I first saw Karen standing on a stage. Looking at her, you would have never known that she was a heroine addict. You would never have known that she had been a prostitute. You see, she was the children's pastor in that church and there was a radiant beauty in her life that was astonishing. Karen had grown up in a family that was very real world, and in this family, she was not well loved. Karen was used by men that should have loved her, and broken in ways that some of you know all too well, and in her brokenness she looked for answers but saw no Jesus. None was present for her to see and she did what we all often do. We turn to our God substitutes; other men, other women and we look for answers where there really are none.
We look for filling where there is only emptiness. One abortion came and then another, and more brokenness and more regret. The pain that she thought could not increase, did. The only way that it would seem to go away was when she was drunk or high and even that was a law of diminishing returns. Heroine became as much of a friend as she knew and her story was, humanly speaking, hopeless. Statistically the people who recover from where she was is very small and the people who stay recovered is even smaller. But Jesus, Jesus came!
He came into her life through people who were changed by His love and she who had thought the church would be a place of rejection, stayed away from the church, but she saw Jesus in the lives of people changed and they loved her well and hope began to come alive in her life! It wasn't a magic wand and it wasn't struggle free. It wasn't like some Disney story that was without pain or fear. It was very real world, very real Jesus and very real hope, but there was very real change!
This woman who ten years earlier, I would not have recognized for the ravages of drugs in her life, stood before us that day beautiful in more than body. She was whole and literally just radiating the hope and love of Jesus! When she looked around, she didn't see a past so broken that there was no way anyone could humanly rise from that. What she did, was she looked up because faith helped her interpret life differently!
Other people look up and all they see is the emptiness of the night sky, but she looked up and she saw the same star of Bethlehem. She saw a light over the darkness of the world, and she looked up and she saw hope of Jesus, and that hope was more powerful than heroine, more powerful than her prostitution and more powerful than anything else in her life and it changed her; and being changed, she led change!
I want us, as the church of the living God, to be alive in hope for the rest of our lives! I'm not going to paint for you some easy story of what your life is going to be like. I don't really want to know what's ahead of me, because I might not like it. But here's the deal, the only way to not be alive in hope is to look back and be tied to a past that is insurmountable! To look around and to see nothing but more brokenness. To look ahead and to see through the magical future that you've created for yourself and to feel it's emptiness!
But when you look ahead and you see a Jesus who is there waiting and you look back and you see a Jesus whose blood has forgiven you from every chain that binds you and every sin that you don't want anybody to know about. When you look around and you don't just see circumstances that are impossible, but you see a Jesus to whom nothing was impossible. You look around and you see hope!
When you are alive in hope, you are changed by it! How do you know if you are alive in hope? How do you know if you've been changed? Well, here's the deal, with all the struggles and all the imperfections, with all of the process and all of the mess, when you are alive in hope, you are on mission, bringing change to other people without hope! Look up, see hope and be changed! -Dr. Drew Shofner