Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to Christians? When people come to faith in Christ, you often find that they expect that everything will go well with them. I mean, they worship, believe in and call upon the name of God; the almighty one, creator of the heaven and the earth, God that raised Jesus from the dead, God that is control, God that cares for His children, God that gave us His most precious promises and chose us, called us out of the world into His Kingdom! God that calls himself our Father! If God is for you, who can be against you? Surely He must then cause all things to go well with you?
It is a very tempting thought and if true a “get out of jail free” card. Just name it and claim it! I have heard people talk about the treasure of heaven just waiting for anyone to ask for whatever they want….God loves you and will provide ANYTHING you ask and make all things turn out to your expectation. There are people out there that teach that if things go wrong with you, there must be something wrong with your faith!
Is this what Scripture teaches? Surely if this is right then there must be something wrong with the believer that is in difficulty?
Let us look at some Scripture passages that seems to support this : Luke 12:6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.
7 “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
Rom 8.28 we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God
John 14.13: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
Now let us be clear: We believe these passages because it is given to us by God himself! It most certainly is in Scripture! All of these passages, and many more like it, support the fact that God does indeed care for us, His children. We can trust in God to provide everything we need!
…………….Yet….. believers still suffer, don’t they?
· You sometimes hear of the most heart rendering stories: you hear of a family that lost not only one child, but the whole family in the Tsunami leaving only the mother to try and cope with her loss.
· Christian friends of us waited years for a baby with many pregnancies not working out. When they finally had a baby, he was born many weeks too early and after 6-7 months of struggling, until today has never seen the outside of the hospital, being confined to oxygen tubes without any realistic prospect of a normal life. Yet these dear people pray every day for healing!
· You hear of Churches that could barely make ends meet that got swept away in floods, you hear of people like my family and I that go through trials yet believing!
· It might have happened to you: You pray and pray with heartfelt conviction that what you pray for is just. The alternative to what you ask of God is unthinkable: how else can a young mother with a suffering child pray to God for deliverance? She will pray ferverently, expecting God to answer her prayer. Does she not love God more than anything else? Does she not obey Him, work for Him, teach her children all about Him? Does she not need God more desperately now than at any other point in her life? Does not the Bible tell her that God loves her and cares for her. Does not the Bible say that all things work together for the good for those who love Him? How can God not hear her prayer and bring about the miracle that she so desperately beg of God?.....
Then her child dies and the woman is thrown into a crisis with her faith. The crisis of her faith is made so much worse by an incorrect theology. If your doctrine of God is skewed, your faith is shaken to the core at the moment you need it the most!
I am not telling you anything new. You know that things do go wrong with deeply faithful people,….. but it is not until it happens to you, that you suddenly are dumped into a severe spiritual crisis unless you are prepared for it.
In the mist of the crisis it is natural for the believer to beg of God this question: “WHY?” You feel that you do not deserve it! Why is this happening to me? How can God allow this to happen to me? What have I done wrong? How can a loving God allow this? Did God not know what is happening? Does He not care? Is He unable to help? Am I really saved that He should care for me?
Can you see what I am saying? Can you identify with these questions? These questions are natural to ask when you are in trouble. More often than not we don’t know why God does what He does. For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. He is the source of all things. His mind is not our mind and His ways past finding out!
You know, a number of years ago Francois was hit in the eye with a stick. He spend 2 months in hospital with my family and this Church praying for healing, yet Francois still lost his eye. We probably never will understand why, but it does not matter that we don’t because we trust God to be supreme. We trust God to hold Francois in His hands as He says He does! Recently I was accused of something that seems unfair and I prayed to God for deliverance, for justice, yet I still am suspended for 6 months and in all likelihood might have to sell my surgery. Where does God feature in this? Why did He allow this to happen? I don’t know why but I am not despondent about it because I trust God! The outcome might not be to what I expected, but I trust in God that also this will be for my good! I believe Him when He says that all will work together for the good for those who love Him! I am in some way exited to see what God will bring out of this…but it is possible that I might never know why it happened!
My fellow believers, don’t be deceived: Job 5.5 reads: For man is born for trouble,
As sparks fly upward.
As sure as sparks from a fire flies upwards, as sure you can be that there will be trouble in your life! Trouble in this life is part of the curse of sin. Pain and suffering will be with us until our Lord comes and a new Heaven and Earth are set up!
Whatever the crisis is that you are in, your experience is no different from other believers. The Bible does not teach that all will go well with God’s people: think of the prophets of the OT: they were sawn in half, thrown into Lions den, they were killed, mocked, thrown out of society, imprisoned, wore scruffy camel’s hair clothes and ate locust. There was no glory for them. No posh velvet cushions to sit on! In the NT Jesus was crucified, all the apostles except John, were killed: they were crucified upside down, beheaded, killed with the sword. They lived in exile, persecuted, in poverty, in prison. Other believers through the ages also suffered tremendously: being burned on the stake, stoned, crucified, imprisoned, mocked, ridiculed, they lost property, friends, even their husbands or wives.
These people suffered for their faith, trusting God to care for them.
Apart from suffering for your faith, we are not spared the suffering the rest of humanity faces: we and they suffer from disease, cancer, the loss of a child. We all die! Sometimes we suffer more because we are unwilling to lie to protect ourselves!
So you see: the troubles you have and will experience are not unique. But for the believer, there is a difference. It is not that you are spared the tribulations of this world, but it is how you are equipped to deal with them that make the difference. I think that Phil 4 gives you a good summary of what the source of your strength is: The Lord is near. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The knowledge that God is in control, that He cares for you, gives you that peace. A peace that surpasses all understanding!
We have the Rock on which we stand: We know Who we have believed. We know who we trust! We have got the promises of the Bible we can hold on to. You see: all of those passages we read earlier about how God does work everything together for the good of those who love Him, how every hair on our head is counted, that we can take our worries and fears to Him, ALL of these passages are true! How then must you fight against the depression you feel when things do not go according to your plan? How do you deal with the “WHY?”
You see, the Bible does not deny that spiritual depression does come about when you are faced with difficulty. It does not deny that believers do ask : “Why?” David is a prime example. His Psalms are full of heart-felt anguish in the mist of suffering!
It is not within the scope of this sermon to deal with the reasons why God allows trials to come over you life; recently we had Matt Viljoen give a very good sermon on this subject. It is not within the scope of this sermon to deal with the sovereignty of God, including His rule over the difficulties of life; Dr Steve Lawson gave an excellent sermon just a few days ago on this subject.
I would like to show to you how a man deals with the spiritual depression and pain whiles in the mist of the trial:
Turn with me if you will to Psalm 42
The author of this psalm is David, given to the sons of Korah, Levites which crossed the Jordan with David when he was exiled from Jerusalem. This Psalm was written when David was in an area northeast of the Sea of Galilee, outside of the kingdom and separated from the Temple and therefore banned from sacrificing to God. Both in a spiritual and in a physical sense, David felt removed from God, even abandoned by God in the mist of a fierce trial. It is chiefly an outpouring of sorrow and complaint; but still is an “instruction,” inasmuch as it teaches the lesson that in the severest trial the soul may still turn to God, and rest itself in hope on him.
Psalm 42 and 43 were originally one Psalm, as you can see from repeated phrases in both.
Let’s read it together READ
Let us look at the structure of the Psalm: You will notice that it is set in two stanzas.
· The 1st v1-5 David is speaking of his thirst for God.
· The 2nd v 6-11 David is speaking about his experiencing of drowning in a sea of trouble.
Let us look at the 1st 5 verses where David expresses his need for God:
· Verse1+2: As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
David was separated from the core of his faith in not being allowed near the Temple. Remember that in ancient times worshipping God was closely associated with the Temple. Away from the Temple for them meant to be away from God. David, because of his separation from the Temple, felt separated from God himself! He is thirsting for God, longing for the time when he again can come before God. We on the other hand, are in constant communion with God. We can pray at any stage, confident that through our Mediator, we have instant access to the Holy One. So here David pours out his heart: “I feel separated from you God, I thirst for you as a deer thirst for water in a desert land. When can I return to Jerusalem to worship you?” The thirst here is not a mild nagging for water, but an all consuming craving for water in an extreme environment.
In the mist of severe trial, the believer also often feels separated from God. It feels as if God has abandoned him. His frustration of being in the trial, often without any fault of his own, makes him question if God is really there! “Has God forgotten me?” Almost without fail, the believer asks for any sign from God to show that He is there. He wood look for signs like a shape in the clouds, or words spoken by a friend and see this as a sign that God is there! His faith falters, yet, invariably, he will always return to God if he had true faith to start with. There is no way that he can turn his back on the living God: his soul thirst for God, drawing him back. This thirst for God is the voice of God the Spirit working within the believer. He is not abandoned! He does not need to look for some sign God is there. God promises in Scripture He will NEVER abandon you and all WILL work out for the good of you! In the mist of the trial, God is there with you, carrying you! You may question God, you may feel to want to turn your back on God because of your circumstance, abandoning the faith for something seemingly more rational, but your soul will not let go, deep within you you will yearn, hunger for and desperately thirst for God, because without God, there is no sense.
· My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
David distress is physical. You can see the deepness of his sorrow in that he has stopped eating. It seems his only sustenance is his own tears. Can you equate this to your own experience in severe distress? I certainly can. Your stomach seems as small as an orange and you loose any apatite. In most cases you loose weight very quickly.
David’s distress in the mist off his trial is made worse by his enemies mocking him: “where is your God?” Don’t you see that when you are in deep need? People, knowing of your faith, will point to you and say: “He believes in God. Where is his so called God now?” In the state you are in and your own fear and doubt you are struggling with, commends like this is like a dagger in the heart. Satan uses these to dishearten you and causes you to doubt even more! In makes the sense of abandonment so much more intense.
· These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.
David remembers how he went before the Lord in the mist of others, leading them in worship. The remembrance of his fellowship with the Lord is driving the dagger deeper into his heart. You remember the good times and it makes the trial appear so much more unfair. You remember how hard you worked, how much effort you put into your relationship with God. You might remember this Church and the fellowship here, and your own sense of abandonment is thus more intense.
In the mist of his deepest sorrow, David remembers what he knew before: God is faithful! In the mist of his deepest depression, David chastises himself. He know..He know he is not alone. David knows that God has not abandoned Him. He knows that he might feel parched spiritually but remembers that God is true. In the mist of the trail He knows in Whom he can trust therefore he says:
· Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6 my God.
This, my friends, is where the strength of David lay: He knew despite his own suffering, fears and sorry, Who he trusts! My Friends: a thorough understanding of the character of God is inseparably linked to your ability to stand in a trail! David knew God and therefore he chastises himself for his own depression!
In the second stanza, David expresses his feeling of being overwhelmed by trouble. He says:
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
He acknowledges his distress before God. In the mist of his trial, he turns to God. Though he might be separated from God’s Temple, being in the desert near Mt Hermon, but he still remembers God, turning to Him and pouring out his heart before the Lord:
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
Blow follow blow, trouble upon trouble has rolled over him: David expressing his sense of drowning in a sea of distress. He had lost all control being pulled under by the trials he had to endure. Misfortunes “come not in single file, but in battalions. Certainly that is how it feels when you cannot see any way forward, overwhelmed by a sea of trouble.
David however, does not remain in this state. He turns to God in faith:
By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
The NASB translates this verse as follows:
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life
David expresses confidence that God will yet help him! He knows that he is without hope in himself but he knows where his strength lies. When he feels alone, when he feels overwhelmed, he turns to God in trust. Though he does not feel it now, he has faith that God will be full of loving kindness, because that is how he knows God is. David trusts in God’s deliverance so much that he foresees that he will again praise God by song for his faithfulness. Because he trust God, looking forward to His deliverance, he pours out his heart in a prayer to God, pleading his case before the Lord, knowing that God has got his life in His hands.
Notice that he confirms his absolute trust in God, even in deepest depression?: He calls God his rock, even while in the mist of his trial!
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
You see, my fellow believers, to face trouble in this life is not strange. In fact, it is common. What makes the difference in how you are coping with the trial, is how well you know God. If you know Him, you will know, like David had when he was down, that there is a God to whom you can turn. You can trust Him without any question. Your trial you might not like, you might feel alone, depressed, rejected, overwhelmed. You might stumble and complain and moan and cry out for help. But like David had done when he was suffering, turn to God, pour out your heart to Him, trust Him to be what He promises to be: a rock to stand on. Apply Phil 4:6 even when all seems lost: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
You see. All the promises that God gave when He says He cares for you are true! James says we should be glad for every trial that comes over us for our faith is tested. We will grow though these trials, becoming more like Him! We might not understand why. The outcome might not be what we expect but know this: you can trust Him!
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.