"We Do Not Lose Heart" #79-40
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 10, 2012
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Grace, mercy, and peace to you this day in the renewing power of the Name of Jesus, Amen!
Not long ago I heard the story of a woman named Danelle Ballengee. Danelle is a world-class endurance athlete. She has been involved in races that lasted from one hour to ten days. She won the Pike's Peak Marathon four times. She even "raced up all of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks in less than 15 days, faster than any woman in human history" (July 2007 Runner's World p.86).
In December of 2007, Danelle decided to go on a morning training run not far from her home. She took her dog, Taz, parked her truck off the road, and headed off on an 8-mile run/hike on a remote trail. After five miles, she ran into trouble. She slipped on some ice climbing a rocky section of the trail, losing her footing, she fell. She slid down a 60-foot cliff into a hidden canyon. Later she would find out that the fall shattered her pelvis, broke several vertebrae, and caused internal bleeding that would result in a loss of one-third of her blood supply.
After hours of futile attempts to drag her way to freedom, she realized there was absolutely no way for her to escape by herself. Defeated, she lay behind a slab of rock, hidden from view, somehow hoping that someone would notice that she was gone. When nightfall came, more challenges. The temperature plunged into the twenties. In order to stay warm, to deal with the unbearable cold, all she could do was tap her foot. She had a small amount of water and a nutrition bar, but that was it. Danelle was trapped. She was isolated. She was severely injured. Her prospects didn't look good at all.
The fact that Danelle was also single at the time meant that there were only a few people who might notice her absence quickly. One of those people was her neighbor, Dorothy. As she lay there injured on the canyon floor, she thought, "Dorothy, please, please notice that I'm missing."
At this time in her life, too, 35-year-old Danelle didn't believe in God either. She wouldn't have described herself as a religious person. She didn't pray. And now she didn't even know how she would make it through this terrible situation. She was overwhelmed, helpless, at the point of losing heart. She didn't know what else to do, so she cried out into the cold and empty night.
And that's what God wants you to do, especially when you are at that moment of losing heart. He wants you to call out to Him, especially when you are in trouble. He loves you and He wants to hear your voice. He says in the Bible, "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (Psalm 50:15).
When you are at your wit's end or when you don't know where to turn, when you are at the moment when the emptiness you feel can only be described as losing heart, there God invites you to look to Him. Jesus, your Savior, gave His life for you and He rose from the dead so that you would have help in time of need, so nothing would be able to separate you from the love of God.
The Bible boldly declares in Psalm 121: "From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth" And also in Psalm 46 again, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
You can count on God. And that is vital to facing all the challenges that this life brings. The Apostle Paul literally says in this text that we are "jars of clay." There's a fragileness to our humanity. There's a vulnerability to being a sinful human being in a broken world. As sinners, we're clay vessels prone to cracking, leaking, and decay. We're people prone to losing heart.
And losing heart can happen in so many ways, can't it?
Like Danelle, a simple slip and a hard fall, and when you fall like that, you can lose heart.
Or suddenly, one you loved deeply rejects you or fails you. Waves of loneliness rush in. Feelings of abandonment ensue. You can lose heart!
Or maybe you slipped and tumbled over the precipice of addiction, or uncontrolled anger, or festering resentment. Maybe your life is even now gripped by holding a grudge. You can lose heart!
With so many things out of our control and with failures amidst things completely within our control, we can lose heart, can't we? When sin and guilt are on the rampage in our lives, it can leave us empty, despondent, hopeless, and helpless.
In these moments when you are losing heart, Saint Paul invites you to look to the heart of God for your strength and endurance. He invites you to see what His heartfelt love has made available for you in His Son Jesus!!
That's why, in full view of the reality of this world, Saint Paul made a remarkable statement here in the Bible. He said, "Therefore, we (we who believe in Jesus,) we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV).
Paul was saying, "The bad stuff won't get under our skin, the bad stuff won't get inside." Even when we're being destroyed on the outside, on the inside we're being made brand new."
Think about it, in Christ, nothing ultimately gets under our skin. Now, have you thought about skin today? Well, if you haven't, you may be one of only a few.
The skin is one of the most important parts of the body because it is the body's first line of defense against the environment. The skin plays a key role in protecting us against pathogens. It acts as insulation, temperature, and hydration regulation for the vital organs of the body.
But our skin ages, our skin thins, it eventually gives out. But, in this text Paul says that there is an eternally tougher skin than ours, as it were, that always protects, that always renews, that is always on guard for us. When by faith, we are covered by the protective righteousness of Christ, when we are surrounded by His preserving, resurrecting love and grace, that's why the struggles of this world can't ultimately penetrate the renewing, eternal life that is ours by faith in Him.
In that same Spirit, the Apostle Paul writes these words:
It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.....
Therefore we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 NIV).
The secret, then, to not losing heart is knowing that the God who raised Jesus from the dead will raise you as well. This is His promise for you. Jesus' death on the cross and the resurrection from the grave earned this certainty for you. When God is at work in this world....the troubles of the day will not have the last word in your life. God worked for your benefit so that His grace could overflow in your life.
Even when times are terrible, even when you face your deepest hurt, even when nothing looks hopeful, the hope of Jesus, your Savior, prevails. His help, His listening ear, His forgiveness, His gift of eternal life in heaven overflows in your life to renew you. This is His promise for you! With the Apostle Paul, then, you can say today, "Because of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, we do not lose heart."
Danelle Ballengee began to glimpse that in her accident, in the midst of an almost certain death, she lay in that hidden canyon for three days and two nights. She grew weary and started to feel hopeless. At one point, she even stopped tapping her foot. With things as they were, after so many days, why bother? She stopped.
And that's when she heard a voice. It told her to keep tapping. Every time she stopped, the voice came back and told her to keep tapping. In the meantime, her neighbor Dorothy did notice that Danelle hadn't returned. She notified the police who began to search for her.
Also, incredibly, a detective on the police force who wasn't directly involved in her search said that he had an unusually strong feeling to stop at a park where many runners go to train. He said he felt compelled to bypass the parking lot, to go off road, and to go to the overlook to see if he could see any evidence of Danelle. That's when he saw her truck. He notified a search party and they began to comb the trails. Danelle was hidden five miles off those main trails, but a searcher on an ATV happened to encounter a dog! It was Taz, Danelle's dog! And that dog led the searchers to the canyon, and Danelle was saved!
The town called the rescue of Danelle a "Christmas miracle." They knew how many people died in that wilderness area and what a miracle it was that she was found alive. Even Danelle began to awaken to the miraculous intervention of God, the greater reason for not losing heart.
Today, Danelle, recovered, married with two children, tentatively confesses: "It made me believe a little bit more spiritually. Like, maybe there's something more out there that maybe we as human beings are not aware of. I think of all the little things that fell into place that allowed me to live. It was more than luck."
Paul says it even more clearly to us today...It was more than luck for her; it is more than luck for you and me. Our risen Savior is still at work in this world. He is with us always. The Bible doesn't merely declare that a nice man, Jesus, died on the cross for you and rose again as a nice ending to a sad story. The Bible declares that Jesus determined to go to that cross for you, not as an example, but as your Savior. He was not merely a man, but God come in the flesh to save you. And, He didn't come with another set of religious codes for you and I to do, He came with salvation in His hands and real healing in His wings.
Like Danelle, we are helpless in our guilt and sin; so we don't need more rules, we need God's rescue! And the Bible says that the God of the cross and resurrection is the One who comes for you to save. God is not merely at work in the world. He's at work to save the world and that means you and me too!
So, even as we struggle with all the things that make us waste away outwardly, we know that inwardly we are being renewed day by day "because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus." And like Paul says, "We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven."
And that, dear friends, is how you and I can face all the struggles in this life, and not lose heart!
You know, we often go to church and sing the hymns of the faithful, penned down through the centuries, but we forget the reason why many of those hymns were written. We forget that they were written not only as words of faith, but words of hope in the midst of trial.
Maybe you have sung the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" at one time or another. But have you heard the story of the man who penned those words. His name was Horatio Spafford.
Now Spafford was a Chicago businessman. But, he and his wife, Annie, suffered tremendous tragedy in their life. In the Chicago Fire of 1871, they lost virtually everything. Just before that fire, they endured the death of their four-year-old-son. Tragedy was heaped upon tragedy, loss upon loss.
Their hearts were filled with grief and pain from the past. They struggled with their prospects even for the present. To help them deal with their struggles, Mr. Spafford suggested that the family get away to England where their good friend Dwight Moody was preaching and evangelizing. Annie sailed first to England with their four young daughters while her husband tied up some loose ends at home. But, as Annie and the girls made their journey across the North Atlantic, tragedy struck again. Their ship collided with another vessel. The ship that they were on was so badly damaged that it sank in only twelve minutes. Almost everyone was lost. Mrs. Spafford survived, but every one of their daughters perished.
After receiving a telegram from his wife that said, "Saved....alone," Horatio Spafford hurried to England to be with his bereaved wife. As he sailed across the Atlantic, the captain of the ship pointed out the spot where the collision had taken place, where Spafford's daughters died. Seeing that place, a broken-hearted Horatio Spafford penned the words of one of the most hope-filled hymns ever written. You may have sung it to yourself:
When peace like a river attendeth my way, /
When sorrow like sea billows roll, /
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: /
"It is well, it is well, with my soul." /
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, /
Let this blessed assurance control: /
That Christ hath regarded by helpless estate /
And hath shed His own blood for my soul. /
Horatio Spafford knew how not to lose heart. Because of Jesus' sacrifice in our place; because of Jesus' victory over death, Spafford could write and even sing:
"It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul!"
So, how is your soul today, my friend? Are you losing heart? Are you overwhelmed? We've all been there. Paul today invites you to receive the encouragement of your risen Savior Jesus today. If you're crushed by sin's chaotic consequences, look with me by faith to God's Word and promise which can bring you new life and hope right now! If outwardly you are wasting away--everything going wrong-don't lose heart. Look to the very heart of God in Jesus Christ. In Him You have a Savior. In His resurrection, you have a promise that holds.
So, how is your soul today, my friend? Maybe, you are at that place of confidence in Christ. But, if you know the comforting grace of God, the reality of His assurance, let that encouragement not just be a blessing to you; let it bless others, as well.
When you see people in your life who are hurting and hopeless, ready to throw in the towel, on the verge of losing heart, you've been there, just as they. But now, you are in their midst as one who has been rescued for a purpose. Speak His heart encouraging words.
It may be the simple words of Danelle Ballengee to your friend or family member, that "There's something more." It may be to let people into your life to hear what Horatio Spafford discovered: that even when the worst happens, in Jesus Christ, "It is well with my soul." It may be the confident words of the Apostle Paul, even in the midst of his struggles and persecutions, he could say, "We are being renewed every day!"
So, today, Paul encourages us, especially when losing heart, to look to the heart of Christ! Look to His cross and victory! And look to His resurrection promise that because He lives you will live also. He comes to you with His forgiveness, life, and salvation. He comes to you to give you life, peace, joy in abundance. Look to Him, my friend, because in this world of slipping and stumbling, in a life that can make you lose hope, only the Good News of Jesus can boldly assure us that by faith in Him, "We will not lose heart!"
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions and Answers) for June 10, 2012
Topic: How Do I Deal With Depression?
Announcer: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions. I'm Mark Eischer. Today a listener tells us that she's struggled with depression for many years. She wants to know how to deal with that as a Christian?
Seltz: Well Mark, depression is a very real issue in many people's lives and sometimes it can be frustrating because you're the last person to realize that you're suffering with it. It's also difficult for believers because sometimes we think that, as Christians, we should feel good all the time.
Announcer: Could we say there's a difference between depression and feeling depressed?
Seltz: Yes, and I think that's a very helpful distinction. Clinical depression, or post-partum depression, or bi-polar depression are issues that a doctor can diagnose and even provide medication for. Combined with counseling, these forms of depression can often be eased and treated. But, feeling depressed is something that most everyone will encounter at one time or another. But regardless of the type of depression, a good first course of action is to see your doctor, to grow in the understanding of the physiological and emotional issues that might be contributing to your condition. But there are other issues that contribute to depression, spiritual issues that need a Savior. Jesus, Himself, acknowledged that the world we live in is broken and damaged. He said, "In this world you will have trouble." (John 16:33 NIV) So, every day will not be a happy day. In fact, there are things in this world that can just make you miserable.
Announcer: In that sense, it might be normal to feel sad and blue.
Seltz: Yes. Sometimes more than blue and sad; sometimes you feel absolutely terrible; sometimes you even feel like giving up. Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane facing the cross was tempted to give up. Remember what He said in Matthew 26, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow even to the point of death."
Announcer: What then?
Seltz: Well, first, you do what Jesus did. You pray. You call out to your heavenly Father for help. God wants you to call upon Him as your source of strength and comfort and He will answer you, too. But, you also need to reach out to your pastor or to a good Christian counselor right away as well.
Announcer: And it's important not to try to go it alone. How could those spiritual resources help?
Seltz: Well, prayer is so important, whether you are in counseling, or on medication, or simply getting encouragement from a friend because it's crucial to know that you can approach your Heavenly Father with your deepest needs. It's also important to stay connected with God's Word. A pastor or a good Christian counselor can help bring the Scripture to bear on what you're going through. Even more, God's Word is a living Word, powerful and active to reach your heart, to encourage you. And remember that Word reminds us that Jesus, the Word, is alive, He's in control and He will have the last say on our lives.
Announcer: All right. So, God's Word and prayer are key in times of depression.
Seltz: And don't forget the fellowship of God's people. It's so important to take each day, one at a time and allow people that God has placed in your life to come alongside you, to listen to you, to be with you, to encourage you. So, going to church is part of this. Receiving the Lord's Supper with fellow believers brings strength and forgiveness of Jesus into your life. Being with your family and Christian friends is a part of this, too.
Announcer: Sometimes it's difficult, though, to let people reach out to you.
Seltz: Well, yeah. We can all feel awkward about being helped, can't we? I think that most people find it hard to let people help us for that reason. It makes us feel vulnerable. But another problem is that it's hard to find a person who will travel the full journey with you from depression to healing. Most people want to fix your problem right away. If you know someone who is struggling with depression, be ready to be a friend for the long-haul.
Announcer: Even though we live in this age of quick fixes and fast service. It's hard to hang in with someone for the long haul.
Seltz: Yes, but God is patient with us so we are called to be long-haul people in an impatient world. We are called to wait with people, to weather the storms, to share their burdens. Like Galatians 6 encourages all of us to do, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don't give up" (Galatians 6:9 NIV).
Announcer: All right. Thank you Pastor Seltz. And for the benefit of our listener and for those others who might be dealing with depression, it's a reminder that we're called to be God's servants for the long-haul in the Name of Jesus for the sake of others. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Day by Day" by Martin How. From Hope by the Concordia Seminary Chorus (© Concordia Seminary Chorus)
"Who Trusts in God a Strong Abode" From Heirs of the Reformation (© 2008 Concordia Publishing House)
"Prelude in G" by J.S. Bach. From Organist Frederick Hohman & Johann Sebastian Bach by Frederick Hohman (© 1988 Pro Organo)