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Sunday morning message....

He Cannot Break His Promises…..

Have you ever considered the shock and devastation the disciples must have experienced when their hero, Savior and Messiah was brutally tortured and executed on Easter Friday? They had seen Him perform never-before-seen miracles; they knew that no one could stand up to His responses to the questions His enemies presented to entrap Him; they had seen Him walk on water, and pass, untouched, through mobs of angry people bent on killing Him. He was the real thing and they knew it. He was the “superman” of the ancient world.

And yet, not a single one that witnessed all of these things understood why He suffered and died until after the shock and disappointment of the passion. But with Easter Sunday something happened within their hearts and minds—they became transformed. They had a new understanding of the Messiah and His Kingdom, and they became lions for Jesus Christ. They now understood and trusted all that Jesus had been trying to teach and all that He promised.

In the final years of the Judah, Hezekiah, who was a very good king, became ill and was at the point of death. “The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord.” Kings 20:1-4

Hezekiah was supposed to die, but cried bitterly to God and God relented and added 15 years to his life——-and then made the sun go back ten hours to prove it! Is this the same God to whom you and I pray? Is He able to turn our anguish, broken-heartedness and despair into indescribable joy? Is He able, if you will, to even “change His mind” and be gracious to us? He certainly did this for Hezekiah!… Jesus did even more so for the disciples. Those eleven young men were never the same brawling, whining, scared young men they were again after the resurrection. God will not let us down.

We’re not supposed to live our lives based upon how we feel at the moment but rather based upon the proven fact that we can trust that Him—He will do what He promises. David said, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;……Psalm 37: 3-7.

So is it true or false? It can’t be both ways? Can these words from David, the record about Hezekiah and the narrative about the disciples be trusted? And now, as we face a world-wide pandemic with the new Chinese Virus, are we allowing these words and this example of faith to manifest itself in our lives so that others can clearly see that we believe it? People are watching those of us who profess to have invited Jesus Christ into our hearts. Are we living different from the typical newsman or celebrity? Do we have hope and a confidence that nothing can befall us without His permission, or are we no different from the non-believer?

David learned that God could be trusted to keep His promises and hover over him. But David still had sorrows, setbacks and disappointments even after this Psalm was recorded. People betrayed him and his own kids were rotten. He had his own Chinese viruses of life. But David is talking about life in perspective—-not under a microscope.

Funny how I often think that God is required to answer me at my beck and call as if I alone understand the severity and timeliness of my troubles. How often do I allow small things—-truly tiny matters—to steal the peace of God from my heart? The disciples suffered for three days—-but Jesus kept His promise—-He always does. That gives me peace and keeps trouble from my heart. Sometimes God does let His beloved suffer—it’s a spiritual fact. He’s not abandoning us, but He is at times allowing us to experience events that break our hearts or cause us pain.

But going back the passion of Jesus, remember that right before Christ was betrayed, tortured, humiliated, and executed, He talked about all of this what was coming and said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” And God did … and also glorified the obedient Son. Jesus came to suffer fo God.

Jesus was born to be slandered, beaten, ridiculed, stripped-naked, and nailed to a tree. God’s only Son was sent to earth for that very purpose. But instead, why didn’t God allow His Son to come and destroy the evil Roman Empire and establish a theocracy on earth right then and there? Why not let Jesus emerge as a superhero, some sort of “Ironman Messiah”. And why does God seem to allow His favorites to rot in prisons, waste away on remote islands, or have their lives cut short by an executioner or a fatal disease? God’s favored often suffer severely.

God does not do things the way that Hollywood does and few pastors of of the mega-churches or televangelists have properly represented the image or message of one called and ordained to preach. God does not most of His messengers “live happily ever after”, in my opinion. In fact, many are not happy endings at all. Millions of followers of Jesus have been tortured, martyred and forgotten. The Lord does not act like a very rational man at all. And that is what I have to keep remembering as I face challenges and obstacles throughout my day. God does things the way a holy and pure God does them, not the way a mere man would. I don’t understand why He does what He does, but I do know that He would never waste pain and suffering on His children. There is a purpose in His ways. I am grasping, more and more, how it is only through the humiliation and suffering of those He loves that others can receive a true appreciation for who He is and their need for Him. God could easily bless and endow His favorites, but that would only draw those to Him that wanted to have more from Him, instead of more of Him. He is trying to show us something that is far more important than His blessings. It is “the great I Am” that He wants me to seek, thirst for, and find, not His gifts or even His protection. It is Him alone.

As I consider how the true giants of the church have been so abused and neglected by their own, I understand that only a higher reward and more intense relationship could cause these very intelligent and rational men and women to abandon what might have been an easy and “rewarding” life. Instead, they dedicated their existence to a God that was prepared to send them into a gauntlet of suffering for His glory. These folks tasted and experienced something far greater than fame, popularity, or earthly delights. They came to know the depth of God’s love and nothing else. No manner of suffering could deter them.

And so, I understand a little better that when my occasional humiliation and pain might give me reason to give-up or change course, I choose follow the spiritual example of these true disciples of Jesus. They willingly endured anything so that Jesus might be exalted. They exhibited a profound love for Him that caused them to consider it pure joy that they were considered worthy to suffer for Him. They knew that something better was coming. Do I share that robust confidence in Him?

The suffering we are now enduring as a nation is like nothing any of us alive have ever experienced, and we’ve not seen the worst of it, and most of us do have no idea things might get before things get better. But of this one thing we can be sure: He has promised to never forsake us. He hears our pleas, our sighs and all our petitions. He is not slow or unable to redeem our lives, or our nations; but sometimes suffering is the only thing that permits many to hear Him.

May our leaders and those who we hold in high esteem need listen to Him and seek Him. And may the suffering that may befall me — or you—result in their souls and the souls of millions of others to be brought to Him.

We might not understand till after the suffering is over why we are experiencing all of this—-and maybe not ever. But will you and I trust Him regardless? We can be sure that He is going to keep His promises to us and that He will not forsake us—-but He’s not required to explain to us what He does and why He does it. “Trust in the Lord and do good”…..and leave the rest to God today. God has not forgotten us.

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