miles on his own, to sit on my doorstep? So I wrote a letter back to him, part of which I want to read to you. It was very hard for me to write this letter, particularly at this time of the year.
Teddy, you had our forgiveness many months ago, when you were arrested and called us, and said that you were sorry; and as often as you would sin against God and your fellow human beings, and confess your sin and ask for forgiveness, you would be forgiven.
My problem, in our relationship, is that what I was able and willing to do with you, also required your commitment for it to be successful, and I never saw that commitment from you; I only heard you tell me that you were committed. And if I were absolutely sure that you would actually come and sit on my doorstep, if I didn't write, I would not be writing now; for your coming would require a commitment on your part, and possibly some uncertainty as well, for you would not be sure that your efforts would be of any benefit.
Teddy, I love you as a brother, and my love is unconditional. But sometimes in love, we must allow a loved one to wander for a while in the wilderness, to come to their full potential in Christ Jesus. But, my brother, I am afraid that you like being in the wilderness, and the apparent protection that you think it gives you, more than you desire to come into the light and have to live a Christ-like life before the world.
Jesus Christ wants us to be free. Satan is the one who wants us to be bound in chains. There is very little Christian witness in constantly being put back in jail, and Satan knows that. If you want to live for Jesus Christ, then when your time is up, put on the whole armor of God and stand firm against the evil temptations that are placed before you, and allow those who are willing to help, to help. And then, from the outside, with a changed life, reach back inside to help someone else who is going through what you are, and let them know that there is another way.
There is no hope in Satan, my brother; there is only loss. Our hope and faith should always be in Christ Jesus; for He will do all that He said He would do. He will never fail you.
My concern is that Teddy has lost his hope, that he can see nothing better in the future.
All he sees outside of the apparent protection of prison is the evilness of the world, and the lack of genuine love and compassion. He knows where he stands in prison, but not on the outside.
Thus, he does what he hates most, and shuns those who can help.
And, my beloved, there are some right here among us, or in our families, or in our community, who are going through the same kind of hell that Teddy is going through.
But Christmas is to remind us of this hope; for in Christ, all things become new; the old passes away.
Listen to what Paul tells us in Romans 8:18-25.
18. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
And this is still true today.
Millions of our fellow human beings and billion of animals continue to suffer and die every year, because of the lack of human love, compassion, and willingness to be the peacemakers God called us to be.
19. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
Did you hear that?
The whole of creation, humans, animals, and even every other part of creation is waiting for the children of God to reveal themselves and help end their suffering.
We don't have to wait until Jesus Christ comes back again to have a better world.
Yes, when He comes back, He will make things new; but until then, it can be better.
If the "children of God" are revealed, things will be better.
All of creation is waiting eagerly for them. And beloved, they can be us.
All of us, who are born again and truly desire to live Christ-like lives, as true peacemakers, are accepted by God as sons and daughters; and it is through those of us who are adopted, that the world can be made a little better, even a lot better.
We can bring love where there is no love.
We can bring compassion where there is no compassion.
And we can bring hope to those who have no hope.
20. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
21. that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
When God made Adam and Eve, He also gave them dominion over the entire earth, which included eating a plant based diet, for there was no death of either human or animal.
And when they fell into temptation and sinned, so did creation; for it was still subjected to human domination, whether good or evil; and unfortunately, it has been mostly evil.
22. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
We don't just suffer alone; we suffer along with everyone else (human and animal alike) and with all the rest of creation.
23. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
Junior saw the hope of the future through those who reached out to him, and in return, he reached out to others, so that there would be much fruit; but Teddy, unfortunately, does not seem to have been able to see this.
24. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?
25. But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Many people have no hope, for all they see are the people and the things around them that are evil.
They even fear genuine love and compassion, for they are afraid that the person who offers it will fail them.
To have our hope, we must reach out beyond this present time, and look into the future of God's promise of a better time; and then we can also taste of the heavenly time, even in this present age, for we will no longer be a part of this corrupt world with all its pain, suffering, and death.
O beloved, reach out and receive the birth of Jesus Christ in your heart, and believe the promises of heavenly peace He has told us that will shortly take place, so that you may have the true hope of Christmas in such abundance that you will just want to give it to everyone you meet, so that they also might have hope.
This is the true Spirit of Christmas.