INTRODUCTION: Dr. Dobson white water rafting…
We are in the coffeepot right now in our town, county, state, our country, and even our world. How do we handle it? What can we do, what should we do, when we find ourselves in the coffeepot and God seems so distant and disinterested?
- Recognize that problems are universal.
- Nowhere in the Bible does God promise us that our lives on this earth are going to be problem-free…
- Scripture references:
- Ps. 34:17-19 – “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.”
- Acts 14:22 – “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
- John 16:33 – “In this world you will have trouble.”
C. No one, not even those closest to God, are exempt from problems. Examples:
- Job 1:1 & 8 – “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil…Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
- Mary and Martha and Lazarus.
- Paul (2 Cor. 11:24-28 – thorn in the flesh)
Transition: It may not be much consolation, but at least we’re in good company when we suffer!
- Not unusual for God’s people to question God at times like this.
- Ps. 10:1 – “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Written by David, a man after God’s own heart!)
- Ps. 13:1-2 – “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
- Ps. 77:7-9 – “”Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
- John the Baptist:
- Jesus’ opinion of him: Luke 7:28 – “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John.”
- Yet see Matt. 11:2-3 – When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
- Jesus on the cross – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Transition: What is happening in these situations? When Christians face a crisis in their lives, that crisis is sometimes accompanied by another crisis, a spiritual crisis that can shake the very foundation of their faith. Dr. Dobson calls this “the betrayal barrier.” It’s that time when the pieces don’t fit, when God’s ways make no sense to us, when we feel he’s betrayed us, forsaken us, forgotten us. So what do we do at a time like that?
- What to do when you find yourself in the coffeepot.
- Recognize that God is not obligated to explain himself. Unfortunately, we so often feel that he does owe us an explanation. What happened to Job when he approached God demanding an explanation? He challenged God to a debate to prove him wrong. God overwhelmed Job with his power and greatness and awesomeness and Job was left speechless. See Job 38-41. QUESTION: Will we ever understand? See I Cor. 13:12 – “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
- Recognize that God is on our side and that he’s proven his love to us over and over again so that we would never doubt it.
- What is our greatest problem in life? The Coronavirus? A crashing stock market? A ban on being able to go to church? SIN! Yet what did God do about that? See Rom. 8:31-32 – “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
- Recognize that God is sovereign (all things are under his control) and that he is the master at working behind the scenes to bring good out of the bad.
- Rom. 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
- Joseph in Gen. 50:19-20 – But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
- The cross
- Recognize that God has a different perspective on things than we do.
- Parade illustration.
- Jesus on the cross and his eventual resurrection.
- Dobson: “God makes sense even when it seems he doesn’t make sense.”
- Don’t trust your feelings during difficult times. Don’t base your relationship with God on how you’re feeling about him because our feelings are so fickle. Instead base it on the promises of God.
- Understand that God has his mighty reinforcements working for us.
- Rom. 8:26-27 – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”
- Our “paraclete”
- Recognize that when God seems far away, he’s closer than he’s ever been before.
- “Footprints” story.
- Think of how we parents hurt for our children when they are hurting. God hurts infinitely more – one of the tenderest scenes in the Bible is that of Jesus weeping outside of Lazarus’ tomb…
- God assures us over and over again of his never-failing presence. Prepare yourself for an avalanche of verses that proclaim
- Ps. 34:18 – “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
- Is. 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- Ps. 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
- Deut. 33:27 – “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
- Prov. 18:24 – “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
- Is. 49:15-16 – “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”
- I Peter 3:12 – “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.”
- God never asks us to understand, only to believe and trust.
- Prov. 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
- Dan. 6:23 – “And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”
- Job 13:15 – “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”
CONCLUSION: Poem on suffering:
I know not why his hand is laid in chastening on my life,
Nor why it is my little world is filled so full of strife.
I know not why, when faith looks up and seeks for rest from pain,
That o’er my sky fresh clouds arise and drench my path with rain.
I know not why my prayer so long by him has been denied;
Nor why, while others’ ships sail on, mine should in port abide.
But I do know that God is love, that he my burdens shares;
And though I may not understand, I know for me he cares.
I know the heights for which I long are often reached through pain.
I know the sheaves must be threshed to yield the golden grain.
I know that though he may remove the friends on whom I lean,
‘Tis that I thus may learn to love and trust the One unseen.
And when at last I see his face and know as I am known,
I will not care how rough the road that leads, through Christ, to home.