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CAN YOU BE IMPATIENT AND STILL TRUST IN THE LORD?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
American Baptist - United Methodist

30 JUNE 1996

BY Frank L. Hoffman

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Ezra 9:6
Job 13:20-28
Psalm 13:1-6
Jeremiah 51:19-37
Luke 13:10-13
         16:19-31
John 5:2-9

Last week we discussed the fact that our trusting in the Lord is a sign of our wisdom.

As part of that discussion, we looked at Psalm 86, a psalm of David, and we saw the proof of that trust and wisdom.

Today we are going to look at another of Davidís psalms, Psalm 13, and in it we hear a striking difference.

As we look at this Psalm and other Bible passages, we are going to see that our trust in God sometimes wavers because of our life circumstances and our limited vision.

It happens because we sometimes donít use all the wisdom God gives us, and because of the sufferings we go through, both mental and physical.

Letís begin by looking at Psalm 13:

1.  How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever?

How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?

2.  How long shall I take counsel in my soul,

Having sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

3.  Consider and answer me, O Lord, my God;

Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

4.  Lest my enemy say, "I have overcome him,"

Lest my adversaries rejoice when I am shaken.

5.  But I have trusted in Thy lovingkindness;

My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.

6.  I will sing to the Lord,

Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

The time of the writing of this Psalm cannot be accurately established; but as you read it, it becomes obvious that some people are against David.

We know that Saul sought to kill him, as did his own son, Absalom.

Perhaps this Psalm is the result of one of those occasions, or perhaps itís the result of all the battles he had to fight.

It really doesnít matter what event or events prompted David to write this Psalm, but we can easily see that David had become impatient waiting for the Lord to help him.

Four times in the first two verses, David cries out "How long!" and each time itís directed toward the Lord.

"How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever?"

"How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?"

"How long shall I take counsel in my soul,

Having sorrow in my heart all the day?"

"How long will my enemy be exalted over me?"

Probably every one of us can relate to such a time in our life, too.

Ezra, the priest who came back from captivity in Babylon, expected to find the people serving the Lord with gladness; but, upon his return to Jerusalem, he found the opposite.

He was frustrated and had sorrow in his heart. (Ezra 9:6)

6. and I said, "O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to Thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads, and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.

His heart aches. He is frustrated, but he still trusts in the Lord.

He doesnít want to face the situation. He wants it to change.

He wants the Lord to change the situation, and he blames himself for not being able to change the peopleís hearts.

As a pastor, I can relate to this.

Augustine, who was equally frustrated and filled with sorrow over the ways of the people, wrote this comment referring to David's Psalm and his own life experiences:

Why dost Thou hide Thy face? Happily Thou wilt say, "None can see Thy face and live."  Ah, Lord, let me die, that I may see Thee; let me see Thee, that I may die.  I would not live, but die; that I may see Christ, I desire death; that I may live with Christ, I despise life.

And if anyone had a reason to feel like this, it would be Job.  Listen to what he says in Job 13:20-28:

20.  "Only two things do not do to me,

Then I will not hide from Thy face:

21.  Remove Thy hand from me,

And let not the dread of Thee terrify me.

22.  "Then call, and I will answer;

Or let me speak, then reply to me.

23. "How many are my iniquities and sins?

Make known to me my rebellion and my sin.

24.  "Why dost Thou hide Thy face,

And consider me Thine enemy?

Job, like David, feels that the Lord is hiding His face, or presence, from him; and Job goes even further, for in his pain and suffering, he thinks that God considers him His enemy.

25.  "Wilt Thou cause a driven leaf to tremble?

Or wilt Thou pursue the dry chaff?

26.  "For Thou dost write bitter things against me,

And dost make me to inherit the iniquities of my youth.

27.  "Thou dost put my feet in the stocks,

And dost watch all my paths;

Thou dost set a limit for the soles of my feet,

28.  While I am decaying like a rotten thing,

Like a garment that is moth-eaten.

If Job didnít trust the Lord, he couldnít speak like this; for he knows that the Lord has allowed all this to happen, and that He can cause it to stop.

Thus he says, if not in the actual words of David, "How long?"

Jeremiah, who prophesied during the destruction and captivity of Jerusalem, spoke forth for the Lord as to why He hides His face, and why people sleep the sleep of death, as He speaks of the destruction to come upon Babylon in the future (Jeremiah 51:36-41).

And because Jeremiah was among these people, he suffered along with them, even though he trusted in the Lord; and he would never return to Jerusalem.

The vengeance of the Lord upon Babylon would not happen for many years - nearly seventy years.

36.  Therefore thus says the Lord,

"Behold, I am going to plead your case

And exact full vengeance for you;

And I shall dry up her sea

And make her fountain dry.

37. "And Babylon will become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals,

An object of horror and hissing, without inhabitants.

38.  "They will roar together like young lions,

They will growl like lionsí cubs.

39. "When they become heated up, I shall serve them their banquet

And make them drunk, that they may become jubilant

And may sleep a perpetual sleep

And not wake up," declares the Lord.

40. "I shall bring them down like lambs to the slaughter,

Like rams together with male goats.

The "how long" of the Lord may take as long as 70 years, as in the case of Israelís captivity in Babylon; and consider this: the "how long" of Jesusí return is nearly 2,000 years, and still He has not returned.

Thus, we can still be full of faith and trust in the Lord, and yet still pray, "How long, O Lord, until You return, and put an end to the suffering and cruelty on this earth?"

It all depends on our attitude.

Do we still trust in God even in the face of physical problems, as did the woman in the synagogue (Luke 13:11-13)?

11. And behold, there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all.

12. And when Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your sickness."

13. And He laid His hands upon her, and immediately she was made erect again, and began glorifying God.

This woman didnít run away from God because her "how long" was too long for her.

She continued to trust in the Lord, whether or not she was healed.

And her healing occurred, not only as an answer to her prayers, but, even more, to glorify God and to be a testimony against those hard of heart hypocrites who didn't think she should be healed on the Sabbath.

Think of all those people who walk and run away from the church, today, for the silliest of excuses.

Perhaps their "how long" would have occurred today, if they had trusted in God a little more.

And what about Lazarus, (Luke 16: 19-31), who was poor and sick and obviously unable to walk, and who was carried outside the home of a rich man each day in the hope of receiving some compassion.

The rich man saw him as a bother, but he also knew the truth about him; for, after his death, when he was in hell, he asked for none other than Lazarus to come and cool his pain, even with a single drop of water upon his tongue.

Lazarus never saw the answer to his "how long" during his lifetime, but only after death.

Trusting in God is never giving up, or allowing anyone else even the slightest opening to cause you to lose your faith.

In John 5:2-9, we are told the story of a man who was sick for 38 years, and continued to trust in the Lord for a healing.

His "how long" came when Jesus came to Bethesda and felt compassion upon him and healed him, but not the others who were gathered around the pool.

Perhaps the others were trying to force their way into heaven, or selfishly trying to be the first into the pool to be healed, which is not a sign of love.

Some people donít like to hear me tell them the truth, either; they just want their ears tickled.

Theyíll recite the Lordís prayer, but they donít really want to forgive and love everyone; for they love their petty hatreds more than the Lord their God who died to forgive their own sins, because He loved them unconditionally.

Some people donít want to hear me talk about the fact that animals have souls and spirits, for it makes them uncomfortable; for they realize that they may be part of the answer to the animalsí "how long" concerning their suffering.

Youíre here today, and I pray itís because you trust in the Lord.

But what about all those who are not here, those who put their faith and trust in other things and who are always looking for greener pastures.

Does your heart and soul go out to them in prayer: "How long, O Lord, until they truly understand and seek Your Face, with a heart full of love and compassion?"

For this is when our impatience can also work with our trust in the Lord.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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