Hello and welcome to "Key to the Kingdom." My name is Bret McCasland. There are many stories in the Bible about people in trouble and in need of help. They reach out to the Lord. He hears their cries and responds to their need. That is what God does. He knows what is going on in our life. He sees our struggles and problems, and He cares for us. Even when there does not seem to be a way out, we hold on to Him. He is our rock and our salvation. He will never leave us nor will He forsake us, and He offers a hope and a future. In today's lesson, on "Key to the Kingdom," we will focus on turning to the Lord when we find ourselves in the midst of darkness. If that is where you find yourself today, I trust you will stay tuned to this station as we study together. I encourage you now to open your heart and your Bible.
Perhaps you have heard the phrase, "life is tough." Yes, no truer words have ever been spoken. Life is tough. Often times, life throws us some curveballs. Sometimes something happens in our life that simply turns our world upside down, or perhaps even somebody turns our world upside down; and we don't know for sure what to do. We don't know for sure how to handle that or which direction to go, and we cry out to the Lord for help. We may even say that life is unfair. Yet, in the midst of it all, we are encouraged to hold on to the Lord. Take a look at this video clip and see if you can relate to it. It is entitled "Life on the Bars."
Do you remember days like these, when out on the playground you would hang on the rings and the bars and have that competition as to who could hang the longest? Man, those arms got tired. You held on with every bit of strength you had. Finally, you'd drop, couldn't hang on any longer. That was fun! We enjoyed those times as kids, that competition, hanging on to the bars and enjoying all the things, of our friends and relatives, out on the playground. Sometimes we hold on to that which is important to us with every bit of energy we have. We hold on to our faith. We hold on to our convictions. We hold on to our marriage, and our children, and our jobs, and those things that are important to us. We hold on with a white-knuckled death grip and we don't want to let go. But, here is something to consider. Do we, often times, give up on God? Do we give up to soon? Do we let go and try to take matters into our own hands? Or, do we rely upon the strength of the Lord? Every day we are faced with challenges to hang on. We face problems and difficulties, time and time again. And yet, the challenge is to hang on to the Lord, no matter what. In all situations in life, we know that God's strength and His power enables us to stand up so that we don't have to stand on our own and depend upon our own resources. My encouragement to us today is to hold on to the Lord in all situations of life.
Yes, we can relate to that video clip, can't we? Perhaps we have all been there before, at one time or another, and we all have stories to tell about the problems we face. We can also share some stories about how we overcame those problems and we were able to meet with success on the other side. We could share those stories about no matter how tough things got we held on to the Lord and we overcame. And those are the greatest stories of all! Those are the stories about overcoming our fears and our setbacks. Those are stories about dealing with and surviving the rejection and the brokenness in our life. Those are the stories about surviving in the midst of danger and in times of uncertainty and even when there appears to be absolutely no hope. Yes, those are the best stories of all, and we like to share those stories with other people. We like to tell about how God saw us through in those uncertain times and we came out all right on the other side. I like to say it like this: We get to tell about what God has done and we brag on Him. And those are good stories, aren't they? Well, the Bible is filled with many stories just like that, and I want to begin by sharing just a short synopsis of a few that remind us of how people held on to the Lord in the midst of great uncertainty. In the book of Exodus, in the Old Testament, God, through the hand of Moses, is leading the Israelites out of Egyptian captivity. And as they are led out of Egypt, they encounter the Red Sea. They don't know for sure what to do. If they go into the sea then they will drown and never be heard from again. And yet, they don't want to go back into slavery in Egypt. And so, Moses cries out to God, and God tells Moses to tell the people, "Go forward." And that is exactly what they do. They move into the Red Sea, as the waters part, and they walk across on dry land. And then, the waters come crashing down on the Egyptian army that has pursued them, and they drown and are never heard from again. I think about the story of Jonah and that big fish. God calls upon Jonah to do something very important, but Jonah decides to do something different; and so, he gets onto a ship that is headed in the opposite direction of where God wants him to go. Once he does that, there is a great storm that comes upon that ship and the sailors are afraid that they might drown. And so, Jonah tells them to throw him overboard. And when that happens, God causes a great big fish to swallow up Jonah. And there he is, in the belly of that big fish, crying out to God for help, holding on to the Lord, begging for another chance. And God allows the fish to spit Jonah out on dry land. And Jonah, with that second chance, goes on to do great things for the Lord. I also think about the story of a prophet named Elijah. We read about him in 1st Kings, chapter 19. He is a prophet, a man of God, and yet he thinks he is the only one who is doing what is good and right. He is being pursued by his enemies, he feels lonely, he is dejected, and he hides out in a cave. And yet, God appears to him and reminds him that He is in control, and that inspires and motivates Elijah to go on and do great things for the Lord. Going over to the New Testament, perhaps we are familiar with the story of the disciples of Jesus out on the Sea of Galilee when all of the sudden a great storm comes out of nowhere. Those disciples are working hard to try to get the boat under control, and they fear for their lives. Then all of a sudden, Jesus shows up. He speaks to the wind and the waves and everything becomes absolutely still and quiet. Yes, it was through their cries and their dependence upon God that the Lord showed up at just the right time, and things were all right. And then, there is the story of Mark chapter 4 about a dad who brings his demon possessed son to Jesus. Often times, those demons living inside of his child torment him and torture him, and he doesn't know what else to do so he cries out to Jesus for help. He holds onto Him and he says, "If You can do anything, have pity on us." And Jesus says, "If You can do anything? Everything is possible to him who believes." And the dad says, "Oh, I do believe, but help my unbelief." With that, Jesus cast the demons out of that young boy and he is made well. Oh, time and time again throughout Scripture, we find that people in the midst of uncertainty cry out to the Lord for help, and He responds. He hears those cries and He responds with assistance and with guidance and with solutions to their problems. But as we think about those stories, there is one common thing that all of them have in common, and that is, the people don't give up on the Lord. They hold on to Jesus. They cry out to Him for assistance and they know that He will hear and He will respond. Those people kept on believing something good would happen. Even though it appeared that absolutely no hope was available, they knew that in the Lord there was always hope available. Perhaps that is why we find the words, in Hebrews 10:23, <"Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful."> The author of those words encourages us to hold on to Jesus, who is faithful to never let go of us; that, we don't swerve to the right or to the left but we keep our eyes focused on Jesus Christ, who blesses us and who loves us, who hears our cries and who responds. Notice the teaching from 1st Peter chapter 1, beginning with verse 3. <Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.> That is a rather lengthy passage of Scripture, but the point that I want to make is that when we experience the trials and the problems of life, we are shielded by God's power. Now that's some good news, isn't it? When we face storms in our life, God shields us and protects us. When those storms appear to be over our head, they are already under Jesus' feet, and we know that things are going to be okay; that, we hold on to the Lord, we keep our eyes focused on Jesus Christ, and we know that He always comes through. God does some of His very best work in the most difficult of circumstances. Think about some difficult circumstances in your life, problems that arise, solutions that don't appear quite readily and you are struggling to make it in this world. And you wonder, does the Lord even care about me? Does He hear my cries? Is He going to show up and help me? And, we know that He does! Even in the most difficult of times, He always comes through. Yes, when we are in the dark, He shines His light upon us. When we are in trouble, He comes to the rescue. When we have questions that we cannot answer on our own, He seems to somehow solve the problem. And yet, none of that would be possible if we let go. None of it would be possible if we turned to someone or something else. But, when we hold on to Jesus in the times of uncertainty, we know that He is always there. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us; and, we find that promise over and over again. There are 150 psalms that are recorded in the Old Testament book of Psalms, and 100 of them, or two-thirds of them, were written by people who were struggling. They were trying to find some solutions to the problems in their life. They were crying out to the Lord for help and for assistance, and they needed Him to show up; but, they were holding on to the Lord. And we read through those psalms and we can relate to them; that, we too are crying out to the Lord and we need His help and His assistance. And yet, there are even some times when we are needing some help and don't even realize it. Our lives are caught up in some sin, and some problems, and difficulties, and there is no way out. We don't know for sure what to do. We don't know for sure how to handle the problems and difficulties of life. And when those times appear, and we know that they will, we have two options. The first one is, we can give up. We can simply throw in the towel. We can look for someone else or something else to solve our problems. We can turn our back on the Lord Jesus Christ and go a different direction. And my thought, my suggestion, my reading of the Bible is that when we do that, we turn our back on the very best source available. But the other option, when we are facing uncertain times in our life, is that we can keep moving ahead. We keep moving ahead, with our eyes focused on Jesus Christ, holding on to Him, never giving up, but believing that He loves us and cares for us. That's what life is all about, isn't it? Life is about holding on and staying the course. Life is about believing things will get better because we are holding on to the hand of Jesus. When we experience His salvation, when we experience His love, we can cling to the Lord as the rock and the anchor of our life, as we read in Hebrews 6:10. Yes, Jesus is with us in the most difficult and trying times. When the way does not seem to be clear, He has never left us. When the pressure is great, God is not too far away. And when we understand that, then, nothing is as bad as it appears. That is good to know, isn't it? Nothing is as bad as it appears, when we are holding on to Jesus Christ. In Psalm number 121, we find six different expressions of God's presence and God's protection in our lives. And, one of the phrases in that psalm is that God is the shade on our right hand. Now, think about that for just a moment. God is the shade on your right hand. He is no farther away than right there. And wherever your hand goes, God's protection and God's presence is always with you. Now for me, that is a very comforting thought, to know that the Lord is watching over me and He is caring for me, as I focus my heart and my life on Him. In Matthew 10:22, Jesus states, <"All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved..."> Jesus encourages us to stand firm. Even when we face the opposition and the difficulties of life, He says, "Stand firm. Hold on to Me and you will experience My salvation." Yes, when we know God is with us in challenging times, we can hold on! It gives us that renewed strength and courage in the face of insurmountable odds to know that He is always there. We can hold on when nobody else gives us a chance. We can hold on to Him in any and every situation that appears to be too great for us to handle. We can hold on when there appears to be no hope for tomorrow. And when there seems to be no other options, when we feel as if everybody and everything in our world has turned against us, there is one who has not; and, it is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And He simply says, "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." He invites us to come to Him and know that He will love us, and protect us, and never leave us. And perhaps we have all experienced that at one time or another. We have experienced those times when we are struggling and we don't know what to do, we don't know where else to turn. But, perhaps we have experienced those times when we hold on to Jesus, and, sure enough, as we do, things become okay. The words of the apostle Paul are these, in 1st Corinthians chapter 15 verse 58: < Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.> The two phrases that we find, first of all, there, are similar; stand firm, let nothing move you. The apostle Paul knew that. He stood firm in the midst of his trials and oppositions. He held fast to the Lord when there appeared to be no hope. He let absolutely nothing move him off of his firm foundation of Jesus Christ. Yes, holding on in impossible situations is only possible in Jesus. And that is what the Bible calls perseverance or endurance. It is holding on to Him when our world seems to be falling apart all around us. The words of Jesus, from Revelation 2:10, are these: <"Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life."> The crown of life is something that we look forward to receiving. And Jesus said, "I have remained faithful to you throughout all the years. I have blessed you. I have helped you. I have guided your life." And, He simply asks us to be faithful to Him. He wants us to stand firm upon Him as our foundation and know, that when we do, we will experience those eternal blessings. Yes, when it comes to the matter of either holding on or giving up, there is always hope in Jesus. And, you may think you are out of options. You may think you have nowhere to go. You may think that no one really cares about you in this world; and, you may be right. But I want you to know, God loves you more than you will ever know, and by holding onto His son Jesus Christ you can experience His salvation and His love, each and every day. I want to share with you one more passage of Scripture that seems to sum up our lesson for today. It is found in Hebrews chapter 4, beginning with verse 14. The author writes, <Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.> That is perhaps the greatest thing I could share with you today: Let us hold firmly to Jesus Christ. Let us hold firmly to our great high priest. Why? Because He has gone through some of the very same things you and I experience today, and He is able to sympathize with us. He is able to relate to our problems, and we are able to overcome through Him, because He gives us the strength and ability to do so. As you consider the importance of holding on to Jesus, consider these things as we now go to our Father in prayer. <<Holy God, thank You so very much for loving us and never giving up on us. Thank You for Your great promise of always being there and never leaving nor forsaking us. Sometimes, Lord, the situations in our life are difficult and trying, but remind us on a regular basis of the importance to hold on to Your son Jesus Christ and to never let go. Thank You for Him. Thank You for His example. In His name we pray, Amen.>> I would encourage you, today, to make Jesus Christ your first priority and not your last option. Hold on to Him in the midst of the trying and difficult circumstances in your life. Cry out to Him for help and for guidance, and know that He will lead you. He will never leave you nor forsake you, but He will bless you as you seek a relationship with Him. Put your faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And no matter what happens in this world, never let go.
Thank you for joining us for today's broadcast. I hope this message about holding on to Jesus in the storms of life inspired you to do just that. If you would like to view this message again, please go to our website. There you can download this message or many others in a variety of formats. While visiting the site, please take a few minutes to notice some of the other things we offer. There is a free Bible study which you can download and work through at your own pace. There are also some short video clips illustrating the truths of God's Word. All of these things are free from any charge and obligation. We simply offer them for your personal study and reflection. You might want to call the number on the screen and request the same free Bible study over the phone. Leave your name and address and we will be happy to send it to you by mail in the next few days. The study is self-guided and contains six lessons. If any of these options are of interest to you, I hope you will contact us. Remember, the Lord loves you and wants to be your first priority, instead of your last option. Thank you again for tuning in to today's broadcast, and I hope you will join us again next time, as we study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."