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Sunday, October 14, 2018

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves Is Not In The Bible



This is the manuscript of the sermon I preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles October 14, 2018. This is the second sermon in a "That's Not In The Bible" series.  

The saying "God helps those who help themselves" is not in the Bible It doesn't reflect what the Bible teaches. What this saying says is that in order to get God to help you have to do something first. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of biblical teaching! If God only helps those who help themselves, it sounds as if God needs our help instead of us needing His help.  The next time you hear someone say “God helps those who help themselves,” remind them that in order to receive His help, you must admit you are helpless. God helps those who can’t help themselves. God helps the helpless.”

 19:14 NLT May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer.

Last week I mentioned several quotes that people believe are in the Bible that aren't.  Things like 
     Ashes to ashes; dust to dust
      Like father, like son
      This, too shall pass
     Confession is good for the soul
     Honesty is the best policy

These and others are meant to encourage or inspire but if they are direct contradictions of scripture they aren't good and can even do damage.  We talked about one of those last week.  “When the praises go up the blessings come down”.  What that quote is saying is that if I praise God He will bless me because I praise Him. It presupposes that all I have to do is praise Him and He has to bless me because that’s the transaction.

As we learned God can’t be manipulated into blessing by praise!  Praise is empty, and useless if it doesn’t come from the heart.  We don't praise to be blessed we praise because we're blessed.  Blessings aren't the result of praise, blessings are the result of obedience.  Those were all things we talked about last week.

One of the quotes or mottos that I didn't mention last week is the one I'm going to talk about today. It is similar in that if it's true it is a transaction.  If I do something, God has to do something because it's a transaction.  But remember we can’t manipulate God. 
At least one of you know what it is because she mentioned it to me last week and she knows it's not in the Bible.  It's actually one of those that can do more harm than good.

“God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”

There was a Gallup poll some years ago and 4 out of 5 of the people polled believed that “God helps those who help themselves”, is a direct quote from the Bible.  It's not!  The person who mentioned it last week knew that it was made popular by Ben Franklin in 1757 in Poor Richard’s Almanac. He got it from a man named Algernon Sidney, who wrote it in an article titled Discourses Concerning Government in 1698, and he may have gotten it from a 6th Century writing by a fellow named Aeschylus who wrote “God loves to help him who strives to help himself”.

Whatever its origin, and you may have already known that it came from “Poor Richard’s Almanac”, this phrase doesn’t reflect what the Bible teaches.  What this says is  in order to get God to help you have to do something first.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite of biblical teaching! 
If God only helps those who help themselves, it sounds as if God needs our help instead of us needing His help!
The Old Testament book of Proverbs teaches that relying on ourselves, rather than on the wisdom of God, is foolish:
Proverbs 28:26 NLT Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.
The prophet Isaiah declares that actually God helps those who are utterly helpless:
Isaiah 25:4 NLT But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. For the oppressive acts of ruthless people are like a storm beating against a wall,
God provides for those who are helpless and needy. God helps those who can’t help themselves. And the Bible considers all of us helpless? Everyone!

Romans 3:10-12 (NKJV)10  As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;11  There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.12  They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."
That's why God helps, because we were helpless.
John 3:16-17 NKJV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Paul wrote to Timothy and said;
1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

And Peter wrote;
1 Peter 3:18 NIV For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

No, God Won’t Help Lazy People

This phase, “God helps those who help themselves”, is often used as admonishment for laziness or disguised as encouragement to have patience and faith. I don't mean and the Bible doesn't say or mean to say that God helps lazy people.  In fact it says that He will not help a lazy person. 

2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 (NLT)10  Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”11  Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business.12  We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living.13  As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.

The book of Proverbs gives us an example of the blessings of work and the consequence of laziness. 

Proverbs 6:6-8 (NLT)6  Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!7  Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work,8  they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.

Let’s imagine that you need a job to feed your family. You should get on your knees and ask God to give you a job, but what do you do next? Sit by the phone and expect some employer to call you unexpectedly and offer you a job? Definitely not. Don’t do anything until you pray, but then get out and knock on doors and put in applications. That’s what Jesus meant when He told us to ask, seek, and knock.

No God doesn’t bless laziness.

What’s Wrong With Self-Reliance? 

Now there is nothing wrong with self-reliance or self-help as long as you realize it’s not the best help.  Millions of dollars are spent on self-help books, seminars,  and Internet downloads.  The problem is self-help reinforces a self-centeredness. Self-assurance and self-confidence are good traits when you apply them with the knowledge that the real power to succeed and achieve comes from God. 

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NLT)18  Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.

Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)9  We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

When we don't understand that it's God that really determines our success, it’s possible to become arrogant.  There is a story that Muhammad Ali who, when asked by a flight attendant to buckle his seatbelt, said “Superman don’t need no seat belt”.  The flight attendant replied, Superman don’t need no airplane either, so buckle up!”  The point is that arrogance can cause us to think we can do things on our own without God’s help.  We need to remember what it says in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 8:16-17 (NLT)16  He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good.17 He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’

There's the story in the book of Daniel about what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar when he boasted that all his power and wealth had come because of his own abilities. 

In Daniel chapter 4 Daniel interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzar.  In that dream God actually tells him what is going to happen to him if he continues doing what he's doing. 

Daniel 4:28-32 NLT “But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’ “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’

Nebuchadnezzar eventually repented and again assumed the throne but it wasn't because of helping himself.  It was because he repented of his arrogance.

Jeremiah 17:5-6 (NLT)5  This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.6  They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.

Do you ever find yourself trying to take care of your obstacles on your own and not trusting them to God?  I know that I do sometimes and it usually turns out not exactly the way I planned and some of them have been total disasters.

An Example of Someone Helped Themselves In Order to Get God To Help Them

Here's an example of someone who wanted to help themselves so that God would help them. 

God promised Abraham that he and his wife Sarah would have a son and he would have so many[DJ1]  descendants that you couldn’t number them. 

Sarah realizing that both she and Abraham were old folks, decided to help Abraham and herself, so that God could do what He said, so she suggested that Abraham and her maidservant, Hagar, “get together”, The idea was if Hagar got pregnant and had a son Sarah could take him and the child would become hers.  She was going to help Abraham get a son who would become hers and in turn God would do His part and give Abraham heirs. 

I don't have time to go into detail today so if you don't know the whole story I urge you to read it in Genesis chapters 16 and 21.  It's pretty dramatic and gripping reading. 

Well we find out that God didn't need any help.

Genesis 21:1-2, 4-5 NLT The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. 

It doesn't say it in this verse but Sarah was 90 at the time.

To make a long story short Hagar did get pregnant and had a son before Sarah.

This is part of the conversation an angel had with Hagar.

Genesis 16:11-12 (NLT)11  And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the LORD has heard your cry of distress.12  This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

 Well guess who his relatives were;

The Arab Muslims trace their lineage back to Abraham through Ishmael.  The Jews trace their lineage back to Abraham through Isaac.  Much of the problems between the Arabs and Jews today can be traced back to Sarah helping herself so that God would help her and Abraham have a son.

When we try to take things into our own hands God will let us but the results are often painful.  That’s the danger of the arrogance that can come from misplaced self-reliance.   

I mentioned it earlier;

It’s Really The Helpless That God Helps Not Those Who Help Themselves

Now here's an example of someone who asked for God's help first.

Nehemiah 2:1-8 NLT Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.” Then I was terrified, but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.” The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request. I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah. And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.

Nehemiah didn't start by thinking if I want God to help me I need to do something first so that God will help me.  The first thing he did was to pray and ask God for help.

He stopped for a moment, no matter how brief, and prayed before answering the king’s question.  After he prayed he started asking for things and he kept asking.  He asked BIG!  He requested help for safe passage and for building materials.

No matter your problem, no matter who or what stands in the way, there is no request too big for our God.  He loves it when his children ask Him for help.  He wants to heal us.  He wants to encourage us.  He wants us to seek Him for everything.

Matthew 7:7 NLT “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.

When it comes to our greatest need—rescue from sin and death—there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves.  Thankfully, that is where God comes in:
Romans 5:6-8 (NLT2)6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.7  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.8  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
We were helpless.
Christ’s death is the solution to the problem of sin and death that we can’t solve on our own. It’s tempting to think that we might be able to help ourselves out of even this predicament, but the Bible clearly teaches that there’s nothing we can do on our own to find salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT2)8  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.9  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 
There will be times in your life when you won’t know what to do. There will be times you just don’t know what is right or wrong, and times you don’t know left or right. God designed it that way because it requires faith and it requires knowing God as your Father, and Jesus as your Savior.

Philippians 4:19 NLT And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Our help comes from God alone, and it happens when we turn our lives over to him in faith, trusting in the work of Christ on the cross. This isn’t something we work for; and there’s certainly nothing we can change about ourselves to make us worthy of God’s help. Instead, we are saved by the passionate, undeserved love of God. It’s his gift to us!
So the next time you hear someone say “God helps those who help themselves,” remind them that in order to receive His help, you must admit you are helpless. God helps those who can’t help themselvesGod helps the helpless.”
That means you, me… and the world.
It there is anybody here today that is struggling trying to “get right”; trying to get rid of the guilt from things we've done, struggling wondering what the future holds, looking for direction but not finding it. The answers to all those things is Jesus Christ.  Once you invite Him into your life you will find that you'll have peace.  Your situation may not change right away, if at all but there will be a peace that you won't understand.  
This is what Jesus said to His disciples
John 14:27 NLT “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
 
God is sending help through His Son.
Romans 5:6(NLT)6  When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
The only requirement is that you acknowledge the fact that you need Him, that you believe in Him and His sacrifice, and His Word says that you will be saved.
Romans 10:9-13 NIV If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Sermon Audio












Sunday, October 7, 2018

When Praises Go Up Blessings Come Down Is Not In The Bible




This is the manuscript of the sermon I preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles October 7, 2018


There are a lot of quotes going around that well meaning people, even Christians believe are scripture, things from the Bible.  Many of them aren’t.  Of of those things is "When praises go up blessings come down".   It sounds like something that would be in the Book of Proverbs, or the Psalms, but surprise it's not in the Bible.  Obedience is what causes blessings to come down.  To hear the sermon click the YouTube link at the end of the manuscript.




Psalm 19:14 (NKJV) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

There are a lot of quotes going around that well meaning people, even Christians believe are scripture, things from the Bible.  Many of them aren’t. We’ve heard many of these things over the years in church, from our parents, other relatives, friends, and  other people we respect.   Most of these quotes are not bad in themselves, some of them are meant to encourage and inspire, but some of them are also direct contradictions of scripture.  Sometimes what we don’t really know about what’s in the Bible can actually hurt us when we confuse something that “sounds like it came from the Bible” with actual biblical truth. 

​I want to encourage you to study the Bible and to research some of the things that you hear, even if you hear it from your pastors, evangelists, prophets teachers, or whoever.  If in my sermons I refer to a passage of scripture don't take my word go read and  study it for yourself.

A quick quiz before I really get started today. Let’s start by looking at some things we hear a lot.  Which ones of these do you think are in the Bible.

     Ashes to ashes; dust to dust
     The apple of my eye
     Eat, drink, and be merry
     Like father, like son
     Eat sour grapes
     A drop in the bucket
     The Lord’s Prayer (the actual words)
     This, too shall pass
     Confession is good for the soul
     Honesty is the best policy
     The skin of my teeth


Of those that I gave here are the ones that are actually in the bible.
The apple of my eye

Zechariah 2:8 (NKJV)8  For thus says the LORD of hosts: "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.

Eat, drink and be merry

Luke 12:19 (NKJV)19  And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.";

Eat sour grapes

Ezekiel 18:2 (NKJV)2  "What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge'?

A drop in the bucket

Isaiah 40:15 (NKJV)15  Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, And are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.

The skin of my teeth

Job 19:20 (NKJV)20  My bone clings to my skin and to my flesh, And I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

Here's what's not in the Bible
     Ashes to ashes; dust to dust
     Like father, like son
     The Lord’s Prayer (the actual term)
     This, too shall pass
     Confession is good for the soul
     Honesty is the best policy

Today I want to talk about another saying that is used a lot and sounds very religious and spiritual

"When praises go up blessings come down"

This is the title of a popular worship song.  It sounds like something that would be in the Book of Proverbs, or the Psalms, but surprise it's not in the Bible. Some people have thought that it’s origin is from Psalm 67 which calls God’s people to praise Him and for Him to bless them.
Psalm 67:1-7 (NKJV)1  God be merciful to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us. Selah2  That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.3  Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.4  Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy! For You shall judge the people righteously, And govern the nations on earth. Selah5  Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.6  Then the earth shall yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us.7  God shall bless us, And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.
First let’s take a look at praise.  The dictionary definition of praise is  the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something.
There are seven Hebrew words translated praise in English.
Yadah  means “to throw” or “extend or throw out the open hand” therefore to worship with extended hand”  
Towdah comes from Yadah and means to extend the hands as well but more specifically, to declare openly, freely, unreservedly. Admit as real or true. Confession.
 Shabach is to loudly give adoration to God in the form of testimony.
Barauch is "to kneel or bow as an act of adoration."
Zamar is to make music accompanied by the voice. To celebrate. To sing songs of praise with instruments.
Halal is to rave or boast upon the Lord. (Hallelujah” comes from this base word)
Tehillah is to sing Halah.
There are three Greek words translated praise in the New Testament
Agalliao means to jump for joy, to leap to exul
Proskuneo means to prostrate oneself in worship; to reverence, to adore; to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand
Thriambeuo means to make an acclamatory procession, to conquer, to celebrate a victory, to triumph..
 All ten of these words contain the idea of giving thanks and honor to one who is worthy of praise.
The phrase, “when the praises go up the blessings come down”, sounds to me like a transaction where when I do this, you do that.  In the case of our praises of and to God it presupposes that all I have to do is praise Him and He has to bless me because that’s the transaction. What if I rob somebody and then praise God, what if I lie on someone and it causes them harm and then I praise God, will He bless me.  That’s not what the Bible says.

God can’t be manipulated into blessing by praise!  Praise is empty, and useless if it doesn’t come from the heart. Empty praise isn’t true praise.  That’s really what it means when it says that we worship God in spirit and in truth.

John 4:23-24 (NKJV)23  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.24  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Nowhere in the Bible does anyone praise God with the intention of being blessed because of their praise.  The instances of people praising God isn’t to get anything from Him, but they praise Him for what He had already done for them.  They don’t send praises up to be blessed they send them up because they have already been blessed.  Their praise and ours should not be a tool to get but thanksgiving for what He has done.  In other words don’t praise to get blessed because you are already blessed.

 Obedience Brings Blessing


We aren’t blessed because be praise we are blessed because we are obedient.

Joshua 1:8 (NKJV)8  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

This verse shows that we will be successful when you do what the Bible says and obey what it teaches. It’s pretty simple.

Proverbs 10:6-7 (NKJV)6  Blessings are on the head of the righteous, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.7  The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.

Here are some examples of blessings resulting from obedience. 

Genesis 22:18 (NKJV)18  In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
Deuteronomy 4:39-40 (NKJV)39  Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.40  You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time."
Proverbs 3:1-6 (NKJV)1  My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands;2  For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you.3  Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart,4  And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;6  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 16:7 (NKJV)7  When a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
John 14:23-24 (NKJV)23  Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.24  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.
Matthew 6:33-34 (NKJV)33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
You can count on God’s blessings that obedience brings.
Hebrews 11:1-6 (NKJV)1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.2  For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.3  By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.4  By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.5  By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.6  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
No “when the praise go up the blessings come down” is not in the Bible and there is no promise in the Bible that blessings come from praise.  However, there are promises of blessings coming from obedience.  The saying should be “when obedience goes up, the blessings come down”.  By the way, that’s not in the bible either but it really happens.

Praise is not a tool to “get”.  It is our response of gratitude for what God has already given.

Now think about salvation.

Scripture tells us that we can’t do anything to obtain our salvation.  It’s a free gift. All you have to do is admit that you are a sinner and need help. 

Ephesians 2:8 (NLT)8  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

If we could earn our salvation by “helping ourselves”, what would be the point of faith in Christ and His sacrifice.  The truth is that nothing we can do, no matter how good or noble, can justify us before God Almighty. 

Romans 5:6(NLT)6  When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Romans 3:28 (NLT)28  So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

The only requirement is that you acknowledge the fact that you need Him, that you believe in Him and His sacrifice, and His Word says that you will be saved.

Romans 10:9-13 NIV If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord.

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Sermon Audio











Sunday, September 30, 2018

Whenever You're Uncertain Remember That God Knows Everything



This is the manuscript of the sermon I preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles on September 30, 2018. 

When times of heartache and trouble come our way, we begin to trade things that we have never doubted for the uncertainties and unknowns that may or may not even exist. When things seem to be coming apart remember that God is not causing those things but He may be allowing them, and if He’s allowing them it’s to accomplish His purpose in you, not to punish you. Never trade what we know for what we don’t know. To hear the sermon click the YouTube link at the end of the manuscript.


Every time something bad happens, a disaster, a death, an illness, or a financial catastrophe, many people either ask “Why would God allow this to happen” or why did God do this”?  Why are we struck with a debilitating illness in the prime of life, why does one of our children die young, or why do we lose a job right after we sign a big mortgage?  What about facing foreclosure because we haven’t been able to find a job? Why is your spouse stricken with a chronic illness ending in death?  When these things happen in succession we search for answers.

Christians and non-believers alike might wonder, “What do you think they did to deserve cancer?” If someone’s wife walks out, insensitive churchgoers might think, “If he had been a better spiritual leader, his wife wouldn’t have done that.” If a teenager is rebellious, hardened onlookers might privately reflect, “If that kid’s parents had been more involved, this never would have happened.”  When we are going through a tough time, or have a tragic loss our well-meaning Christian friends say “This was God’s will,” and that, “we don’t always understand why God does what God does, but we must accept God’s will.” What a terrible thing to say at that time! I don’t believe that it is God’s will that we face disaster.  I haven’t been able to find anywhere in the Bible that God wants His children to suffer.  As a matter of fact;


1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NLT)  For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.

When things happen that don’t appear to make sense, or go against what we think is good, we Christians say God did it or allowed it.   I’ve heard that very thing more times than you think.  We say that God does or allows bad stuff because we don’t understand how a God that we believe loves us, can allow us go through situations that stretch our abilities as human beings to handle or understand.  
Being a Christian doesn't exempt you from suffering.  Jesus Himself assured us that there will be trouble in our lives.
John 16:33 (NKJV)33  These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
The Bible also tells us that no matter the situation we are never alone.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
That means He’s with you in the good times and the bad times.
 Hebrews 13:5 NIV Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Psalm 34:19 NIV The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
That sounds good, however when troubles lingers and even more trouble comes we may start to wonder if anybody hears or really cares.  When it gets to that point we need to be reminded that God who made those promises that we read before, really does love us.
1 John 4:7- 11 NIV Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
That says that God really does loves us.  
He’s also left us some reminders of that love,
Reminder #1 Creation

 The creation itself should remind us of how all powerful God is.  It is also evidence that He exists. The very fact that he created the universe and then allowed us to be masters over the earth should remind us that there is somebody out there who is bigger than we are.
Romans 1:20 (NLT)20  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
The next time you see a sunrise, remind yourself, God is faithful.
The next time you see snow-covered mountains with their peaks pointing toward the sky, remind yourself, God is faithful.
The next time you see flowers that have burst into bloom, remind yourself, God is faithful.
The next time you hold a new born soft-skinned baby in your arms, remind yourself, God is faithful.
     Next time you feel down remind yourself that God created you in His image and as I said a couple of weeks ago you are God’s greatest masterpiece
These things about God’s creation remind us of how big God is, His faithfulness, and proof that He loves you.

Reminder #2:  The People We Meet

God uses what we may consider chance meetings or encounters to benefit us later.  God had plans for you before you were born. There are no mere coincidences. You’ve never met anybody by accident. Like the prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT) “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
Psalms 37:23 NLT The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
and
Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Think about some relationships that you had when you were in school.  Not those where you stayed in close contact but people that you haven’t seen for years or have never seen ever again, maybe a teacher, a coach, or just another classmate.  Think about the impact on you and your life of something they said, an introduction to someone else, or an example you follow today.
The way I plan my day and week is the result of something that a man taught me over 40 years ago when I worked for Bank of America.  My love for studying the scripture is because I met a group of guys in San Jose over 40 years ago.  I don’t even remember their names but the result of meeting and studying with them is why I am doing what I do today and using the spiritual gift of teaching that the Holy Spirit gave me.
When you doubt whether God cares about you and loves you think about the people that he has placed in your life over the years.  If I just sit and think back about some of the difficult and stressful times I’ll remember somebody doing something, or saying something or giving me something, seemingly out of the blue that helped get me through.  That wasn't just a coincidence that was a reminder that God loves me.
Reminder #3:  Jesus - The Greatest Reminder
Jesus is the greatest reminder of all of God’s love.  When we realize that God gave His Son Jesus so that He could pay the ransom for mankind and take the punishment of sin we know that God loves us.  Jesus came and willingly laid down His life as our sacrifice He then sent the Holy Spirit by and through whom we are able to live a life that is pleasing to God.
When you wrestle with anxiety and stress especially in situations where you have no control remember all that He went through for you.  Remember the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, the humiliation at His trial, the beatings and finally His crucifixion.   It looked as if He had no control over any of this but on the third day He rose from the dead to show that God never lost control.  Jesus is the Greatest Reminder that God loves you.

The Certainties Of God
When times of heartache and trouble come our way, we begin to trade things that we have never doubted for the uncertainties and unknowns that may or may not even exist.

You lose your job and your mind immediately races to I’ll never get hired again. But that’s an uncertainty. Don’t trade the fact God is your provider for uncertainties that may or may not be the case.

Matthew 6:31-34 NIV So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

You get cancer or some other serious illness and you assume that you will die from it.  You don't know that for sure, that's an uncertainty. Don’t trade that for the fact that God is a healer God may heal you miraculously, or through doctors and medicines.

Psalm 103:2-5 NIV Praise the Lord , my soul, and forget not all his benefits—  who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,  who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,  who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Proverbs 3:7-8 NIV Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

We're not just talking physical healing here but spiritual healing as well.  You may have made a terrible mistake and feel that it’s something that's unforgivable. That's an uncertainty.  What is certain is that, through and because of the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice, God will forgive those who believe in Him, you no matter what.

1 Peter 3:18 NIV For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

Psalm 32:1-2 NIV Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

Isaiah 43:25 NIV “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

Psalm 103:8-12 NIV The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;  he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;  as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

No matter what uncertainties are going on in your life here are some things that are certain. 

Certainty #1—Suffering is universal and unavoidable.


Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you're where you are from—Jesus suffered and He was from eternity, after all—it doesn't matter how much you have or don’t have. Suffering is unavoidable.  We live in a fallen world; we all suffer. No one is immune to it. But we can use suffering as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God. 

James 1:2-8 NIV Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Certainty #2—Suffering is not a judgment for sin.

This is perhaps the biggest lie we believe when we go through times of suffering. When we experience difficulty in life or go through a trial of some kind, it is very easy to think that God is judging us for our sin.

As believers, this could not be further from the truth. We may suffer due to the consequences of sinful decisions we make. If we choose to rebel against God or make a decision that is contrary to his Word and outside his will, we will reap what we sow.

Galatians 6:7-9 NIV Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

And sometimes the consequences of reaping what we sow are severe. God disciplines those he loves and chastises those whom he considers sons and daughters.

Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,  because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

But God does not send suffering as judgment for our sin. Jesus took our judgment with Him to the cross.

Certainty #3—Suffering is temporary.

Though it doesn’t make it easier in the moment, it’s good to remember that all suffering is temporary. Scripture says that we will suffer “a little while”

1 Peter 5:10 NIV And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Romans 8:18-21 NIV I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

At times we may think we’ll never see light again. When we’re in the middle of suffering remember that it's temporary.  It may last for years and we may even die in suffering but it’s still temporary. There's a time limit.    Just as Jesus was on the cross for six hours and in the grave for three days, there is a set limit to our suffering. It is temporary.

Suffering is inevitable, it’s not judgement for sin, and it’s temporary.

Certainty #4—God empathizes with me in my suffering.

Psalm 34:17-18 NIV The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Matthew 11:28-30 NIV “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

He empathizes because He experienced the same kinds of suffering we experience.

Hebrews 2:14-18 NIV Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Certainty #5—God loves me and has not forgotten me.

It’s so easy to forget this truth when we are enduring hardship or are confronted with a tragedy of some kind, but here is the certainty from God’s word;

Romans 8:35, 37-39 NIV Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Suffering is inevitable and unavoidable, it’s not judgement, it’s temporary, God emphithizes with you, and God has not forgotten you. These things are certain.  Finally,

Certainty #6—When we suffer, it’s okay to ask “Why?”

“Why?” isn’t always the most helpful question, but it is usually the most human. We even saw that with Jesus in the garden when He asked three times if there might be another way other than the cross.

Matthew 26:39, 42-42, 44 NIV Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

It’s also okay to not understand why we are having to endure suffering. God’s ways are not our ways.

Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord .  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

And even if God explained what we were going through and gave us his reasoning, it’s likely we wouldn’t understand, let alone agree with it.

Asking “Why?” does not show a lack of faith.  It’s acknowledging that God alone has the answers to questions we desperately desire answers to.

When things seem to be coming apart remember that God is not causing those things but He may be allowing them, and if He’s allowing them it’s to accomplish His purpose in you, not to punish you.
Romans 8:28-30 NIV And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.


Let’s never trade what we know for what we don’t know.
I want to end with a prayer that I read just last night.

Father, Your Word says that we overcome not by might and not by power, but by Your Spirit. So, I lean into You, believing that You are at work in the unexpected adventures in my life. I trust in Your goodness, no matter my circumstance. I stand on the integrity of Your character, especially when I face the impossible. You are good. You do good. And You are working in all things for my good.
                                                                                                           
You came to set me free, so I believe You for freedom, hope, healing, rescue, and deliverance. I choose to believe that impossible is where You start. Miracles are what You do. I believe in the name of Jesus for signs and wonders and miracles in my life. I believe for the supernatural in every area of my life — in my marriage and parenting, in my ministry and career, in my friendships and community.
                                                                                                           
God, You are greater than anything I face. I refuse to fix my eyes on the obstacle and enemy, but instead elevate my gaze to You. I will speak Your words of life and truth, agreeing with You alone, believing You are who You said You are and will do what You said You will do. You are faithful. You will come through. That’s who You are. That’s what You do. By Your grace, I will live by faith. By faith, I believe You will fulfill Your purpose for my life — that I will reach the destiny You planned for me all along — and I will give You all the glory in everything I do as we travel there together.
                                                                                                                       
In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.

The one thing that we know is that God loves us and the greatest reminder of that love is Jesus.  God’s Son which He gave to become a sacrifice for our sins so that we can be forgiven and come into the relationship that God desires for everybody which is eternal life with him. Then we will never have to ask why.  Until then even though we go through periods of suffering He’s with us.  These things are reserved for those who believe in Him, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit.  The only requirement is that you acknowledge the fact that you need Him, that you believe in Him and His sacrifice, and His Word says that you will be saved.

Romans 10:9-13 NIV If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


Sermon Audio