Friday, 2 March 2018

Hope After Loss

 Speaker: Mike Connell

The widow of Nain ( Luke 7 ) was in a place of great grief and without hope for her future, no-one could comfort her. Maybe you too are locked into grief feeling numb and disconnected. Our God is a God of comfort, and a God of all hope. Set-backs are not the end. Let Christ in - He is able to breathe into a place of death, and bring life and fresh vision. Jesus still works miracles, and restores a broken heart.

Once you’ve opened your Bible with me in the book of Luke, and we’re going to look in chapter 7. Just a few verses, and look at the gospel message.

Verse 11-16 from Luke 7: “Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise. So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”.

So, Jesus has a large crowd of disciples with Him. Wherever Jesus went there were people following Him to see what He would do. In another place, Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life.” God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with power. Wherever He went, He interacted with people and revealed the kindness and the heart of God to people.

So, in this story, there’s a city called Nain. The name literally means ‘to be a beautiful place, a pleasant place, or a lovely pasture’. So all the appearances of this place was that it was a beautiful place. Or in other words, it looked very very good. It was an attractive place to come to, but hidden within that attractive place, there was great sorrow and there was great distress.

It’s true also with people. They can look very good, very attractive on the outside, but in the heart carry great sorrow, great grief, great disappointment. So, you may be here tonight and on the outside you look very good. The Bible says – God looks on the heart. So He can see the sadness, He can see what is happening in your life.

I want you to see what happened in this particular story. The story opens with a young man who is dead. The young man represents the next generation. The young man represents the future. The young man represents hope. The young man represents a great future for this woman. The Bible said – His mother was a widow. That means she had lost her husband. She’d suffered a tremendous loss. Lost the one who’d protect her. Lost the one who’d provide for her.

But she had one hope left – and that hope was her son. She’s very proud of her son. She looked forward to watching him grow. She had her hopes set that in the future he would protect her, he would provide for her. She had dreams in her heart, dreams of what he would become, dreams of him marrying, dreams of grandchildren. So she was looking forward to the future. This man, this younger generation represented her hope, her future, her legacy, her provision, her protection. Her life was wrapped up in this young man.

One day, the unthinkable happened. It was one thing to lose her husband, but it’s another thing entirely to lose a child, to lose a son. It sounds from the story like he was a grown young man. Something happened to him, something completely unexpected. He grew sick and then he died.

The day came when all her hopes of the future were taken away. She went into shock. “What will happen to me?” There appears to be no future. There appears to be no hope. She will grow old with no one to care for her. Not only has she lost her son, but she lost her dreams of the future. So the woman went into deep grief. No one could console her. She was grieving over her loss.

Grief is a very interesting thing. Grief is the process by which we come to terms with loss. You don’t grieve unless you have an attachment. We don’t grieve over a stranger we don’t know. We don’t grieve over someone we’re not connected to. We grieve when we lose something we’re attached to.

So, grief is quite interesting. It goes through several stages. The first stage is just shock – “I can’t believe this has happened.” The first thing she experienced was tremendous shock. She would look at her boy – “I can’t believe that this is happening.”

Following on after shock, the next sensation or emotion that people feel is great anger. Something’s been taken from me and people often feel very angry. They don’t know who to be angry at. So the next phase of grief often consists of blaming, or bargaining. Trying to find a way through it all.

So when people are in grief, they can be in shock, they can’t really admit something’s happened, or they may be very angry, or they may be blaming someone, or trying to find a way they can work their way out of the situation. The next stage of grief is depression or sadness. A lot of weeping. Finally, the person comes to a place of acceptance, and they adjust their life to the change. So that is the process of grief.

People can feel many of those emotions all in the couple of hours. To some people, they never let go of their grief. They never deal with grief properly. So they get locked into grief. Some of you here tonight are locked into grief. There’s a deep grief sitting in your heart, and it’s caused for different ones, by different things.

Perhaps some of you are grieving because someone you were very close to has died. Maybe a mother or maybe a father. They meant so much to you. So there’s a deep grief because they’re no longer in your life.

People grieve when there’s a divorce. Children who’ve been through a divorce carry immense grief because they’ve literally lost a parent, or lost both parents. They’re caught in a battle between the two. They become very angry, angry at everyone, not realising they’re suffering grief.

When people lose a hope or a dream, something they planned for, and suddenly it’s taken away. They’ve been looking forward to this promotion – suddenly, someone else gets it, and grief comes. They’re looking forward to some dream being fulfilled, and it’s totally taken away.

The grief can be immense. If grief is not dealt with, we can grieve all our life, and remain angry all our life, and continue to blame people all our life. But the real root of the problem is unresolved grief.

I remember I prayed for a woman recently and she was very angry. I said: “Well, what are you angry at?” She really didn’t know. She had no idea what she was angry at, she’s angry at everything. I said: “Well, you started being angry somewhere.” I tracked back, and I found out that her father had abandoned the family when she was quite young. She became deeply attached to her mother and then her mother died unexpectedly.

I said: “You’re still grieving over the loss of your mother. You became deeply attached to your mother, and she literally became an idol in your life – a substitute for God. When what was an idol in your life was taken away, you’re left very angry.” When things we depend on, things which are idols in our life are removed, or they fail, people grieve and become very angry. They grieve because they were attached, and something’s been taken away.

So it could be a person. It could be a dream. It could be someone you were attached to. It could be a loss in an accident or death. Could’ve been a divorce. People grieve when they’ve been abused. One of the problems you find with people who’ve been abused, whether sexually or physically or even verbally and emotionally, is they suffer great grief.

Unless the grief is addressed, the person can remain angry and in a state of shock, and soul-tied to what happened in the past. In other words, death has come. So in a place like that, it’s very easy for evil spirits to gain access to our life.

Spirits of grief – Grief is just an emotion and a process, but when we don’t deal with it, a spirit of grief can sit on our life and we just feel continually sad. Even when you’re in a happy situation, it’s not very happy. It’s like within a moment, sadness comes back again. The spirit of grief is there.

Sometimes, a spirit of death sits on people. When a spirit of death sits on a person, they feel numb, they feel disconnected – disconnected from people, disconnected from themselves. They just feel numbed on the inside. Surrounding that is this deep grief and a sense of hopelessness about the future.

Now the Bible tells us something about God. In 2 Corinthians 1 – it says He’s the God of all comfort. So when we’re in distress, God’s desire is to comfort us. Now the God of all comfort comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort others. So God reveals Himself as a God who comforts people. Comes near to them, walks with them through their distress, walks with them through their sorrows, and says – “You’re not alone”. When people are in grief, loneliness becomes a big problem.

So this dear lady in this story was walking behind the coffin, clothed in black, spirit of grief over her, and even though there was a large crowd, she was the loneliest person in that place. The crowd of friends could not comfort her. No one could comfort her. She needed Jesus to come into her life, into her situation. So the Bible says – God is the God of all comfort. He heals the broken-hearted.

In Romans 15 it tells us in verse 13 that “God is the God of all hope. He fills us with joy and peace through believing that we might abound in hope.” So notice these two things – God comforts us, and God brings hope to us. God comforts us in the current pain. God brings hope for a better future. God comes alongside us in our pain, and God lifts our vision to see the future’s better. God is a God who works miracles.

The testimony tonight, when I first met that young girl, there was deep pain in her heart. I remember when I sitting there listening to her give her testimony, God spoke to me and says “I want to heal her. I want to comfort her.” I asked her to come up on the stage, and I took her hand, and as I prayed for her, the Spirit of God came and brought great healing; and now, great hope. Restored her mother to her.

It’s amazing what God can do. Something that was full of death comes abounding in life when God comes in. This is the great thing about our God. He is a God of resurrection. He can come into a situation and make the dead live, and give hope again. You may have suffered loss. You may have suffered a setback. But it’s not the end of your life.

If you will let Christ come in and walk with you through your grief, and lift your vision again, He can give hope for a great future. Your future looks good when you’re in God. It may look painful now. You may be in a valley of sorrow now, but there’s a miracle waiting for you. There’s a change waiting for you. There’s a better future awaiting you. You don’t have to live in despair.

So Jesus looked at the woman, and this is what the Bible said – “He felt deep compassion.” That’s what God is like. He saw her loneliness, her brokenness, saw the desperation, the grief, and He was moved to do something. See, she never did anything. The young man never did anything. Jesus initiated it all. This is what he did – He went to the woman, this is what He said: “Stop your weeping.”

Notice this, she had no reason to stop her weeping – her son is dead. But Jesus said: “Stop your weeping. Because I’m about to do something.” In other words, He’s saying – the weeping is finished. I’m about to change the situation around. The grieving is ended. I’m about to do a miracle. You don’t need to stay in that place anymore.

Notice He addressed her heart. He addressed her pain. “Stop weeping.” Then He touched the casket. No one touches the dead man’s casket. It would make you defiled. Then He spoke: “Young man, arise.” Then the dead man sat up and was restored to his mother.

You see, what is impossible for man is possible for God. If you can believe, God can turn your valley, and it becomes a well of life. Jesus loves to come into hopeless situations. What could be more hopeless than a dead person? Jesus comes in and restores them to life.

I just have to tell you this story, and then we finish up. My son David went to Pakistan. They had invited me there but I was too busy and I said: “Can I send my son?” He took a team with him twice. The second time he went there, he was on the stage and there was about 15000 people. His interpreter was interpreting. Then he began to cough. He fell down. So they put him back on his feet again, and he began to speak again. The interpreter coughed and fell down, and he was dead! It’s not good if your interpreter dies. It’s very difficult.

So, my son immediately stood over him and commanded the spirit of death to go, and the man woke up and within half an hour, was preaching again. My son thought – “Maybe he wasn’t dead. Maybe he was just lying down.” And his friend who was with him, went with him, and he said: “I’m a policeman. I have seen many dead men. I checked that man. That man was dead, and now he’s alive. God has raised him up.” The hopeless situation. Hallelujah.

God is able to come into your situation and breathe comfort and hope. When Jesus comes into your situation, you’re no longer alone. God is with you. Not only that, He begins to work to give you hope for the future. He doesn’t want you to stay weeping. He wants you to look ahead and say – “It’s a great day tomorrow.”

That day started with grief, it started with sorrow, it was a sorrow that spread over the whole city. The day ended with a party. Everyone celebrating. I guess if I was there, I’d want to say “What did you see when you were dead? Did you see heaven? What did you see?” That young man would have many testimonies of what God had done in his life.

When I heard the testimony tonight, I was just so moved in my heart. That God breathed into a place of death and brought life and hope. Hope to a mother who had given up her child, had lived in pain and regret for years, reunited with her daughter, fearful her daughter wouldn’t forgive her. But God had already met her daughter, and she was no longer dead. She was alive. She was no longer dead. She’s alive.

We know what it’s like to adopt a daughter out. This is something that we did also. All your life you grieve over that decision. No matter what the pain that caused you to do it, there is a grief and a death, and you suffer loss. When this happened to us, I came and opened my heart to Jesus Christ, I believed that one day He could bring her back.

So I was so deeply touched that this mother had given up a child, and Jesus met her child, took away the bitterness, took away the anger, took away the death, made her live. I saw her first before this happened, and then I saw her after Jesus healed her, and I hardly recognised her. She was alive because Jesus dealt with her grief. What a joy for us to meet her mother last Sunday.

The woman, abandoned by her husband, a widow, who had to give up her child; and years later, God visited her and the child is restored. This is exactly like the story we were just sharing. The Bible’s story I’ve read, happened 2000 years ago. It was a real mother, a real son, a real bad situation. The testimony you heard tonight is a real mother, a lost daughter, a dead daughter raised to life, and restored to her mother. Jesus still works miracles, restores people, and heals the broken-hearted.

I want you to close your eyes right now.

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