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Two Reminders For Difficult Times

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Introduction

It was 1818 in France, and Louis, a boy of 9, was sitting in his father's workshop. The father was a harness-maker and the boy loved to watch his father work the leather. "Someday Father," said Louis, "I want to be a harness-maker, just like you." "Why not start now?" said the father. He took a piece of leather and drew a design on it. "Now, my son," he said, "take the hole- puncher and a hammer and follow this design, but be careful that you don't hit your hand." Excited, the boy began to work, but when he hit the hole-puncher, it flew out of his hand and pierced his eye! He lost the sight of that eye immediately. Later, sight in the other eye failed. Louis was now totally blind. A few years later, Louis was sitting in the family garden when a friend handed him a pine cone. As he ran his sensitive fingers over the cone, an idea came to him. He became enthusiastic and began to create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so that the blind could feel and interpret what was written. Thus, Louis Braille opened up a whole new world for the blind--all because of an accident!
- https://bible.org/illustration/braille. Accessed 12/31/20.
Though we don’t always see it right away, as believers we can trust that God has a reason for everything.
We serve a good God, a loving God, a God that wants us to experience life with Him.
And yet, as we all know, bad things happen.
This last year felt like one tragedy after another.
Why would God allow all this?
Why do we face pain and heartache?!
In his book the The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis said,
We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities, and everyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
As we reflect back on 2020, there are many lessons we can learn.
One of them is a reminder that this is not how God intended things to be.
Sin has corrupted this world and because of sin we have death! We have pain! And we have suffering!
I can’t stand here and tell you that I know exactly what God is doing, because I don’t.
However, I believe we can take comfort in the fact that God loves us and wants what is best for us.
In difficult times we need two reminders.
With these two reminders we will be better equipped to handle difficult times.
Trials and difficulties are designed by God to grow and mature His children.
Reminder #1…

1. We Live In A World Corrupted By Sin

Most of us understand the reality of this statement.
But how does that impact our lives when bad things happen?
How does the doctrine of sin impact us in difficult times?
We are going to examine some Biblical truths that will open our eyes to why bad things happen and how we should respond to them.
When this world was originally created…

a. God saw that it was good

Genesis 1:31 tells us this…
Genesis 1:31
Genesis 1:31 NKJV
31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
How could God look at this world and say that it was very good?
Because when God designed this world He made it perfect!
So what happened?
Now, if you are sitting there thinking, Pastor Jon, we all know this story. Bear with me.
Our title today is two reminders for difficult times.
Reminders are things you already know. Even if you know these stories, we need to be reminded of them today.
When Adam and Eve were placed in the garden they were given one rule.
We find that rule in Genesis 2:16-17.
Genesis 2:16-17
Genesis 2:16–17 NKJV
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
In chapter 3 the snake deceives Eve into eating the fruit breaking God’s law and bringing death on all mankind.
According to Romans 8: 20-22 creation itself is looking forward to a time when it will be delivered from corruption. Go there with me please.
Romans 8: 20-22
Romans 8:20–22 NKJV
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
What this teaches us is that God never intended this world to have suffering and death!
When there are natural disasters, when loved ones are taken from us, when pandemics come, and politics rob us of our faith in people; let it serve as a reminder that this was not part of God’s original plan.
Death, disaster, and pain are part of the curse given because of human sin.
When God created this world He looked at everything that He had made and He saw that it was very good!
This is repeated to us over and over again in the first chapter of Genesis.
Everything that God made was good!
But when sin entered the world it corrupted what God had made and the result is that now we have pain, suffering, and death.
When something bad happens we need to recognize that it is not a direct result of God’s action. It is a result of sin.
The good news is that though sin has corrupted and marred God’s perfect creation God has done something about it.
Go with me now to Romans 5:12-21.
Romans 5:12-21
Romans 5:12–21 NKJV
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This passage teaches us that though sin and death came into the world through the disobedience of Adam it has been done away with through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!
Sin was defeated at the Cross.
If you believe in what Christ has done and trust Him to cleanse you from sin, you can be delivered from this corrupt world.
Those of us who know Christ as our savior can say with confidence that…

b. We look forward to a sinless existence

When I think about the world we live in, when I look around at the pain and suffering that we face.
When I get the news of another tragedy, another disaster, another explosion of violence, I can’t help but say with the Apostle John, “…Even so, come Lord Jesus.”
Why do we say that? Why did John write those words in Revelation 22:20?
Because We have the promise in Scripture that when we are with Christ there will be no more death.
There will be no more suffering!
Revelation 21:4 says this.
Revelation 21:4
Revelation 21:4 NKJV
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
O how we look forward to that day!
However, until that day comes we live in a sinful fallen world, and we will have tragedy and suffering.
John 16:33 says
John 16:33
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.”
Billy Graham once said
Nowhere does the Bible teach that Christians are exempt from the tribulations and natural disasters that come upon the world. Scripture does teach that the Christian can face tribulation, crisis, calamity, and personal suffering with a supernatural power that is not available to the person outside of Christ.
-https://www.facebook.com/BillyGrahamLibrary/posts/nowhere-does-the-bible-teach-that-christians-are-to-be-exempt-from-the-tribulati/2144443305592355/. Accessed 12/31/20.
Trials can be endured.
The fact is that Christians suffer!
We face tragedy, we face trials, and we experience pain.
When this happens what will we do?
When we face these times of difficulty in life we must remember that…

c. Death has no final victory

We just read Revelation 21:4 which taught us that death will have no place in eternity!
Suffering and pain are presently a part of our existence.
But we look forward to a day without those things.
Until that day comes we experience pain and we ask why?!
We do well to remember the words of James once again. James 1:2-3.
James 1:2-3
James 1:2–3 NKJV
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
I think all of us can say that our faith has been tested this past year.
The trials and tests we have endured are working in us to produce, patience, endurance and steadfast faith!
Scripture also reveals to us that death and hell will one day be destroyed!
Go with me to Revelation 20:11-15.
Revelation 20:11-15
Revelation 20:11–15 NKJV
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Not only does death not have a final victory, but there will be absolutely no death in eternity future!
The consequences of sin that are all around us today will not exist in eternity!
So many have lost loved ones.
Do you know what it means when a child of God goes home to be with Him?
It means that they were finished!
Their work here on earth was done!
God didn’t want them to be away from Him for another minute!
He wanted them to experience the joy and blessedness that comes from being in His presence!
When someone is taken from us remember that we are still here.
That means God has work for us to do!
Yes, trials come. Yes, difficult times arise. Yes, people die. Some even die young.
In trial, difficult, heartache, and pain, hold on to this.
Never forget that this world is not our home!
Even when someone dies young, if they know the Lord it simply means that they had done everything He had for them to do!
They had fought the good fight, finished their course, and kept the faith!
When a believer dies whether young or old, never forget that they belonged to God!
They were His and they were created for heaven, not for life on this earth!
When faced with death, trial, and suffering, we have the hope of 1 Peter 1:3-9. Go there please.
1 Peter 1:3-9
1 Peter 1:3–9 NKJV
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
We look forward to spending eternity with Christ!
Every trial, every hardship simply prepares us for the day when He calls us home.
Death has no power over the believer.
Jesus Christ defeated death on the cross and so we can say with confidence that death is only the beginning.
When death comes, true life begins.
So as we face these tragedies, these trials, tests, and persecutions we must keep the faith!
That is reminder #1. We live in a world corrupted by sin.
Reminder #2.
As believers in an almighty, all powerful, all knowing God we need to keep in mind that…

2. We Have A Loving God Who Understands

We live in a time where some believe and teach that Christians should never suffer.
These teachers say that as believers our lives should be easy and problem free.
This is not a Biblical position.
In John 15 Jesus said that if they persecuted Him, they would persecute us!
As we saw earlier in John 16 we will have tribulation!
But that verse also says we can have peace.
We can have peace because…

a. Christ has been through it

Go to Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15.
Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15
Hebrews 2:14–18 NKJV
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Hebrews 4:15 NKJV
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus faced suffering, temptation, testing and the death of loved ones just as we all do.
Part of what makes Jesus Christ such an exceptional High priest is He knows exactly what we go through.
He has suffered and endured the same kinds of trials and afflictions as we have!
No matter what we face in life, we come before the Lord with full confidence that He knows our circumstances and that He can and will give comfort.
As familiar as Philippians 4:6-7 are to us they apply here as well.
Philippians 4:6-7
Philippians 4:6–7 NKJV
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
When we are hurting when we are burdened, when our hearts are heavy, breaking, and torn to shreds we can come to Jesus!
Jesus suffered all the same things we do so that when we come to Him we can find mercy and grace to help in time of need!
I can’t tell you why He allows some things to happen, but I can tell you that He loves us.
Every single spasm of pain we suffer echoes in the heart of our Savior!
If you are burdened this morning, if your heart is heavy as I know many of ours are, run to Jesus.
Take all your cares and concerns and pains and allow Him to carry you!
Jesus can handle our problems.
Do we believe that?
Why do we wait to take our burdens to Him?
We can never allow ourselves to forget that…

b. There is purpose in our suffering

A man named Jeff Miller gave an excellent illustration of this truth.
“Consider your parents’ method of child-rearing. Did your parents ever refuse to give you something you wanted or did they ever give you something you didn’t want? Why? Why would our parents tolerate such pain in our lives that could have been avoided? Did your parents ever permit pain or discomfort to enter your small, pre-adolescent existence? Mine certainly did, and somewhere there is a closet full of broken Ping-Pong paddles to prove it (ouch!). Why? And how can we still consider them “good” and their efforts at parenting honorable? Imagine a parent whose primary goal is to raise a child that always receives everything he or she wants, painlessly and comfortably; nothing but smiles and lollipops always. What sort of adult would that child grow into? A good parent will have a “greater good” in view for their children than a painless existence; rather, they will seek for them growth, maturity, and obedience, and these qualities are learned through training, pain, and discomfort. Could God prevent pain in our lives? Yes! absolutely! Then why doesn’t He? There must be a reason for tragedy to be allowed—some ‘greater good.’ The fact is that He is more concerned about our growth than our comfort.
I love that last sentence. “The fact is that He is more concerned about our growth than our comfort.”
Sometimes the most effective way for God to get our attention is through pain.
As C. S. Lewis said “God shouts through our pain.”
God may allow tragedy for punishment, or for discipline and training.
He may use tragedy to build specific character qualities into the lives of people or to prepare us to minister to others in similar circumstances.
Whatever God’s ultimate goal, it always involves all of us turning our eyes to Him.
Difficult times ought to cause introspection for each of us.
Trials should cause us make certain that our hearts and minds and lives are what they should be.
There was a time in the history of Israel when God used the nation of Babylon to discipline them.
After Judah had suffered this time of difficulty Jeremiah had this to say. Lamentations 3:40-41.
Lamentations 3:40-41
Lamentations 3:40–41 NKJV
40 Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord; 41 Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.
During this same time period we have the prophet Habakkuk learning to trust God completely.
Go to Habakkuk 3:17-19.
Habakkuk 3:17-19
Habakkuk 3:17–19 NKJV
17 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.
God’s goal is always for us to depend more on Him, to lean on Him and find that He is big enough, strong enough, and powerful enough to carry all our burdens.
Every trial, difficulty, and pain has a God-ordained purpose.
So the big question for each of us this morning is…

c. How will we respond?

What it boils down to is our relationship with Him.
We may never know why some things happen, but we can be confident that He is in control and that He has a plan and purpose.
I read a quote that I think is particularly relevant, “Safety does not rest in our distance from the danger, but in our nearness to God.”
How we respond to tragedy demonstrates very clearly where we are in our relationship with the Lord.
When a loving God allows His children to suffer many draw the wrong conclusion.
We’ve all heard it.
He must not be loving. He must not exist at all.
What conclusion will we come to?
When tragedy strikes there are basically two responses and I believe we often fluctuate between the two.
We become angry. We become dependent.
So many times when tragedy strikes we immediately hear the question, where was God!
Where was God on September 11th, where was God when a hurricane struck, where was God when the earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, where was God when a pandemic began?
Where was God when my loved one died?
We must remember that this world has been corrupted by sin.
Tragedies are going to occur until the day God calls us home.
With that said God does place meaning and purpose in these events.
When Job was suffering and his wife told him to curse God and die his response was this. Job 2:10.
Job 2:10
Job 2:10 NKJV
10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job recognized that God only allows what will help us learn, grow, and be conformed to the character of Christ.
Which of the two responses will we choose?
Anger? Or dependence on our loving savior?
If we don’t run to the Lord, if we don’t throw ourselves on His grace, our only option is anger!
We can trust the heart of our Heavenly Father.
His desire is never that we suffer needlessly!
Because of His plan and purpose, trust God.
There is one other thing that Job said which I believe nails it right on the head. Job 13:15.
Job 13:15
Job 13:15 NKJV
15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.
Will you trust Him this morning?

Conclusion

In difficult times remember that we live in a world corrupted by sin.
However, never forget that a day is coming when sin and death are done away with.
In difficult times remember that we have a loving God who understands.
He endured trials and suffering. He has meaning and purpose for our pain!
How will we respond to difficult times?
Rowland V. Bingham, founder of the Sudan Interior Mission, was once seriously injured in an automobile accident. He was rushed to a hospital in critical condition. The following day, when he regained consciousness, he asked the nurse what he was doing there. "Don't try to talk now, just rest," she replied. "You have been in an accident." "Accident? Accident!" exclained Dr. Bingham. "There are no accidents in the life of a Christian. This is just an incident in God's perfect leading."
No matter how difficult the circumstances of life, no matter how horrible the tragedy, remember that God is good, and He has our best in mind.
Trust His heart.
May we live to echo the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:20-21 .
Philippians 1:20-21
Philippians 1:20–21 NKJV
20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
I have one commitment for all of us today.
Commitment:
No matter what comes tomorrow, I will trust my good, kind, gracious, and loving heavenly Father.
Signed:
__________________________________________________________________________________________
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