IS GOD STILL THERE WHEN SITUATIONS ARE BAD?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
American Baptist - United Methodist
1 SEPTEMBER 1996
By: Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Many people go through times in their lives when they question Godís motives, or why God doesnít intervene, or why He doesnít seem to care.
We may ask, "If God loves us so much, why doesnít he put an end to all this suffering in the world?"
Or, we may ask, "Why are You letting me suffer with this illness for so long?"
Or, "Why isnít God putting an end to all this evil, and why does he let the innocent suffer because of those evildoers?"
This is the state of mind that Jeremiah found himself in when he saw all the evilness in Israel, and he was suffering because of it.
And this is one of the unique aspects of the Bible, for it allows us to understand that even the religious leaders and prophets of that day thought and felt the same as we do, today.
Letís take a look inside Jeremiahís heart, as we read Jeremiah 15:15-21:
15. Thou who knowest, O Lord,
Remember me, take notice of me,
Jeremiah knows that God is aware of everything that is going on; and he also knows that God is aware that he is His servant.
What Jeremiah doesnít understand is why God isnít intervening; thus, he cries out:
And take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
Do not, in view of Thy patience, take me away;
Know that for Thy sake I endure reproach.
Here is a curious point: Jeremiah says that he endures reproach, but from what he is saying, he wants God to take vengeance on those who reproach him.
To endure is to be quiet and let God take action in His own time.
And Jeremiah goes on to remind God of his faithfulness:
16. Thy words were found and I ate them,
And Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;
For I have been called by Thy name,
O Lord God of hosts.
17. I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers,
Nor did I exult.
Because of Thy hand upon me I sat alone,
For Thou didst fill me with indignation.
Jeremiah didnít go along with the crowd and their evil behavior.
He didnít even associate with them, for to do so would have been a bad witness of his faith in God.
Thus, he sat apart from them as a testimony against them.
Jeremiah is reminding God of all of this, but because of his sensitive nature, he is very much troubled inside.
He has lost his peace.
18. Why has my pain been perpetual
And my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
Wilt Thou indeed be to me like a deceptive stream
With water that is unreliable?
In essence, he is saying to God, "Why have You given me the sensitivity to understand how evil the world is around me, and then walk away from me and let me suffer? I depended upon You for support."
But listen to how God responds to him:
19. Therefore, thus says the Lord,
"If you return, then I will restore you-
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman.
They for their part may turn to you,
But as for you, you must not turn to them.
20. "Then I will make you to this people
A fortified wall of bronze;
And though they fight against you,
They will not prevail over you;
For I am with you to save you
And deliver you," declares the Lord.
God begins His response to Jeremiah with a rebuke.
In other words, "If you quit complaining about the job I gave you, then Iíll work with you and protect you; for while you are in this state of mind, you are not being My best witness to the people."
Jeremiah lost the focus of who he was and where he was, as we discussed last week.
This is something we all have to remember, when situations are bad.
Do we turn back inwardly upon ourselves, looking to our own suffering and to our own problems, or do we continue to give the glory to God in spite of the bad situations in our lives?
Do we look beyond the present evil situations to God's promised restoration?
The way we answer these questions may well decide if the answer the Lord gave to Jeremiah is also for us.
21. "So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked,
And I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent."
God was there all along.
Perhaps He didnít answer sooner because He wanted Jeremiah to grow stronger in his faith.
Perhaps He didnít answer because He wanted the people to see the extent of their own evilness, and how steadfast Jeremiah, His servant, was; that they would repent.
Or God may have had other reasons.
The point is, do we trust Him enough to simply pray positively and wait patiently?
But this doesn't mean we can sit back and do nothing to counter the evil in this world.
We must continue to be a positive and visible presence of God's heavenly will here on earth.
Now letís take a look at what Jesus tells us in John 9:1-7 about a man who was born blind:
1. And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.
2. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?"
3. Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.
4. "We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.
5. "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
6. When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes,
7. and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent). And so he went away and washed, and came back seeing.
This man suffered in blindness all his life until this day, and for what purpose? That others might see and read about this miracle, and come to believe.
What we need to ask ourselves is, to what glory is this suffering leading?
As we talked about last week, we are to lift up our eyes to heaven, and look back upon the earth and our situation with the eyes of God.
I know of at least one person in this congregation who is experiencing this very thing.
And as a result, this person is beginning to see the glory of God being expressed.
Letís look at one more example.
Do you remember Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead?
Letís skip ahead to John 11:1-4, and listen to what Jesus said to His disciples after He was informed about his illness:
1. Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
2. And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
3. The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick."
4. But when Jesus heard it, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it."
Mary and Martha suffered the loss when their brother died, and Lazarus suffered in his illness.
None of them had to suffer long, but only for a few days.
We never know how God sees things, unless we look back upon our situations with the eyes of God.
The Lord is always with us; we just need to remember it.
And one of the best ways to remember this is to keep working in our own ministries, no matter what the situations may be; for as we do, we will see His glory being expressed.
We may never realize the full extent of the role we are playing in Godís overall plan, until the day it is accomplished.
Keep the faith!
Your Comments are welcome
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