Suffering

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.20.16

Jesus understands trouble and betrayal   

 

John 13:21-30

Jesus’ Farewell Discourse comes from the perspective of culmination. Yet, there is also the heartache of betrayal throughout this chapter

There is Anguish In Jesus’ Soul

The burden in Jesus has been growing

Jesus mentions it for the first time in John 6:70-71

Now in chapter 13, it is woven throughout the narrative (vs 2, 10-11, 18)

Jesus turmoil over Judas reaches its culmination in v21

Jesus not only carries the burden of his coming crucifixion, now betrayal is added

Jesus had chosen Judas to be one of the 12 who shared life, ministry and miracles with him

What this friend does is repeatedly described as “betrayal” (Mt 26:14-16)

Jesus declares Judas’ act as a fulfillment of Psalm 41:9

 

Jesus Draws In His Disciples

Jesus wants to strengthen his disciples against the coming blow (v19)

Jesus wants them to know that he is sovereign even over this betrayal

God is good and faithful, even in the difficult, unexplainable and painful

Jesus wants to share his own troubled heart with them (v21)

They cannot do anything, but Jesus wants to share his burden

The disciples fall into awkward silence (v22) ‘looking at one another’

They are weighing their own hearts and each others

Peter wants to find out who is the one and asks the disciple next to Jesus

Jesus identifies his betrayer, but the disciples don’t hear or grasp the significance of it

 

Jesus Engages Judas

Jesus reaches out to Judas, he doesn’t send him away, until after the foot washing and the meal

The foot washing allowed Judas to experience Jesus’ care and humility once more

In the last moment, Jesus fed Judas a ‘morsel’, which culturally was a way to honor a guest

In taking Jesus’ love without repentance, Judas has turned himself over to his sin

Judas had been following a path of sin for some time (Jn 12:3-6)

Why did Jesus pick Judas?

John 6:64 tells us Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray him

v18 tells us this was so prophecy would be fulfilled

Judas wasn’t forced by God to betray Jesus, God used a betrayer

 

Let’s Consider Some Applications

1.  About Burdens

Life is hard at times for everyone, because our world is in rebellion against God

Some Christians mistakenly think ‘If I follow God well enough, he will take my problems away’

No one lived better than Jesus, and he experienced many sorrows

The Bible tells us suffering and struggle will come

Jesus knows what it means to have a ‘troubled’ heart

We are not meant to carry these burdens alone, we are given the church to bear them with us

When everything falls apart, God has not

2.  About Sin

Nothing is more dangerous, deceiving or corrupting than sin

We don’t know what took place in Judas’ mind, but we know the results

v30 ends with what seems obvious “and it was night”; this was a spiritual statement as much as the time of day

3.  About Satan

He is a real person, with motivations and actions that all hate God

We live in the midst of spiritual warfare: “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6)

If our enemy is spiritual, then our daily preparation must be spiritual

Can Satan enter a believer? 

He would have to be able to overcome the Holy Spirit – and that will never happen

We should take Satan seriously – but God is the only one we need to fear

4.  About Where Your Life Is

Who is Jesus to you?

How does your life demonstrate that he is your Lord?

If you are thinking, “I will respond to God sometime in the future”, pushing Jesus off is how we are turned over to our sin

EVERYONE IS IN A WHEELCHAIR

Kim Ordile

When Lou Ordile showed me this article written by his wife Kim, I immediately asked if I could share it with all of you, God has given her excellent insights through her significant struggles.

Kim and Lou along with their children, Joseph and Jessa have shown the power of God’s grace in the midst of life’s great difficulties. May their heart be our own!

Back in 2012 my health started to decline. 

Today the wheelchair is my reality. 

But this is not about me, for God has graciously reminded me that everyone feels like they are in a wheelchair:

The feeling that things are out of my control

Being pushed in directions I didn’t plan on going

The fear of going too fast or the frustration with going to slow

Heart ache due to broken dreams

Angry from having to live with limitations, consequences, boundaries and restrictions

Coping with changes that impact my identity, or who I thought I was

Anxiety that I might be rejected

A sense of pain, and the lack of comfort or contentment to make it go away

I have found the only way for me to resolve any of these feelings is on my knees before God.

God loves me and he loves you, and he longs to be in relationship with us.

Hard times cause our hearts to long for something deeper and real. This is found when we are in relationship with the God who created us. Accepting that Jesus is God’s Son and that he died and rose again to pay for our sin, is the way to God. 

God is the only One that can give us peace, a purpose, a true identity, contentment, and the security of being unconditionally loved. 

I pray that no matter what your wheelchair is – that you will receive God’s love for you. I have found his love to be true even in my wheelchair!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13  

Kim Ordile

A STORY OF LIFE WITH CANCER

the-hardest-peace-Kara-Tippetts-oatmeal-smiles

Kara Tippetts

. . . was the wife of Jason and the mom of four beautiful children

. . . cancer was not imagined as part of her story

. . . neither was it invited in

. . . yet it invaded Kara’s body and the lives of all her family

The Hardest Peace is Kara’s story about God’s grace which came along with the invasion.

Kara opened her heart and life so we could see the hard and gritty, as well as the lovely and gracious. Woven through every part is her clarity about Christ and her abiding trust in Him. It is an excellent book.

This is how Kara describes writing “The Hardest Peace”:

The writing of this book helped me through the diagnosis of cancer finding more and more corners in my body: my brain, my bones, my liver, my lymph system. The writing of this book caused me to look at my story and seek the grace to walk this hard path with cancer.

On March 22, 2015 Kara left the dust of earth to breathe the air of Heaven. Shortly before her death, Kara wrote:

My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping. But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live. I get to draw my people close, kiss them and tenderly speak love over their lives. I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves. I get to laugh and cry and wonder over Heaven. I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus—and He will provide. He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love, will cover us all. And it will carry us—carry us in ways we cannot comprehend.

You can read more from Kara about this journey with life and cancer via her blog ‘Mundane Faithfulness’. 

GRACE ABOUNDING IN SUFFERING

by Debbie Huber

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake  (Philippians 1:27-29)

In Philippians 1:29 we are told that, for the sake of Christ, God has granted to us that we will suffer for His sake.  When we first read this it could seem disheartening or hard to understand that this is a sign of God’s grace. 

But as we realize how significant it is that God used Jesus’ suffering to bring us eternal joy, we will begin to have unanticipated reactions to our own suffering.  

Through suffering, we become identified with Christ’s suffering.  Just as grace abounded in the suffering of Christ, so when believers suffer for him, grace abounds as well.  We will see suffering as an opportunity to bring God even more glory as we are comforted in the Holy Spirit. 

Because Christ’s death has reconciled us to God, His grace sets us free from the fear of death.  We do not need to live with fear and anxiety over present or future suffering because we have been set free by His grace.

In this passage, Paul is speaking to people who feel marginalized by the society around them.  Natural responses for people who are marginalized are to withdraw in fear, counter in retaliation or to complain in frustration to one another. 

Jesus provides us with another way to react:  confidence grounded in God’s grace that frees us to respond to adversaries with composed kindness and to believers who hurt us with humbleness and forgiveness.  

Jesus is our example in this.  He humbled himself and died for us because of His great love for us when we were so undeserving. 

In his book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes,

“The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me.  This leads me to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time.”   

How can we hold onto hurts or take offense at others when God does not hold onto our frequent offenses against Him?  

For Christians this can mean responding in grace with forgiveness to fellow believers who hurt them, lovingly seeking reconciliation instead of withdrawing from them or complaining to others about them.   

Instead of leaving the church where you may have been hurt, it may mean looking to reach out to those who are marginalized, providing encouragement or help. 

It may mean being Christ’s ambassador by responding with grace and kindness to those in society who speak condescendingly of Christians or your values because you are a Christian.  And it is responding in confidence that the Holy Spirit works within Christians and that God will “never leave us or forsake us.”

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.01.14

God knows the oppressor and the oppressed

James 5:1-11

Fairness, oppression and justice; these are issues people care about deeply. Is God concerned?  Will God act? People have their opinions, in James 5 we have what God says

James addresses the oppressor and the oppressed

vs 1-6 His warnings appear to be directed to the unbelieving world

vs 7-11 James is addressing “brothers” i.e. the church

James starts with 4 warnings against common misuses of wealth

1.  vs 2-3 warn against hoarding wealth: The unsatisfied pursuit of having more

This is someone whose hope is in wealth, without eyes for God’s kingdom

Hoarding ignores that the world belongs to God and we are his stewards

2.  v4 warns against defrauding others:  Dishonesty to increase wealth

The text uses the example of employees, but it could also be customers

3.  v5 warns against self-indulgent lifestyles

The focus is on our use of wealth rather than on the amount of it

4.  v6 warns against financial oppression

This is when the pursuit of more damages people’s lives

These warnings can be condensed into two basic indictments:

(1)  If you are depending on wealth, it will fail you

(2)  Don’t be deceived by earthly success, because sin will be judged

Although these warnings are for the unbelieving world, we are to examine ourselves

Even if our guilt is far ‘milder’, God is displeased by any form of it

The main issue isn’t wealth itself, but wealth that ignores God

Wealth doesn’t make us sin, but it is filled with opportunities for sin (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

We protect ourselves through the pursuit of being stewards for God (Matthew 6:19-21)

Randy Alcorn writes in his excellent book The Treasure Principle:

“Giving is the antidote to materialism”

Our giving is a central part of godliness

Do you ever seek God concerning your giving?

James gives encouragement to the church (v7)

God who sees the oppressor, also has a heart for the oppressed

Just as the rich need to have an eternal justice perspective (v9 the Judge is at the door)

So the oppressed need an eternal blessing perspective (v7 the Lord is coming)

It is easy to be discouraged when we can clearly see and feel  oppression

Patience is needed because the world is filled with people who fulfill vs 1-6

Patience is appropriate because Christ is “coming” (v7)

The injustices of the world are not an endless turning wheel

As we wait in anticipation of Christ with these attitudes:

1.  Be Patient (mentioned four times)

The illustration of the farmer tells us our struggles are only for a season

This patience keeps us from losing hope: we are confident about what’s ahead

This patience keeps us from losing focus: we live by what’s coming

2.  Establish or strengthen your heart v8

We are not just “getting by”, we have the wealth of gospel blessings (Ephesians 1)

We have exciting and meaningful purposes to plunge our life into – this includes being a worshiper

3.  Don’t “grumble” against fellow-believers (v9)

Grumbling causes us to join the oppressors

If we have the gospel, grumbling becomes an accusation against God

And the Judge who stands against the sins of vs 1-6, stands against this too

We are to exchange being complainers to become exhorters for Christ!

James provides wonderful encouragements that make those attitudes possible

1.  Jesus is near (vs 8-9)

No believer is far from Christ’s presence or his fulfillments

2.  Jesus is purposeful (v11)

Do you trust God in his purposes?

That he will fulfill them?

That they are good?

We have great examples in Scripture (v10-11)

We are not the first generation to suffer and struggle

From the distance of time, we can see that God did not fail his people in the past

Don’t you want to be an example for generations that follow us?

3.  Jesus is coming! 

This is a reality which looms over all our struggles and all our oppressors

Do we live as if we will see Jesus?

And what difference should that make?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.15.14

Wisdom for Every Struggle                     

James 1:5-11

We need wisdom, because life is filled with trials

The use of the word “lack(ing)” in vs 4 and v5 show us James is continuing his subject of how we “meet trials”

We need wisdom to have a biblical perspective for our trials

We need wisdom to take biblical steps in our trials

1st Encouragement:  God has all the wisdom we need

God is not merely wiser or the wisest, he is the “only wise God” (Romans 16:27)

All wisdom begins with God, because he began all things

People who are not impressed with God’s wisdom, are living in disregard of eternity

2nd Encouragement: God gives generously  

The word here for generous means more than abundance; it implies God’s ‘careful attention’

God gives out of his complete wisdom and his deep love for us

3rd Encouragement: God gives without reproach

God doesn’t belittle us for needing so much wisdom, or for needing it so often

How we ask for wisdom is essential (v6)

We are to “ask in faith”

In chapter 2, James tells us faith is belief that takes action (2:17-19)

To ask in faith means we believe God has the wisdom we need AND we act according to wisdom he gives

Who is this ‘doubter’ that James warns against?

It is not everyone who ever struggles with a doubt

The word pictures show that doubt is the course of their life (vs 6-8)

They have no root in God or his word.

They doubt God is the source of all wisdom

In desperation they may ask for God’s help, but they don’t bow to his rule

This person’s request is not answered (v7), because they want relief, but not God

What is the prayer of faith that James commends?

1.  Prayer that God himself is enough for us; so we live that way

2.  Prayer that believes the gospel hasn’t exaggerated; so we live that way

3.  Prayer that trusts how God responds is trustworthy; so we live that way

Faith is strengthened by the practices of being a worshipper, and of preaching the gospel to ourselves

God answers our request through 3 branches of the same stream

1.  God’s Word – read it and be under its teaching   

2.  The Holy Spirit – respond to His convictions   

3.  God’s people – grow meaningful connections in your church

God’s wisdom is always appropriate even when not it’s specific

We may not hear the precise details we want, but God always gives us the attitude, perspective, and priorities we need

Wisdom in trials includes our view of a blessed life (v 9-11)

The context of the “lowly” brother in v9, is his financial and social status

Our financial and social status is a major category in the ‘trials of life’

James wants us to think about our ‘status’ with a biblical perspective

1.  If your heart is burdened by what you don’t have – look again

Your position before God is beloved child and heir with Christ

Your possessions are the gospel, the Holy Spirit and a new life

Your experiences will include all that the new Heaven and new Earth can offer

2.  If you have an abundance of material blessing – look clearly!

Your greatest blessing is what was taken from you:  sin and judgment

Your hope is in what you could never obtain yourself

But, James doesn’t let it go; he keeps pressing the point (vs 10-11)

We struggle to prosper and still keep a dynamic biblical perspective

James reminds us eventually all we will have left is our soul standing before God

We need wisdom in how we respond to trials and in how we live in prosperity

If we are not living in love and submission to God – we don’t have wisdom

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.08.14

A Joy Surpassing Our Struggles 

 James abruptly jumps into the deep end of the Christian life

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4)

James assumes we will “meet” trials and a “variety” of them

This is nothing new, in John 16:33 Jesus said, “in the world you will have tribulation”

If we are taught or expect that trials in this life can disappear, that is simply unbiblical

James gives us a wise perspective for all “trials” (v2)

How we think about trials should bring “joy” to us

This does not mean difficulties bring only joy (Matt 26:38 with Hebrews 12:1-2

The phrase “all joy” or “pure joy” means the highest joy

We have reason amidst our hurt and struggle to also have joy

This is not a ‘grin and bear it’ attitude, it is joy over what else is happening

God is active in our trials, they are not evidence that he distant or angry at us

God is in the center of our events and he is producing something (v3)

God is being perfect toward us, so that we may become “perfect” in him (v4)

Our natural perspective in difficulties is to think the best good is for them to go away!

However, Romans 8:22 compares our current “groaning” to the pains of childbirth

You want the pain to end, but not at the expense of that child

Struggles are real, but they are also temporary and purposeful

We have no promise that the trials of life will be removed or reduced

However, we do have promise that life in our trials can be more fruitful, contented and joyful

To trust God, means all things take on a God perspective

To love God, means all his ways are so worthy – we see them as praiseworthy

What do trials accomplish that is joyful? (vs 3-4)

1.  God uses trials to produce “steadfastness” in us

We are to “know” that difficulties “test” or prove our “faith” (v3)

Trials teach us that we cannot trust in ourselves or depend upon the world

These trials reveal that God is worth trusting and following

Trials help us see that walking with Christ is the one thing we must never neglect

  • Rather than accuse or doubt God, we keep worshipping Him
  • Rather than think obedience is not worth it, we know that submission to God is always our ‘true north’
  • Rather than get back at those who hurt us, we pursue God’s agenda for them
  • Rather than compromise to stop pain at any cost, we persist in whatever steps will honor God
  • Rather than wallow in self-pity , we rejoice that the Holy Spirit is transforming us
  • Rather than be examples of inconsistency, we become witnesses that the gospel is real!

2.  God uses trials to work toward our completion (v4)

“Perfect and complete” means we become all God purposed for us

“Lacking nothing” means there will be nothing left to add

Through trials, God is fulfilling the wonderful plans he has for us:

  • To be ‘like Christ’
  • To ‘love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength’
  • To live ‘filled with the Spirit’
  • To be mature disciple-makers

Just as birth pains have precious results, so do our labor pains

We don’t like struggle, yet for God’s covenant people, they are filled with graces

Peter repeats James in a way that exalts those graces  1 Peter 1:3-7

A joyful perspective sees: 

1.  God truly is all glorious

2.  God has a great heart for us     

3.  We have a wonderful eternity with him

What do you ‘see’ about God in your trials?

DO YOU FEEL ALONE IN YOUR SUFFERING?

sorrow-tilly-williams

We away this week, sadly leaving our (excited) baby girl at Moody Bible College in the heart of downtown Chicago

So, this week Well-Rooted will feature links to helpful articles from other bloggers

Today’s featured article by Courtney Reissig is from the Gospel Coalition website. Courtney shares her experience with deep groaning after the loss of her unborn child:

“You Do Not Groan Alone”

Artwork: “Sorrow” by Tilly Williams

WHEN LIFE GOES CRASH

In his book, “Standing Next to History: An Agent’s Life Inside the Secret Service”, former agent

Joseph Petro tells this story about a trip to Moscow by President Nixon.

“Secret Service agents were staying in guest quarters at the Kremlin.  One night after work, they all got together in one of the rooms for a nightcap and started looking around the room to see if they could find the listening device that they knew the KGB had invariably planted somewhere.  They looked under the lamps and under the tables and finally pulled back the rug to find something strange.  It was a brass plate held in place by a screw.  Having decided that this was the bug, they took it apart to see what it looked like.  They used a coin to unscrew the cover, and all of a sudden they heard a huge crash, as the chandelier in the room below came loose from its fixture and fell to the floor.”

Very smart people, make mistakes of all sizes. Everyone knows what it’s like to hear a loud “crash”, in the midst of their crafty plans.

Just when we are tempted to think we have figured life out, our life is jolted by the tremendous crash caused by our plans. It could be failures in parenting, messy romantic relationships, the “I’m-going-to-help-fix-this-person” fiasco, or the sure fire financial plan that ends up shooting blanks.

It’s not that we don’t have intelligence, but we cannot get around the reality that life is complicated and in all of life’s situations there is more than what meets the eye.

But life’s complications don’t have to cause panic or depression.

Because our God is Sovereign Lord over everything!

From the rise and fall of empires, to the ebb and flow of ocean tides; our God knew about every twist and turn before the first molecule in the universe was brought into existence.

God is fearless

God is never surprised

God has never experienced worry

God is not merely wise, He is all knowing

When we live for the Kingdom of Christ, we can be confident that what we live for will be victorious and we will be vindicated.

Knowing these things doesn’t make life easy – but it does give us rest.

We will still hear the occasional crash or good plans gone wrong – but for those who trust in Christ, even the worst crashes take place in the eternal care of His hands

MORE THAN WHAT WE SEE

Yesterday’s article on the Sovereign Grace Blog fits nicely with the content of the past two weeks of preaching from Exodus. And it definitely sets us up well for this coming Sunday’s message from chapter 5.

The article is by Aaron Law, from Metro Life Church, which is a terrific church our family has visited just north of Orlando, FL. The article’s title itself makes the point clear; “Our Circumstances are a Bad Barometer of God’s Presence”.

Aaron doesn’t use the events in Exodus as his illustration, but he does use the very closely associated events of Joseph’s life in Genesis, which is the preceding backdrop to the Exodus story.

As you read over these thoughts by Aaron, ask God to strengthen us in these essential truths we all need to own for ourselves.