Not Such A Wonderful Life: Hope for the Lonely & Discouraged

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Message Recap | 12.7.2014
Speaker: Aaron Taylor, Lead Pastor

If you’re like me, you’ve seen the motion picture, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  You can often find it playing on a movie channel during the holiday season.  It’s the story of George Bailey whose dream was to get out of Bedford Falls.  I’ve never lived in a town called “Bedford Falls” but I’ve lived in a town where there wasn’t much to look forward to and it became a place where it no longer would be safe.

I remember I was about 7 or 8 years old.  We lived in a multi-family house in what was once a quiet neighborhood.  Then things changed and I witnessed, as a little boy, the turmoil that would show itself because two different kinds of people could not get along.  At the time I didn’t know anything about the word “race”, but would quickly find out.  I’m not speaking about “race” as in “automobile race”, but rather “race” as in the color of your skin.  I witnessed first-hand race riots on the once quiet street I lived on.  I witnessed brutality and pain that a 7 or 8 year old should never see.  Dad knew we had to make a change.  And we did in October of 1963.  We moved to the suburbs.  Today is not about my story, but rather about a story of someone in God’s Word who experienced some difficulties that could have made life feel a little less blessed or happy.

As we begin this new series for Christmas, Not Such A Wonderful Life, we are going to be looking into the stories surrounding Jesus and offering hope to those who are struggling with life.  Perhaps you are dealing with loneliness or despair, maybe feeling regret from poor decisions or guilt from sin, maybe just struggling with life, this Christmas we want to offer some hope and encouragement from God’s Word.  We’re going to look into the life of one character in the Christmas Story who certainly can understand the pain of loss and perhaps loneliness and despair.  But as we will see, she chose to take steps that gave her hope and a reason to live.  When we meet her in the scriptures, we will see that she is not a young lady any more.  So today, let’s look at the life of Anna.

We start in the book of Luke, Chapter 2 and verses 36-38 (NLT) it says, “Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four.  She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.”

What do we know about Anna?  Luke begins by telling us her name, Anna, and about the office she held.  Anna was a prophetess, which means she received direct revelation from God (usually about future events) and passed it along to others. This gift tells us that Anna was one who spoke forth truth.

Her name means “favor” or “grace” and reminds us of Hannah in the Old Testament whose name also means grace or gracious. Anna was the daughter of Phanuel whose name means the “face of God”.  And it also tells us what tribe she was from, the Tribe of Asher.  Asher was the eighth son of Jacob and his named means “happy” or “blessed.”

Now Anna did experience the blessings of God, however, she also experienced some difficulties according to earthly standards.

If you want to learn more about Anna as found in God’s Word and hope for the lonely and discouraged, listen to our podcast at http://painesvilleag.com/notsuchawonderfullife  for the complete message.

Friend, perhaps like Anna, you’ve experienced loss in your life.  You battle loneliness and despair and struggle at this time of year.  But praise God, I want to encourage you that the same Jesus who brought Anna hope and joy wants to provide that for you.  Jesus is our hope this Christmas and He can turn our not so wonderful life into an abundant life!  This week, spend some time with God in prayer.  Draw near to Him and watch Him draw near to you.  Will you choose this Christmas to worship Him?  Will you choose to wait expectantly and place your hope in His Promises? Will you be a witness who will share this good news with others who are hurting this Christmas season?

Lead Blogger,
George Leonhardt

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