Rick Warren - What to Do When It Feels Hopeless
Now, if you'll pull out your message notes inside your program, we're gonna continue in the series, and I'm calling "The Manifestation of Your Life Mission". Now, in the first session I told you that there's three ways we learn. We learn by experience, we learn by explanation, and we learn by example. Without a doubt, the easiest way to learn is by example. Then you don't have to make all the mistakes yourself. You can learn from successful examples, you can actually learn from failures. You can learn from good examples and you can learn from bad examples. We're gonna take the Book of Jonah and learn from a bad example, who will later turn around and actually eventually got it right, of a guy who was given a mission from God and he went the other way.
God said, "Go," Jonah said, "No," and God said, "Oh"? And that's the whole story of Jonah. God has a life mission for your life. This is the most important thing in your life: to know your life mission. You don't wanna go through life, stand before God, and on judgment day, and God goes, "Well, did you fulfill the mission that I gave you on this earth"? You go, "Oh, I didn't even know I had one". You think you are put on this earth to live for yourself? Really? No, no, no. God has a much bigger cause, purpose, goal, mission for your life than for you to just make money, retire, and die. Oh, no, no, no. You're not here for something that small. God has a life mission for every life.
Now, today we know that Jonah, we're lookin' chapter two, ran from his mission. God had said, "I want you to go to Nineveh, which was the capital of Assyria, and I want you to tell this message to these people". It's 550 miles to the East of where he lived in Israel. Jonah goes the exact opposite direction that's far away from God's mission for his life as he could. He gets on board a boat and heads for Tarshish, which is a seaport on the coast of Spain. It's 2,500 miles the opposite direction. And last week, we looked at 10 lessons you can learn about your life mission. Do you know those 10 lessons? If you don't, you need to go back and listen to that message. It's online, the first message in this series. When God has a life mission for your life. But when you run from God, everything goes downhill. It creates all kinds of problems, and we looked at the problems that happened in his life, it's all down, down, down, down. He gets onboard a ship, he gets involved in a big storm in the Mediterranean Pacific.
The Mediterranean, the soldiers throw him overboard, the sailors throw him overboard. And he gets swallowed up by this great fish. Now, remember I told you last week the word "whale" is not in the story. You've all heard your life that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Well, first place a whale's not a fish. A whale is a mammal. And God knows the difference. Could have been a whale, but the sailors would've had known that that it was a mammal. But a lot of scientists think that maybe it was the largest fish in the ocean, which is actually called a whale shark. And I showed you a picture of a typical whale shark. Here's what it looks like compared to a bus, maybe not. There we go. That's a whale shark. They're typically about 40 feet long. That bus could hold 80 passengers. That whale shark could hold one man. And whale sharks are totally harmless to humans because they are filter feeders. They eat micronutrients. They don't need teeth like most sharks do, 'cause they don't tear stuff apart. They only eat micronutrients, so it could have easily swallowed a man.
The Bible doesn't say where Jonah lived or died, God could have resurrected him if He'd wanted to, but that was it. And then I wanna show you what it looks like compared to a man. Here's the other one. There's Jonah, actually they're swimming. And there's a whale shark. There are lots of pictures I showed you last week or in our first session of people swimming around, 'cause these guys are totally harmless to human beings. But we ended the first chapter of Jonah with this verse. Look on the screen. "Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah". And that means He custom-made. If God, you don't have a problem with it. If you believe that God created the entire universe, God created every fish in the ocean, God created every animal, God could have custom-made a fish with a living room, a dinette, and air conditioning for Jonah if He'd wanted to.
So if you have a problem with God creating something special, you have a problem with the world. But let's go back to that verse. It said, "The Lord had arranged a great fish," actually the word is ordained, "to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights". I heard about a little girl, she was being challenged by a skeptic and he goes, "How could God create a fish that would swallow a man"? And the little girl said, "Well, I don't know. I'm not God. But when I get to heaven, I'm gonna ask Jonah how God did it". And the skeptic said, "Well, what if Jonah didn't go to heaven, what if he went to hell"? She said, "Then you can ask him". No. One thing we know for sure some people thought the story was a fable, but Jesus said, "No, it actually happened". And you're doubting Jesus. Jesus said it was a true actual story.
In fact here's what the Bible says. This is hundreds of years later. Some religious scholars who didn't believe Jesus, they didn't think He is who He claim to be the Son of God. Some religious scholars didn't believe Jesus, challenged Him saying, "We wanna see you do a miracle". Now, Jesus answered, "You who are faithless, and you intend evil, you keep asking for miraculous proof, but the only miraculous sign I'm gonna give you guys will be the same sign as Jonah". Now let me explain that. Jesus did a lot of miracles for people who believed. People who had faith in Him, he rewarded their faith. He healed people, He raised the dead, He did all kinds of miracles for people who had faith, but Jesus didn't go around showin' off for skeptics. He wasn't doing these signs to prove Himself to people who didn't believe. And so He goes, "You just want me to show off". "The only miracle you're gonna see is the same miracle as Jonah".
Now here's what the rest of the verse says. "For just as Jonah was in the belly of that huge fish for three days and nights, so I, the Son of Man, will be in a grave in the earth for three days and nights". He goes, "I'm gonna die, and three days later I'm gonna resurrect myself". That's called Easter. Then on Judgment Day, the people of Nineveh, that's people Jonah was assigned to talk to, are gonna stand up in judgment and condemnation of you living now. Why? Because when Jonah warned them, they immediately repented. They changed their ways, and they believed in God. But today, someone greater than Jonah, He's talking about Himself, He's saying, "Today, right now, with you guys, I'm standing here, someone greater than Jonah is speaking to you right now, yet you refuse to turn to God like they did".
Now, what do you do when it seems hopeless? In this chapter, we have seven things to do. I hope this weekend you're not feelin' hopeless. I really do. I hope you're not feelin' hopeless. You're gonna need this someday so take notes, because you will have moments in your life, you're gonna lose loved ones, you're gonna have failures, you're gonna have moments in your life where it feels hopeless. Are you gonna know what to do? The Bible tells us what to do when it feels hopeless.
Number one, let's get right into it. When you hit bottom, look up to God. When you hit bottom, you look up to God. This whole chapter, chapter two, is actually a prayer. It's Jonah's prayer that he prayed as he's drowning in the ocean, he's swallowed by some kind of giant fish, he doesn't know what's going on and the entire chapter is when I'm sinkin', when I'm going down, I'm gonna look up to God. I'm going to pray. That's the first verse, Jonah 2:1. From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. Circle "Jonah prayed". You know, it's funny, I was reading this today and I was like, if some churches have a weekly fish dinner than a prayer meeting, in this case, after the fish had dinner, Jonah prayed. Little bit different here. How do you think Jonah felt swallowed up by this situation? Well, he immediately does the first thing on his mind. He looks up. When you're hittin' bottom, you look up. He prays to God.
Now, a lot of people go, "Well, if God plans everything out in our lives, why in the world should we pray"? It's good question. If God's planning everything out, God's in charge, God's in control, why should we even pray? And the reason why is because God, in His sovereignty and wisdom, prescribes not only the ends that He wants to see in your life, but He also prescribes the means. He prescribes the ends to His will, what He wants, and then He also prescribes the means. And God wants to involve us in His plan. And so part of His plan is to use our prayers to accomplish what He intends to do. Part of God's plan is that He intends to use our prayers to accomplish what He wants to do already. This is inviting us to be His partners. This is quite a privilege. God could do everything in the world without a single prayer. He doesn't need our prayers. But God has chosen to involve you in your own life, and me in my own life, and all of us in the direction of the world.
And there's some things God only does if we pray. He has predicated what He wants to do on our prayers. God wants to involve us. There are some things, there are some kind of problems in life that the only way you're ever gonna have those problems solved is if you learn to pray persistently about that prayer. I'm not talking about praying one time and then that's it. If you only care about something enough to pray about it once, you don't really care about it. But something that you really wanna see happen in your life, you're gonna pray about it over and over and over. Why does God wait to answer our prayers? He can honestly answer any prayer instantly if He wanted to, but He doesn't. He lets us pray, and pray more, and pray more, and pray more, and pray more. He wants first to distinguish between what's really a real desire in your life and what's just a whim.
When my kids were little and it's Christmas time, we'd go through stores, daddy, I want this for Christmas, I want this for Christmas, I want this for Christmas. I'm not really paying attention. As soon as it's out of sight, we're in the next line, we're in the next row, they've already forgotten it. That's just whim. I'd like this, I'd like this. Oh, I'd like this, I'd like this. It's kinda like the way I go on a candy store. But when they go, "I really want this," and I keep hearing them say, "Dad, I really want this for Christmas. Dad, I really want this for Christmas. Dad, I really," now I know what they really want. There's a difference between just a whim. God says, "If you don't care about praying about it more than one time, you really don't care about it". You want a husband? You want a different job? You wanted healing? What do you want in life? Do you care about it enough to keep praying about it until God answers? God is testing your faith. He's more interested in building your faith than He is simply answering every little prayer.
God's not a slot machine, where you put in a prayer and you pull it, and instantly you get whatever you want. A slot machine will give you stuff that'll kill ya. God will never give anything that's harmful to you. But there are some kind of problems in life that are never gonna be solved until you look up and you pray persistently. You can try everything else but it's not gonna budge. God is waiting for you to pray. One time some of Jesus' followers, the disciples, came by and there was just a person here who'd like he had a bad spirit in him. And we tried to pray for the guy to be healed, and he wasn't healed. Why couldn't we do that? We're kinda embarrassed we were doin' in front of everybody. And here's what Jesus said, on the screen, Mark 9:28 and 29, "The disciples privately asked Jesus, 'Why couldn't we drive out that bad spirit?' Jesus answered, 'Cause this kind can only be forced out by prayer.'"
Now what is Jesus saying here? There are some problems in your life, you can try every human solution and it's not gonna work. There are some problems in your life that are so deep, so deep rooted in your past, in your parents, in your traumas. Some problems that are so deep the only way they're gonna come out is by prayer. And so this is a starting point. Jonah does this thing right. This is the first thing he's done right. He's thrown overboard, and what does he do? He looks up and he immediately starts praying. God's waiting to see how persistent you are in prayer. Now, here's the second thing he did. This is what Jonah did. God wants you to do this too. When you're feeling hopeless, pray passionately. Pray passionately. I'm talking about pray with emotion. There are certain kinds of prayers God answers, and there are certain kinds of prayers God's just bored with. God is bored with the trite, memorized, mechanical, methodical, memorized prayer.
We just go, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep," you know? And we have all of our little cliches, "Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and on". And we're not even thinking about it 'cause we said them so many times. There's a difference, if you know as a parent, when a child comes to you and says something that's just, they don't really mean it, but when they come and they say it passionately and they say it with emotion. I can imagine as Jonah's dropping down in the ocean and is getting swallowed by this fish that he's praying, "Now I lay me down to sleep". I doubt he's even prayin' Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Firstly, Jesus hadn't given that to us yet. But he's not praying some memorized, he's goin', "Help! God, I need help right now"! And he is crying out, probably shouting out. He's praying with emotion. This guy is desperate. He's frantic. God answers desperate prayers. God answers frantic prayers. God answers emotional prayers.
When was the last time you got frantic with God? God hears the crisis prayer. In Jonah verse two, we see the second thing he did, this praying passionately. Jonah said, "In my distress and in my deep trouble I cried out". Circle that, that's passionate prayer. "I cried out". When was the last time you cried out to God? Not like, "Hi, God, how is it going? How are You doing? Hope you had a good day today, I did too. See you tomorrow. Over and out, 10-4, good buddy". Yeah. God gets so bored with perfunctory prayers. They're just words. They mean nothing. He says, "You worship Me with your lips but not with your heart". They're just mouthing platitudes. God says, "When you talk to Me, I wanna hear what's on your heart. I don't want you to tell Me what you think you should tell Me. I don't want you to tell Me what you learned in some Bible school or catechism, I want you to tell Me what's on your heart. And I want you to be passionate about it. I want you to be emotional. I want you to be authentic. I want you to be real". Jonah says, "I cried out".
That's the second thing, you don't just look up, you cry out. You look up and you cry out. You look up and you cry out. When you're in pain, when you're feelin' hopeless, when you're bein' swallowed up by the circumstances around you. Now there's a word for this. Crying out to God in the Bible is the word called lamenting. Lamenting. A crying out to God is called a lament. A lament is the synonym for a complaint. You say, "Wait a minute, it's okay to complain to God"? Of course it's okay to complain to God. God wants you to complain to Him, because He loves you, He's interested in every detail of your life. Yes, it's okay to complain to God. God, I don't like this. This sucks, this is terrible. This is not right. This is not fair. That's called lamenting.
And did you know that in the Book of Psalms, with your personal prayers to God, there are 150 of those. They're not all praise. They're not all sun shiny, happy, clappy, the sun will come out tomorrow kind of thing. One-third of the psalms of the Bible of 150, 50 of them are complaints. 50 of 'em are laments going, "God, this is not fair. God, You lied to me. God, this stinks. God," that's called lamenting. Now, the best books on lamenting in the Bible are the Book of Job, the Book of Lamentations, which are the laments of Jeremiah. He was the complaining prophet. Lamentations, Job, and the Book of Psalms. And David laments. They cry out. There's an entire book of the Bible full of complaints. It's called Lamentations. The laments of God.
So yes, it's okay for you to complain to God, because God cares about your laments. God cares about the pain that you have. He far would rather have you complain than for you to say some little polite prayer that you memorized. He doesn't care about that. He wants to know what's on your heart. I could give you example after example how God answers the prayers of people in pain when they pray passionately. Good example would be Hannah. Hannah, all of her life had wanted to have a baby, but she was infertile, she couldn't have a child. And she prays this prayer. Look up here on the screen. 1 Samuel 1. By the way, Samuel ended up being her son that was the answer to her prayer, who became a very famous prophet.
1 Samuel 1, so he's telling a story about his mom. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed the Lord, "I've wanted to have a baby, I've wanted to have a baby, I've wanted to have a baby, and I haven't had a baby". Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed, she's lamenting. And she made this vow. "Oh, Lord, Almighty, if You will look down upon my sorrow, and You'll answer my prayer, and You'll give me a son, and I will give him back to You, and he will be Yours for his entire lifetime". And she did. And that boy grew up to be the Samuel of 1 Samuel. This I the prophet who ordained the first king of Israel, Saul, ordained David. He wrote 1 and 2 Samuel in the Bible. This was Hannah's son. She's crying out bitterly, "God, here's her prayer".
So when you're in trouble and you're feelin' hopeless, the first thing you do is you look up. You look up to God. You pray. The second thing you do is you pray passionately. You don't just say, "Oh, God, I kinda like to have this". You cry out to God. This is what Jonah's. He's not praying perfunctory prayers. This is no polite request. This is gut-wrenching prayer. So if you don't get anything else, I tell ya, I want you to get this. It really doesn't matter where you pray. A lot of people think they have to go into a church and kneel down to pray. God doesn't care where you pray. Peter prayed while he's sinkin' in the water. And all kinds of people prayed in wars and battles and all kinds. It doesn't matter where you pray, what matters is your heart when you pray.
I wanna read you a poem. It's over 100 years old. It's by a guy named Sam Foss. It's called "The Prayer of Farmer Brown". The proper way for one to pray, said Pastor Samuel Keys, is to humble yourself before the Lord and get down on your knees. No, I say that the way to pray, said Pastor David Wise, is to stand up straight with outstretched arms and eyes turned to the skies. Oh, no, no, no, said Pastor Slow, that posture is too proud. We should all pray with eyes closed tight and heads contritely bowed. Well, I believe your hand should be gently clasped in front with both thumbs pointing toward the ground, said Pastor Johnny Blunt. But last year I fell into a well head first, said Farmer Brown, both of my feet were stickin' up, and my head was pointing down, yet in my distress I called out to God with the most honest words I've said, yes, the best prayers I've ever prayed was standing on my head. It doesn't matter how you, now, I wrote a few extra verses. I added these. Then Jonah said, "These all may be true for each one of you, so use whichever one you wish, but as for me my best prayer came in the belly of a fish".
It was dark and wet and cold and scary, but my prayers raced like a comet. They streaked across the sky to God, and he made that big fish vomit. So when and how and where you pray are matters of private fashion, just be sure that when you pray, you present your needs with passion. All right? I think I'll stick to preaching, not poetry, okay? All right, here's the third thing you do when you are feeling hopeless. You're gonna need this someday, you better write this down. Identify the cause of my hopelessness. Identify the cause of my hopelessness. Hopelessness is a vague feeling, and you can't deal with a vague feeling. You can't work with a problem, you can't solve a problem, you can't even pray about a problem until you identify the problem. You gotta identify it. You gotta identify the cause of my hopelessness. You can't counteract the feeling unless you name it.
Have you ever had a general vague feeling of uneasiness and you're feelin' down, you're feelin' hopeless and you go, "I don't know why I feel this way. I don't know why". Well, you can't work on it until you name it. When you name the feeling, that in itself helps you get a handle on it. Anything you can't name is already out of control in your life. So if you got this vague feeling of depression or vague feeling of down or discouragement, or vague feeling of hopelessness, you need to stop and go, "What's really going on here? What's behind this"? You need to pinpoint the source. And this is what Jonah did. Years ago I did a study of what causes people to lose hope. And I discovered, I read extensively, literally of everything I could possibly read on hopelessness, and I discovered that there are about 10 common causes of hopelessness.
The hopelessness isn't the problem, the problem is what's causing the hopelessness in your life. And it's interesting as I read Jonah's vivid description of what's going through his mind as he's sinking down and he's praying this prayer. And he's sinking below the waves and he's swallowed by that fish. I discovered he illustrates a bunch of those common causes of hopelessness. So for your benefit, I just wanna point them out. I wanna read through part of Jonah's prayer and I want us to pick out causes of hopelessness, 'cause then you'll know, oh, this is what's really makin' me feel bad. It's not this vague sense of hopelessness. You can't work on it until you name it, all right? So let me read to you verse three to six in Jonah chapter two. Jonah, this is his prayer.
"You, God, cast me into the deep water, and I sank to the bottom of the sea, everything was churning around me, and I was engulfed by powerful waves that overwhelm me. Then I thought, 'I've been banished from God's presence 'and I'll never get to see Your holy temple again.' I was scared to death, afraid I was drowning with water choking me, and the seaweed wrapped all around my head". This is pretty graphic. "I kept sinking down to the ocean floor, to the mountains that rise off the ocean floor. and I felt locked in a prison forever". Now, in that passage he gives us eight common causes of hopelessness. Now I'm not gonna spend a lot of time on these, but I want you to check any one of these that you may be feeling right now, 'cause this could be a precursor to depression or hopelessness in your life, okay? So here are eight feelings that cause us to feel hopeless, and Jonah mentions them all.
Number one, first feeling I'm in over my head. Feeling that I'm in over my head. When you feel like, "I don't have, my situation exceeds my knowledge. My situation exceeds my ability. My situation exceeds my finances. I'm in over my head. I've been thrown into the deep end". Jonah says, "You cast me into the deep water". And he's saying, "I'm way out of my depth. I'm in too deep. I'm in deep trouble". When you feel like you're in over your head, that's gonna cause you to feel hopeless.
Number two, feeling I've hit bottom can cause hopelessness. Feeling I've hit bottom. I sank to the bottom of the sea. There was no way I could go any lower, I was at an all time low. And that when you feel you can't go any lower, when you feel, "I have hit rock bottom," or "The bottom fell out, and I've gone even lower, I'm as low as you can go. I've hit bottom". That's gonna cause hopelessness.
Third feeling. Job says, "Feeling out of control and powerless". Feeling out of control and powerless. He says in the next phrase, "Everything was churning," circle that, "churning around me". Every felt like that, everything was churning around you? You feel out of control and you feel powerless to change anything. You're drifting without direction. You got motion without meaning. You got activity without clarity. You've got pressure without purpose. You're just drifting around. Everything's churning around me. I'm drifting around. I'm swept along by outside forces. You're all over the map, and that feeling out of control and powerless.
Number four, fourth thing, feeling overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed can cause you to be hopeless. I was engulfed, Jonah says, by powerful waves that overwhelmed me. I'm engulfed. That means I'm helpless to change it. I'm engulfed, it's so powerful, I'm overwhelmed by it.
Number five, feeling rejected or lonely. Either these could cause you to feel hopeless, feeling rejected or feeling, that's the real cause of the hopelessness, not the hopelessness. He says, "Then I thought I've been banished from God's presence". Aloneness can cause hopelessness. Jonah's saying, "I feel like God's a million miles away". I feel rejected. I feel on my own. I feel alone. That can cause hopelessness in your life.
Number six, feeling remorse and regret. You can use this checklist with friends. When you're helping them trying to figure out what's making them feel so bad. Feeling remorse or regret. Jonah says, "And I'll never get to see Your Holy Temple again". He's filled with remorse. He's filled with regret. He knows the problem is his own fault. He was running from God. You can run from God but then you can't run anymore, because you can run but you can't hide. On here on the screen, Psalm 42:4, David says, "My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be". That's a cause for hopelessness. "My heart is breaking for I remember how it used to be". I feel remorse, I feel regret. I may feel guilt, because it was so good but I ran from God. I ran from God. And my heart's breaking as I remember how it used to be.
Number seven, big cause of hopelessness, feeling: crushing fear. Feeling: crushing fear. Jonah says, I was scared to death. I was afraid. I was afraid I was drowning with water choking me and seaweed wrapped all around my head. Circle that word choking. Did you know that the word worry, or the English word worry comes from the Old English word worgen. You know what worgen means? To choke, to strangle. Worry has a strangling, choking feeling on your life. It can choke the life, anxiety, worry, fear can choke the life out of you. They can choke the hope out of you. Feeling: crushing fear.
And the eighth thing he says is, "I was feeling trapped. I was feeling trapped. I felt locked in a prison forever". Other translation says, "I felt behind bars, and somebody had thrown away the key". Now, as we go through that list, are you feeling any of these right now? Oh, I'm in over my head. I've hit bottom, feel out of control, feel powerless, feel overwhelmed, feel lonely, feel rejected, feel remorse or regret, feel crushing, feel trapped. Only when you name what you're feeling, only when you identify what you're feeling can you actually pray about it specifically. But once you know what's the cause of your hopelessness, then you can go to the next step. Number four, here's number four: ask God for specific help.
Now you can say, God, I'm feeling out of control. God, I'm feeling regret. I'm feeling remorse. God, I'm feelin' fear. God, I'm feelin' trapped. Any of these things we just listed, you talk to God specifically about those things. Be specific. Jonah 2:2, the second part, he says, "From the deep, from deep in the world of the dead I asked for help and You listened to my cry". Now, that deep on the world of dead could indicate that maybe he eventually died in that fish and was resurrected. We don't know, that's just a guess. Psalm 50:15, God says, "Call to Me in your times of trouble, and I will save you and you will honor Me". So once I know what's the source, I've named what I'm really feelin'. I just have this vague feeling bad. I know what's causing. I know the thorn. Then I begin to pray specifically.
Now here's the key to asking for help. I want you to write this down. Pray the word of God. Write this down. Pray the word of God. What do I mean by that? I mean, take Scripture and say them back to God. This is what Jonah did to get his miracle. Jonah clearly is well-versed in the Bible, because in this very short prayer, he prays eight different Scriptures. Everything he said is a quote from Psalms. He's eight times he quotes Psalms. He's just quoting what other people have complained about in the Bible. Now, it's a whole lot better to pray the Bible back to God. God loves to hear His words prayed back to Him.
You say, "Well, what should I pray"? Write these down, three things you should pray. Pray the complaints to God. Pray the complaints of the Bible to God. Everything Jonah just prayed is actually in the Book of Psalms. He's just sayin', "I felt this way, I felt this way". He's quoting David. You wouldn't know that unless you knew Scripture, but you pray the complaints to God. So when you read one of those lamentation verses or chapters or Psalms, you can go, "God, this is my prayer". And you pray to God. God, I am angry with You right now. You pray the complaints to God. Laments. As I said, they're in Job, they're in Psalms, they're in Lamentations, the Book of Lamentations.
Number two, pray the truth about God. That's the second thing. Pray the complaints of God, pray the truth of God, about God. God, You're a good God. God, You're a gracious God. God, You're a just God. God, You're a fair God. You pray what the Bible says about God back to God, okay? God, here's my complaints. They're in the Bible. Here's what the Bible says about You, that's in the Bible.
And then the third thing, you pray the promises of God. God, You promised to do this, now keep Your word. I can't tell you how many times in prayers have I said, "God, I need You to keep Your word. God, I need You to do what You've promised to do". You have promised right here, and I'll say the promise for I've got it memorized. You have promised to do this. God, I need You to keep Your word. Pray the complaints of the Bible, pray the truths of the Bible, and pray the promises of the Bible.
Number five, fifth thing you do, focus on the goodness of God to me. When everything looks dark, when everything I can't see, there's a fog, it's shrouded. I can't see the future, it's pitch black. There's no light at the end of the tunnel. I focus on the goodness of God to me. And what I'm gonna have to do is I'm gonna have to mentally shift my mind when I'm hopeless. I'm gonna have to choose to stop thinking about the things that are making me feel hopeless and I'm gonna have to choose to change the channel of my mind and start thinking about the things that I can be, I know for sure they're gonna lift my spirit, the goodness of God. How He's been good to me in the past, how He's promised to be good to me in the future, and on in that. In verse seven Jonah says this, "When I had lost all hope," some of you listening, there are people listening on Daily Hope right now that they've lost all hope. "When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord".
Friends, that's the answer to hopelessness right there. "When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord". I turned back to the goodness of God, and the greatness of God, and the power of God, and the love of God, and the fairness and the justice of God, and the kindness of God. "I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to You in Your Holy Temple". He's talking about heaven. Now, you know, the Bible in the Old Testament, it's written in Hebrew but the Greek word for turning your thoughts is the word metanoia. You know what that word is? It's the word for repent. Repentance simply means to turn your thoughts. That's all it means.
Repentance does not mean stop doing bad stuff; repentance means change your mind. Turn your thoughts. Think about it in a different way. Look at life from God's viewpoint instead of my own viewpoint. Look at the goodness of God, not the problems in my life. I turn my thoughts, metanoia. I repent. When you feel hopeless, you need to change the channel of your mind. You need to change your focus. You look at your problems, you'll be distressed. You look within, you'll be depressed. You look at Christ, you'll be at rest. It all depends on what you're looking at. You look at the world, you'll be distressed. Look around you, you'll be distressed. You look within, you'll be depressed. You look at Christ, you'll be at rest. All depends on what you're focused on. You change the channel. When I had lost all hope, I turn my thoughts once more to the Lord. What a beautiful verse. You need to memorize that verse. You need to take it home riding on a cart and you need to know Jonah 2:7 by heart.
Everybody who's listening to the sound of my voice should memorize that verse because one day you're gonna be driving a car and you're in an accident and you think this is the end. And you'll say, "And when I had lost all hope, I once again turned my thoughts to the Lord". And that verse will be there for you. It can't help you if you don't hide it in your heart. The Bible has all of the things to get rid of your hopelessness. You just don't know where they are. And if you poured over this verse like Jonah did, he knew the Psalms so well that when he's drowning, he can quote eight different Psalms from memory and he's quoting the goodness of God, and he's quoting the complaints of David, and he's quoting the promises that are gonna save him. Can you do that? That's God's way of getting out of hopelessness. You need to start thinking about God's word instead of thinking about your worries.
If you're thinkin' about your worries, it's just gonna be swirling down, down, down down. If you're thinking about God's word, it's gonna be goin' up, up, up, up. Look up when you hit bottom. Now, one of the Psalms that Jonah remembers and quotes is actually Psalm 27. Look up here on the screen. Jonah says, "I would have despaired," I guess so, "unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord". I would have been in despair unless I had believed. I'm gonna focus on the goodness of God. God's goodness to me. When I lost all hope, I turn my thoughts once more to God. God, You're a good God. This is not a good situation, and it's my fault. I recognize it, it's my fault. I'm here because I was running from You. It's my sin that caused this pain, this problem. I know it, but you're still a good God even when I'm not good. And I will turn my thoughts to the Lord. "I would have despaired unless I believe that I would see the goodness of the Lord".
You know this verse that I just read you. You just know it in the New International Version. We sing it all the time. Look at up here on the screen. Here's the same verse. "The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid"? "I will remain," this is verse 13, "I will remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living". He was anywhere but the land of the living when he's prayin' that prayer. I remember quoting that verse standing out in front of my son's home when my youngest son, Matthew, lost his battle with mental illness and took his life. It was the worst day of my life.
And I remember saying, "The Lord is my light and salvation, Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I be afraid? I will remain confident of this. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living". He will not return to me, but I will return to Him one day. Regardless of what you're going through, God's purpose, God's grace, God's mission for your life is greater than the problem you are going through right now. I will remain confident of this. When I had lost all hope, I once again turn my thoughts to the Lord. As I said earlier, you need to memorize that verse. Even when the problem is your fault, it was Jonah's fault. He got himself into that mess. That didn't stop the grace of God. Now there are two more, two more lessons we learn when you're feelin' hopeless.
Number six: reject false fixes. Reject false fixes, the solutions, and accept God's grace. Reject false fixes and accept God's grace. Now, we've all seen people in big trouble who turn to God only as a last resort. They try literally everything else to solve their problem before they'll finally, in humility, turn to God. And they will try some of the stupidest, dumbest, most worthless things instead of God when they're in deep trouble. Instead of turning to God's grace, they turn to everything but God. Their marriage is falling apart, their career is falling apart, their body may be falling apart, their reputation is falling apart in shambles, and they're looking at everything else. Reject false fixes.
Last summer I took my family on vacation to Canada. We went to Banff. I'm kind of a rock and mineral kind of guy. I love lookin' at God's creations and minerals and I went into one of His great beautiful rock stores up there, but there was one section that add a whole bunch of quartz crystals in it for healing, and they were named. So like, if you got a poor sex life, you need this crystal. If you're bald, going bald, you need this crystal. If you got acid indigestion, you need that crystal. And if you're depress, you need to put this crystal in your room. How stupid can people be, but they're making a killing selling rocks. Now, I like crystals, but they're not gonna keep my hair in place. Jonah 2:8, here's the next thing Jonah says. "Those who look to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs". Jonah knows it's his own fault, but he knows God is still a gracious God even though it's his fault, he caused all this problem. So those who look to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Now today, we don't carve idols anymore. Little idols, we'll stick them, we buy them. We all have idols, ours just look prettier. Some people idolize their car. Some people idolize their home. Some people idolize their front lawn. Some people idolize the clothes they wear. We idolize fame today. We idolize fortune and wealth today. We idolize pleasure. We idolize sex as if it's the most important thing in life. We idolize popularity. We idolize power. We idolize all kinds of things. We are just as idolatrous as previous generations. Our just idols look nicer. What do you idolize? Anything you think about more than God is your idol. Some people idolize their job. That's what they're living for. The job is God. Some people idolize the next date. That's all they're thinking about. What's gonna be my next date? Some people idolize marriage. Getting married is the ultimate pentacle of life, it's not. Anybody wanna give a testimony on that one? It's a good thing I've been married almost 45 years, but it's not God.
What do you idolize? What do you idolize? Those who look to worthless idols, you're looking for some other solution to your problem. Instead of turning to the grace of God, you forfeit the grace of God. When I saw those crystals in that store and all the things that were promising to cure, I thought of this verse here on the screen. Romans 1:25, "Instead of believing the truth of God, many people choose to believe lies". They choose to believe lies. Like this crystal is gonna make me feel better. "Worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator Himself". Who made those crystals? God did. They can't talk, they can't listen, they can't give you advice. They're idols. They can't solve your problem. People choose to believe lies. We believe lies all the time. Our culture is filled with lies that we believe. If it feels right, it must be right. That's a lie. It may feel right to you, that doesn't make it right. If it feels right, it must be, that's a lie. It's just not true.
"I am the master of my fate", that's a lie. You are not the master of your fate. That's easily disprovable. It's easily proven wrong. You didn't choose most of the major things that made you you. You didn't choose where you were born, you didn't choose when you were born, you didn't choose who your parents were, you didn't choose your race, you didn't choose your natural gifts and aptitudes. You're not the master of your fate. Most of the things that made you you had no control over. It's a lie. It's trying to say I'm God. God is not God, I'm God. He who dies with the most toys wins, that's a lie. He who dies with the most toys still dies. And we're not keeping count 'cause you're not taking any of it into the eternity. God helps those who help themselves, that's a lie. That's just not true. It's not in the Bible. God helps those who trust Him, not who help themselves. If it's to be, it's up to me, that's a lie. If it's to be, it's up to God. You're not God. God is God. People choose to believe lies and they forfeit the grace of God.
Look in this verse on the screen. Philippians 3:3, "We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ has done already for us". That's the grace of God. That's how you're gonna get out of your hopelessness. Not by pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. We depend on the grace of God. Jonah didn't try to save himself. When he's at the bottom of the ocean in this big fish, he's not going, now, can I remember my lifeguard Red Cross training? I'll hold my breath deep, I'll swim to the top, and then I'll tread water until a Mediterranean cruise ship comes by and picks me up. He's not trying to save himself. Stop trying to save yourself and forfeit the grace of God. Jonah says this. Jonah 2:6, "You, O Lord, saved me and You brought my life back up from the pit". That's a euphemism for death. You brought my life back up. I was dying. He may have died. I was dying.
Now here's the seventh thing you do when life seems hopeless, number seven. Do what Jonah did. Express gratitude to God in advance. Express gratitude to God in advance before you're out of the situation, while you're in the belly of the fish, while you're at rock bottom, while things are swirling around. Now, I need to explain the difference between gratitude before and gratitude after. If I wait until after God solves my problem to thank Him, that's gratitude. That's thankfulness. Thank You, God, for solving my problem, that's gratitude. If I thank God in advance before the problem has been solved, that's faith. Does that make sense? I am in faith saying thank You, God, in advance for solving this problem, for answering this prayer.
If I wait till after God has solved the problem, it's just gratitude. It's thanksgiving. That's a good thing. But if I thank God in advance, now I have expressed faith. Thank You, God, for solving this problem. While I'm depressed, I don't feel like the problem is solved, but I'm thanking You in advance. That's faith, and God always, always responds to faith. How do I show gratitude to God in advance? Well, notice, three ways. Jonah did three things and these are the three things you need to do when you are feeling hopeless, showing gratitude to God in advance. Verse nine, Jonah says, "I will sing a song of thanksgiving and I will sacrifice to You and I will do what I have promised You to do because," why? "Because salvation comes from the Lord". Now notice, he says, "I will, I will, I will". This is in advance. He's promising, he's vowing. I will do this, I will do this, I will do this. He's doing it in advance. He's not waiting till the problem is solved to be grateful.
Now, write these down. Here are the three ways you express gratitude to God in advance. Number one, through singing. Through singing. I will sing a song of thanksgiving. Some of you don't think singing is important. It is. I don't have time to go in it. It's good for your health, it's a depression reliever. Study psychological studies, it's good for your health. Now, I see you at this. How many think you're too cool saying, oh, I'm just cool? Everybody else is singing, but I'm too manly to sing. I'm too cool, or some of you just think, you don't know my voice, Rick. I can't sing. The Bible doesn't say you have to have a good voice. It says make a joyful noise. Even pigs can do that when they eat. That's a joyful noise, okay?
And in a crowd this size, you could be a prison singer. You're always behind a few bars and never have the right key, but it's still a joyful noise, okay? I'm not talking about the kind, your voice may need to be cultivated. It is plowed under. I mean, you couldn't carry a tune in a baggy really, but you need to learn to sing to God. And you sing to God in advance and you say, "I will remain confident of this. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I will remain. The Lord is my light and salvation. Whom will I fear? Who will I be afraid"? You need to sing that. You need to sing every song every week. It's thanking God in advance. It's good for your health.
Number two, second way, he says, "Through giving back to God". Through giving back to God. He says, "I will sacrifice to You. I'm not only to sing to you, I'm gonna sacrifice to You". Do you give any of the income that God has given to you back to Him in recognition that it all came from Him in the first place? That's a sacrifice. I'm gonna give an offering. I'm gonna sacrifice giving back to God.
Number three, through recommitting to my mission. Through recommitting to my mission. He says, "I will do, God, what I've promised You to do". And You said go and I said no, I'm taking that back. I am recommitting to my mission. I will do what You promised me to do. You see, Jonah messed up royally and we've all done that too. We're all Jonahs. We're all Jonahs. We've all messed up royally, but that does not stop God's life mission for you. God still had a life mission for Jonah even though he had rejected and done everything he could do to exactly go the opposite direction.
Look at this one verse, Romans 11:29. "For God's gifts," His gift to you. The gifts He's given to you. Your gifted, you're talented in certain areas. God's gift and His call. God has a calling on your life. He has a life mission for you. God's gifts and His call are irrevocable! Irrevocable. It's still in force in your life. I don't care what you've done. I don't care how old you are. You may have missed God's mission for your entire life. It's still in force. Would you write this down? God has no plan B for my life. God has no plan B for my life, but Rick, you don't know what's happened. You don't know my failure. God has no plan B. You don't know about the affair I had. God has no plan B. But you don't know about my divorce. God has no plan B. But you don't know about my bankruptcy. God has no plan B. But you don't know about my embarrassing failure where I fell flat on my face. God has no plan B for your life. God's mission in your life is still in force.
You say, "But I've only got three years left". Then you better use those three years. You may have sucked your entire life. God says, "There's no plan B. I didn't pull back the mission because Jonah went the exact opposite way for most of his life". No, God says, "It's still in force". The gifts that God has given you, He hasn't pulled back even with all your mistakes. And the calling God has on your life, He's never pulled back. It is irrevocable. I've only got a little time left. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I don't care how old you are and I don't care what you've done. God's gift and call in your life is irrevocable. You better get at it whatever is left in your life.
Now, when did Jonah decide to do these three expressions of gratitude? After he's out on dry land? No, while he's still in the situation. While he's still feeling hopeless. Not after his ordeal is over. This is how he gets out of the ordeal. And when he does these three things, I will, I will, and I will, when he does these three things. Here's the last verse in the chapter verse 10. "So the Lord ordered a great fish, the great fish, to vomit Jonah onto a beach".
Can you imagine if you were sun tanning on that beach? What a freaky thing that would be. Here comes the big fish, spits out a man. He comes out. The stomach acids in the fish has probably bleached him albino. He's got fish vomit and seaweed mangled in his long hair and he probably hit the ground running to Nineveh. I don't think he took his time cozily jauntily walking along skipping in the fields and picking daisies. No, he hits the ground running because God loves to give a second chance, and a third, and a fourth, and a 10th, and a 20th. We're gonna look at that next week. God loves to give a second chance. Jonah chapter one, we see Jonah running from God. Jonah chapter two, we see Jonah running to God in His grace. Jonah chapter three, we're gonna see Jonah running with God, and that's where it gets exciting. Where are you? Let's bow our heads.
Father, there are people here listening right now who are feeling hopeless. There are some people here in over their head and they know it. I'm in deep kimchi deep weeds, deep guacamole. I'm in deep. I'm in over my head. And some feel they've hit bottom. Help them to look up. There're some here who feel out of control, who feel powerless to change anything. And many who are listening right now in our campuses or in Daily Hope feeling overwhelmed, and there are others who feel rejected, and there's some who just feel lonely. I feel alone. And there are others that are feeling regret, remorse, maybe guilt and some are feeling crushed by fear and anxiety, and worry, choked. And I'm sure a lot of people feel trapped. Trapped in a job, trapped in a relationship they can't get on with, can't get out of. Trapped in a habit, trapped in a memory. Help them to do what Jonah did to take these seven steps. Help them to pray with passion, not fake, phony, perfunctory memorized prayers. Help them to pray with passion. Help them to pray persistently. And help them to pray Your word back to You. The complaints, the truths, the promises.
Now you pray. Say in your heart:
God, I'm feeling a little, a little helpless or hopeless. I'm feeling a little helpless or hopeless, so I'm looking to You. I wanna turn my thoughts to You and focus on Your goodness, not my problems. You love me. (Say that in your heart) You love me. You really love me. You will never stop loving me. You have always loved me. Help me to never forget that or doubt that even when I feel swallowed up by my circumstances. Father, I wanna reject all the phony, and fake, and human fixes to my problems and I wanna depend on Your grace instead. And so in faith in the middle of my storm, regardless of how I'm feeling right now, I'm gonna thank You in advance for rescuing me. And I wanna express my trust and my gratitude to You by singing, by giving an offering, by recommitting to whatever mission You made me for. Thank You that you are the God of second chances. Thank You that You have no plan B for my life. And thank You that You will use it all for my good. Jesus Christ, I want You to be the manager of my life. Come in and do some house cleaning in my heart. Change my values and my priorities. I wanna become a person of love loving You and loving others. And I ask You to change me and save me. In Your name, I pray, Amen.