Episode 50: When All of Our Hopes Seem Lost

Peace to Live By Episode 50: When All of Our Hopes Seem Lost - Daniel Litton
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[Transcript may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and contains extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       In the late Fall of 1963, President John F. Kennedy was visiting the Brooks Air Force Base School of Aerospace Medicine in San Antonio, Texas. This visit to Texas marked the start of his 1964 campaigning for re-election as President of the United States. His presidency had been an eventful one thus far in many ways, and he had accomplished quite a bit. Perhaps most bold and notable was when he set the United States on the course for landing on the Moon before 1970. Indeed, this was beginning to be a daring adventure for the country, and a lot would still need to be accomplished to make it all possible. Kennedy was certainly the founder of the United States mission to the Moon, and the desire to advance in space. He was considered so important that the very place where rockets were launched into space would bare his own name not very long from this moment in history.

       At Brooks Air Force Base on November the 21st, the President gave a dedication speech. He noted the following: ““This Nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it…. we will climb this wall with safety and with speed—and we shall then explore the wonders on the other side.” After the speech, the President then was even introduced to some of the new aerospace technology the students had been working on behind the scenes. To be sure, all was looking well and on track in the United States space program, and Kennedy was beginning to see the fruits of his vision—the vision to put a man on the Moon. Undoubtedly, he had hopes of seeing the fulfillment of his vision even within his own Presidency, considering he would have won a second term to office. And had it been God’s will, the journey to space surely would have been pushed along sooner to allow Kennedy to be at the helm of his own dream before he left office in early 1969.

       That was the way some may have planned it, but as most of us know that is not the way God had planned things to go. The President and Mrs. Kennedy would leave the Air Force school bound for dinner in Houston on this Thursday evening, and then would spend the night in Fort Worth. This would be on of Mrs. Kennedy’s first public appearances in awhile. The schedule for the next day would even be busier than their first day. On Friday November the 22nd, Kennedy would give a speech outside the Hotel Texas, and then he would meet with the Fort Worth Camber of Commerce for breakfast and another address. Finally, he would fly to Dallas for a parade and then it was to be still yet another speech and luncheon just outside of the downtown. Then, it would be off of Austin for a fundraising dinner. And everything was to end at Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s ranch in Johnson City.

       When President Kennedy and Jackie arrived in Dallas for the parade to the luncheon, they were greeted at the airport there by a large crowd. The weather had cleared from the rainy morning, and it was shaping up to be a sunny, beautiful day. Kennedy’s Lincoln convertible would be the led feature of the parade. Instead of the typical seating arrangement where the Vice President would sit in front of the President, this time Texas Governor John Connally would be granted the seat. It was a wise political move as it would be good for the President to be seen with the Governor of Texas. But regardless, all took their seats and the motorcade made its way into the downtown, down the streets surrounded by the friendly crowds. Two stops were made along the way, one to visit with some Nuns and the other to visit with some young grade-schoolers.

       If you study history, you’ll probably remember that President Lincoln had a premonition, a dream, some days before he met his fate by the hand of his assassin. In the dream, he saw the casket of his own body lying in the White House. There is no evidence to suggest, though, that President Kennedy had the same premonition. It would appear by all accounts that he had no idea of what was about to happen. At breakfast with the Camber of Commerce in Fort Worth, for instance, he said that he would try on the new Cowboy hat that had been given to him on Monday, and that if anyone wanted to see him wearing it, they would have to come to Washington. Therefore, it seems reasonable to presume that all that was to come was unknown to Kennedy.

       Most along the motorcade were happy to see the President and Mrs. Kennedy. The crowd turnout had been larger than earlier expected. Sadly, though, this time, this go around, there was one individual who was not waiting to welcome the President. In the corner of a sixth floor in the building which was the Texas School Book Depository at the time, a man was standing there anticipating Kennedy to pass by. He had a cheap rifle with him. And as we all know, the President made his way toward the final stretch of the parade. In just about fifteen more minutes, his body would be lying on a hospital table in a room by himself, lifeless. His car made a turn and passed just in front of the building where the man was waiting. He fired his rifle once, missed the car by apparently hitting the traffic light which had gotten in his line of view. But he got down on his knee, and he fired two more shots as the Lincoln convertible made its way down the road: the first striking Kennedy in the back of the neck, and the same of which struck the Governor. And the second hit Kennedy in the back of the head.

       In 1997, I myself was in Dallas on a short family trip. I was thirteen years old at the time. Back then, when you went to Dallas, there was opportunity to take the same motorcade route that President Kennedy did. And not only that, you could ride in an exact replica of his limousine. It was kind of morbid, but when you’re young, it seems more interesting. I did in fact take the trip in the replica limo through downtown Dallas. It started at Love Field, and went all the way to Parkland Hospital. A lot of the land markers were still there from when the President took the trip, and the limo driver would point them out as you went along. But what I remember most about the trip was the fact that after leaving Dealey Plaza, where the President was shot, we made our way onto the freeway. My, let me tell you, riding at a very high rate of speed on a freeway in an open limousine is something you don’t forget. The wind blows everywhere. And it was a short trip to Parkland Hospital, which interestingly enough, looked it exactly like it did the day Kennedy was taken there.

       In a brief moment of time, the great day of celebration had turned into a day sheer horror and dismay. Kennedy’s car made it’s way to the hospital in Dallas—to Parkland. Mrs. Kennedy sat in the back of the car holding onto her husband. And the secret service agent had to take him from her arms. And he was taken in, but there really wasn’t anything the doctors could do. His head wound had been too severe, and he was pronounced dead a short time later. Everything in a moment’s time had changed. History would not be the way many had expected and hoped it would be. More dreams were certainly on the horizon that now would remain unachieved. Certainly, there was still much yet that Kennedy had wanted to accomplish. Really, he had only scratched the surface. And all was said and done in just under ten seconds from the hands of Communist seeking his own personal fame who would be judged himself, no sooner than two days later.

       Things looked bad for the future of America at this moment in time. The beloved President was gone, and no one knew whether this had been the act of a single person or had deeper involvement from the Soviet Union. The Presidency had been thrust onto a new man, and no one knew how he was going to perform or lead. The space program was surely in question. Kennedy had been such an important part of it, such an important leader to it. Was the mission to the Moon still achievable? Would it still be accomplished? What would now be the future for the United States? Surely, these were questions on the people’s minds at the time.

       Many of us have had dreams and visions—things we hoped to do and to accomplish—great things, which in a moments time were shattered. Everything that was built up, and all that was thought-out, was torn down in a brief moment’s time. Hope seemed to evaporate and be gone. And after the hope is gone, there seems to be an empty and unsettling feeling that sets inside. Many ask questions to themselves—if only I had done this or that; if only this choice had been made instead of that choice. And the questioning continues on-and-on. But, we all have to realize at some point, to some degree, that the time to move on has come. There was the disbelief, then the shock, then the mourning, but now has come the time for new beginnings.

       It is true that when the worst has happened in life, there is only one place the future can go. There can only be better days on the horizon. That’s the hope everyone should have after feeling hopeless about a life situation, a disappointment or tragedy. Indeed, tragedies and disheartening things are going to take place in life—in everyone’s life—and there’s no way to avoid them. No one is exempt. However, there is one thing that we have control over, one area where we get to make the choice, and where we can make the choice. We don’t have to let the bad things that happen in our lives keep us down, or allow us to become depressed and despondent. We can choose to think positively about our lives, and move forward with a hopeful and optimistic attitude.

       Things don’t always work out the way we want them to. That’s just the way life is, the way it works. I’m not saying this to bring despair to people’s minds, but just reminding you of this cold, stark reality. We live in a world that has been tainted and affected by sin—by incorrect things that people do in their lives, which are against God’s ways. And this brings about disorder and chaos at times. It’s our fault, as humans, really. It’s not God’s fault that bad things happen. We were the ones, and are the ones, who have rebelled against him. And we have no power of our own making to put things right. We have no ability or answer to solve our problem. We don’t have to let this realization of sin, though, or of the bad things that happen in our world, to keep us down in life. We can still live victoriously. Christ has indeed made this possible for us.

       We can trust God with what we cannot understand, with what we cannot undo in life. We can trust in the fact that God is working behind the scenes, indeed working all things together for good for those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose (see Romans 8:28, ESV). Nonetheless, it can be, and certainly at time is, hard to trust God with certain life situations. It is hard to bridle our minds, to keep them in subjection to his perfect plan and will—to trust him with all the details, and to even trust him with our own failings. We like to reason things out in our lives, to come up with and have all the answers to our problems. But we should know better. We have to come to learn that we usually don’t have all the answers.

       Remember, being negative, or regretful, or wishing things had turned out another way isn’t going to do us any good. We have to be able to adjust ourselves in our new situation. If we don’t make adjustment and accept what has happened, we are not going to have any chance at feeling better. Yes, we can choose to focus on the negative, uncomfortable thing that has happened, but that won’t help us. We can even let what has happened define us individually, or define our life. May I suggest, though, that rather then do that you should choose to be hopeful, to know that God is going to work good out of the situation, no matter how grim or depressed you may feel. God will always bring out good in a situation when we allow him to do so. Remember what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him” (8:12, ESV). But staying negative will prevent God from helping us.

       One of the reasons tragedies happen in our lives is to test our beliefs—to test what we believe about God, his goodness, and about ourselves as individuals. Of course, we question why God allows, or permits certain things to happen, certain events to come to pass. And Satan, God’s adversary and our own adversary, works to get us to think about the wrong things. He gets us to focus on the negative, and tries to create and cultivate an overall hopeless attitude in our minds. He even tries to get us to believe that what has transpired is somehow our own ‘personal’ fault, when in fact many times it is not our fault. And this false belief will cause pain to develop deep within peoples’ souls. It can cause weariness and depression in people’s lives, and they may lose their motivation to keep going, to keep living for God’s goodness, to keep pressing forward in life.

       And we may even come to the false realization that no one is a bad off as we are. And this is a great deception from Satan. The reality is that there is always someone in the world that is in a worser condition than the one we are in. Now, that’s unfortunate, but it can help us realize that things for us are not as bad as they seem. We need to cast down these thoughts from Satan that come to our minds, so that we can move forward in life. We are not the only Christian in the world waiting for things to come to pass. Yes, we may have been waiting for a long for God to act, but we have the power and ability to wait until the time is right. We can trust God. Just because things may seem bad now, or like they are impossible to overcome, this certainly does not mean that you can’t have faith for a good future.

       But the trials that come to us, the bad and difficult things that happen, these things actually bring us into a deeper relationship with God. They draw us closer to Him as we depend on Him to cheer us up, to encourage us, and bring us through whatever has happened. Truly, we do grow closer to God, spending more time in prayer and thinking about him more throughout the day. We read his Word more, and bring it closer to our hearts, allowing it to penetrate deep within ourselves. We must draw close to God so that he will draw close to us. It is important to sometimes withdraw and get alone with God. Jesus would often withdraw to lonely places, the Bible says, and we should take his model and do the same. And during this time, in our relationship with Him, God works out good things. To move away from God is to quit and give up, and we must never do that. Quitting will cause us to forfeit and lose our future blessings, and what we could have learned from our trial. If we don’t learn, we cannot progress.

       As you wait on God for your deliverance, take comfort in him. Again, Paul called God the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4, ESV). It’s sad but true, but we do learn more during difficult times in our lives versus the easier times. It’s usually the case that if trouble doesn’t come, if the heat doesn’t get turned up, we don’t grow, and we don’t become more like Jesus. But we can count on God to bring goodness out in us through our situation. God rewards those who earnestly seek him out. His desire is to make things better for us.

       All the trials we face have to have their end at some point. And that’s in fact great news for us. We know that when something difficult happens, when something happens that seems too hard to bare, that there is an end in sight. There is light at the end of the tunnel, as it is said. There is hope for the future. What we are going through right now will pass as time goes by. Think about on your life, and consider the hardest things you have had to face. Those did in fact come to pass. And what is happening now too will have its conclusion. Storms only last a short time, and the next day the Sun shines. God is faithful to us, and He will carry us through our difficult time. Recall the verses in Romans chapter 8: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:31b, 32, ESV).

       We must never give up, no matter what happens. Hope always exists for us. The Apostle Paul called God the “God of hope” in Romans 15:13 (ESV). Understanding God as the God of hope indeed gives us great hope in our circumstances. God loves hope, and he is a hopeful God. We must hope in God always. David tell us in Psalm 27:13, 14: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord” (ESV). God will bring us through to the end, of that, you can be sure. We must wait on him, waiting for his time, and all will be good. You can look forward for the future to come, and trust in God. Often times I think the reason that some people do not obtain what they want from God is because they really, deep down, don’t think things are going to get better for them. They do not receive from God because they have opened to door to the enemy. By not believing, they have allowed Satan to have his way in their lives.

       Some of you out there today who need to examine yourselves, to consider carefully what you are thinking inside your mind. Are you a person who has lost hope in your situation? Or even worse, have you cultivated a mostly unhopeful attitude in your life? Well, if that’s the case with you then you need to make a change. You need to consider what I have said today. You don’t have to believe that bad things are going to happen in your future. Yes, things might be uncomfortable for you right now, but that does not mean you cannot change your mind, your way of thinking, and become hopeful in life. You must also realize that you cannot be hopeful if you are not thanking God who the good things he has already given you, the good things he does in your life on a daily basis. Become a thankful person, and always trust in God.

       Surely the Thanksgiving of 1963 didn’t really seem like a time to be thankful for anything, for things were still dark and grim from what had happened in the week prior. But people did thank God anyway for the good things he had done. And the future of America did continue, and God did work good out of what happened back then. America’s space program continued to progress despite it’s great loss, and the goal of landing on the Moon was achieved before the end date that President Kennedy had set. All ended good, and all was accomplished. But if people had become stuck, had not moved forward, and had not renewed their vision, only bad would have happened. We must keep our faith and move forward in our lives, depending and counting on God's goodness toward us. We cannot move forward in life until we let go of the past.

       So, how indeed does the future look for you? If things are not the way you want them to be in your life, then change is going to have to happen. And the only way that is going to happen is when you look at the future with a new perspective. Hopefully what I have said today has given you insight in how to do that. You have to look into the future and see what you want, and see your end goal. We know that when it is God’s will, or something that is approved by Him, that anything we desire or ask for can be ours for the taking. But it requires submission to God, trusting in Christ’s Lordship. By coming into agreement with God, you can change how you want your life to be, and come out of your current situation. Remember, nothing is too difficult for God, not even your situation. But without depending on God, nothing is going to change for the positive. Allow the God’s Word to help you change, and cling to his promises.

       After considering all I have said today, there are some of you out there who don’t know Jesus, who have never given your lives over to Him. Well, in just a moment, I am going to give you that opportunity. I want you to know that God loves you and wants to be in a personal relationship with you. And I want you to know that he wants to help you in your circumstances. He wants to help all of us become more like Jesus, and that includes you today. In fact, God sent Jesus to the earth 2,000 years ago, and he died on a cross to pay our sin debts, all the wrongs we’ve committed in our lives, and to make us right with God. Jesus rose from the dead and is today with God in Heaven. Jesus wants to help you. He wants to be on your side, and doesn’t want to be against anyone. God is not a mean, corrupt, or violent God who wants to hurt people. He is a loving, caring, and helping God, and wants to help you today and see others be helped.

       If you would like to come into a personal relationship with God today, then I want you to follow my lead in this prayer:

God, today, I have circumstances I need help with. I can no longer handle them by myself. And I have realized today that I’m not following you in my life. I’m not following your ways in doing things, but I’m doing things the wrong ways. Today, though, I want to turn from doing wrong and accept Jesus into my life as my Guide. I want to do things the right way. I believe Jesus died for my offenses and can make me right with you. I believe he rose from the dead, is alive today, and will help me in my life. Please Father, help me to start today in making right choices, and being close to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton


Dallas pic 1Dallas pic 2
                                   Pictures are from trip to Dallas in 1997.