God's Great Faithfulness

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God's Great Faithfulness

Lamentations 3:21-26

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - March 23, 2014

*Church: I think of Flight 370 that disappeared two weeks ago with 239 people on board. I also think of my friend Roman who spoke to us last June. Roman and his family live in Ukraine about 50 miles from the Russian border. I think of these families and I remember that terrible things out of our control can happen in this world. But our God is faithful.

*I also think of the ten or more families in our church that have lost loved ones in the past few months. And I remember that tragedy will strike every family. But our God is faithful!

*Jeremiah confirms this great truth to us in today's Scripture. Let's begin by reading Lamentations 3:21-26. Here God's faithful prophet has been in great despair, but in these verses we see a big turning point in his heart. The old prophet got a big burst of encouragement.

*In vs. 21 Jeremiah began by saying: "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope." What was it that Jeremiah recalled in this verse? What restored his hope? He tells us starting in vs. 22:

22. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.

23. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

24. "The Lord is my portion,'' says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!''

25. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

26. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

*Our God is always faithful, and He always will be! But what does His faithfulness mean for us today?

1. First: His faithfulness brings hope in our darkest hour.

*We can find hope in our darkest hour. We can have the same kind of hope that sustained Jeremiah in vs. 21. There again the prophet said, "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope."

*In order to appreciate the power of this hope, we need to know a little about how much Jeremiah suffered. He is called "The Weeping Prophet" for good reason. Stanley Morris tells us that Jeremiah's service spanned more than 40 years, during the reigns of Judah's last five kings and beyond. Throughout his long, turbulent life Jeremiah constantly had to confront a people who had rejected the true Lord God for false gods.

*Jeremiah warned them that this would cause their eventual destruction, but they refused to repent. So Jeremiah was treated as a traitor for the ultimatums he delivered from God. He was thrown into a dungeon without food. Even some of his own townspeople and relatives opposed him and tried to kill him. (1)

*Brian Bill tells us that as we come to chapter 3, we see Jeremiah baring his heart, not holding back the depths of his despair. . . In the first 20 verses, Jeremiah made 9 bitter complaints. Here are some examples:

-In vs. 3, Jeremiah felt like God was against Him: "Surely He has turned His hand against me time and time again throughout the day."

-Jeremiah also felt that God was tormenting him mentally and physically. In vs. 4, "He has aged my flesh and my skin, and broken my bones." Then down in vs. 15&16, "He has filled me with bitterness, He has made me drink wormwood. He has also broken my teeth with gravel, and covered me with ashes."

-Back up in vs. 7 Jeremiah felt trapped: "He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; he has made my chain heavy."

-In vs. 8, his prayers were unanswered, or at least they seemed to be unanswered: "Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer."

-And in vs. 18, Jeremiah was ready to give up, as he said: "My strength and my hope have perished from the Lord." (2)

*Christian, have you ever been there? Have you ever felt like you were in a hole so deep you could never get out? Do what Jeremiah did in vs. 21: Remember God's great mercy and compassion. Remember God's faithfulness.

*Brian Bill gave this short but striking definition: "God's faithfulness means that everything He says and does is certain. He is 100% reliable, 100% of the time. He does not fail, forget, falter, change, or disappoint. He says what He means and means what He says. Therefore He does everything He says He will do." (2)

*You can find hope in your darkest hour through the faithfulness of God. Harry Teuchert knows this is true. For years Harry had been a successful publisher of materials for churches. Everything in his life seemed to be perfect: A lovely home, a family, and a solid future, but all of this suddenly collapsed. Harry's wife told him she was leaving him. She was in love with someone else.

*Devastated, Harry tried to cope, work, and continue with his life, but this tragedy was too overwhelming. Despite all the other good things in his life, Harry felt like a complete failure with nothing to live for.

*He was on the road to meet with a church about their anniversary publication. Arriving early, Harry sat down in the fellowship hall. Suddenly, he began to think about suicide. His life was over. All was finished. As he sat at a table, he began to cry intensely, holding his head in his hands. The more Harry wept, the more he was convinced that his life had ended. He would continue no more. He was beaten. It would be so easy to end it all.

*In total despair he looked up, and noticed a faded poster on the far wall. In that picture was the image of a man in the same despair Harry was going through, head in his hands in complete anguish. Then, as Harry studied the poster further, he noticed a smaller image in the lower right corner of the poster: Three crosses, on a hill, surrounded by a dark sky. Beneath the center cross these simple words were inscribed, "I know how you feel; I've been there myself."

*While staring at those words, Harry fell to his knees and prayed, "God help me." Suddenly God touched Harry with a new flood of hope. He got up telling himself, "I'm going to beat this thing. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Harry got on with his life, and continued to serve the God who came to him in his moment of greatest trial. (3)

*The Lord used a faded poster to remind Harry of God's great faithfulness. And I hope He uses Harry's story to remind you. God's great faithfulness brings hope in our darkest hour.

2. And it is the source of our salvation.

*God's faithful mercy is the only source of our salvation! As Jeremiah said in vs. 22-23:

22. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.

23. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

*Brian Bill asks, "Why doesn't God destroy me? This is not a theoretical question. We all walk closer to the edge than we think. There is a thin line between disaster and prosperity, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, life and death.

*Why doesn't God destroy us? He could and He should. He could because He is God, and He should because we are sinners. Our sins would consume us if not for God's faithful love." (2)

*This is the love that God demonstrated the best when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. So we could say, "Through the Lord's mercies (on the cross) we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."

*This is the same faithfulness the Apostle John talked about in 1 John 1:8&9, where he wrote:

8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

*God's faithful mercy is the only source of salvation. How can I be saved? How can I go to Heaven? Many people think it's all about religion. If I go to church, read the Bible, get baptized and pray, if I do all these religious things, I will be saved. All these things are important, but they cannot save me.

*Some people think getting to Heaven is all about rules. If I do this and this and this, and if I don't do this and this, then surely God will let me into Heaven. God gives us rules so we won't hurt other people or ourselves. The Lord also gives us rules, so we won't hurt Him. Remember that Ephesians 4:30 tells Christians: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." So all of God's rules are important, but they cannot save me because I can never keep all of God's rules.

*When I was in high school, I used to think that Christianity was about keeping rules. Back then I skipped church as much as possible, but I remember one of the times I went with a friend. It was Vineville Methodist Church in Macon, Georgia.

*One of the senior adults sitting in the foyer struck up a conversation with me, and he asked me if I was a Christian. I told him, "I'm not good enough to be a Christian." You see, I thought being a Christian was like being a good Boy Scout. You had to earn your salvation, just like we had to earn those merit badges in the scouts.

*But salvation is not a merit badge. It's a miracle! It's a miracle that comes by opening your heart to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, trusting in the Lord, trusting in the cross, trusting in His faithful love and mercy. "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." God's great faithfulness is the source of our salvation.

3. And it makes God Himself our greatest gift.

*God has given so many blessings to us! We could talk all day about how God has blessed us. This past week I've learned a lot more about how God blessed other people through Mary's mother, Virginia.

*The best memento I have from Gin is this Bible, and the commentary that came with it. Mary's mom gave them to me for Christmas in 1980, with a note that said: "Hope you enjoy these." And I have. They have both been very helpful to me over the years, even though the greyhound we adopted in 1992 tried to eat this Bible one time.

*Mary's mom had a caring, compassionate heart. It showed up in the way she cared for the kids at the school where she worked. Mary's mom was the cafeteria manager, and many of those children didn't have money to buy lunch. This was long before the days of school lunch programs, but day after day, out of her own pocket, Virginia made sure those children got fed. She even got in trouble one time for feeding those children. But Gin told her boss that as long as she was there, those children would not go hungry.

*God gave those children a great blessing through someone they barely knew. And on top of the countless blessings God has given us through the people who love us, He has also blessed us through strangers who cared.

*God has also given us blessings many other ways. King David gave this testimony to the Lord in Psalm 65:

9. You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, For so You have prepared it.

10. You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth.

11. You crown the year with Your goodness, And Your paths drip with abundance.

12. They drop on the pastures of the wilderness, And the little hills rejoice on every side.

*God gives us countless blessings. But God Himself has always been, and will always be our greatest gift. Notice how Jeremiah put it in vs. 24: "The Lord is my portion,'' says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!''

*"The Lord is my portion." That means He is "my share, my possession, my territory, my inheritance." The greatest thing God can ever give you is Himself! And God is willing to give Himself to you. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." And as the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed in Isaiah 9:6, "Unto US a Child is born, unto US a Son is given!"

*And because God the Father was willing to give His Son to us, because His Son was willing to give His life on the cross for us, God is now more than willing to give His Holy Spirit to all who will believe in Jesus. So in Luke 11:13, Jesus said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!'' God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is more than willing to give Himself to you. But are you willing to receive this greatest gift from God?

*John Phillips told a tremendous story about King George VI of England, who died in 1952. On one of the king's royal visits to Canada, local officials thought he might like to meet an Indian chief. Chief Whitefeather was chosen for the honor. He was asked to sing something for the king, and everyone expected a native war song. But Chief Whitefeather was a Christian, and he had something else in mind. Just picture the surprise of those government officials, when the chief began to sing before the king:

"I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold.

I'd rather be His than have riches untold,

I'd rather have Jesus than houses or land,

I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand—

Than to be the king of a vast domain

Or be held in sin's dread sway;

I'd rather have Jesus than anything

This world affords today."

*The stunned officials waited to see what King George would do. Then the king went over to Chief Whitefeather, took him by the hand and said, "I'd rather have Jesus, too." And you can have Jesus too, through the faithfulness of Almighty God. (4)

*His great faithfulness makes God Himself our greatest gift.

4. And it guarantees His goodness to all who trust in Him.

*As Jeremiah testified in vs. 25&26:

25. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

26. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

*We might have to wait on the Lord, but we should be willing to wait for His help, because the Lord is good to those who wait for Him! And when we wait, we can wait in hope and trust. We can wait quietly, without complaint, because the Lord is good to those who wait for Him! Our faithful God will never fail us!

*In 1989, a terrible earthquake almost flattened Armenia. Church: That earthquake killed over 30,000 people in less than 4 minutes. One father rushed to his son's school and found the building flat as a pancake. Standing there in tears, he remembered a promise he had made to his son, "No matter what, I'll always be there for you!"

*It looked absolutely hopeless, but the dad got as close as he could to his son's classroom, and started digging in the pile of rubble. The other grieving parents tried to pull him off, saying, "It's too late! -- They're dead!"

*But he just kept digging for his son stone by stone. He dug for 8 hours, then 12 hours, 24 hours, 36 hours without stopping! Finally in the 38th hour, as he pulled back a boulder, he heard his son's voice. He screamed his son's name, "ARMAND!" -- And a voice answered him, "Dad?" -- It's me Dad!"

*Then the boy added these priceless words, "I told the other kids not to worry. I told them that if you were alive, you'd save me and when you saved me, they'd be saved too." He remembered his Father's promise: "No matter what, I'll always be there for you!" (5)

*Fourteen children were saved that day because one father was faithful. But how much more faithful is our Heavenly Father! Whether we are trapped by fallen rubble, or crushed by the hardships and struggles of life, we are never cut off from our Father's faithfulness. Trust in the Lord, and don't ever lose hope. Jesus Christ will always be faithful to you.

1. Introductions to the Books of the Bible by Dr. Stanley L. Morris - Copyright 1993 by International Bible Translators, Inc., Copyright 1993, Ellis Enterprises Inc.

2. Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Our Faithful God" by Brian Bill - Lamentations 3:22-25

3. Original source unknown - found in sermon "Help Me Make It through the Night" by King Duncan - John 3:1-21 - 2005

4. John Phillips, "Exploring the Psalms"

5. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, "Chicken Soup for the Soul."

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