New Beginnings in 2019
New Beginnings for Hopefuls
February 3, 2019
Intro: This morning we are going to see what Zacchaeus has to say to hopefuls. Can you even hear the name Zacchaeus without singing the song? Well, I have sung it a bunch in the last couple of weeks. I will spare you this
You all remember Lulu Roman from Hee Haw? Lulu’s struggle started the day she was born in a home for unwed mothers. At age four, her grandmother dropped her off at an orphanage, where she was raised. Despite the young age, Lulu remembers the moment in detail.
“You think you don’t have very many memories of a childhood, but I have vivid memories of September 10, That was the day I was dropped in an orphans’ home.”
To make matters worse, Lulu has a thyroid dysfunction resulting in a lifetime battle with her weight. Food was a comfort, so matters only got worse. Lulu was called names and taunted with cruel songs because of her weight. She wished for a family who would take her home, but none ever did. “You stayed until you either were adopted, or your parents or your family came to retrieve you. Mine never did, and I never got adopted. They didn’t adopt fat kids.”
Lulu stayed at the orphanage until she was 18. The deep sense of rejection already poured into Lulu’s life only got worse. She longed for the “normal” life everyone else had. “You sat in your closet and you cried. You sat in the
window, and you watched the cars drive by. You thought, ‘If I could just have a Momma or a Daddy, or a brother or a sister, or a room of my own.’ I never had a bicycle. I never had a puppy. I never had any of those things that normal people had.”
She turned to her God-given talent for humor in order to cope. “I learned very early on that I could use a quick wit that the Lord had given me to have people laugh with me instead of at me.”
It was Lulu’s ability to make people laugh that caught the attention of country star and Hee Haw host, Buck Owens. He got her an audition and the Dallas girl was soon on her way to Hollywood!
“They put me on a big jet plane, and they flew me to Hollywood, CA. Took me to CBS television studios. The first person I saw was Carol Burnette. I’ll never forget as long as I live. She met us in the hall and said, ‘Shut your mouth, child. You’re fixin’ to be one of us.’” By this point in her life, Lulu had discovered drugs. In fact, she was high at the audition. And when the show became a hit, her addiction only worsened. In fact, it lost her her spot the show for a year. During that time she also found out she was pregnant and alone. “Nope, not married. I left there very bitter, very
angry, thinking that if there was a God. He certainly didn’t love me because He dumped me.” The news changed nothing as far as Lulu’s drug habit — it only got worse.
“I’d gone past popping pills and smoking dope. I had needle marks in my arms. No one told me not to do drugs when I was pregnant. I was the fat girl and nobody cared,” she said. As a result, Lulu’s son, Damon, came into this world addicted to drugs. And it looked like there was no hope. “They came and told me he was going to die, but I can remember lying in that hospital bed trying to pray, but I was so mad at God that I didn’t want to have anything to do with him,” Lulu recalls. “The only thing I knew to say was, ‘Yo, dude, if you’re real, I’ll make a deal with you.’ I said, ‘If you’ll let me have my baby then I’ll straighten up and stop doing drugs and I won’t do anything except what you want me to.’” After that, Lulu’s doctor made it clear it was going to take a miracle to save Damon.
“I can do everything I know how to possibly save this baby,” he told Lulu.“But only God can do this one.” And God did just that! Suddenly, Lulu got the call to head over to the hospital. At 10 days old, his condition changed drastically. The doctors unhooked the baby boy from the IV’s, and placed him in his mother’s arms.
“I didn’t realize until four years later that God healed that baby before I asked Jesus to come into my heart. On the medical records it says: ‘Act of God.’ There is no other medical explanation,” Lulu said. Now that Damon was healed, it was time to save Lulu. So, God sent a special messenger.
As Lulu was leaving jail following a drug possession arrest, Lulu ran into Diane. She knew Diane from the orphanage. But this was not the same Diane. And their meeting was a clear case of divine intervention!
“She wanted to tell me about Jesus. The first thing I wanted to do was say, ‘Don’t try to come at me with that. You grew up in the same place I did. Don’t even try it.’ She said, ‘Louise, just listen to me. Let me tell you that Jesus is real. Let me tell you how He’s changed my life.’”
So, Lulu listened. And as skeptical as she was, she couldn’t deny Diane was different. It was a pivotal moment for Lulu. She finally found the love she’d been seeking her entire life! “Whenever I got down on my knees and gave my life to the Lord, in that place, I mean, instantly He took those drugs away from me.” The love of our Savior changed Lulu so completely, she never returned to drugs. She never went through withdrawal. She was simply and miraculously healed! The change in Lulu was so evident, the producers invited her back on Hee Haw. And before accepting, she did
something she hadn’t in the past — she prayed about it. Lulu remained on the show for the rest of its run. And since then, she’s dedicated her life to sharing her testimony of how God’s amazing grace transformed her life. She’s recorded gospel albums and spends a lot of time providing
outreach to orphans. Lulu Roman found Jesus in her hopefulness.
You probably know Zacchaeus. Did you know he was hoping for a new
He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. 3 Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. 7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my
possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of
Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
A Driving Hope –
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.
Zacchaeus was a successful business man. He started out as a tax collector. He worked it hard or he worked hard at making connections that led him to be the chief tax collector. He was a supervisor of tax collectors. He probably was driven by a personal dream to achieve what he did. Providing for his family and making a difference were at the heart of his dream. He was hoping for a better life.
Tax collectors were to present, to the leading authority in their area, a certain amount of money. Their pay was what they received above that amount. This is where they got their bad name. The more they could get out of the citizens within the area the covered the more money they had for themselves or their families. Zacchaeus’ role was that of the head of a Pyramid Scheme. The more money the people under him collected the more money he made. He probably forced his people to extort more money from the citizens.
Hey, but who cares. It was allowed by the king. It was all within the prerogative of the tax collector. He provided for his family and himself.
He was no different than any of us. We have a dream or a hope. We climb the ladder of success as we switch jobs or homes. Our hope is always for our children or our life. We want all the money we need and a little extra.
Added to the drive was reality. Zacchaeus and all tax collectors were hated by the citizens of the area they worked. For Zacchaeus that city was Jericho. The hope of the tax collectors greatly impacted the hope of the citizens.
If a person’s hope was built on acquiring more money and things then someone who was preventing them from doing this was an enemy. They hated to be extorted. They hated being abused.
It is our hope of achieving our dream that drives us to succeed. We won’t let anyone stop us. As a result, it may even drive us to forget our integrity. It may lead us to leave the faith that once drove us in all we did. In the quietness of our day we begin to realize that we have changed. What
we hope for has changed. It is not what we once intended. What do we do with that?
We can do the only thing we know to do, we pursue that dream with more intent. You try anything to make things better. This seemed to be what was going on with Zacchaeus. While he was rich, did he enjoy his life? Did he find at the end of his dream there was no happiness?
A New Pursuit of Hope
Zacchaeus was pursuing Jesus but was he pursuing a new hope?
3 Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.
Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus and heard He was passing through Jericho. There is no indication in scripture as to what he knew or what he heard about Jesus. He heard enough to make the effort to see Him. He
made his way to see Jesus as He walks through his town. The Passover Feast was just a few days away. There were so many people around that he ran ahead to find a place to see. Even at the risk of being seen and humiliated he climbed a tree so he could see. After all “he was a wee little
man and a wee little man was he.” Zacchaeus even climbed up a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. He may also have climbed the tree to stay out of arms reach of the people of Jericho. I told you tax collectors were not liked, right? It is easy to get intentionally bumped or pushed by a crowd of tax opposers. He probably learned from past experiences to
avoid closeness to the people of Jericho. Whether it was so he could see or to stay away from the people he was not going to let anything from stop him from seeing Jesus. He found a great spot right on the pathway
so he could see Jesus was walking by. I think he hoped to be seen by Jesus, too. I’m not sure what Zacchaeus was hoping to gain by meeting Jesus but for some reason he made every effort to see Him.
Zacchaeus was a wealthy man without a relationship with God. Did Zacchaeus realize that his desire for wealth would cost him friendships? Did he know that people would hate him? Did he know that all of the money in the world wasn’t going to make him happy. Do you know that just before this event in Luke 18:18-23 Jesus had a conversation with another rich man. He was a hopeful too. This man sought Jesus and found Him. He asked how he could have eternal life. He wanted a hope without any change to his life. Hope wasn’t found in all he had. How can it be found by living the same. Have you found yourself at this point in your life? You
don’t like your life. You don’t like your job. Your spouse isn’t making you happy. Your time with you kids even leaves you thinking there should be more. You thought if you had a different job, different friend, a different hobby life would be better.
Have you started looking for something else. CS Lewis says, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Jesus came to prepare us for that world and live with us in this one. Be like Zacchaeus and start looking for Jesus. Do whatever it takes put yourself where He is. Be willing to take a chance. To step away from what you have always thought. “Seek He first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Jesus will meet you with this kind of search.
Zacchaeus physically sought Jesus but the cry of his heart was to find hope.
Real Hope Found –
Zacchaeus was about to find real hope when he climbed up that tree, “for the Lord he wanted to see.”
5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. 7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” 9 And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Jesus stopped at the base of the very tree that Zacchaeus climbed. And He said, “Zaccheaus you come down for I am going to your house today.” Jesus called him by name. He called him to come down. This reminds me of Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.” Zacchaeus heard his voice and welcomed Jesus into his home. Jesus loved a man that was hated and despised by the people in Jericho. Jesus acknowledged him and came to his home and ate with him. That is the love of God. This is the way that we need to love people – those different from us, the mean people who threaten us, those with alternative lifestyles. Whoever is on your list of sinners you are to love like Jesus. That is how tax collectors were viewed. We don’t know all that happened in Zacchaeus life but we know what he said and what Jesus said about him.
Zacchaeus said, half of all I have I give to the poor and I will repay 4 times what I have taken from people. The gift to the poor was a great statement but returning money was more. The law required in most heinous crimes that a four-fold restitution be paid. If there was confession to and repentance from the crime only what was taken and 1/5 more payment was required. Zacchaeus went well beyond this.
The rich young ruler didn’t see that Salvation was worth giving all he had to the Lord. He wanted salvation but he wanted to keep what he had. He was sad that his money would not buy what he wanted but the surrender to Jesus would have brought him “JOY” instead of the sadness he faced.
When Zacchaeus speaks you can almost feel the euphoria in the words. He was excited to give everything to the needy and to those he had wronged. What made the difference? Jesus gave him a new beginning that he was
finding was abundant. Challenge: Have you come to a point that your joy and happiness are missing from your life plan? The older we get the more or less happiness we have. I pray that all of you have such a relationship with Jesus Christ that He is your all in all. While life is hard it can be full and abundant.
Young people can have these same feelings when their life is just not what it ought to be. Some people are so far off from what they imagined that they just quit trying to be happy.
When you find yourself wanting more or different, seek Jesus. Do whatever you need to do to seek Jesus. He will meet you in your seeking. How will know when you have surrendered to Him? Your countenance, voice and actions will demonstrate your new beginning.
Zacchaeus received a new beginning in Jesus salvation. There is one waiting for you. It may be salvation. It may be a new beginning in your focus, mission or ministry. Open the door of your heart and let Him into your house today.