Title: Encouragement for your darkest hour
Plot: A podcast for a time such as this
Notes: You will also learn how to praise, glorify and worship God, better!
Listen to "Encouragement for your darkest hour" on Spreaker.
Hey, welcome back!
If you selected this podcast because you're in your darkest hour, then I pray God's blessing over you. I pray he will help you understand your situation and make it clear what he wants you to do. I've had so many dark hours in my life that my prayers changed in the midst of them. Instead of praying, "God, please make this end. I want this to be over." Instead of that I began praying, "God, please don't leave me. I can remain here comfortably so long as I know you're here with me. Please stay here, please make your presence known." And so I pray that for you also, that God would stay with you and make his presence known to you. And since you chose this podcast out of billions, then I submit to you, it's because God led you here. He wants you to know he loves you, he's with you, and this too shall pass. The righteous may fall seven times, but they rise eight.
Years ago, I began telling my Sunday School class, if you want to see the supernatural, you have to stop doing what comes naturally. And that's true of today's message. I'm about to explain one of the hardest disciplines to cultivate from my life. It's the idea of praising God even when everything is going wrong. If you'll indulge me, I will tell you four stories that will work together for two purposes:
To explain why it works, so you can truly see this from God's perspective, and
To crush the strongholds that make it hard.
If you're in your darkest hour. You're in good company. Jonah had one of those inside the belly of a fish, Moses had one after murdering an Egyptian, Peter had one after denying Christ three times, and Jesus had one while hanging on the cross. It may not feel good, but you are at the precipice of an incredible and unique opportunity to praise God in the midst of your trouble. I don't believe there's a story in the Bible, that doesn't show a Bible character in their darkest hour. And so you might say that the only reason we know any of those characters is because they had a dark hour. Not only are you in good company, it might be that your darkest hour will give you a legacy, depending on how you handle it.
The bonus is that by the end of this message you will know everything you need to know to make you great at praising God in the dark times.
If that sounds good to you, then you came to the right place!
I am confident the minute that you see this stronghold, you'll be a stronghold crusher.
We begin with story number 1:
Many years ago, Sylvester Stallone made a movie called Cliffhanger. It was about a persistent buggar. I'm kidding... In the opening scene of that movie he and I think his girlfriend or maybe his sister were crossing a suspended rope bridge going from one mountain to another. It was very high and swaying in the wind. She slipped and he caught her by the hand. She was panicking and kicking and screaming and he wanted her to grab on to him with both of her hands. But she was understandably incoherent. As anyone would be in that situation. That's how I remember it, though I confess it's been years since I've seen it.
She didn't grab on with her free hand and after a few moments it became clear from his face that he doubted he could save her. And in moments he lost grip and she fell to her death. As you would imagine, that of course impacted him deeply. It was his darkest hour.
I loved the way the movie presented the scene. It would have been one thing had he just been two weak to hold on to her, but because she wasn't helping him save her, as the viewer of the movie, we didn't want Sylvester to kick himself for it. We knew it wasn't his fault, but we could understand how and why he would think it was. It was just an all-around horrible situation, nobody's fault. Even though she was the one who tripped, it was still amazing that he caught her, so good for him! If she just would have helped him help her she might still be alive. But when you're in the middle of something like this, all the reason and logic in the world won't help. His friends understandably had mixed reactions. and some hated him for it.
Of course the memory of this incident crushed him. He assumed full resposibility for her death; pierced through the heart because for all those muscles, he couldn't save her.
So being a story writer. I'm going to change the story now. And I'm just going to ask you to accept the new versions I present. It doesn't matter whether these are the most common reactions, these are two valid reactions. And if you doubt me, I'll confess that I'm basing the worst one on myself. I have done what I'm about to describe metaphorically speaking both good and bad. Therefore, these are legitimate reactions, even if they strike you as wrong or maybe even impossible. And in fact, I would suggest that there are some people, who when they hear me say this, their initial reaction will be to disagree and then later change their mind.
So this is the first version of me changing the story:
Let's imagine he did save her.
And she kicked herself for needing saving; for tripping in the first place. She'd replay in her mind how she tripped, panicked, and had it not been for this guy who had it all together, she would be dead now. Making it difficult for her to look at him anymore. Because everytime she saw him, it would remind her of her shortcomings. Seeing him, would make her feel like a failure. It would remind her of the worst parts of who she is.
Imagine that he observed this reaction in her that she had toward him. After she self-destructed, after he saved her, not only did she not tell a soul, what he did for her, she avoided him. No thank you, no advertisement, and whenever she saw him, she ducked and bolted. Because seeing him, reminded her of her the worst parts of herself.
Though I haven't been in this exact situation myself, in the past, things like this have happened between me and others, and particularly between me and God, though I didn't realize it at the time. I'll come back to that.
So this was my reaction. I'm not proud of it, it wasn't good or right. And I'm glad I've grown up.
I'll change the scene again. Erase what I just said from your mind. This time, let's imagine she was incredibly grateful for what he did for her. She constantly said thank you, she hugged him. She clung to him, they were inseperable, and everywhere she went anytime she saw anyone, she told this amazing story about what her savior did for her, whether they'd heard it before or not. Therefore, he not only received one thank you, he was smothered by them. Constantly being reminded by her about what he'd done for her.
Just in case I wasn't clear with my illustrations: when we view the situation from the perspective of the savior, we would want and expect and maybe evend demand recognition for his great work. He earned it. And all of this relates to our prayers.
If you were pray to God and say, "God I want to glorify you!" Then I would not be surprised if his reaction to your request is to put you in a situation, where you need saving, maybe desperately. And so after praying, "God I want to glorify you!" maybe life took an immediate nose dive and you needed a miracle. And maybe you survived by the skin of your teeth. The question would be did you react like me? Did your sense of shame for getting yourself into a mess from which you required saving, did that cause you to hide the situation from your friends to shamefully cover up the story? I'm able to give this message, because I'm guilty of that.
It's time for a practical example. Maybe after praying to God and telling him you wanted to glorify him, you were suddenly in bankruptcy and about to be foreclosed on. And then your mom received an inheritance from your grandma, which she then loaned to you and you were able to keep your house. That might not be a story you want to tell everyone. But I have discovered that much of life is in how we tell our stories.
My testimony, which I won't share now, is a trainwreck and whenever I get up and share it I invariably have someone come up afterward and say, "Wow! You are so lucky!" The first time that happened, I blurted out, "Wow. What's your definition of luck?" And then I realized how abrassive that sounded and I realized he thought I had a great story, and he was trying to compliment me. We both had a communications mis-fire. Thankfully, I understand now sometimes the language we use differs greatly from the message we're sending. Now when I hear a variation of that expression, I just say thanks. And really that's what it's all about. Meaning it's all about the story we tell. I could share my testimony a hundred different ways. I arrived at the telling I use because it glorifies God. But the situation I went through was horrible and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. And yet that's what makes the story good.
And so we arrive at the fourth story. The story of Israel conquering Jericho is a spiritual principle that reveals how to demolish strongholds. Jericho was a city with extremely thick walls, heavily fortified and the way Israel defeated the stronghold was to trust and glorify God in the absence of sense. Meaning it makes no sense to march around the city quietly for six days singing praises to God. And it makes less sense to do it seven times on the seventh day again singing praises to him and shouting for joy even before the walls come down. They praised God before they had a result and after he told them to do something that seemed ridiculous.
That is a very hard thing to do! To praise God after he tells you to do something ridiculous, something that appears to have no hope of working and also before you have a result? That's hard!
The Bible refers to a thing called the sacrifice of praise, which I define like this:
The sacrifice of praise is what you do when you've asked God for something and it seems like everything is going wrong, and against all sense, you assume that everything is going right and you praise him when it looks like you've lost and before you have your result. But you can make this sacrifice of praise even when you haven't asked God for something that went wrong. You can make the sacrifice of praise whenever you come into a dark hour.
When Paul and Silas were imprisoned at midnight they began singing praises to God. And it caused the earth to quake, the prison doors to open and the chains to fall off. That's the sacrifice of praise. It's a sacrifice because you're doing it when it looks like you've lost. You're doing it when you're hanging on that cross, when your closest friends and brothers and apostles have abandoned you, when people are mocking you, you've been betrayed, and when the very people that you came to save turned against you. That's when the sacrifice of praise glorifies God and you go down in history, because who does that? Ever?
If you ask God to help you glorify him, don't be surprised if your world crashes and you escape by the skin of your teeth. But if or when that happens, do learn to tell the story, so that when you get up in front of a church and you describe a trainwreck of a horrible situation that glorifies God. Making him out to be the hero that he is. Someone will come up to you afterwards and say, "Wow! You are so lucky!" And you know what? It may sound strange, but as I think about it, they just might be exactly right. May you be so lucky, that when you have a dark hour, that you praise God in the midst of it, and he causes the earth to quake, the prison doors to open, and the chains to fall off setting you free!
As always, thank you for listening!
This is Tom Bradford signing off for now.
Y'all come back now! Ya hear?