And Just like that, everything changed.
She was heartbroken, all she had ever wanted was to be a mother, and it seemed as if that was the one thing she’d never be. She lived in a society where children were considered to be a blessing from God and the greatest honour that could be bestowed upon a woman was motherhood.
She had a loving and supportive husband but no children. Her name was Hannah and her heart was broken because she had no children. From the very core of her being, she cried to God asking for the gift of a child.
And Just like that, everything changed.
This is week four of: “The Day Everything changed”.
And many of us can point to a specific date in our lives when everything changed.
Maybe it was the day you realized that you were going to have your first child. That may have been a pleasant discovery, or a rude shock. But on that day, everything changed.
And for most people, there is “That day”.
For one generation it was December 7, 1941. That was the day the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbour. It was a day that President Roosevelt said “Would live in infamy”.
For the United States, it was the day that they would enter the Second World War. For the allies it was a day they had been hoping for and a day they wondered what had taken so long to come.
Many historians would say it was the day that signalled the eventual end of WWII,
A day when everything changed.
For Hannah, it happened on a day when her husband went to the tabernacle to worship God (remember this was before the temple was built and the tabernacle was like a temporary church, like back when we met in the movie theatre or community centre.)
Hannah went with him and after supper, when the tabernacle was empty, she went in and began to pour out her heart to God. On her knees she wept and cried to the Lord “If you give me a son, then I will give him back to you and he will be yours for his entire life.”
Off in the corner of the Tabernacle was the Priest, a Godly man name Eli, and as he watched Hannah pray, he was a little confused.
The Tabernacle wasn’t a place that women would ordinarily come, and yet here was a lady obviously beside herself, weeping and seemingly talking to herself. Her lips were moving but there were no words coming out.
And so, Eli went over and told her to get a grip on herself, to go home and sober up, he assumed that she’d been drinking, and you know what happens when you assume? That’s right, sometimes you’re wrong!
Hannah wiped away her tears and bared her heart to the man of God, telling him how much she wanted children. She spoke of her prayers and her passion. And when she was done he said, “Ok, no problem, God will take care of it.”
And if you know your bible, then you know that God did take care of it. That Hannah eventually gave birth to a son she named Samuel who became a great man of God and then she had two more sons and a daughter. But it is Samuel that we know about. Kind of like being Sacha Trudeau or Fred Trump.
Let’s take a look at the background of this book. 1 Samuel is the first part of a pair of books, the second one coincidently is called 2 Samuel and they are the 9th and 10th book of the bible, respectively.
So, what are we learning about today?
We are learning about faith, in particular the faith of Hannah.
Faith is a vital ingredient in our relationship with God, the very foundation of Christianity rests on faith.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
We need to have faith to believe that Jesus is God’s son, we need to have faith that he was born of a virgin and we need to have faith to believe that he rose from the dead.
If we don’t have the faith to believe those things, then we might as well walk away because there is nothing left that will give us eternal life.
In the New Testament book of Hebrews, it is spelled out very clearly when it says: Hebrews 11:6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
“But Denn” you say “I want to follow Christ but I only believe what I can understand.” Well, Sir Thomas Browne summed it up when he said, “To believe only possibilities is not faith, but mere philosophy.”
So what type of faith did Hannah have that was rewarded?
Let’s go back to the story, 1 Samuel 1:10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.
First of all; It was A Passionate Faith. This wasn’t simply a matter of “It’d be nice if I had a child.” Hannah was passionate in her desire to be a mother. In the story we are told that Hannah was reduced to tears and would stop eating because of her anguish.
Her husband did what husbands still try to do today, he tried to make her feel better.
It’s pretty clear that men didn’t understand women back then, anymore then we do today. Because he said 1 Samuel 1:8 “Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”
Sounds like a guy.
The guys out there are thinking, “Well yeah, that makes perfect sense to me.” And you ladies are wishing that Elkanah was close enough for you to slap.
Venus and Mars, waffles and spaghetti.
This wasn’t just something that Hannah wanted a little bit it was an all-consuming passion for her. What are you passionate about? Because until you get passionate about it, it probably ain’t going to happen.
Are you passionate about your relationship with God?
You should be, He’s passionate about His relationship with you. In Exodus 34:14 we read You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.
How passionate is God? The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah and this is what he writes Isaiah 9:7 His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
And in fulfilment of that prophecy we read in John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
I have been passionate about Cornerstone’s mission for most of the past 25 years. 2001 was a little rough, but we got through it. And sometimes it puts people off, they think I’m trying to guilt them into giving, or serving, or being more regular in their attendance.
And if that is how I come across, it’s because I’m passionate about what we are trying to do here.
Cornerstone wasn’t started so Denn could have a place to work, I had a place to work in Australia, and it had nicer beaches. And we didn’t start Cornerstone just so we could have another Wesleyan Church in Halifax.
Cornerstone was started so we could make a difference in this community, Cornerstone was started to help depopulate hell, here, near and far away.
If you think I’m passionate about Cornerstone and all it does, you’re right. And there are reasons for that.
I truly believe that there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned. Do I think we are the only church to believe that? Not at all, but I understand that no one church can reach everyone.
There will be people who will be reached by Cornerstone, who may never have had the chance to hear the gospel otherwise.
And in the same breath there will be people we can’t reach. People who will be reached by Full Gospel, or Emmanuel Baptist, or Birch Cove Baptist, or Kings Church.
And there are people in Sackville Beaver Bank who need to hear the gospel, and they aren’t going to drive to Hammonds Plains to experience Cornerstone here.
And we’ve been given this great opportunity to reach even more people. Will it be cheap? No. Will it be easy? No.
But I’m passionate about making a difference, not only here, but nearby as well, and for right now that is Sackville Beaver Bank.
Halfway around the world, there is a little Wesleyan church in a small village in Sierra Leone. And in that village, there are people who need to hear about the love of Jesus. And more than that, they need to be impacted by those who know the love of Jesus.
And that’s why we have entered into our partnership with Kenenday. To make a difference far away. To provide clean water and better hygiene, to help with their crops, and most importantly to demonstrate the hope that can only be found in Jesus.
Will it be cheap? No. Will it be easy? No.
But I’m passionate about Cornerstone making a difference, not only here and near, but far away as well.
Same scripture as before 1 Samuel 1:10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.
Not only was it a passionate faith, It was A Praying Faith. Notice that it wasn’t a hoping faith or a wishing faith it was a praying faith. And there’s a difference.
Sometimes we hope or wish for something and somehow, we think that wishful thinking is the same as praying. “Well if God knows everything then he knows what I want.” Yeah, but that’s not the way it works.” In the book of James, God’s word says James 4:2 . . . Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
Your relationship with God is like any other relationship it requires communication. Hannah’s heart was broken because she couldn’t have children, they had tried and it just didn’t work. She knew that she had done everything she could do, so now she was asking God to do what she couldn’t do. She was asking for a miracle.
If this church is going to be everything that God wants it to be it will only become that way through prayer. Have you prayed for Cornerstone lately? For our vision, for our leadership and for our staff?
Prayer needs to be a major focus during this time, we aren’t going to be able to do it ourselves, we will only do it through the power of God.
In the past we’ve hosted 24-hour prayer times at the church, when things get back to normal, whatever that may look like, that will be back on our agenda.
Right now, we are asking people to pause at 2:20 each day and to whisper a prayer for Cornerstone, it’s mission, it’s staff, and all of our ministry partners.
Our ministry partners would be you, those of you who partner with us with your time and resources to see the mission fulfilled.
For the past few weeks on Saturday I’ve been hosting a zoom prayer meeting at 2:20 in the afternoon, where we can come together to pray for our church and our community. Because I believe there is power in prayer. If you want to join me, just email me and I’ll send you the invite.
Let’s keep going.
1 Samuel 1:9 Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle.
It was a Persevering Faith Hannah didn’t just pray once and say “Well I’ve prayed about it! So, I don’t have to pray again.”
She was persistent in her prayers. Although it’s not spelled out in the scriptures I think it’s fair for God to ask “How much do you want this? How persistent are you going to be?” Jesus tell two stories to illustrate this point. Both stories illustrate the power of persevering prayer.
In the book of Luke, Jesus tells a story about a widow who was appealing to a local judge for justice in a certain case. In the story the Judge originally ignored the woman, but she kept coming back and back and back. Until finally he says, “This woman is driving me crazy, I’ll grant her request just to get her off my back.” And Jesus says “If even an evil judge gives into persistence think of how much more God wants to answer our prayers if we are persistent.”
In Luke chapter 11, he tells his disciples another story to illustrate the same principal.
Listen to the words of the master story teller: Luke 11:5-10 Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Don’t. Give. Up.
Back to the story, she prayed, Eli the priest questioned her, she told him why she was praying and he says in 1 Samuel 1:17 “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” The bible says she thanked him. She began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.
But more than that, listen to what happens. 1 Samuel 1:19 The entire family got up early the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more. Then they returned home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea . . .
It was a Participating Faith. I’m not sure how to put this delicately, but Hannah was willing to do her part. She could have gone home and said “I’m going to have a baby, God is going to give me a baby” and then waited for the baby to magically appear but that wasn’t what she did.
God sometimes steps outside of the natural laws, but often he works within them. St. Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
Hannah did what she could to make a baby and then she depended on God to do the rest. We can fall into two errors: one is to not expect God to do anything, which is a lack of faith. The second is to expect God to do everything, which is a lack of wisdom.
I do not believe that Cornerstone will have success in fulfilling our mission without God. We do not have enough resources.
However, I do not believe Cornerstone will have success in fulfilling our mission without doing everything we can do.
Our faith needs to be a participating faith, we need to believe that God can move the mountain but we ought to keep pushing at the same time.
God saved Noah and his family, after Noah built the ark. God parted the Red Sea, after Moses raised his rod. God brought down Jericho, but only after Joshua and the people of Israel had marched around the city for seven days.
Jesus fed the five thousand, after the little boy gave his fish and loaves.
Are you starting to see the pattern? Do your part and God will do his part.
Back to the story 1 Samuel 1:20 and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”
It was a Proven Faith. You’ve heard the statement the proof is in the pudding. In this case, the proof was in the Samuel. God answers prayer.
No, not all the time and that is a good thing.
Think back on all the things you’ve prayed for through your life and think about what the results would have been if every prayer request was answered.
Sometimes we just need to trust God.
And once again, people who don’t understand their TV remotes, shouldn’t think they are smarter than the creator of the universe.
But God is a prayer answering God.
If we are passionate in our faith, if we pray in faith, if we participate and if we do everything we can do to make our dream a reality, then I truly believe that God will do his part. I believe that God has led us this far and I believe that God will take us the rest of the way. Do you believe that?
Let’s go back to the story again 1 Samuel 1:20 and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”
It was a Praising Faith. How often have you prayed for something and received it and never thought to mention it again? Didn’t your grandmother teach you anything, like saying thank-you?
I’ve been guilty of that and I’m sure that you’ve been guilty of that.
I don’t know how many times I’ve prayed for someone specifically for something; a job, a healing something. A specific prayer request.
And when they got the job or a favourable report from the doctor, they would say and I quote “boy, was I ever lucky.” Hello?
But Hannah wasn’t guilty of that. She knew that before God stepped in that she had been unable to have children.
She knew she wasn’t lucky, that it wasn’t a fluke, and it didn’t just happen. Hannah knew that her son was an answer to prayer. And because of that she named him Samuel, which in Hebrew sounds like “asked of God” or “heard by God”.
Let us not be guilty either individually or corporately of forgetting God’s part in what has happened at Cornerstone over the past twenty-five years, or in what he’s going to do today.
So where are you at this morning? What is it that you are passionate about?