‘Tis the season of hopelessness?
NOVEMBER 30, 2020
Zach Van Dyke:
‘Tis the season of hopelessness? Let’s talk about it on Key Life.
You’re listening to Key Life. We believe that because of what Jesus has done, God will never be angry at you again., Zach Van Dyke is teaching us this week. Zach serves as the teaching pastor at Summit Church right here in Orlando, Florida. If you’ve been trying to earn God’s approval, we invite you to hangout with us.
Zach Van Dyke:
Thanks Matthew. Well, I’m so glad to be here. Like Matthew said, I’m filling in for Steve all week. I hope that you had a wonderful weekend. We had Thanksgiving. I hope you ate all the good foods. I hope that there was no fights about politics and that everyone got along. And that you got to really celebrate the things that you’re thankful for, and, you know, I hope you got all the deals you needed on Friday, as we enter into this Advent season, I love Christmas. And if you’ve been listening to Key Life for a long time. If you listened to our talk show, Steve Brown Etc, you know, I’m always talking about how much I love Christmas. And you know, Steve is kind of an old scrooge about it, but I do. I just, I look forward to this season every year. I love the songs. I love the food. I love just the activities, the extra activities that get added to your schedule during this season. But as I’ve been a pastor for the last several years, I’ve begun to see why Steve is the way he is, because this season is hard too. As much joy and fun and hope that fills this season. the more I have been invited into people’s stories, the more I see that this can be a very hard time of year. So, we’re going to spend this week and I’m going to come back again right after Christmas, and I’m titling these two weeks Long Expected Hope, what it means for us to hope, even in the midst of hopelessness. And what’s fascinating to me, is that the Christmas story as told in the Bible begins with hopelessness. So in this Advent season, this season full of hope. If you’ve stopped hoping, I hope that this week you will get a glimpse of some of some truth that will change your outlook. So if you’ve stopped hoping, maybe hoping that it will get better, hoping that God will answer that prayer, hoping for justice or grace or maybe both. Maybe you stopped hoping that God cares. I want you to know that Luke, the Gospel writer Luke begins his gospel, begins the story of our savior coming to earth with the loss of hope in hopelessness. Zechariah, a good man, a man who has faithfully served God, his whole life, a man that is described as righteous in the sight of God, a man who observed all the Lord’s commands and decreased blamelessl, was also a man who lost hope. When Luke begins his gospel, it had been 400 years since God had spoken to his people through the prophet Malachi, four hundred years, 400 years of silence. 400 years of wondering if God was still there, if he still cared. God’s people were being ruled by a hostile government with no Messiah in sight to rescue them from oppression. 400 years, after 400 years, even the most pious would struggle with hope. And to get more personal, God had not given Zechariah a child. How desperately Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth wanted a child. So that’s where the story begins. That’s where the story of Christmas begins. So I want to look at that. We’re gonna look at that all week. We’re going to be in the Gospel of Luke, in the first chapter of Luke, I’m going to read now, starting in verse five.
In the time of Herod King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife. Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless, because Elizabeth was not able to conceive; and they were both very old. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him; “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord, their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I’m an old man and my wife as well, along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.” The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
This is God’s word. So after telling us of the faithfulness to God, Luke, the gospel writer in a very matter of fact manner writes in Luke one ,verse seven,
But they were childless, because Elizabeth was not able to conceive; and they were both very old.
Such a simple and direct sentence, but a devastating one. In that one sentence is a lifetime of heartache. In that one sentence is thousands of disappointing days. Maybe this time? No. Maybe this month? No. Maybe today? No. In that one sentence is dozens of babies born to friends. In that one sentence is 60 years of baby dedications at the temple. Every Thanksgiving weekend at the church that I serve, we do baby dedications that weekend. And I love it. I love being able to do that, and I love that the families are there, but it always hits me as I look out into the crowd. And as we, as we take a vow as a church family to come alongside these parents, how many heartbreaks are in that room. How many people are unable to have a baby or wanted to have a baby and never did. Or, or, or how many people have lost a baby? In the U.S., about 13% of couples have trouble becoming pregnant. And about 15% of known pregnancies, end in miscarriage. So many of you, know this pain. And my guess is many of you have felt anger or jealousy or sadness watching as your friends have babies, or as little ones get dedicated or baptized in your church. And you may also feel guilty for having those feelings. I’m so sorry for the war waging in your hearts and the disappointment that keeps you up at night. And I want you to know, Zechariah and Elizabeth knew your pain. The beginning of the gospel story, the beginning of the Christmas story starts with people knowing a kind of hopelessness that is so hard. Zechariah and Elizabeth longed to hold a child, their child, in their arms. But Luke introduces us to them when that hope was gone, it was impossible. Elizabeth had already been through menopause, her womb was no longer able to conceive a child. So in that one sentence was countless crying, questions and insensitive remarks and nagging doubts about God’s goodness. In that one sentence was years of feeling like, it must be me. Somehow it’s my fault. Somehow I am the one to blame. One commentator on the gospel of Luke said, in any culture, infertility is an aching disappointment. And for some, an almost unbearable stress, but the burden cannot be compared to that born by childless women in the ancient Hebrew culture, because barrenness was considered a disgrace, even a punishment. And we heard that, at the end of the text I read, in Luke 1:25, you can almost feel the weight being lifted off of Elizabeth. The stigma that she had endured from people who assumed God was against her. To not have a child is hard enough, but then to have everyone around you assume that you had done something so awful to deserve this. Now we don’t live in that same culture, but I know some of you feel that. And as we enter into this Advent season, as we enter into a season of hope and joy, some of you are struggling right now with hopelessness. And if you’re under that weight, I’m praying for you specifically this week. And it’s my hope you’ll tune in all week. Now. I can’t promise that God will work out your story in the same way he does that he does Zechariah and Elizabeth, but I am convinced that if you listen, if you lean in, if you press forward toward God in the midst of your heartache and your disappointment and your hopelessness, hope will return. Hope will return as you see that it is all about grace.
Thanks Zach. That was pastor Zach Van Dyke, teaching us from Luke five about hope and hopelessness. Man, the right word at the right time, be sure to join us tomorrow and for the rest of the week. So believe it or not, there are very few days remaining in the year 2020. So why not go ahead and grab your copy of the 2020 edition of Key Life Magazine. There’s a fantastic article from Steve called Christians Are Right. Plus there’s other pieces from some of your other favorite Key Life voices. Time is running out on this offer. So, get your free copy now by calling 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also email Steve@keylife.org and ask for the magazine. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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