Hold on to Hope (20 Jan 2008)

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

Aurelio F. Barreto, III

Special Music

Joyful, Joyful
Sing Praise to God
To God Be the Glory
God is My Strong Salvation

Solo/ Anthem
O Bless the Lord, My Soul
Take 6 – Come On
How Firm a Foundation

The Message

Message by: Robert A. Schuller

The 23rd Psalm starts off with the words that are probably the most beautiful words we can hear. And that is “The Lord is my Shepherd.” And I want you to repeat those words after me right now because you need to hear those words. “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Now I want you to make it personal. Here’s how you make it personal. I’m going to say the Lord is Robert’s Shepherd and you have to put your name in there. You ready? “The Lord is Robert’s Shepherd.” Now I hope you didn’t say Robert unless your name is Robert. Some people do that, you know. What we have to remember is that the Lord is MY Shepherd, He’s your Shepherd, He is our Shepherd. And as such, what does that mean? Now David who wrote these words knew exactly what that meant. He spent countless hours shepherding his sheep. He was truly a shepherd of shepherds. And he spent countless nights in the wilderness and he knew the perils, he knew the rewards, he knew the beauty of a starlit night in the dark where he would sit out there in the silence and could hear nothing but the bray of his sheep and the twinkle of the stars. He knew it all. And he says, “The Lord is my Shepherd. His rod and His staff, they comfort me.” Now the rod is just nothing more than like a Billy stick and the staff is a tool to guard and keep the sheep close. Because by keeping them close he’s able to comfort his sheep and so he has his staff to keep them close. And there’s nothing that comforts more than to feel the warmth of a hug and to feel the closeness of another human being. And as we think about the Lord today I want you to remember this prayer. The prayer is pretty simple, it’s simply “Hold me, Lord. Hold me, Lord, hold me.”

There are lots of thankless jobs in this world and I think one of the biggest or one of the most thankless jobs there is on Planet Earth are the men and women who protect our cities and our streets everyday. They are our peace officers. And I can’t imagine the sights that our police officers see day in and day out. When there is a tragedy they’re the first ones there. If there’s an automobile accident they’re the first ones there. If somebody fired a weapon the first thing they do is call the police and the police are the first ones on the scene. Sometimes I would imagine if I was a police officer I’d probably get callused to the sight of blood and to the sight of tragedy. And yet I often think they’re the most un-thanked people because they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It’s hard to make people like you and thank you for coming and bringing peace to a domestic dispute. So one of the things I want to do this morning right now is I just would like to thank our police officers, wherever you are across the world and across the nation, and in our streets today, keeping the streets of America safe. Would you please thank them right now? We thank you.

After 9/11 my father and I went to New York City and there were countless policemen who were killed in the tragedies of the destruction of the towers. And when we went there it was only been about 10 days after the tragedy and one of the things we did is we went to the pier where the command center was established. And one of the first people we saw were the policemen, they were guarding the entrances to the command center. And they recognized my father and here’s this big, brawny, callused policeman who had seen everything. And he saw my father, recognized who he was, and I saw these two embrace, they hugged, bear hugs. I could hear my father praying for this man and then tears started streaming down his face.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times as a pastor I have just reached out to hurting people and have embraced them and hugged them and prayed for them and tears start rolling down their face. I don’t know how many times that’s happened. And when we’re going through a tough time and when we’re facing incredible odds and circumstances and challenges that are too heavy for us to carry, there’s nothing that feels better to the human soul than to feel the chest of another living human being and to feel those arms around us and then to feel the prayers that take place when we’re comforted. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” That means that I am God’s child. That means I belong to the Shepherd, the Good Shepherd. I belong to Jesus Christ and if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior you can say the exact same thing. Something different happens when you have that kind of a relationship.

My wife and I have had pets in our family since we were married. We’ve had every imaginable kind of animal in our house that you wouldn’t even want to think about. I’m talking not only cats and dogs, but I’m talking bunnies and parrots and fish and turtles. You name the list, we’ve had them. My idea of a dog is a real animal. You know, a Rottweiler, that’s a real dog. Our last dog was a fabulous animal. Her name was Mia and she was a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Black Lab and she looked like a longhaired black lab. And she was just a beautiful, nice dog. She would do all these tricks. I would go PHEW and she would lay down and play dead. She would. It was terrific. And I’d go, Mia, go to bed. And she’d turn around and go and lay in her bed. I mean she was beautiful, wonderful dog, but she became old and she was gone and my wife went through major withdrawals. We are in a tiny house and we couldn’t have a big dog anymore. We decided to go with cats and that didn’t work.

I come home one day and here this tiny little white fluff ball, not a real dog but a Maltese. The kind of thing that Paris Hilton would carry in her bag, you know? And this is our dog? I don’t think so. You expect me to walk this thing? It’s just not my cup of tea. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a sweet animal. He’s just as nice as can be. But he’s.. well now he’s a year old and he’s a big Maltese. And the other day, he knows who he belongs to. He is not my dog even though he’ll come up and cuddle next to me and he’s nice to pet, he’s a lap dog and everything. But he’s not my dog, he is, actually he’s supposed to be Christina’s dog but it’s now Donna’s dog. It’s kind of a complicated story. The dog always knows whose dog he is, okay?

So the routine in the morning is we get up and then we stick him outside so he can do his thing and then we leave the door open and pretty soon he comes, after roaming, you know, running around the outside for a half hour or so he comes in the house and his paws are usually wet from the dew and we go about the day. Well I’m sitting there at my desk working and all of a sudden I smell something. What is that? Something really smells. This is bad. And I look and there’s Bentley hiding underneath my desk. Bentley’s our Maltese. Well he got into something outside and it wasn’t pretty and it didn’t smell very good and he tried to get this stuff off him so he rolled all around so it was all over him. So here’s this white dog with all this brown stuff all over him and he smells really, really bad. Well I did what any grown American husband would do, “Donna, your dog. Get your dog. Get Bentley, he’s got a problem.” And since Bentley is Donna’s dog she said, “Oh, Bentley, oh, look at you. You poor thing.” And she picks him up and she takes him to the bathtub and she gets him all washed up and cleaned up and he comes running out of the bathtub looking a drowned rat. He is the ugliest thing when he is wet. His hair is straight and he just looks like a big rat, not attractive. Then he got all fluffed up as he dried and he jumped on my lap and I petted him some more.

What’s the difference between Donna and I? She owns Bentley. Bentley belongs to her. She loves Bentley like I couldn’t quite love him the same way. And when we think about the Lord being our Shepherd. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” That means when I get into a big mess and I’m really dirty and I’m really filthy and I really stink and I’ve really messed up there’s one place I know I can turn, and there’s one place I know I’m going to get straightened out. And there’s one place I know I’m going to be loved and cleaned and cared for. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The Lord is MY Shepherd. And as my Shepherd He reaches out and He embraces us and He brings us into His hold and He cleans us and He restores us and He makes us as new. He comforts us. And so we must constantly hold onto this hope, hold onto it with all of your might and your strength and never let go. And simply do what God has called us to do.

In the Sishu Bhavan Children’s Home in Calcutta, India there is a sign that Mother Teresa put up there herself. And this is what it reads: People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered: love them anyway. If you do good people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives: do good anyway. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies: succeed anyway. The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow: do good anyway. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable: be honest and frank anyway. What you spent years building may be destroyed over night: build anyway. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them: help people anyway. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth: give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

“As a mother comforts her child so I will comfort you, says the Lord.” You can read it yourself. It’s in Isaiah 66:13. “As a mother comforts her child so I will comfort you.”

My 18-year old son is a tough 18-year old young man. How tough is he? Well let me tell you, when he was 10 years old he was ready to test for his 2nd degree black belt in Tai Kwon Do. Do you know what he does for recreation and fun now? He does Jujitsu and Mui Tai wrestling. He loves to get out there and scrapple and it’s all for fun, it’s all for fun. Well the other morning he woke up and his ankles were killing him. He walks up; it was like 6:00 in the morning. He goes, I can’t sleep and he’s practically in tears because his ankles are so painful. I said, well you know, let’s put them on some ice. And I put them on ice and he was still complaining about it. His mother comes up, sees his ankles like that and what does she do? She starts massaging them and rubbing them and she goes and she gets the eucalyptus oil, you know the government tree oils, u-clipped-us. She gets the eucalyptus oil and she massages his feet with that and he just starts feeling so much better. And I put ice on his ankles. Well that wasn’t good enough? There’s something special about a mother’s love. And it’s recognized in the Bible and it’s that kind of comfort and touch and peace and goodness that God promises to each of us. “As a mother comforts her child so I comfort you.” “The Lord is MY Shepherd. His rod and His staff, they comfort me.” As a mother loves us, a child, so God loves me. And so today we pray the prayer, “hold me, Lord.”

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