Saturday, July 23, 2011
Sermon Title: How To Respond to God
Then Job replied to the LORD: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”
As we go through challenging times in our lives, how do we respond to what God is doing in the midst of our suffering? In the passage above, we find that Job responded by recognizing the greatness of God. He fully understood his own mortality and his inability to even know the right questions to ask. He lost his desire to be dependent on his abilities and saw clearly his need for God.
Suffering should produce the same response in our own lives. However, we are often tempted to move away from God through anger, depression, despair and/or indifference. Perhaps this story will help us to understand why:
One day a 6 year old girl was sitting in the classroom. The teacher was going to explain evolution to the children. The teacher asked a little boy: Tommy do you see the tree out side?
Teacher: Tommy, do you see the grass out side?
Teacher: Go out side and look up and see if you can see the sky.
Tommy: OK. (He returned a few minutes later) Yes, I saw the sky.
Teacher: Did you see God?
Teacher: That's my point. We can't see God because he isn't there. The little girl spoke up and wanted to ask the boy some questions. Teacher agreed and the little girl asked the boy: Tommy, do you see the tree outside?
Little girl: Tommy do you see the grass outside?
Tommy: Yessssss (getting tired of the questions by this time)
Little girl: Did you see the sky?
Little Girl: Tommy, do you see the teacher?
Little Girl: Do you see her brain?
Little Girl: Does that mean she doesn't have one?
Maybe we don't see what Job saw in his suffering - the greatness of God - because we are not looking for it. It is there, even when we miss it. May we not miss it, but rather respond to it through repentance and dedicating our lives to Him. We will talk more about this on Sunday as we continue our sermon series, Lessons from Job. Hope to see you there!
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Job 30:27-31: The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me. I go about blackened, but not by the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry for help. I have become a brother of jackals, a companion of owls. My skin grows black and peels; my body burns with fever. My lyre is tuned to mourning, and my pipe to the sound of wailing.
Psalm 30:2-12: LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.
I try to be careful when I speak about suffering. I don't want to give people the impression that I think suffering is not a terrible experience, because it is always terrible, for some more than others. I was recently reminded of how terrible of experience suffering can be when I spoke to a woman who had lost two of her sons and a grandson through an accidently drowning. As she spoke, I realized how much her heart was still broken and how deep her pain was. And I thought about Job, and the text that is listed above - he, too, suffered greatly and his heart was broken.
So how do we survive such suffering? Not through some easy to recite formula or abstract ideas. No, if we are going to survive intense suffering with a stronger faith we have to follow the example of David. Through God's grace he was able lift himself above his suffering (You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead...)to see the glorious future that God had in store for him and the presence that God continue to have in his life. Was accepting God's grace easy for David? No easier than it is for you and I. But because he was able to, he was changed for the better through the great suffering that he experienced.
This Sunday, we will talk more about what it means to accept God's grace in the midst of great suffering. I hope to see you then!
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Sermon Title: Three Hard Truths About Wisdom
”Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds in the sky. Destruction and Death say, “Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.” God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, when he made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, then he looked at wisdom and appraised it; he confirmed it and tested it. And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”
Through suffering we find that our knowledge of God's plans and purpose is limited. Although we have a general understanding of how God operates and what He expects of us through His Word, there are many specifics that God has left unanswered. Some of those questions (such as why some people are healed and others are not) are left unanswered and require that we have faith in God's plan that has not been fully revealed to us. This is one of the greatest challenges that we face when we suffer: to trust God with the unknown even as our circumstances may cry out for answers. This coming Sunday we will explore how to deal with these unanswered questions through faith, obedience and a relationship with Him. I hope to see you then!
Monday, July 4, 2011
Sermon Title: Choosing Faith While Suffering
"While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house,when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."
"So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. "His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolishwoman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said."
As you read the story of Job, have you ever asked the question, what did Job do wrong? He did not do anything to deserve the loss of his family, material goods and good health. He lived in a sinful, fallen world, the same world that you and I live in, and served a God who loved him, just as He loves you and I. But God allowed him to suffer so that much good could come from it - both in Job's life and in the lives of others. In fact, because God allowed Job to suffer we today understand much about the role of suffering in God's overall plan and purpose for creation. You see, suffering can be a blessing - God can and does use our suffering to create a new heart in us and bless the lives of others around us. That sounds silly to many people, but God is still in charge when we suffer and our suffering is never in vain - there is always a purpose for suffering. So exactly how is suffering a blessing? We will answer that question this Sunday as we begin a new sermon series based on the Book of Job entitled, "Choosing Faith While Suffering." Hope to see you then!