Sunday Sermon 1.9.21
The previous year, 2020, has provided for all of us more than ample situations or events that most certainly did not go as expected. Were we to have a race writing things down, the only thing slowing us down would be our ability to write fast and the fact that no one would really want to win the race.
And here we are only nine days into the new year and that list just keeps growing. So many things are not going as expected. Not even close.
Shoot, here in my house, we were expecting a wonderful two week visit over the holidays with our son and his new wife – we got that and more – Covid. All four of us! So we actually got a plus three week visit instead.
Here’s the thing, when your life belongs to Jesus, God uses things intended to harm you for His good.
“You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”Genesis 50:20
It sometimes is a hard pill to swallow, but He really does “work all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
All things means just that – all things!
Personal issues, relational issues, family, work, school, politics, church, community, health, financial, supply, housing, pets, neighbors, business, government, all things!
He works in each and every situation, always, to bring good from it for us. He is God, that is who He is and that is what He does.
“No weapon, (plan or purpose, idea, threat, legislation, edict,) formed against thee shall prosper…” Isaiah 54:17
When faced with the unexpected, watch what God can and will bring from it for you. Take a look at these few bible characters to get you going:
Joseph – the earlier quote from Genesis came from his lips after his brothers dashed his dreams by selling him into slavery in Egypt. There, after many years in prison, he eventually became the Egyptian vizier, 2nd in command. His dreams fulfilled and his brothers bowing down to him.
But consider how many times things did not go as expected for him. Goodness! Our hearts bleed when we recall so many injustices and seemingly bad outcomes for him. Beaten by brothers, abandoned, sold, forgotten, imprisoned, mistreated, ridiculed, forgotten again, promoted, falsely accused of rape, imprisoned again, promoted again, respected, empowered, honored, restored to family, blessed his family and the nation.
Joseph’s life is a vivid example for us of how all things really do work for good. All things are not good, but God is able to work them for good for you, and Joseph.
Consider another – Noah. Noah was living in a horribly wicked and violent era; so bad in fact God had it with the world. Seriously. You know the story. Noah built a floating barge under God’s direction and then God sent animals to Noah to fill the barge. Noah, his family (wife, three sons and their wives) all boarded the barge and God opened the windows of heaven and fountains of the deep, and rain as never before seen, flooded the earth and destroyed all mankind.
Did things go as Noah expected? Well, first off, he had never even seen rain before, so right there we have the unexpected. How ’bout the length of time for this rain stuff? Expected? How ’bout after the rain stopped and the flood waters covered even the highest mountains? How ’bout living in an indoor zoo for over a year, with your family??? Expected?
Noah certainly faced the unexpected and he too experienced the faithfulness of God. From that time aboard the barge, God worked for the good of Noah, eventually resulting in a blessing for he and his family and an agreement with Noah’s name on it – the Noahic Covenant; which turned out as a blessing for future generations around the world.
Abraham/Isaac– When this father and son went up to the top of the mountain with all the supplies and tools to make an offering to the Lord, do you think their expectations included Isaac being tied and laid on the altar? Could a father imagine holding a knife over his son, ready to slice his throat as he would an animal?
Why would a father do such an unexpected thing?
“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”Hebrews 11:19
What followed? God worked it for good and revealed a ram, just out of sight to be used as the offering. Issac was untied as were his fears and faith in his dad, not to mention Jehovah God. Oh, and remember what God said to Abraham, “Now, because you have not withheld your only son Isaac, I will bless you and you will be the father of many nations and your offspring will be more than the sand on the sea shore and stars in the sky.” Genesis 22:12, 17
I have several more to share. But stop and think. When things don’t go as expected, what is really happening for you?
Is all lost? Are hopes dashed? Is faith gone? I hope not, but if any of those are close, then this word today is vital for you. When you hit a wall, an unexpected and firm obstacle, God is still at work on your behalf, bringing to you a bigger, broader purpose than what you see in the immediate. He is working whether or not you see what he is doing.
What is faith after all? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:6
In the face of the unexpected, faith sees God working. We walk by faith, not by sight.
Joseph, Noah, Abraham and Isaac all looked beyond what their eyes saw. They looked beyond the immediate and to the One who was at work for them preparing them for the good which would eventually be forthcoming.
We could add to those men Moses, who went from basket, to burning bush, to bondage to being broke free. Did he face the unexpected, you bet. Did he have faith God was working, sometimes.
How about Rahab? This one was a business woman who happened to offer protection to some spies, and was rewarded by being the only family saved when the city was destroyed. Unexpected? Faith? Yep!
John the Baptist began his life the result of a prophetic word. He was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born and grew up being a voice that called the Jews to return to the Lord and His ways. He was all in serving the Lord, all the time. Bold. Brave. Brazen.
Did his life all go as expected? He was beheaded, probably not expected.
But was God at work for good even in THAT situation? It did turn out for good for him, he went immediately to heaven. And it turned out for good for the disciples and for us too. His life God used for good, even though the enemy meant his death for evil.
One last bible character, Peter. The unexpected fisher of men. The unexpected walker on water. The unexpected insightful friend, (YOU are the Christ!). The unexpected voice of Satan, (Get thee behind me, Satan.) The unexpected ear cutter-offer. The unexpected denier. The unexpected witness at the tomb. The unexpected preacher at Pentecost, saving 3,000! The unexpected healer, deliverer, teacher, prayer, leader. The unexpected martyr.
The unexpected result? This man is now listed as one of “these men who have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6
Walking by faith, each of these persevered through difficult situations for them. They looked beyond what they saw to a God who was at work on their behalf. The wall was not all they saw. The problem was not all they saw. The impossibility was not all they saw. The unexpected did not deter them or their faith.
When things don’t go as expected, where do you put your faith?
Please allow me to close with a recent personal, account.
My husband had to have surgery on his L4, L5 in his spine. He prepped and was ready for the in one day, out the next expected hospital stay. Seven days later, after having unexpected drug interactions, and him being unresponsive, The Rapid Response Team was called.
During his unresponsiveness, from where we were, we thought we were loosing him. It was terrifying.
But later we found out, during that time of his unexpected, unresponsiveness, he was having an out of body experience, hovering above his body, watching all that was happening to him in his room. He was talking to an old man. Den asked the man, “So I guess now is the time I get to choose whether to go or stay?” The man, whose face was only a bright light, firmly told him, “I will tell you when it’s time!”
Those words sent Dennis back to earth, into his body and into a responsive state. Those words changed his life forever. The medical team, to this day still cannot explain what happened or why.
Den was released from the hospital the next day! Less than 24 hours from when we thought we had lost him. In fact, we had gained a totally new man, spiritual fervor and dedication stronger than it had ever been. His fire and passion for life and the Lord burning brighter than it ever had. God had once again, according to his promise, been working in all things for the good of Den, for us. From this unexpected event, has come Dennis’ greatest freedom, joy, and empowering; and one of my greatest joys and desires.
We serve a God of the impossible. All things are possible with God and our faith will remain anchored to Him, not to events. For when circumstances appear to be harm to us, He intends it for good. He is at work, he never stops working for the good of those who love him.
When things don’t go as expected, have faith and keep going. He is at work for your good.
Go with God.