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BEING A CHRISTIAN CAN MAKE A PERSON FEEL LONELY IN THIS WORLD

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE
HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

16 AUGUST 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Jeremiah 20:7-13
Luke 12:49-53
Hebrews 12:14-17

Over the past several weeks we have been talking about living as a Christian in a world that has differing attitudes than those of the Lord our God.

We have talked about, and have seen in Scripture, how our entire well-being is vastly improved when we love and follow the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind.

But unfortunately, there are many who calls themselves 'Christians', but who don't have this kind of unconditional love that extends to the whole of creation, including every other human, and every other animal, and to the world we all live in.

These people feel at home in the world, and thus rarely feel lonely in it.

So, for the purpose of our discussion, today, we will refer to the true Christian who possesses a softened heart and unconditional love.

For all of these believers, there are times when being a Christian can make a person feel lonely in this world, and for some, they feel lonely every day.

For this world is filled with all sorts of evil, and being a Christian is being opposed to these things; and if the people we have been associating with follow these evil ways, then they may no longer want to associate with us.

And if these same people oppose what is good and praiseworthy, then they also may oppose us; thus, possibly making us feel lonelier.

But remember that we have said that we may feel lonely in this world; this is not true about the kingdom of God.

And there are times in our lives when we may have mixed feelings, particularly when we truly desire to show the truth to someone we care about and they reject it.

Jeremiah, who is often called the "Weeping Prophet," was one of these people who had peace with God but was very lonely in this world; for in his day, very few people followed the Lord.

And today, more than ever, we are called upon to be God's witnesses, just as Jeremiah was in his day.

Let's take a look at Jeremiah 20:7-13, and see if some of our own feelings are expressed in what Jeremiah says and feels.

7. O Lord, Thou hast deceived me and I was deceived;
Thou hast overcome me and prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
Everyone mocks me.

It isn't that God deceives us, even though one might feel that way at times. It's just that God desires us to feel the rejection He feels, so that we might have a better ministry.

If we can't feel God's pain deep down within ourselves, we will have an even harder time convincing others of the depth of the Lord's love and compassion; for it's God's love and compassion that forgives us through the pain He feels.

And remember, part of our ministry is to oppose the evil of this world, and people don't like to be told that they are doing something against God's will, even when they're wrong.

8. For each time I speak, I cry aloud;
I proclaim violence and destruction,
Because for me the word of the Lord has resulted
In reproach and derision all day long.

Can you feel Jeremiah's loneliness?

Then you're closer to understanding how God feels.

And there are times when this loneliness may make us want to stop doing the Lord's work.

But if we do stop, then we will feel a whole lot more lonely, just as Jeremiah did.

9. But if I say, "I will not remember Him [God]
Or speak anymore in His name,"
Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
And I am weary of holding it in,
And I cannot endure it.

Have you ever felt like this?

I have.

You can't be a good pastor, or a good minister of God in any calling, including the one that each of you have, and not have experienced some of these feelings; for by our adversities, we are strengthened.

10. For I have heard the whispering of many, [says Jeremiah,]
"Terror on every side!
Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him!"
All my trusted friends,
Watching for my fall, say:
"Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him
And take our revenge on him."

It's no fun to have people gang up against us, particularly when we know that we are in the right, and are doing what the Lord desires of us.

11. But the Lord is with me like a dread champion [continues Jeremiah];
Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed,
With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten.

We know that this is true, but it doesn't always happen all at once. It happens in God's time, and it is our impatience that makes us feel lonelier and cut off.

As Jeremiah says, it is a whole lot easier on us when we see the Lord react against this evilness.

12. Yet, O Lord of hosts, Thou who dost test the righteous,
Who seest the mind and the heart;
Let me see Thy vengeance on them;
For to Thee I have set forth my cause.

I truly believe that one of the reasons that the Lord holds back His bringing restitution upon the evil people of this world is that He does not want us to have evil thoughts in our hearts against them, but to feel sorrow over their hardness of heart, including those who call themselves 'Christians'.

Just be thankful for the Lord's lovingkindness toward you, and let the Lord do His part in His own time.

13. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord!
For He has delivered the soul of the needy one
From the hand of the evildoers.

Remember, we are just to be God's witnesses, and not His prosecutors.

The Lord Himself tells us that this division of ideals and priorities would come to pass.

In fact, Jesus tells us that He came to cause this division; not to cause strife, but to make the world witness to the difference between good and evil.

Note what we are told in Luke 12:49-53.

49. "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!

50. "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!

Can you feel Jesus' emotions?

Can you feel the distress of the Man, and the conviction of God, that all this is necessary for our salvation?

Do you see His love for us, and at the same time His desire that all the evil of this world would be burned up?

Now, if we do see and feel these things, it is easier for us to understand what Jesus says next:

51. "Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division;

52. for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three.

53. "They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

Jesus didn't come and the Holy Spirit is not with us now in order to cause conflict and stresses within a family.

But They did come to proclaim peace: total and absolute peace forever and ever in heaven, and peace on earth for all who would receive it.

But what they brought, and are still bringing, is the conviction of the truth; for those who receive it, a blessing, and for those who donít...

But in doing this, Jesus knew that He would also cause separation and conflict between those who received and believed, and those who didn't.

And in doing this, Jesus felt much loneliness because He desired everyone to receive His message; but many didn't, and they fought against Him.

And many in the Church, today, are still fighting against His message of peace for the whole of creation.

We, who are His disciples, will often feel this stress of division and the loneliness; but the final results are well worth the effort and the frustrations along the way.

We are charged with doing a job, as we are told in Hebrews 12:14.

14. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

But note the next three verses:

15. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;

16. that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.

17. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

The tears of the unrepentant person are for their loss of things or freedom, and for their getting caught.

It is not out of sorrow for doing what they did, that they cry, even though the sound of their cries may at times sound the same, and the tears look the same.

They don't value what they have, even as Esau didn't value his birthright.

But our real birthright is in our Father's house in heaven.

And the questions we are to ask ourselves are: "Is this birthright worth having?" and if so, then, "Are we willing to suffer a little hunger from lack of acceptance, and some loneliness, to maintain our birthright?"

We are not to worry about the outcome of those who fight against us; we are to pursue peace with everyone, in the hope that all will come to the glory of God.

And in that hope, we should have peace of mind.

Don't give up!

It's worth the struggle.

It really is!

Amen.

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