Jack Graham - All the Lonely People
Take your Bibles and turn with me to Psalm 102. In the first seven verses, it's a prayer, it's a cry to God, and here's what David says. I'm going to actually read it from the Living Bible, but I hope you'll look in your copy of the Scriptures as well. Here's what it says: "Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea"! It's an exclamation, a cry to God. "Don't turn away from me in this time of my distress. Bend down your ear and give me speedy answers", that's like most of us, isn't it? "God, answer me and answer me right now"! Why? "For my days disappear like smoke. My health is broken, and my heart is sick; it is trampled like grass and is withered. My food is tasteless, and I have lost my appetite. I am reduced to skin and bones because of all my groaning and despair. I'm like a vulture in a far-off wilderness or like an owl", some translations say a pelican, "alone in the desert. I lie awake, lonely as a solitary sparrow on the roof".
Have you ever felt like that? Sure, you have, because loneliness is a part of the human condition. Paul McCartney wrote the song. "All the Lonely People". Paul grew up in the projects of London and he actually enjoyed visiting with the older ladies in the community and tell their stories of the Second World War. And so he had a heart for some of these older ladies. And when he began to write a song which is a story, this Eleanor Rigby song, and the name is made up, Eleanor Rigby, but it's a portrait of an older churchgoing lady who "keeps her face in a jar by the door" and "picks up the rice to a wedding where she'd been". She's lonely and at the church. And then another lonely person is in the song by the name of Father McKenzie, preparing "words to a sermon that no one would hear; no one came near". Two lonely people, "Eleanor Rigby who died in the church and was buried along with her name". And Father McKenzie, working on that sermon, "darning his socks in the night, and no one was there".
And when he preached that sermon at Eleanor Rigby's service, "no one was saved". Paul wrote it but it is, in fact, the story of all the lonely people in the world. All the lonely people. You know, you can be lonely anywhere and everywhere. You can be lonely at church. People in this room, right now, you brought your loneliness to church. And even though there's a great crowd, people singing songs, and everyone seems so happy, you feel lonely and estranged. You just don't feel a part of this. You can be lonely at work. You're just not a part of what's going on. And you can certainly be lonely in your own home, in your own family. You may be a couple and you're living together but you're lonely. You're roommates but you're not soulmates. You don't really share life and love together anymore. Lonely. All the lonely people.
Now loneliness is not a sin, in and of itself, but loneliness ultimately is the result of sin. Sin, which is the effort to live your life in your own way without God, making decisions that disobey God, will ultimately leave you lonely and abandoned. Ask the prodigal son who took his inheritance, went to the far country, Jesus said (Luke's Gospel, chapter 15.) Again, another story of a lonely boy who goes, and as long as has money, parties on, plenty of friends. But when the money runs out as it always does in the prodigal's life, when the fun is done, his friends abandon him and he's left alone in the far country. With all the sparkling lights and with all the promises of a great future, and now he's abandoned. He's left the father's house where he belongs and his friends are gone. And he's so lonely and he's so desperate for money that he goes and gets a job feeding the pigs.
Can you imagine? This boy that had so much, he lived in luxury in the father's house, now he's living like an animal, wasted, wanton in the far country. He wasted his life. He throws it away and ends up in a pig pen. That's what sin will do to any of us. Why? Because you were made for the Father by the hand of God, by the hand of the Father. You were made in His image; you were made by God and for God! You're not made to live with the pigs like an animal! Sin is a terrible companion, and yet people somehow begin to think because they're lonely that sinful choices and bad behavior will somehow satisfy you. Ultimately you end up isolated and separated. Why? Because you're not in the Father's house, you're not where you belong spiritually; made for God and to be restored into His image.
One of the principle causes of alcoholism and addictions of all kinds is loneliness, and so often people drink alone because sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you far more than you want to pay. What we all need is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Sin separates a person from God. Cuts us off from His blessing. Sin is the breaking of God's commandments. It's the doing of my will rather than God's will. We are all born broken by sin, bent toward sinful behavior, and therefore, we are isolated. And people who don't know God, people who have no relationship with God live with this ache, this loneliness, this need for God! This is why Jesus came; because God loves you!
Ultimately loneliness is a lack of love. God loves you and you and you and you, each one of you, and those of you watching online. You are loved by God! To the degree that Jesus came and He went to the cross and He died on the cross, and He rose again to provide eternal life, an abundant life to all who will believe in Him! Some believe that this psalm, Psalm 102 is a Messianic psalm. In other words, it's a picture, it's a portrait, an illustration, if you will, of Christ the Messiah. And when it speaks of that lonely sparrow and that pelican in the desert, of the bones sticking out; he's so hungry, he's dying. A picture of despair and death.
When Christ went to cross, His body exposed, hanging between heaven and earth, suspended. Rejected by man and forsaken of God because even on the cross Jesus cried out, Matthew 27:46, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? - My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me"? And in that moment, it's a mystery that we can't really understand, that God was forsaken of God. Jesus, bearing our sins on the cross, paying the full payment, the weight of the wrath of judgment, "He who knew no sin became sin for us".
I've told you many times, Jesus not only died for you, He died as you. I deserved the death; it was my judgment that He suffered, and yours as well. And so when you read this sad song of Psalm 102, it does point to Jesus who was forsaken! He was a sparrow on a rooftop, and He did that for you. He took your loneliness. Isaiah 53:3, "He was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief". John 1:11-12, "He came unto His own and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to be called the children of God". Yes, there's the loneliness of sin, and the solution is salvation and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And if you're a prodigal today, if you're a prodigal child and you've wondered far away from God and you feel now abandoned, you can come home to Him.
Every person experiences pain at some level, whether it is physical pain or emotional pain. And often this can cut us off from people, and we feel alone in our suffering. When you think about suffering, you think about Job who suffered so much and he lost everything. Even his own wife in the midst of his pain and suffering said, Job 2:9 "Curse God and die"! That's helpful. And then he had friends, so-called. The book of Job talks about this conversation that he had with his friends, and they were often accusing him and charging him with sins against God, thus his suffering and so on. They were not helpful. In fact, Job said it in Job 19, verse 13: "He has put my brothers far from me and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me". And all of this was a result of his suffering and pain in life.
And again, for some it's not physical pain, but it may be emotional struggle. And often people who are wearing their shame or hurt or pain or who are depressed, we've talked about all of these various kinds of emotional illnesses and struggles that people have in their lives. The struggle is real whether it be stress or anxiety or grief. Often people who experience these emotions unfortunately may cut themselves off from those who will help or those who will help are not really there for them. Illness may cut you off from people at your work or your church. You're no longer engaged in the workforce. You're no longer involved. You're lonely and you're not in church. You can't even get to church. You know we're grateful for PowerPoint on television and radio, and hear so often from people who can't get to church. No substitute for church, but many can't get there and so we hear from people who are lonely and yet the word of God coming into their lives through PowerPoint, through our messages, encourages them and helps them (That's a good thing) online.
There are some of you watching this service right now, you're sick and you're bedfast, or wheelchair bound, and someway you can't get here. And you feel alone. I wish we could all just put our arms around you right now and hold you close. But I tell you this: God's Word will encourage you, and God's people are praying for you, and we pray that we can serve even more. So, you go home and you stay at home. But God said, "I will never leave you or forsake you". God said, "Underneath are the everlasting arms". God's Word, your Bible, filled with God's promise, and even the breath of God! I read a quote this week from Billy Graham, and Billy Graham at the end of his life basically homebound. But he said, "I never feel alone when I read my Bible".
How can someone say that? "I never feel alone when I read my Bible". Because the Bible is the living Word of God! The Holy Spirit moves in our hearts as we read God's Word, and God's Word reads us! So, open your Bible and open your heart! God is with you even in the deepest valley. And that brings me to another kind of loneliness. There's the loneliness of sorrow. As a pastor I've been with so many people who have said goodbye to their loved one, their hearts breaking, burying half of their own lives when a mate, a spouse dies. The ministry is accompanied with a trail of tears, and we have walked that trail of tears, that lonely road of sorrow many, many times. The many, we watch as widows go home, or widowers to an empty house and they sleep in an empty bed and have an empty heart. Grief, it's sorrow.
So how do you lose the loneliness? Three ways I want to mention. Number one, commune with God. There's a difference between loneliness, hear this, a difference between loneliness and solitude. A lot of us would like to have a little more solitude in our lives. Can I get an amen on that? I mean, you know, the kids get put in "time-out" because they're acting up. Well, I was thinking when my kids were little, "Give me time out"! You know? Right, mom? "Give me that! Some space and a place"! But solitude is more that just being alone, of course. What I'm really talking about is solitude that is good for the soul. And Jesus often separated Himself from people and went to a mountain to pray, or went to the valley, to the desert to pray, and He was alone with the Father.
Spending time alone with God in prayer and His Word is an essential spiritual practice in your life. If you are a believer and many people are alone, or rather lonely because they're not alone with God ever in their life; don't spend time with Him. But when you do, if you have a daily time with God, a quiet time, a God time in your life, you will experience His presence. Psalm 37:4, one of my favorites. "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart". If you have a desire for companionship and friendship. Maybe you have a desire of prayer for a mate or a spouse. You feel lonely; you're a single adult and you're praying that God would give you a husband or a wife.
I always say be the right person and you'll ultimately in God's will find the right person. You get in the presence of God and there'll be a glow about you. There's a fellowship with God that will transform the way you live, the way you think, the way you even look. 1 John 1:3, John, the beloved who bent his ear to the heart of God, laid his head over the chest of Jesus, heard the heartbeat of God beating for the world. It was John who said, "Our fellowship is with Him. We walked with Him, we talked with Him, and our fellowship is with you". Jesus came to earth, our Emmanuel, God is with us, so that in solitude we can seek Him. I've been seriously meeting with God for decades now, every day of my life, and it is His presence, His loving presence that fills my life with meaning and purpose every single day.
So commune with God. If you don't know Him, come to Him, get to know Him. Experience His presence. We talk all the time about having a relationship with God. That's what I'm talking about. Jesus is not someone I just talk about, He's not just someone I think about; He's someone I know! I was captivated as a teenager with the words of Jesus in John 15. "I call you My friend". What a Friend we have in Jesus! And then, not only commune with God, this will help you to lose loneliness, but connect with the church. Jesus gave us the church and the church is a family of friends, a gathering of brothers and sisters in Christ. The psalmist said, who sets the solitary in families? "God sets the solitary in families".
And you may not even have a family home, you may be separated from your family. You may have moved here to Texas and your immediate family is a long way away. You may feel alone here. You may be new here. Let God bring you a spiritual family. We think Prestonwood is a church to call home. And the key to this is to actually get together with the brothers and sisters of Christ. Listen to Hebrews 10:24 and 25. The Scripture says: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another". Have you encouraged anyone yet today? "And all the more as you see the Day draw near". The closer we get to the return of Christ, the day we stand before God, the more we're going to need each other, because have you noticed? It's getting tougher and tougher and tougher in our times, and we need one another.
So, reach out; take the initiative. I know it may be hard. I know you may say, "Well, I'm an introvert". Okay, well, break through that. Ask God to help you. Too many people have a "Do Not Disturb" sign hung around their neck. Take that off; lose that, and welcome people who want to encourage you and help you. Here's the fact, God has given you a spiritual family for your life. I know some people have had bad experiences with church or churches. Maybe you felt put out by the church or put off by the church and that's a sad story, and I do regret that and I'm sorry it happened. But don't spend the rest of your life being angry about that, being resentful. Get back in God's church. Find a church where Christ is preached, the Bible is taught like this one, and give God the chance to change your life.
One final thing and that is care about people. Fact is that many people are lonely because they're all into themselves, and they never reach out beyond to help somebody out. If you need help, help somebody else. The real reason so many Christians are lonely is because they're not serving, they're not working and doing something productive with lives. All around us are lonely people who need your love, who need your help. So get involved, visit the sick, serve the hungry, pray for the hurting, work with children. We have people today that want to go on a mission trip somewhere around the world, and they won't even volunteer to serve in children's ministry.
Serve somebody! Share your faith with people! The world is filled with lonely people! "Ahh, all the lonely people. Where do they all come from"? You don't have to live and die without God. "Eleanor Rigby died and was buried along with her name; nobody came". That doesn't have to be the end of your story. You can know God. You can experience the presence of Jesus in your life. And even when it comes time to die, you won't die alone because God is with you and He'll come for you and take you into His presence.