Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When You're Down To Nothing, God is UP to Something

Preaching at a  church in Kenya.  November 2010

When You're Down to Nothing; God is Up to Something

Written By Robert A. Schuller

Delivered on the HOP as his last sermon there ever on 08/31/08

I concluded last week's message with words that I want to begin my message with today. These words exemplify everything about the story that I want you to take with you today. The words are: When you're down to nothing God is up to something! That is something that is important for us to realize. I'm going to tell you a story today and I will begin by setting the stage and setting the situation. I am going to tell you of a law in the Old Testament in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus. It reads as follows: "When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period she will be unclean.  Any bed she lies on will be unclean and anything she sits on will be unclean.  Whoever touches them will be unclean.  He must wash his clothes and bathe with water and he will be unclean till evening." (Leviticus 15: 25-27) In the book of Mark, Chapter 5 we read: "A large crowd followed and pressed around Jesus.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had.  Yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus she came up behind him and touched his cloak because she thought if I just touch his clothes I'll be healed. Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him and he turned around to the crowd and said, 'Who touched my clothes?' The disciples said,'You see the people crowded around you and yet you ask who touched me?' But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and trembled in fear and told him the whole truth. He said to her, 'Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.'

She heard about Jesus.  She believed that Jesus could heal her.  She acted in faith and she received her healing. It begins with the fact that she heard the word about Jesus as it started spreading around Syria and around Galilee and throughout the region. People would come from miles and miles to receive some kind of a healing and they were being healed!  This woman heard about Jesus.  She heard about the fact that he could possibly heal her and it was her last hope.  She was down to nothing. She spent everything she had on doctors and trying to get well, but to no avail. She was down to nothing.  When you're down to nothing God is up to something!  She heard about Jesus and she had a glimmer of hope.

There was a group of frogs who decided to have a race and on the race they decided they were going to climb this high tower. So the word got out that the frogs were racing and all the frogs of the whole world came to watch this amazing feat as they scaled this tower. As they started racing up the tower everyone started saying, "It's impossible for anyone to reach the top of that tower," and others said, "Look at them, they can't possibly succeed; they are going to fail."  One by one they would fall and the other frogs would shout, "Oh there goes another one! We knew it couldn't happen. It's impossible." One by one they all fell except for one frog that made it to the top.  Having made it to the top they interviewed him.  They came up to him and they said, "Where did you find the strength to get up to the top of the tower?"  He said, "What? I'm sorry I can't hear you. I'm deaf."  The frog never heard that it was impossible.  He never heard that others were failing.  He never heard anything except he saw his goal.  He heard that they were going to have a race to the top and that's all he heard.  He didn't hear the negative; he just saw his goal and he reached for his goal. He succeeded. 

What do you hear today?  When you have nothing and you are down to nothing what do you hear?  Do you hear the voices that say, "You are nothing and there is no hope."  Or do you hear that there is possibly a means and a way to succeed?  Can you hear that God is up to something?  If you can hear that you can pull yourself out of any hole that you find yourself in today.  There is nothing that is impossible with God.  Absolutely nothing. 

The woman heard that Jesus was around.  She believed. She believed that if she could get close enough to him to touch his garment, she would be healed.  Now think about that for a moment.  Let me tell you about the law again. The law said: Whoever touches them will be unclean.  He must wash his clothes and bathe with water and he will be unclean till evening.  And what's her plan? She's going to go and touch him.  Tell me that isn't gutsy! She knows he is not going to touch her because he's a rabbi he's not going to touch her.  But maybe she can touch him and maybe that will work.  She believed it.  St. Paul tells us in Corinthians that we live by faith and not by sight.  We live by faith. 

So many people say, "I'll believe it when I see it." If we wait to see it to believe you're going to be waiting a long time because the sight comes to those who believe and when you believe it then you'll see it.  This past week I had the privilege of going and listening to an oilman you might be familiar with. His name is T. Boon Pickens and he calls himself an oilman and an entrepreneur and a geologist.  One of the things I heard him say as he was addressing a group of about 280 people was that he has dug a lot of wells. He said not all the wells that he dug were successful. He hit a lot of dry wells, but he believed in every one. He would never dig a well that he didn't believe in. But he said, "I hit enough of them.  I hit some.  But if I never believed and never dug how many would I have hit?"  He would never have hit a single well if he didn't try them.

Believe.  When you believe you will see it. The woman heard, she believed and she acted.  Somehow she was able to press through the crowd.  It was really crowded because even the disciples couldn't figure out what in the world he was talking about and she touched the hem of his garment.  Now the hems of the garments that Jesus wore were probably not what you envision.  The pictures you see that depict the dress of Christ are probably not very accurate. One of the things we know is that Jesus always wore a prayer shawl. Every conservative, orthodox Jew to this day wears the prayer shawl. That would have been one of the things that Jesus would have worn.  Chances are she touched the actual tassels on his prayer shawl.  The prayer shawl is called a tallith. Chances are she touched one of those four tassels. Every prayer shawl has four tassels on it.  Those tassels are to remind them of the power of God reaching the four corners of the earth; having the ability to do anything.  So if she can touch the tassel of his prayer shawl she could be healed.  She squeezed through the crowd.  She touched it. 

I watched a video the other day, which was a spoof on the Tom Hanks movie, "The Castaway."  Are you familiar with that movie?  In The Castaway, Tom Hanks is lost for several years.  He was traveling on a FedEx plane which crashed and there are all these FedEx packages around the island. Finally Tom Hanks is rescued and there is a package he decided he was going to bring back to a woman. He brings the package to the woman and says, "I've been stranded on an island for all these years and I wanted to deliver your package to you. Well that's the spoof on Tom Hanks.  The video I saw shows this man walking up to this door and he has a big long beard.  It looks like he has just got off the island, but he has a FedEx shirt on and he is holding a FedEx box and he hands the FedEx box to this lady. She opens it up right away and inside the box was a satellite phone, fishing hooks and fishing line and a lighter, etc., and she kept pulling things out of the box that could have made life so much more comfortable for him while he was stranded on the island.

The question I have for you is this.  How many FedEx packages are sitting around your feet and you've never opened them?  You're down to nothing and God sends you blessings but you don't have enough faith to open the box. Respond to the blessing that God is giving you. Inside is everything you need to give you the hope and vision, and a map to give you the direction to climb from nothing to something! She heard it.  She believed it.  She acted and she received it.  She was healed and Jesus felt the power leave him and he whirled around and he said, "Who touched me?"  Seeing the woman he said, "Your faith has made you well go in peace." 

She was healed. She was healed in every way, which then opened the door so she could go to her temple.  She wasn't able to go to her temple for twelve years.  She wasn't able to touch anyone for twelve years.  She wasn't able to embrace her husband, her children, and her grandchildren.  She wasn't able to embrace her parents, her friends. She was totally cut off from society in every way.  Physically she was healed, which then healed her socially and at the same time healed her spiritually. Jesus said to her, "Go forth in peace."

Today I encourage you to come before God in prayer.  Wherever your needs are, whatever your frustrations are today just remember this:  When you're down to nothing God is up to something. As a result of that God is going to bless us in some way.  We just need to open our ears and hear.  Open our hearts and believe.  Open our hands and act.  Open our hearts and receive.  Receive His blessings today.  He wants to heal you spiritually, emotionally and physically. God is in the process of doing that all the time. 

So I encourage you to pray.  I pray for hundreds of people every week. I receive hundreds of prayer cards every week.  I go online and I pray for people on our website and I can't begin to tell you how many people are struggling financially, physically, relationally. This woman in the scripture had lost everything to doctors.  She'd lost her health.  She'd lost her relationships.  She was lost spiritually. However, she had enough faith to simply reach out and everything changed. The same thing will be true with you.  If you will reach out to Jesus in prayer everything will change.  Because when you're down to nothing God is up to something.  Don't ever forget it. Carry it with you always and remember this story. 

Dear God, we thank you that you are in the process of bringing healing and hope and goodness to people's lives today tomorrow and always. Help us to hear your message and to believe and to act accordingly so that we will receive the bounties and the blessings that you have for us.  We love you, God. Amen.