Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Place to Go But Up

When you hit bottom, the only way you can go is up. I know. I have been there and know the place very well.

David knew what it was like to be on top, and unfortunately, he also knew what it was like to hit bottom. Listen to how he describes it in Psalms 40:2. “He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay…” Notice the phraseology. He brought me up. Up from defeat; up from despair; up from humiliation; up from a miry mess and up from suicidal inclinations. If you have ever been down, you know how thrilling it is to get back on top again.

But it’s when you are down, and you don’t know if you will ever be on top again that severe depression sets in. Elizabeth Wurtzel asserts that “a human being can survive almost anything, as long as (they) see the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.”

As serious as depression is, I chuckled when I remembered a comic strip involving Snoopy the dog in Peanuts. There he sat mopping, droopy eyes, ears flopping at the door of his dog house. “Yesterday,” he said, “I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. There is so little hope for advancement.”

For dogs that’s true, but for people who are down it’s different. There’s room for advancement. Jesus said, “I am the way…” (John 14:6) Depression is a dispute with God- intentionally or unintentionally. Depression says, “There’s no way out.” Jesus says, “I am the way out.” Its truth versus lies, hope versus despair and walking in victory over defeat.

It basically boils down to who and what you believe. Albert Ellis summarized it in these simple words. “You largely construct your depression. It wasn’t given to you. Therefore, you can deconstruct it.” Depression is a condition that you develop based upon what you believe unless it is chemically induced. It is a form of faith turned upside down. Some people believe the Bible is a lie, Jesus is a fraud, and miracles are air castles built by mentally deranged individuals.

They believe the worst not the best. It’s like the lady who was trying on shoes in a shoe store. She believed she could wear a size 5 1/2 shoe, or at least that is what she said. Finally the weary clerk told her that what she believed was hurting her. The startled woman replied, “Why do you say that?” The clerk replied, “Because you believe you can cram your size 8 foot into a 5 ½ shoe.” The clerk knew that she must begin to believe that she must wear a properly sized shoe or her feet would always be hurting. She had to change what she believed before she would change her shoes.

As amazing as it is, Jesus used the same strategy. He said to a man who had hit rock bottom, “Do you believe I can do this?” (Mark 9:23) Do you believe I can turn this horrible problem around? Do you believe I am the way out? Do you believe that health and happiness can be restored? Do you believe that you are not doomed to spend the rest of your life in this dungeon?

Hear what the man who had hit bottom said, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24-25) He climbed out of his pit on the ladder of his beliefs!

We can all learn a much needed lesson from this incident. It is simply this. When you hit bottom, you must change the way you think and what you believe. You must believe that a mole hill is a mole hill not a mountain and that Jesus is a way Maker not a trouble maker.

The infamous guy in the Luke 15 story illustrates some timeless principles that we can cling to when we hit bottom, and there is no way to go but up.

#1: Recognize where you are.

(Luke 15:15 – And he began to be in want…and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.”)

He may have known little or nothing about animal husbandry, but he knew tons about human depravity. He may not have known the going price for hogs in the stock market, but he knew when he had hit rock bottom and there was no place to go but up. It was a long fall from having it all to having nothing, from being someone to becoming a no one and from being in a penthouse to sleeping in a pig pen. But he had to recognize where he was before he would be trying to find a way out.

#2: Redefine your objectives.

(Luke 15:18 – “I will arise and go to my father…”)

Principles do not change, but objectives do. Principles can’t be redefined and rewritten. They are permanent and irrevocable, but objectives can be overhauled by urgency and demand. Urgency prompted the Prodigal to redefine his objectives. The objective that headed his list was “to arise and go to my father.” He had to go from the trouble making crowd to a problem solving, dependable source. It meant a change of direction. Peter Druker defined objectives like this. “Objectives are not fate; they are direction. They are commands; they are commitments. They do not determine future; they are means to mobilize the resources and energies of the business for the making of the future.” Your objectives have the potential of turning your gutter days to better days. Going to the Father was the new beginning.

#3: Rectify your errors.

(Luke 15:18 – “I have sinned…”)

Hitting the bottom doesn’t necessarily constitute out right sin in the sight of God. It can be a colossal error of judgment. I read what Forence King had to say on this subject, and it is good enough to share with you. “People are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be, that they’re all asleep at the switch and a living in the Age of Human Error”

Making a bad investment in the stock market may not be a sin, but it is an error in human judgment that bears painful consequence. Rectifying your error will not get your money back, but it will be a hedge against future such mistakes.

The Prodigal’s errors were compounded one right after another. He was in bad error of fiscal responsibility, in the crowd he ran with, in the disrespect he had for his father, and luxurious living which lead to his financial down fall.

“I have sinned” was an admission of error and the beginning of rectifying it. Repeating your errors is insanity. Rectifying them is prelude to turning things around.

#4: Return as you were but different.

(Luke 15:19 – “Make me as one of thy hired servants.”)

He had the same DNA but a changed man was inside the old skin. Position meant nothing to him. Having peace of mind did. Appearance was no longer important, but appreciation was. The boy who hit bottom and made it back to the top had appreciation for a warm, clean bed to sleep in; food on the table from a pantry not a pig pen; a ring from his daddy on his finger and not hocked in a pond shop; bills paid and money left over; and duds from a haberdashery not hand me downs from a garage sale rack.

Sadly enough, we don’t appreciate being on top until we hit bottom or appreciate what we have until we lose it. Frederick Keoing explained it so beautifully like this. “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”

The man in our text who occupied one of the poorest seats in the house did so knowing that the only way he could go from there was up. In quiet confidence he waited until he heard the master say, “Friend go up higher.” May you hear those words today.

Going Up!

Pastor Jimmy & Bob

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