Many years ago, city half a world away, chief of security had hard day. Public disturbance, some arrests, trying to make it through the night. More important, trying to make it through until retirement. Not a geologically active area, but…that night an earthquake. He watched as security complex came crashing down. His life flashed before his eyes, dreams of early retirement evaporated, disappeared in cloud of dust from rubble. Pulled out his weapon, seconds away from ending own life, heard: “STOP; DON’T DO THAT!” His response: “What can possibly get me out of this mess, give me a good end?” And here’s what he heard: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
On Philippian jailer’s countenance was “face of despair”. Believed at that moment in time, in his situation, he was beyond hope. Apostle Paul recognized his need, was proactive and threw him life-line of hope in Christ. Jailer and his family marvelously converted, began new transformed lives because of power of Gospel.
Hopelessness has many faces, often hidden behind a mask. Mask intended to keep people at distance to help minimize pain. Mask keeps others from asking awkward questions. Mask, when seen in mirror, helps them make it through another day. Behind mask of normalcy and happiness and success are different faces – four are described in text from Job.
First face is face of defeat: “My spirit is broken” (1). Second face is face of sorrow: “My eye has also grown dim because of sorrow.” (7) Third face is face of despair: “Who can see any hope for me?” (15) Fourth face is face of hope – that one should belong to each one of us!
Important to remember two things: one and same individual can wear each of these faces of hopelessness and more, depending on situation. One Individual always provides true and lasting face of hope: the Lord Jesus.
A. face of defeat – broken spirited v.1-5
not humbled, but weary of life – defeated, all the fight has gone out of him; just putting one foot ahead of the other
surrounded by enemies – only criticism and ridicule, no encouragement; perhaps opposition, no assistance
certainly no advocate, none who would go to bat for him
credits God with having closed their minds to the truth; also credits God with restraining his enemies
if anyone at all would demonstrate confidence in Job (be willing to co-sign his loan) only God is remote possibility
Isa 61.1; 42:3
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…
a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
one who does not continue to shatter and grind up the broken, who does not snuff out spark of life
instead – puts the pieces of brokenness back together again, restore and heal wounded broken hearts – puts hope on the face of defeat
gently fans the spark back into flame, providing fuel, nourishment so it can send out its own light
every family, workplace, neighborhood, church has those who are broken spirited; Jesus’ work of mending and healing is two-fold: addressing needs directly by his Spirit, working through external means to encourage and strengthen and help
we are means Jesus uses most often – the church, the people of God who are his hands and feet
must be like Jesus, not Job’s friends – treating others as Jesus would, pointing them to him as only source of help and hope
B. face of sorrow – despised by others v.6-9
former pillar of the community now held in total disrespect (6-7)
had been one everybody went to for counsel, or would send others to – you have a problem? go see Job.
Job had gone above and beyond to help others in all sorts of ways – practical, financial, judicial, spiritual – perhaps to his own disadvantage at times
now object of purposeful scorn, rude and disrespectful treatment by those he had helped – wounds don’t get deeper or more painful than that
Job’s Christian friends looked at appearances, reached conclusion (8)
couldn’t believe someone who appeared so spiritual as Job could really be so bad; God wouldn’t treat a real Christian that way
no self-respecting follower of God would go sit on the garbage dump; certainly no Christian would ever catch that sort of disease
not just immediate friends, entire community condemned Job based solely on his change in circumstances, outward appearances
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
one who understands rejection and abandonment and betrayal; power structure of a nation turned against him, closest friends ran away in one of his darkest hours, one of them the agent who began final countdown to death
ones who had seeming unshakeable confidence in him in life gave up hope in hour of his death – how could he follow through on his promises if he couldn’t avoid death
Jesus is stark example we shouldn’t reach conclusions, pass judgment on individual on sole basis of appearance – both by his actions in life and his appearance in death
Samaritan woman; Simon the leper; woman caught in adultery; Zacchaeus; disciple Matthew; “that” woman who washed his feet with her tears; reputation for being “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” Luke 7:34
didn’t scorn society’s rejects and outcasts, sought them out that he might rescue them; we must not be like priest and Levite, crossing the road to avoid awkward situation
must be like Jesus, taking risks, showing compassion to those who need it, introducing them to one who truly understands rejection and who can bring hope to face of sorrow
C. face of despair – beyond hope v.10-16
no hope that any acquaintances/friends can help – they are all clueless, without wisdom (10)
no hope of recovering physical health – just running out the days till death; can’t keep the plans already made, no point in making more (11)
no hope of friends taking his situation seriously – mock his plight, tell him there’s light at end of tunnel: he’s convinced it’s freight train (12)
only hope, and it’s not really much, is relief found in death (13-16)
Job at point where hearing from God, being vindicated as righteous before friends and neighbors more than he could hope for; resigned to waiting until next life for answers
Seven year old boy, allergic to just about everything food-related; constant risk of bad reaction. Teacher told about heaven – eat anything he wants, won’t have to think about it, be fearful. Brightened up, started to get excited, then “nope, it can’t be that good”. Too much for him to hope for.
“Here in this darkness I cannot find You. If I had never looked for You, or looked but never found, I would not feel this pain of Your absence. Or is it not your absence in which I dwell but your elusive troubling presence…? Will I find you in the dark – not in the streaks of light which remain, but in the darkness? Has anyone ever found you there?” Christian philosopher, Nicolas Wolterstorf
Elijah asked similar question, “If I’m the only one around here, take me now”; 1 Ki. 19:9-10 “Why are you here, Elijah?” God is to be found in even the darkest night of the soul – you know a Christian brother or sister suffering great affliction? help them keep looking and trusting
D. face of hope – hope for the hopeless v.9
the righteous will persevere, one with clean hands will gain strength – that’s nice but…who can meet God’s standard of righteousness, purity?
not a message of hope if there’s no hope of meeting the requirements; was Job truly no better off than Philippian jailer? truth is, everyone starts out in that predicament:
Eph. 2:11-12Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles …were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Might think that’s not good, to be without hope. There’s actually something far worse than no hope, that is false hope. Hope in something that cannot make good on its promises or your expectations. Examples abound of people who chase a false hope:
the next lottery ticket or spin of the wheel will be the winning one
next relationship will be the one that satisfies, that fills need for companionship and nurturing
drugs or alcohol will take away the pain, make life bearable again
God grades on a curve, of course he’ll let me into heaven; I’m basically a good person
make the most of today, you only live once, when you’re dead that’s it
meanwhile, put on a happy face, hope no one looks too deeply into your eyes and sees the emptiness there; keep them at arm’s length so they don’t get too close and figure out you’re really not ok; so long as you can maintain an appearance of hope, maybe there really is hope
If we are to be Jesus’ means of bringing hope to those with face of hopelessness, must get closer than arm’s length. Must build relationship, develop trust, work to see behind the mask. Be ready to answer the question: “Who can see any hope for me?”
The answer really should be on our own faces:
2 Cor. 4:6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
We who know the Gospel and experienced its power need to be there, giving message of hope to those in need of genuine hope: the broken spirited, the outcasts, those who are beyond hope. Good news is: God only deals with hopeless cases.
Luke 5:31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
Jesus doesn’t take what we have started and finish it for us; salvation from sin isn’t about teamwork. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” That includes our own name; when it comes to knocking on heaven’s door, there is one and only one name that will gain us entrance: Jesus. And it’s only when we come empty-handed to Jesus that he stands ready to forgive, to save, to give hope.