He’s STILL Got the Whole World in His Hands

Week 3

We have been in this 3-week series called “He’s STILL got the whole world in His hands.” As kids, many of us sang this simple, yet profound song, that says “He got the whole world in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hand. He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Do you believe it? Do you truly believe God’s got the whole world in His hands? When you see the headlines from week to week, it may not feel like it. But Easter reminds us it is true. God is still in control. He can be trusted.

But we live in a sinful, broken, fallen world that sometimes seems like it is spinning off its axis. And with all the talk about pandemics, and drugs, crime, and murder, and chaos, and war, and destruction…we thought it would be good to be reminded…God’s STILL got the whole world in His hands.

Even in the middle of all the chaos, uncertainty, turmoil, and brokenness that exists in the world today, we can remain confident.

We can be HOPEFUL in a world that seems to be hopelessly BROKEN.

Have you ever placed your hope in something that came crashing down, or someone who let you down? They said, “till death do us part”, but it wasn’t death that caused you to part, it was someone else. Or you were promised a promotion, and you did your part and more, but they gave the promotion to someone else.

Maybe all your hopes and dreams were on based on the promise of a scholarship.
But the scholarship never came. Maybe you had high hopes for a son or daughter, but they got hooked up with the wrong crowd. And they became everything other than what you had hoped and now the situation seems incredibly hopeless. How do you maintain hope in a world that seems to be hopelessly broken?

HOPE is the optimistic expectation of a POSITIVE OUTCOME.

And a major factor in determining that positive outcome is the person or thing in which you have placed your hope. Your hope may be in that relationship, a company, your profession, your ability, your looks…you name it. The point is, you have centered your expectations on something or in someone.

Hope is a little bit like a ladder that we lean against a wall. When we were born, we intuitively lean our ladder of hope against a wall. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but we naturally placed our hope in either one or both of our parents or our grandparents, or some other caregiver. Our hope for the future had everything to do with their willingness and ability to care for us.

Then as you get older you consider moving your ladder of hope from your initial caregiver to someone else, or even to yourself. As life moves forward, we begin leaning our ladder on things like our ability to do well in school, to get a scholarship, or the ability to develop relationships and connect with the right people, or to get the right job, or marry the right person. It could be all kinds of things. The point is that all of us, at different stages of life, have decided to lean our ladder of hope against someone or something that we think will support our hopes and dreams for the future.

Maybe you never thought of it like this, but all of us have a ladder of hope leaning against a wall somewhere. And about the only time we ever really think about that is when our hope seems to be fading and we are beginning to feel helpless, which is just another word for hopelessness. Then comes the realization that we have leaned our ladder against the wrong wall. Whoever, whatever, or wherever my ladder is leaning isn’t working out.

Today, I am going to invite you to lean your ladder of hope on Jesus Christ.
He is the One we celebrate today. Because He came, He lived, He was crucified for the sins of the world, and then He rose from the grave, just as he said He would.

The Psalmist had decided to lean his ladder of hope against the Lord. “Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.” – Psalm 33:22 (NLT) The writer of Psalm 33 had made an intentional and important decision to lean his ladder of hope on the Lord.

The Apostle Paul said something very similar in 1 Timothy 6:17. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God… – 1 Timothy 6:17 (NIV)

Wealth is so uncertain. It is unstable. You can’t depend on it. Paul said, Timothy, please tell even the wealthiest and most successful people to be careful. Tell them not to lean their ladder of hope on their wealth. Instead, he invites them to put their hope in the Lord. He is the only One who will not disappoint.

I know some people have a hard time with the idea of putting their hope in the Lord.
That is because they believe they can place their ladder against their education, their degree, their job, or their financial security and they will be just fine.

Most people believe that if you have the right connections, and if you marry well, and if you save a lot of money, and if you are disciplined, and you work hard, and stay away from drugs, and do all the right things, then your ladder will be fairly secure.

We try to do everything in our power to put our hope in things we can CONTROL. We depend on things we think will keep our ladder secure. And then, if you’re a Christian, you may even say a simple prayer… “Dear God…please don’t let my ladder fall.”

But the Bible tells us, an we have heard it from wise people, and if we are honest, we know it is true from personal experience…

You can try as hard as you want, and you can as careful as you possibly can, and you can plan carefully, and you can invest wisely, and you can make all the right choices, but at some point, you will recognize that nothing, absolutely NOTHING in this world is SECURE.

On this Easter Sunday morning, I want to invite you to carefully consider where you have leaned your ladder. In the midst of all the uncertainty in the world we are living in, does it seem like your ladder is leaning against something that is stable and secure?

In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul explains where our hope should be. He points out the futility of leaning your ladder against anything that has to do with the temporary nature of this world. In case you didn’t know it, In the world where we live, there is nothing you can predict with absolute certainty, and there is nothing you can control. So, Paul is going to show us why it is so important to put our hope in the Lord.

This passage is a little bit confusing, so bear with me and I will do my best to simplify it.
I think it will make sense. “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” – Romans 8:20-21 (NIV)

This is a powerful passage, even though it is a little bit confusing. But it is so relevant. It speaks directly to where we are as a culture and to what’s going on in our world today. Paul is reaching back to draw on an event in the Book of Genesis that is typically referred to as the Fall of man when sin first entered the world.

Sin (the verb) is defined as a willful TRANSGRESSION of God’s known law.

When we think about sin, we usually think about an incident. When we think of sin as something someone did, we are thinking of sin as a verb. And sin is a verb. It is an action word. But sin is also a noun. It is a thing.

The Bible describes sin (the noun) as a disease that’s TOXIC and FATAL.

Sin entered the world as a fatal disease that has impacted everything. Sin has impacted every person’s individual life, every relationship, the weather, your yard, childbirth, your health, you name it. EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD has been impacted by sin. Sin is a disease that has infiltrated the entire creation. And it is a fatal disease, meaning whatever it effects will eventually die.

Have you noticed that? If you have seen the Lion King, you may think that’s just the circle of life. But the scripture teaches that the reason everything in the world dies is because sin (the noun – the fatal disease) has polluted and corrupted everything. That is the basis for Paul’s argument that it is always a bad decision to put your hope in things that pertain to this world.

So, let’s break it down. “For the creation was subjected to frustration…” – Romans 8:20a (NIV) Maybe you have never thought about it, but the reason your experience in this world can be so frustrating is because sin entered the world. Sin impacts everything. “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope (there’s our word) that the creation itself will be (future tense) liberated from its (check out this next phrase) bondage to decay…” – Romans 8:20-21a (NIV)

Everything in this world is decaying. We all know that is true. When you reach a certain age every time you look in the mirror, you are reminded every day of the bondage to decay. Everything is decaying including you’re your teeth, your eyes, your skin, and your overall health. You may be able to slow it down a little, but you cannot stop it. That is because we are in bondage to decay. You can’t beat the system. This is the world we are living in. It has been tainted by sin and it has, and it will affect us all.

Maybe you had parents or grandparents who were happily married for 50, 60, or 70 years. Yes, they had the most amazing marriage. They still held hands, and they still kissed, and they sat in the park, and had birthday parties, and they were so in love. They did everything right. They lived a charmed life. But then one of them got sick, and almost overnight everything came to an abrupt end. What is that? It is more evidence that they were in bondage to decay.

Nobody gets a pass. When sin entered the world, it affected everything. We live in a world of DECAY. The reason we lean our ladder up against the wrong wall is because we don’t really believe that. We think we can beat the odds. We think we can be careful enough, or smart enough to figure it out. Paul is saying you’re not. There is no way to beat the odds.

The creation, which is all of us and everything, is in bondage to decay. You can have happy birthdays and go on lots of great vacations. Your engagement was awesome, and your honeymoon was great, and you’re happily married, and you have a beautiful family, and there are plenty of great experiences in your life, and you have had lots of fun, happiness, and joy in life. But the movement, the momentum, the ultimate drift is always toward decay, and we are all in bondage to that kind of frustration.

Paul goes on in verse 22-23…“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” – Romans 8:22-23 (NIV)

Deep within us there is a longing within us for something better. There is a desire within to look beyond this life to a world out there somewhere. A place where there really is a happily ever after. The longing for something more forces us to look beyond this life. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” – Romans 8:24 (NIV)

The hope that we cannot see is the hope that there is more to this life than this life. It is the hope that one day we won’t always be in this bondage to decay. Now he’s talking to Christians. He says, in this hope we are saved.

When you become a Christian, you are linked to a bigger, better story with a much better ending. But that ending goes beyond this life. That’s the hope we were saved to. “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” – Romans 8:25 (NIV) This is kind of the transition point in his argument.

We hope for what we do not have. We know there must be something more. There has to be a place where sin, sorrow and death can be erased. There has got to be a place where all the effects of sin are done away with. Our hope is for something we do not have…yet…so we wait patiently for it to come.

Do you know what that means? That means we do not give up hope. But our hope can’t be in this life, or in this world, because eventually that kind of hope will disappear. But Paul wants us to know there is hope. There is something to look forward to and there is something worth patiently waiting for.

Then in verses 26 through 30 he let us know that God understands our frustration and disappointment. God understands that sense of hurt and disappointment that causes you to groan on the inside. God understands. And the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings and words that can’t even be uttered. And, if you have ever been in the pit of despair…if you’ve ever hit rock bottom in terms of hopelessness…you know what it’s like to cry out or moan like this because it feels like there’s nothing else you can do.

Paul then turns a corner in verse 31. “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31 (NIV) What do you mean God is for us? He goes on to explain….“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32 (NIV)

The point is as God becomes the focus of our hope, as we center our expectations in the love of our Heavenly Father. Paul says when that happens, you have found a hope that does not disappoint. There really is someplace secure to lean your ladder.

Skip down to verse 38 for his big finale. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39 (NIV) Neither will divorce, abandonment, isolation, job loss, financial setbacks, health concerns, relationship turmoil, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you know what this means?! I can put my hope in something (or better said Someone) SECURE. You can place your hope in something that won’t disappoint. You want to put your hope in something that is dependable. He says you’ve got to move your ladder.

If you want hope that remains hopeful, in a hopelessly broken world, you’re going to have to move your ladder and lean it on Jesus.

JESUS is the only Source of ENDURING hope.

We don’t place our hope in our gifts, our talent, our education, our hard work, our financial position, the stock market, that relationship, our connections, our ability, or our tenure at the company, or any other thing.

My hope is in Jesus. Here is my question for you…Where have you leaned your ladder of hope today? When you lay in bed at night, when the day is done, and all the noise is shut out, and you are there staring up in the ceiling in silence, where is your hope? The Bible tells us…History tells us…Ans let’s be honest, even personal experience tells us…If we have leaned our ladder on, or placed our hope in any other source…eventually… someday…in some way, we will always be disappointed. Eventually, every other wall will come crashing down.

The only way to maintain hope in a hopelessly broken world is by placing your hope in the UNFAILING LOVE OF GOD for you.

Some of you are going to realize today that it is time to move your ladder today. You can place your hope in the unfailing love of God that was demonstrated in one place, at one specific moment in history, when Jesus Christ allowed himself to be crucified for the sins of the world. You can have hope regardless of the circumstances in the world, regardless of what you do, regardless of what other people do to you.

If you have felt the walls beginning to shake, and if the ground beneath your feet beginning to shift, and if the ladder you have been standing on feels unsteady, I want to invite you to make a decision right now to place your hope in Jesus Christ. He is the one who loves you with an indescribable love. He is the One who brought you here today. He is the one who died on the cross and rose from the grave to prove His love for you. And today, right now, you have the opportunity to place your faith, your hope, your confidence, and your trust in the One who’s got the whole world in His hands