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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.
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

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