Worship Set

Forever – Chris Tomlin
Evermore – Joel Houston
Everlasting God – Brenton  Brown
Enough – Chris Tomlin & Louie Giglio
Better is One Day – Matt Redman

Transcript

God’s in it

Part 5: God’s in the Circumstances 

  • I want to begin by celebrating you this morning.
  • Last week we made a late in the game call to provide an opportunity to pray for, and give to Haiti.
  • And last Sunday night was a remarkable time of worship and prayer that will be etched in my mind for a while. So proud of our community faith, for coming out and praying.
  • The vitality of our community of faith is our responsiveness in prayer.
  • And, I’m proud, I know Pastor Joe is so proud, of how generous you are, when the chips are down, and people are in need.
  • Last week we prayed fervently, and, we gave generously in one of our largest one time offerings ever; guys, you gave over 64,000.00 dollars last week.
  • And last weekend, as I walked out of this building, I was on cloud nine.
  • I was stoked. My faith was pumped up so big. I had this overwhelming sense that God is in control.  He knows. And he cares.
  • And then, as I drove home I began to think about something that just stuck with me all week, and really shaped where we’re going today.
  • It’s a question. A question I hope to answer. Here it is.

Question: How is it possible that our faith grows in some of the worst of times?

  • What is it, why is it, how is it possible, that our faith in God can grow during the darkest of days?
  • A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a PBS special called, “This Emotional Life.” And they highlighted a former POW, Bob Shumaker.
  • In February 1965, he was shot down on a mission over North Vietnam, was captured, and spent the next eight years as a POW.
  • He endured years of solitary confinement, torture, and uncertainty about his future.
  • In fact, he’s the guy, you may have heard this, that developed the tap code that those POW’s used to communicate.
  • His fellow POWs consider him a resister, leader, and patriot.
  • Now, after he was released in 1973, eight years later, he went on to do some amazing things, a doctorate degree, became a Rear Admiral, on and on, the list of accomplishments goes.
  • But the most amazing things, is that he was asked, in this interview, if he could go back and just wipe away those eight horrific years, in which he missed out on his son’s life, and everything else, if you could go back and wipe it clean, would you, and he said, “No. Not even for a minute.”
  • But you know what’s even more amazing?
  • All the time, I hear the stories of people who have been through difficult things, this is even true of me, difficult circumstances, and we say, “Ya it was hard, and certainly I wouldn’t choose it, but I wouldn’t trade that experience, because of what it did to my faith.
  • That loss of a loved one, that layoff of a job, that crushing of dream, those dark days of despair, I wouldn’t choose them, but looking back, I wouldn’t trade those days because my faith grew, my faith was stretched because of those days.
  • C.S. Lewis:
  • “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis
  • For some of you, maybe you’re a little more skeptical like me, you think, “How can God allow bad things to happen to good people?”
  • This sounds like a cop out. God is backed into a corner, and you’re saying that because you don’t know what else to say.
  • But here’s the deal, there is an undeniable relationship between big bad unexpected circumstances, and our faith.
  • And it is not an accidental relationship. It is an intentional relationship that God has leveraged from the very beginning.
  • James the brother of Jesus, who is at the epicenter of all the things that we draw from for our faith; James, here’s what he wrote, not because God had painted himself into a corner, or got stuck.
  • He’s not writing because there was an earthquake in Haiti and now we have to explain why bad things happen.
  • He’s writing about all of the life, not in light of one circumstance that he’s trying to explain away. And he’s saying, this is what’s true about life, in general.
  • Listen to what he says,
  • James 1:2-3
  • 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your (What’s the word?) faith develops perseverance.
  • Testing of my faith?
  • Ya, Testing of your faith. There’s a connection, between the trials that you’re going to experience and your faith.
  • The testing of your faith produces something
  • It produces perseverance. It produces persevering faith.
  • James 1:4
  • 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
  • In other words James says it’s not accidental that Christians and non-Christians, and people in general, face these overwhelming circumstances.
  • And it’s not accidental that in the middle of those circumstances something begins to happen to their faith in God.
  • Here’s the principle I want you to understand, before we go any further:

Principle: Every circumstance you face is an opportunity for God to grow your faith.  

  • The very circumstances that have the power to turn us away from God, God uses, he leverages, to do something in us, to make our faith stronger.
  • This is the way God works, and it’s the way he has worked since the very beginning.
  • But I think that the best illustration of this comes from a story from the life of Jesus.
  • And this story might be a little uncomfortable. In fact, for some of you, you may have more questions that need to be answered when we’re done.
  • But here’s a situation in the life of Jesus, where Jesus doesn’t just leverage a circumstance to grow somebody’s faith.
  • In this story he actually creates negative circumstances, to grow somebody’s faith.
  • I want you to listen to this with this new grid, this principle, in mind.
  • God uses the pivotal circumstances we face, to grow our faith.
  • John 11. If you have your Bible, turn there. If you don’t, the words will be on the screen.
  • John 11:1
  • 1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. (that’s how the story begins) He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
  • All three of these of people are close friends of Jesus. He has eaten in their home. They’ve traveled with him. They’ve supported him financially.
  • And the sisters send word to Jesus, he’s a few days away, and listen to what they say. Verse three.
  • John 11:3
  • 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
  • Now this is dramatic.
  • Lord, “the one you love is sick.” Not, “Lazarus, do you remember him? He’s sick. It’s the one you love.
  • They knew that Jesus would automatically know who they were talking about.
  • Now, Jesus has healed many many many people. Many many strangers.
  • People he never saw but once.
  • In some cases he healed people he never even met, just by speaking the word.
  • So of course, when Lazarus became sick, and it was apparent that it was a life-threatening illness, of course these friends of Jesus would call for him.
  • Now, this is where this is going to mess with you a little.
  • John 11:4
  •  4When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory
  • Do you understand what he’s doing here? Do you see what he’s saying here? Jesus is creating a new category. A category that says illness, disease, can be for God’s glory.
  • I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like that category.
  • I like the glory where I run the final leg of a relay and we come from behind and win. And the reporters put the mic in my face and say, “How’d you do it?” And I say, “It was God. I just want to give him the glory.” I like that kind of glory.
  • Or people say, “How’d you raise 64,000 dollars for Haiti? We didn’t do it, God did. Isn’t God great? God get’s the glory.”
  • I like that kind of glory. Where something really good happens and I get to say, “It’s not me, it wasn’t us, it was God.”
  • Jesus says, that’s nice.
  • But there’s another way God gets glory. And it’s generally a more effective program.
  • It’s the program where something really really bad is introduced into your life and your experience. And God says, I’m going to allow that, and I’m going to leverage that for my glory.
  • John 11:4-5
  • No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
  • I want to make sure you get this. John is writing this and you need to catch this point. He’s saying, in case you missed this, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
  • This isn’t just a family he met one day.
  • There is something about this relationship that goes beyond.
  • He knew there names, he knew where they lived. He had been in their home. There is a special relationship between Jesus and this family. So,
  • John 11:6
  •  6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
  • He did exactly what you would not expect him to do.
  • One of the reasons that Matthew, Mark and Luke, and John are actual historical documents that record the life of Jesus are stories like this one.
  • Because if you were writing fiction in order to get people to love and follow the teachings of Jesus, you wouldn’t write this stuff.
  • Everything about it is wrong.
  • Everything about it is frustrating.
  • Everything about it is a bit infuriating.
  • Jesus gets word, not that some random person somewhere is sick, but that Lazarus, someone he really really loves is sick.
  • And he says, “Thank you for the information, guys, sit back down we’re not going anywhere.” 
  • And for two days he did nothing.
  •  You have felt that in your life, haven’t you?
  • God help me, you know I need a job, you know I need you to heal this person, God I need you to come through, just this once, and if you do, I’ll do anything for you, God please, if you love me, and I you say you do, would you, please God?
  • Nothing.  (V. 7)
  • John 11:7
  • 7Then, (then, after two days of doing nothing. Two days, while Mary and Martha suffer, two days while Lazarus creeps closer toward death, two days, where Mary watches Lazarus, and Martha watches the road, waiting for Jesus to come over the crest of the hill, two days of asking people if they’d seen the teacher Jesus, has anyone see Jesus, and they slowly watch their brother die, and then) he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
  • Now Judea is close to Bethany, this village where Lazarus lives. And Jesus and his disciples had some negative experiences there, so to go to Bethany isn’t exactly high on the disciples list of places to go.
  • John 11:8
  •  8“But Rabbi,” (they’re going to refresh Jesus’ memory, because he forgets things, “But Rabbi,) they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
  • “And since we’re your followers if we go back there, they’re probably not just going to take it out on you, but they’re probably going to come after us. Do you really think this is such a good idea? Maybe we could go to Hawaii, I hear it’s nice this time of year?”
  • These are the “Saints”, great group of guys, aren’t they?
  • “Jesus, do you remember that time you healed that person, from like miles away, and you just said it, and it happened? Remember that? Can we do that again? Do you need us to stand a certain way? Hold our hands a certain way? Maybe sing like, kumbaya or something? ‘Cause we don’t want to get, a, we mean, we don’t want YOU to get hurt, right guys?”
  • And then Jesus gives them a little lesson, that, as confusing as it may be, communicates to the disciples that they’re going any way.
  • John 11:11
  •  11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
  •  12His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”
  • In other words, if he’s asleep, it means he’s on the road to recovery. He’s resting calmly, the fever has broken. And, we don’t need to go there.
  • John 11:13-14
  • 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,
  • What? You know that? Ya. He’s dead. He died.
  • Well, then why didn’t we go?
  • So no there’s all this confusion, this drama. “The one you love, you knew he was sick, you sat us back down for two days, and now you tell us he’s dead?”
  • Listen to this next verse, V. 15
  • John 11:15
  • 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there,
  • And I want to say, “What about for Lazarus’ sake? What about Mary’s sake, what about Martha’s sake.
  • And Jesus looks at his twelve disciples, twelve guys who he’s been working really hard to build trust with, and check this out, look at what he says,
  • I’m glad I wasn’t there, and I’m glad that Mary and Martha are upset, I’m glad that Lazarus died, and I’m glad for the disappointment that they have in me, and I’m glad for the people around them saying, we knew he wouldn’t come. I’m glad for all that, because I have something so big, so major, so overarching that I am willing for one that I love to die and people that I love hearts to be broken, in order for you to get this. That’s how important this lesson is.
  • You want to know why I did this? You want to know why I let this happen.
  • John 11:15
  • 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may (what’s the word?) believe.
  • You’re telling me that in your economy, that belief is more important than relieving pain, and relieving suffering?
  • I know faith is important, but Jesus, are you telling me that you’d allow people you love, whose names you know, whose home you visited in, you would allow one of them to die, just so we could have bigger faith?
  • Is it that big of a deal to you? Is it worth that to you?
  • Yes.
  • But Jesus, you set this whole thing up to teach us a lesson about faith?
  • Ya.
  • Is it really worth that?
  • Yep.
  • You would sacrifice them so that something in us gets changed?
  • Yes.
  • Wow.
  • It’s hard to believe God would do that.
  • This is in total opposition to everything we want to believe about God.
  • And Jesus says, “Guys, I set this thing up. That’s how important it is for me, that you have big bold audacious, strong faith, in me.”
  • Let’s skip down to verse 21.
  • Martha sees Jesus coming down the road, days later than she expected.
  • And she comes running to Jesus, and she says to him what you have said to God, even if you’re not a Christian or don’t consider yourself a spiritual person, in some way, you’ve said these words to God.
  • John 11:21
  •  21“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
  • Jesus, this is your fault. Jesus, I’ve seen you heal strangers. I’ve seen you heal people that weren’t even in your presence, I’ve seen you heal people that were, undeserving. Jesus, I even heard that you healed the servant of a Roman centurion, the enemy, who we despise, you didn’t know his name, you didn’t know his servant’s name, and you healed the servant, and you wouldn’t come here to heal your friend? What’s your problem?
  • If you had been here, this – would – not – have – happened.
  • Then, look at what she says, v. 22
  • John 11:22
  • 22But I know (which means, but I trust, but I believe, I have faith, I know,) that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
  • Now this is amazing.
  • She’s standing in front of a man; a mere mortal. And man. 5’11’ 6’2, we don’t know, 180 some pounds, she’s standing in front of a man, who has just let her down, and she says, I’ve watched, and I know, as broken as my heart is, as angry as I am, this is what I know; I believe God will give you whatever you ask him for.
  • We’re all still trying to figure out who you are, and we think you’re God, but then you pray, and that’s weird, because we can’t figure out who you’re talking to you; are you just talking to yourself? We don’t know.
  • But this is what I do know. I believe God will give you whatever you ask for. That’s why I called you, when my brother became sick.
  • John 11:23
  •  23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
  • And Martha’s like I know, I know. And she reaches into her theology box and she pulls out something that every Jewish person believed,
  • John 11:24
  •  24Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
  • I know what you’re saying Jesus, “You’ll see him again someday.”
  • That’s what we say at funerals Jesus. That’s what we said when my cousin died, or my neighbor died. I know, there’s going to be a resurrection, and we’ll meet in heaven, that’s what we all say, but Jesus, you could have kept this from happening now.
  • Verse 25. And if you’re a person who thinks that Jesus was just a good teacher, or a philosopher, good teachers and sane philosophers don’t make the next statement.
  • John 11:25
  • 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
  • You’re right that God would give me whatever I ask but it’s bigger than that.
  • You’re right that I’m a teacher who has come from God, but it’s bigger than that.
  • You’re right that I’m the miracle worker, and that I could have saved your brother, but it’s bigger than that.
  • I am the resurrection and the life.
  • You don’t make a statement like that without backing it up.
  • That’s what this moment is all about.
  • Who is Jesus? And Jesus is going to make a statement, a claim, that he hasn’t made up until this point.
  • You are looking at resurrection. You are looking at life.
  • John 11:25
  • He who believes in me (he who trusts) will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
  • The whole thing is about, Mary, Martha, whole world, I want you to believe more about me. This is about your faith, this is about your confidence in, me. And what lengths would I go to grow that confidence?
  • You say, “Hey, I’m not comfortable with that.”
  • Well, as the pastor, I’m not comfortable with this either.
  • But it’s what Jesus did.
  • Now look.
  • John 11:27
  • 27“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
  • “And Jesus”, with tears in her eyes, “I believe that, even though you let my brother die.”
  • I believe that even though you didn’t answer my prayer. I believe that even though I’ve been ridiculed because you didn’t. I trust you.
  • Wow.
  • Jesus asks to be taken to the grave, and they bring him, and he stands out there with all the mourners, and verse 35 says this, shortest verse in the Bible.
  • John 11:35
  • 35Jesus wept. 36Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
  • I love this verse, because here’s this clash. Jesus who can perform miracles; Jesus who is the resurrection and the life, Jesus who knows what he’s about to do, and instead of rushing in and performing a miracle, he pauses to feel exactly what Mary and Martha had been feeling, to feel exactly what you have felt as you stood by the grave of loved ones, exactly what you felt when God didn’t come through for you, exactly what you felt when your kids didn’t turn out the way you thought they would, exactly how all of us have felt when we say, “I’m trying to believe, and I’m trying to trust, but you’re not doing anything.”
  • Jesus pauses, and it’s as if he says to you, and says to me, “I know how that feels. And I mourn with you. I know.”
  • And then he did the strangest thing.
  • John 11:39
  •  38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39“Take away the stone,” he said.
  • And they’re like, “A, Jesus, this didn’t just happen. We didn’t just put him in there. You weren’t just a few minutes late.
  • You were four days late.
  • John 11:39 – 40
  • But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
  • Hey, Jesus, I love what you’re trying to do here, but this is one circumstance where it’s over. He’s dead. Been dead. Four days dead. Four days, and are you prepared for what this is going to smell like?
  • Jesus is like I know, I know.
  • So they take a way the stone.
  • Imagine the drama, the tension. This is crazy.
  • And then Jesus takes a few moments, and he prays, and when he’s done praying, he says, verse 43,  
  • John 11:43 – 44
  • Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, (the bible says he yelled, probably because he didn’t want to get close, because it was stinky, he yells, “Lazarus,) come out!”
  • And the Bible says, and John says, and Mary and Martha say, and eyewitnesses say, that Lazarus came out of the tomb.
  • And if there was ever any doubt in their minds, or our minds, that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, all the loopholes on that argument, in that moment, were closed.
  • And here’s how the story ends.
  • John 11:45
  • 45Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.
  • Jesus didn’t simply leverage a painful situation. He created one. In order to show the connection between pivotal circumstances and the growth and development of our faith.
  • Do you know what makes the difference between whether or not we lean into God during a pivotal circumstance, or lean away from God?
  • We’ve all heard stories of people who said, when I was 15, my mom died, and I decided God couldn’t be trusted, and I ran from God for 20 years. And when I was 27, this happened, and if God’s not going to keep this from happening, then I’m not going to have faith in God.
  • Do you know what makes the difference between the person who leans into God and a person who walks away?
  • In most cases, the thing that makes the difference is the decision that Martha made in the middle of that moment.
  • I am angry, I am disappointed, I can’t see anything good in this, but, here it is.  Here’s what every one of us has to decide. Here’s the one thing, the big idea behind all of this.

Big Idea: My circumstances do not change who Jesus is, Jesus changes me through my circumstances.

  • Pain isn’t new. Pain isn’t an argument against God.
  • Tragedy and pain are part of the story, and, in at least one case, part of the story that Jesus created to show the connection between our confidence and faith in him.
  • We so often think that the purpose of Jesus coming was to eliminate pain, he came to see us through it.
  • Folks, people get sick, jobs get lost, loved ones die. It’ a part of the human experience, and there’s nothing wrong with being disappointed. But here’s the deal, Philip Yancey Said this,
  • “There’s only one thing worse that disappointment with God, it’s disappointment without God. – Philip Yancey
  • And all of us, at some point or another, are going to be disappointed with God.
  • But you can be disappointed with God, within a context where you still trust him anyway.
  • Do you know what I appreciate? I appreciate people, who gather around people who are hurting, people who are broken over life’s circmstances, and they say, “ We’re not going to try to explain this, we’re not even going to try and attach meaning or purpose to this, but you can still believe, and you can still trust, and it may be days, and it may be weeks, it may be months, it may be years, but God hasn’t left you.”
  • And sure they’re disappointed, and frustrated, and even angry at times.
  • But they don’t have be there without God.
  • Pain and suffering are not the exception to the rule. Listen, they are part of the story, so that we could understand the importance of faith, of rock solid faith, in our heavenly father.
  • When you feel like God is doing something to you, you’re liable to lose faith.
  • When you can begin to understand that God is doing something in you, so that he can do something through you, then you’ll be one of those individuals, who emerges on the other side of one of these circumstances, and says, “You know what, I still believe. I still believe. I still believe that he is the resurrection and the life, and whoever believes in him, will not die.”
  • If I had advice for you, if you’re in the middle of one of these circumstances, if you’re in the middle of one of those, oh my gosh I’m so disappointed moments, If you’re in the middle of one of those, ‘I don’t know where to turn times’, and you’re at the point of despair, here’s my advice.
  • Would you add to your prayers; I say ‘add’ because you’ve already prayed, whether you consider yourself spiritual or not, you’ve already prayed. Would you add to your prayers, “God I need to see you in this.”
  • I’m asking you to change stuff, I’m asking you to do stuff, but I don’t know if you’re going to or not. I just want to see you. If I can see you in this, then there’s hope. If I can see you in this then I won’t give up hope. But God, I’ve got to see you, in this.
  • Because at the end of the day, I want to emerge with bigger faith.
  • Jesus made it all to clear. Your suffering, and your bumps in the road are really not the exceptions. They’re part of the story. They are an important part of the story.
  • And just as your heavenly father leveraged the greatest crime of history, the crucifixion of his son, as reference point for faith, as a reference point for salvation, in the same way, if we’ll let him, he will leverage our deepest pain and our darkest disappointments in the same way.
  • Because God has chosen to use pivotal circumstances, to grow our faith in him.
  • You faith is extraordinarily important to your heavenly father.
  • Let’s pray together.