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THE MYSTERY OF IT ALL
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
18 MARCH 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
Preparation Verse: (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
51. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
The mystery of it all!
The mystery of it all!
This is the pondering inner searching statement of our inquiry for the answers to our questions that we don't have, and even to the questions we find hard to formulate.
Why do we celebrate this Lenten-Easter season?
So that we will remember that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead, so that we can overcome the world around us, with all of its evil violence inflicted upon both humans and animals, and the sin in our own lives, and one day be with Him in heaven.
Well, why did Jesus have to die such a horrible death?
Why did He have to die at all?
Why couldn't God our Father have just spoken a word and eliminated all sin from the world?
Why did God have to let sin into the world in the first place?
If God created everything perfect in the beginning, where did sin come from?
Did God create sin?
And what about Satan? If he was the angel of light, and in the presence of God, why did he turn against God?
Where did he get that evil nature?
Why do we have to suffer for the sins of Adam and Eve?
Our questions seem to go on forever.
Those questions that are answered seem only to lead us to ask more questions.
And sometimes we don't seem to be able to even formulate the questions we want to ask; but at the same time, we know that we don't understand completely.
Then we ask those questions that no one seems able to answer.
And sometimes we ask questions that no one wants to answer.
To us who ask these questions, the answers remain a mystery.
Last week we posed a question: "What do we have to do to see Jesus?"
It was a very logical question, and we worked our way through to an answer; not the only answer, but an answer nevertheless.
We talked about learning how to have eyes that see and ears that hear and a heart that is open to receive the mysteries of God.
Jesus' own disciples, including the apostles, also asked questions like the ones we have posed; and to them who had opened their hearts to receive, He gave answers.
Let's listen in on part of this conversation as recorded in Matthew 13:10-17.
Scripture reading: Matthew 13:10
10. And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"
In other words, why was Jesus speaking plainly to those who truly sought the truth and only in parables to the others?
Hear how Jesus answers this question:
Scripture reading: Matthew 13:11-17
11. And He answered and said to them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.
12. "For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
13. "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14. "And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
'You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
15. For the heart of this people has become dull,
And with their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes
Lest they should see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I should heal them.'
16. "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.
17. "For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."
Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the sower and the seed.
To many of the prophets and righteous men, spoken of by Jesus, even their own proclamations remained a mystery.
But in just this part, He answers some of the questions that we posed before.
Unless we are born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
And without hearing the word of Christ, we will have little or no faith, as we are told in Romans 10:17: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
The disciples have heard the words of Christ and increased in faith, and because of their faith they are able to see into the mysteries of heaven and gain understanding.
If we do not seek the word of God, our faith will be weak and we will be in want and have many unanswered questions.
Sometimes our seeking the word of God is through prayer, but most often it is through the actual hearing of His word as spoken this morning and from reading our Bibles and meditating upon the word.
Many of our answers will come as revelations, and we will have understanding and joy because we have a firm foundation.
Hymn: How Firm a Foundation.
"How firm a foundation ... is laid for your faith in His excellent word!"
We cannot discover the answers to our mysteries or acquire knowledge and understanding unless we begin our quest for answers upon a firm foundation.
Sometimes we think we have it all together as Job did, and when things go wrong we react upon our previous understanding; but the mysteries which lay before us cannot always be answered in this way.
Job stood upon a firm foundation, as we can clearly see when in his sufferings at the hand of Satan, his wife gives him bad advice, as recorded in Job 2:7-10.
Scripture reading: Job 2:7-8:
7. Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
8. And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.
If we think we have been living a righteous life and things start to go wrong, don’t we wonder why God has allowed it all to happen?
Job is living in a mystery, and he doesn't have all the answers.
So his wife suggests what he should do.
Scripture reading: Job 2:9-10:
9. Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!"
10. But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Inside, Job didn't completely understand and he was angry, as we find out later in the story; but he would never think of saying anything against God.
Thus he answered his wife in the way that he did.
Sure, Job sinned, just like the rest of us; but in his integrity, he would keep silent until God chose to reveal the answers to him.
What happens is that Job begins to lament over his misery, and express the thought that it would have been better if he had never been born or that he would have been stillborn (Chapter 3).
And even in this, there is sin and a mystery; for who can say for sure all the reasons that God desired Job to exist and what would have happened if he had not existed?
Surely, we would not have had this story.
But that answer only seems to ask more questions.
Why was it necessary for all of this to happen?
Job and his friends bring forth reasons for all these things to have happened, but none of them truly understand.
And God keeps silent through all of it, until the proper time for Him to speak.
Turn to Job 38:1f and follow along as we listen to God's response to Job.
Scripture reading: Job 38:1-4:
1. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
2. "Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
3. "Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
4. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth!
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
God goes on posing a number of questions to Job, none of which he could answer.
Like Job, when faced with unanswered questions and problems, we begin to wallow in our mysteries and not stand up straight before God and our fellow human beings, and seek our answers directly from God.
For, as God implies in His questions and statements, how absurd it is to think that a creature should become the critic of the Creator.
Yet that is what we do, don't we?
God keeps on posing these questions to Job all through chapters 38 and 39; and then at the beginning of chapter 40, He asks Job to respond. Listen to Job’s wise answer.
Scripture reading: Job 40:1-5:
1. Then the Lord said to Job,
2. "Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it."
3. Then Job answered the Lord and said,
4. "Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
5. "Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;
Even twice, and I will add no more."
Sometimes God has to shock us back into realizing that He is still God.
But in doing so, He usually encourages us at the same time, as He does with Job by showing him the answers to some of the mysteries, as we can see in chapters 40 and 41.
Then at the beginning of chapter 42, Job responds to God in the way that He desires all of us to do.
Scripture reading: Job 42:1-6:
1. Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
2. "I know that Thou canst do all things,
And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.
3. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
"Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."
4. 'Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask Thee, and do Thou instruct me.'
5. "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees Thee;
6. Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes."
The answers to the mysteries that engulfed Job came when He opened himself up to God.
He repented, which opened up his heart and mind to receive all that God had for him.
His faith increased because of his hearing, and as that happened, his eyes began to see.
We are no different from Job.
If we truly want to know the answers to our questions and the mysteries around us, then we must realize we are not an end in ourselves.
We must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Hymn: Seek Ye First (2X)