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2021 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - When Life Happens

Andy Stanley - When Life Happens

Andy Stanley - When Life Happens

So I've told you this before, but I am, and this shouldn't come as a surprise because of what I do, but I'm so fascinated by conversion stories and de-conversion stories, people who come to faith and then people who lose faith. And for whatever reason, I'm seemingly most interested in de-conversion stories because I'm always wondering why do people lose their faith Christian faith, what triggered it? Usually it's a process. It's not usually overnight event. People wake up and realize, I don't think I believe that anymore.

So I'm always interested in those blogs and books and articles and interviews with people who lose faith. And eventually, it seems like in these stories oftentimes there's an event, but it's not just an event. And if it's an event, it's usually a negative event. But the interesting thing is, and this is what we're gonna talk about today, the same is true for conversion stories. People often come to faith for the first time or come back to faith because of events, processes and events that kind of trigger or trigger their interest in God. Something bad happens. Maybe this is your story. Something bad happens, and they look up and they find God. Or one way that we say it in the South sometimes is the get religion. You've heard this, they get religion.

Now, let's just be honest. Sometimes when people get religion, suddenly they get rid of their religion. Suddenly when things are back up and to the right, right? We have stories like that. But honestly, that's not as common as you might think. And that's certainly not true of everybody 'cause many people find faith in the midst of crisis and tragedy and their new found faith or their rediscovered faith often as the thing they would say that got them through. Again, this is our story for many of us. It was the thing that got them through the difficulty. So, some people find faith in tragedy, but again, some people lose it. They're going along, they go into church, they believe what they've always believed and then tragedy strikes and they wonder, where is God? They look up and ask the question, where is God?

And many of us, probably all of us at some point in our life have found ourselves either saying this or thinking this. And then for many people, they get no good answer and they walk away from faith. But again, these stories, even though they get highlighted sometimes, this is not as common as you might think. In fact, it's just the opposite. And the reason I know it's just the opposite is because every Christian you know, and many of you, obviously, most of you are Jesus followers. Many of you watching as Jesus followers. You know your own story. That you've had tragedy and loss and suffering, but it hasn't, it's caused you to ask them different kinds of questions but you haven't lost your faith.

And this is why, and this is just kind of me meandering for a minute before we get to the message. This is why, and this is kind of long but I wanted to write it out for you. This is why people who leverage injustice and suffering as an argument against the existence of God, which the new atheist, people who are high-level academics, who when they talk about belief in God, this eventually surfaces pain and suffering in the world. Those who leverage injustice and suffering as an argument against the existence of God, it's so interesting in my experience, they usually leverage injustice and suffering experienced by other people, not their own. People they don't even know. They basically pointed the general pain and suffering in the world. And they say, look at all the pain and suffering in the world, how could there be a good God? But they rarely ever point to their own pain and suffering.

In fact, you have not only heard this argument, maybe you've made it yourself. It may be the reason you have abandoned faith or having a hard time coming to grips with Christianity. It goes like this. If God is good, right? I mean, we've heard this a thousand times. If God is good, why is there so much injustice and suffering in the world? And I know maybe getting in your business a little bit too early in the message but I would just say this, if this is something you wrestle with and if this is a reason that you have abandoned faith, here's my suggestion. I think you should ask some people who are suffering but who are maintaining and have been able to maintain their faith in spite of their personal pain and suffering. I mean, this is like, how can there be a good God and pain and suffering in the world?

As long as it's 30,000 feet away, as long as it's kind of out there as an intangible sort of an idea, that's one thing. But I would challenge you to talk to some people of faith who've experienced pain and suffering and yet have been able to maintain faith. And I'm almost done, okay. We'll get the sermon. Because it seems to me this is just me. It just seems disingenuous to me to leverage the suffering of people who believe in God as evidence that there is no God. I just think if you wanna leverage your own suffering not to believe in God, I get that. We're gonna talk about that in just a minute. I really do get that. But I don't think we should borrow other people's pain and suffering to draw a conclusion about God that the people who are actually having the pain and the suffering and experiencing the injustice don't conclude, they draw a different conclusion.

In fact, when you hear their story, their story, many of our stories is that in the suffering and the injustice, we actually experience the grace and the power and the sustaining power of God. Now, if your story is, no, Andy. Okay, I'm not leveraging anybody's pain and suffering. I'm telling you I was a person of faith and then I lost my mom or I suffered a setback. I mean, you had big challenging circumstances. And in the midst of that, you lost your faith. I would never ever judge you. In fact, I would say, if I were in your shoes, I would probably perhaps come to the same conclusion. But at the same time, and I'm not minimizing your pain or suffering, I'm really not. So please trust me on this. But you know as well as I know there are people who have gone through exactly what you've gone through or worse than you've gone through, identical or worse, who somehow maintained faith in God.

So here's the dilemma. Here's the question. Here's what we're gonna talk about for a few minutes. What makes the difference? What makes the difference? That's what we're gonna talk about today. But once again, before we jump into this, if you have defended or you are defending your lack of faith because of pain and suffering in the world, I really do wanna suggest that you talk to someone who is a person of faith who's experienced pain and suffering and ask them how that works. Not so that you become a Christian, this isn't some bait and switch thing, but because I really want you to understand if this is your objection to faith, and it's this the biggest objection to faith. I just want you to understand, because you're smart. You can figure this out there.

There really is not an argument against the existence of God based on pain and suffering in the world. Another way of saying it is suffering does not prove that God doesn't exist. In fact, there is absolutely no logical or rational correlation between pain and suffering in the world and the existence of God. All pain and suffering proves is that the God who doesn't allow pain and suffering doesn't exist. I mean, we can't deny that there's pain and suffering in the world, right? So clearly, there is no God who doesn't allow pain and suffering in the world. We can all agree on that. But here is the thing. Christians have never believed in that God. That's not the God we pray to, the God that doesn't allow pain and suffering. We don't even believe in that God.

If your thing is, I don't believe in God because there's pain and suffering in the world, we agree. We don't believe in a God who doesn't allow pain and suffering in the world either because there's pain and suffering in the world. How silly would that be? But that's not the Christian God. On the contrary, in some ways, it's worse. Christians believe, we believe in a God who allowed the worst possible thing to happen to the best possible person. Jesus. And that's disturbing. But that's what we believe because that's what happened. More on that in just a bit. If you've been tracking along with us, we are wrapping up. That was kind of like a whole sermon in itself, wasn't it? We should just sing and go home. Anyway, sorry. I prepared too much to do that. Okay.

So, today we're wrapping up this series, Faith Full, Fueling Your Faith in a World on Empty. And the premise of this series is that when Jesus showed up in the 1st century, His agenda for his followers was that they be men and women of big, bold, active faith, faith that would do things and confront things and change things. Which explains, of course, His initial invitation, which was, "Follow me". "Follow me". As in, live in a different direction, live a different kind of life. And Jesus never changed his invitation.

Now, eventually, the church came along and kind of dumbed it down and watered it down a little bit. And the church reduced it. And this is what many of us were raised on. We grew up in church. The church reduced it to simply "Believe in me". Like all you gotta do is believe some things, which is way easier and way safer and far less demanding than "Follow me," because no change is required. Which is why for so many Christians, their faith is so weak because faith is a muscle and if you don't exercise it by following, if it's just something that resides in your head, it gets weak and it atrophies and it becomes frail and fragile. But Jesus never invited people to simply believe true things about Him. He invited us to follow Him. To wake up every single day with this question. And we've looked at this in every single segment of this series.

What would I do? This is the question to wake up to. What would I do? Not simply what would I believe? But based on what I believe about God, based on what I believe about His son, what would I do? How would I respond? How would I live? How would I react? What would I attempt? What would I initiate if I was confident, absolutely confident that God is with me? So in this series, we've been asking the question, what facilitates over the course of time, what fuels and facilitates the development of that kind of follow Jesus active, enduring faith? I mean, how do you get that? Because if you've met people who have it, you sort of want it. And when you meet people who have it who are going through difficult times and their faith is just rock solid and you think to yourself, I don't know how I would respond to that, but my goodness, their confidence in God is clearly sustaining them, you want that.

So we're asking the question, how do you get it? What are the essential ingredients to that kind of faith? And based on talking to lots of people and based on the life and the message of Jesus, we're convinced there are five things or five things that God uses to grow our faith. There may be 12, but we're sure there are at least these five, because every time somebody tells their faith story, they eventually talk about one or all of these five things. So, we've explored the first four. Today we're gonna explore the fifth one, the last one. But I just wanna say this. If you have missed any of this series, I really wanna encourage you to go back and watch or listen to the whole series.

And if you're watching on a browser, it's all there for you on our website. If you're a part of North Point Community Church, it's on our North Point Community Church website. It's on my YouTube page. And again, all of this is free and it's gonna be there as long as you're paying your power bill, okay? So, I just wanna encourage you to catch up if you find today intriguing and this is your first time joining us or the first time joining us in a long time. So, we've looked at the first of the four faith talus. I wanna review real quick and then we'll look at the fifth one.

First, week number two, we talked about the first one, which is practical teaching. When people tell their faith stories, they talk about the first time someone opened the Scripture for them in such a way that they knew what to do with what they were being taught. They got handles and application. And we said that when our acts, our A-C-T-S, when our acts of faith intersect with God's faithfulness, our faith gets bigger.

The second one was personal ministry. People talk about the first time they stepped into a role where they were serving other people in Jesus' name. It was a mission trip. They led a small group, they got involved in their church. They got involved in a local nonprofit, and they walked in the door and they thought, I'm not prepared, I'm not qualified and I don't know all the answers, and they just walked in anyway. And they talk about what happened on the inside of them because of their willingness to serve other people.

Then we talked about providential relationships. When people tell their story, everybody's story always involves other people. I wasn't really a church person, I wasn't really a Jesus person, I wasn't really a person of faith and I met this girl. Then I met this guy. Then we got these new neighbors. Then I found out my boss was a Christian. Then my mom remarried and my stepfather began taking us to church. There are always these people. And when we look back on our stories, it's like God just dropped them into our lives at just the right time.

Then the last time we were together we talked about the fourth catalyst for faith which is private disciplines,. Private disciplines or private spiritual disciplines. People talk about the first time they begin to pray consistently, read their Bible consistently, attend church consistently, give financially. They begin given a percentage on a regular basis. And these were disciplines. And they began as ought-tos and then they became want-tos. And when people tell their story, they say, you know what? Those little deposits of time over time, little deposits of time over time did so for my faith.

So today, we come to our fifth and final catalyst or the fifth and final thing that God uses to grow our faith. And we refer to it as pivotal circumstances. Pivotal circumstances. When people tell their faith story, when I tell my face story, when you tell your faith story, people talk about something that happened. Generally, it was a big event. I mean, when they look back later on their lives, they're like, that event, that was a pivotal time in my life. That was a pivotal circumstance. Oftentimes, they're disruptive, they're catalytic. It cause a lot of change. They're defining. We might even say these were defining moments for me. And sometimes they're positive. When I got married, it was a defining moment for me. I finally began to take faith seriously.

When my little boy or my little girl was born. The birth of a child can be a positive faith building event. I remember for me... It's so emotional. It's hard to even say, so I'll try to say it real quick and try to remain unemotional. I can remember the first time holding Andrew, our oldest, thinking to myself, if it ever got from my head to my heart that my Heavenly Father could possibly care this much about me, it would change my life forever. I've got to keep going, okay. So, I just remember thinking, I mean, the birth of a child is like it just opens up so many doors and so many windows. Sometimes it's a new opportunity.

So there are positive events that come along. They kind of blow people's faith up. But oftentimes, it's a negative experience. It's the loss of a child. It's the loss of a marriage. It's the loss of the future, our health or a career. And suddenly we find ourselves looking up for the first time in a long time. We find ourselves saying, okay, if there's a God, where's God? In fact, you might be watching today because you're in the middle of a pivotal circumstance. You may be back in church for the first time in a long time because you're in the middle of a pivotal circumstance and you need something and you're not even sure what something is and you're not even sure there is any something. But something has happened. And for the first time or the first time in a long time, you find yourself open. And you're a little bit nervous about it. And you're really nervous because I'm talking about it.

And for somebody today, this may be a defining moment. Not because my sermon is good, but because of what you're going through right now and what we're talking about today. Because you were fine, and then you weren't. You had it all figured out and then you didn't, and you became interested or reinvested in faith. I know this quote is so famous and certainly you've heard it before but it's you just can't avoid it in a moment like this. C.S. Lewis, he's just said it so well. He said, "God whispers to us". He wrote, "God whispers to us in our pleasures". You can barely hear God up into the right times, right? "He speaks to us in our conscience, but he shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world".

And maybe today in this moment, this weekend, this season of your life, whenever you're watching this, it's as if the pain, the sorrow, the suffering has awakened you and you're asking important questions for the first time in a long time. Because the truth is, we're fine without God until we're not. And that's awful when faith flickers back or flares back to life.

Now, if you're a bit skeptical, and I am by nature a bit skeptical. So let me just sort of say, wait, maybe what some of you are thinking. So you may be thinking this, I would be, I would be thinking, okay. See, I know what you're gonna do, Andy. This is what Christians do. God is in a bind. God is in a real bind because God is a good God and loving God and Jesus died for our sins and God loves us. And yet the world is a total wreck and a mess and people are dying all the time and children are suffering. So you Christians, your God is in a bind. So you come up with all these sneaky ways to somehow rectify the fact that the world is a mess and God is good and God is love because you know there is an unresolvable tension there. And that's what you're trying to do. You're trying to resolve an unresolvable tension.

So if you were thinking that way, or maybe I just think that way, here's what helps me with that. And maybe this will help you with that as well. That the authors of the New Testament like Matthew, who was a tax collector, and Mark, who knew Peter, and Luke, who interviewed all the eyewitnesses, and John, who traipse around with Jesus, and Peter himself, who was with Jesus from the beginning, and the Apostle Paul, who hated Christians and became a Christian. When you look at their lives and when you read the story of their lives, these were, this is amazing. They were at the epicenter of the activity of God on planet earth. If the New Testament is a reliable account of actual events, which I believe it is, they are right at the epicenter of God's activity in the world because Jesus has shown up in the 1st century.

And yet, these men and the women that accompany Jesus suffered like crazy physically, they suffered injustice, they suffered persecution. I mean, anything we've suffered, they've suffered at times 10. And yet somehow, they maintain their faith in a good God. In fact the amazing thing is John, the Apostle John, is the one that introduced this idea to the world that God is love. We've talked about this. I mean, and if you would have stopped, John's writing, "God is love". We're like, wait, wait, wait, John. John, show me the love in this world. John was saying, no, no, no, not in the world. The world's a mess, but I'm just telling you I stared into the eyes of love when I spent time with Jesus. And I'm telling you, I'm convinced Jesus was God in a body. And if God is anything like my rabbi, I'm just telling you, God is love.

These men brought us the gospels from a time when they were suffering like crazy. The point being this, they saw no tension. They saw no conflict between a good, loving God and pain and suffering in the world because they didn't dodge it, they experienced it. Now, for example, James, the brother of Jesus, which is so cool, right? James, the brother of Jesus, who was murdered. This isn't in the New Testament. Josephus tells us later. He became the leader of the church in Jerusalem in the 1st century. And I won't go into the details but basically he got framed and they took him outside the city and they stoned him to death, which is a terrible way to die. He suffered and he died because of his, he believes his brother was his Lord.

So if we were to say to the New Testament authors, the people who caused the gospel or allowed the gospel to even survive the 1st century, how can you believe in a good? They'd be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, what? That just, that question never crossed their mind. In fact, here's what James, the brother of Jesus who was murdered because of his faith, said. Not me, I didn't say this. This is what he said. He said, "Trials," suffering, injustice, all of it. He said, "They're tests". Well, then you have to ask the question. What are they testing? I'll let him tell you. Here's what he says. Here's what he says they test. He says, "You know that," he's writing this Book of James. "You know that the testing," there it is "of your faith".

Your faith is being tested. Our confidence in God is being tested. And what's the point of God allowing our faith to be tested. James says, well, I'll tell you. "The testing," this is amazing. "You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance". Or specifically, it produces persevering or enduring faith. It makes your faith bigger. When you meet a person who has big faith, big enduring faith, I promise you, you are talking to a person whose faith has been tested. Because wrinkle-free days do not create great faith. In fact, and this is disturbing, but you should take this with you. We don't even know, we don't even know what we actually believe. We don't even know what we actually believe until what we claim to believe has been tested. It's all right here.

And as we're gonna see in just a few minutes, the reason, perhaps, your faith collapsed under pressure, the reason you feel like your faith is collapsing under the weight and the circumstances of life is because perhaps for the first time, in a big way, your faith is being tested and you are discovering what you truly believe. And that's not a bad thing if on the other side, you come out with your faith intact.

You may be familiar with the name, Greg Laurie. Greg is a pastor in the West Coast and I've met him a couple of times. We're not friends. I would love to be his friend but he lives on the West Coast but I've met him a couple of times and I like him so much. And I love his voice. And he's a great preacher. And I've always enjoyed listening to Greg. I just discovered, I don't know how I missed this. I just discovered recently a few months ago that in 2008, his son, I believe it was his oldest son, was killed in a car accident. Just a tragic, random. I mean, it made no sense at all. Car accident. And when I heard him talking about it, and when I heard him talk about this, I thought, oh my goodness.

Now, all those things I heard him say and all that bold preaching, and that is big, he's so good, suddenly, it's in a different context for me. I'm thinking, okay, this isn't just some preacher trying to build a big church. He's just not trying to make a living. This is a guy whose faith has been so tested. He means what he's saying because he's walked through the valley of the shadow of death and he's come out on the other side with this extraordinary confidence in God. And when I heard this, I just thought, wow, I just love and respect him even more. It caused me to lean in more. Now, he has a version of this. He has a shorter version. This is what Greg says. I love this. He says, "A faith that can't be tested it can't be trusted". Because if our faith hasn't been tested, come on, we don't really know if we really believe what we claim to believe.

Now, so fascinating. Jesus leverage this all the time with His guys. In fact, we looked at an example a few weeks ago. He was constantly creating pivotal circumstances instead of allowing them to just come along like they would eventually come along. He would manufacture them. You remember we talked a few weeks ago there's all this group that have been out there all day listening to Jesus preach. They need to eat. And the disciples are like, hey, we need to send them to the city for food. And Jesus says, "You give them something to eat". "You give them something to eat". It's like, "We can't do that". That's the thing, they failed the test.

So, He was constantly manufacturing these events. Same with Lazarus. He gets news Lazarus is sick. Remember this story, John chapter 11. And Lazarus is sick. They're gonna go. They say, let's go to Bethany and heal Lazarus. I mean, you heal strangers, surely you're gonna heal your friend Lazarus. And Jesus is like, sit back down. Why? And if Jesus had answered their question honestly, He would have said, this is terrible. Well, I'm gonna let him die first. Say what? What kind of... I thought God was a good God. I'm a good God. Hang on, I'm gonna let him die first. But man, he's gonna be famous. 2,000 years from now, everybody's gonna know who Lazarus is. So just hang with me, it's gonna work. I don't know if He would have said that or not. The point being, this is terrible but you have to embrace this.

Jesus manufactured pivotal circumstances for His guys 'cause he had a short amount of time in order to get them ready for what was coming. So at the very end of His ministry, at the very end of His ministry, famous story, He's met with the guys. He's about to be arrested. They don't see it coming. He's told them but they just can't see it coming. And he says to Peter, he says, "Peter, heads up. Your faith is about to be tested in a really, really big way". Jesus looks at Peter and says, "It's coming. Your faith, your confidence in me is about to be tested". Again, I'm not making this up. This isn't trying to cover God's tracks. This is how it works. This is the norm. "Your faith is about to be tested". And then He says, this, this is so cool. "But Peter, I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail".

So there it is. Jesus says, "I see it coming, Peter, your faith is about to be tested. And I'm praying for you that your faith won't fail". And Peter is so offended. He was like, "Lord", You remember this if you grew up in church. "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death". He thought. But that faith had not been tested. And when it was tested, he failed. It was a pop quiz. He was not ready. A 13-year-old girl walked up and said, "You, you were in a Galilee and you were with"... "I am not". I mean, he denies Jesus three times. Then he watches. He fails that one. He watches Jesus crucified. Fails, runs to the city. After the resurrection, Jesus calls him aside. It's so cool. He restores Peter.

And this is the amazing thing. This was a hard lesson for me as I was sort of digging out of my judgmental phase many, many years ago. Then Jesus takes Peter who failed all the faith tests and puts him in charge of the whole enterprise. You're in charge. "But wait, I failed all the tests". "I know, but see, your faith is stronger now. You've been tested and failed, tested and failed, tested and fail, but I think you're ready. You're in charge". This is how it works. Then this is so dramatic. We can't, again, we can't imagine this.

About two months later after the resurrection, about two months later, Peter and John go up to the temple Mount to pray. I don't know why they kept hanging out at the temple. Every time they went, they got in trouble. They go to the temple, they're on their way and they pass this gentleman who has been lame from birth, never walked. He's over 40 years old, we find out. So for maybe 20 years, 25 years, we don't know. We know that everybody around the temple knew this guy. So 20, 25 years. His friends would pick him up in the morning, clean him up, feed him some breakfast, set him outside the temple in the shade and he would just beg.

So Peter and John are coming to the temple. He's begging. And Peter's like, hey, let's be done with this. And he heals this guy. They go on up the stairs into the temple. And, of course, the guy follows him and he is jumping. And he is so excited. And he's like, what happened? And everybody knows who this guy is. This isn't a stranger. This is a well-known beggar. I mean, people know his name. Well, this causes a disturbance. Peter and John are arrested. They're thrown in prison, or not prison, they're thrown in jail for the night. And then here's the drama.

The next morning, they bring them out. And now Peter, who has failed all the faith test, is standing in front of, Luke tells us, Luke, who investigated all this stuff in the Book of Acts, says that they are brought before Annas, Caiaphas, the High Priest. And basically, you can read the list of names, the very men who arrested Jesus and took Him to Pilate and convinced Pilate to crucify Jesus. Peter is now standing in front of those very same guys. These men, their number one priority in Jerusalem is stamp out this Nazarene sect. We got rid of the leader, now there's all the minions running around. Let's collect them. Let's find them and let's stamp them out. And by the way, we're not gonna take you to Pilate. When Pilate got rid of the head of the snake, we've decided we can take care of the body because later they're gonna drag Stephen outside the city gates and they just stone him. They don't take him to Pilate.

So it is open season on the followers of the Nazarene. In other words, these men, this is life or death conversation. And Peter has another pop quiz. So there they stand in front of the guys who have all the power. And they say to Peter and John, Peter specifically, "By what name did you do this"? Now, we wouldn't ask the question this way but here's what they're asking. You're not still following the dead Nazarene rabbi, are you? This is your opportunity. This is your get-out-of-jail free card. All you have to do is say, well, we didn't really use a name. I'm not really sure what happened. I mean, we are just trying to help him. We're good. And Peter signs his own death warrant. These are some of my favorite verses in the whole New Testament, because I would hope that I could be this bold but I don't know that I could be.

So there they stand, they're chained, in front of the guys. Their life is at stake. They ask the question. "By what name did you do this"? And Peter looks into the eyes of the men who had Jesus arrested and ultimately crucified. And he says this. "It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth". So I wanna make sure you know exactly who I'm talking about. "Whom," let's go ahead and say it, "you crucified". Not, well, Jesus. "What name"? It's just Jesus. There's a lot of Jesus's. You know Jesus is a very popular name here in Judea. So, it's just Jesus. Now, let me, look, look, look. "Jesus of Nazareth," let me make sure you know who I'm talking about, "whom you crucified about seven or eight weeks ago".

Let there be no mistake the name we use. "Whom you crucified whom," by the way, yes, I know this is the rumor and you're wondering what crazy people believe this, "whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed". Because by the way, the beggar who've been there had been begging for more than 20 years or 30 years is standing in there with them. And this is amazing. "And when they saw," when these men who had Jesus crucified, "When they saw the courage, the confidence, the faith, the boldness of these men. When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized these guys, they didn't even get out of high school". I mean, this is a really important word. This is why Peter and John probably could not read or write.

These were men who, from childhood, had been fishermen. They had to work to make a living. They could tell these are the educated temple leaders. I mean, these are the people we pity. They're from Galilee. I mean, this is like, these are nobodies. Where did they get this confidence? Where do they get this courage? Not only did they not even own a portion of Torah, they probably can't even read Torah. "And they were astonished". This is amazing. "And they took note, these men have been with Jesus". A-plus on the faith test. Fail, fail, fail, A-plus. Where did that come from? Because tested faith is how you discover if you have real faith. And when you have real faith, it gets really stronger. And the test continue to come.

And this is, I gotta finish this real quick. I wasn't gonna tell you this, but I love this part. When they finish, they can't punish them because everybody in the city knows what's happening. Everybody knows who this guy is. So they warn 'em. "Don't speak any more in this name". And they're like, eh? No, well, you do what you do. You do you, booboo. We're gonna speak in the name of Jesus. And then they leave and they go to the outskirts of the city where all the Christians are like, oh my gosh, they've got Peter and John, they got Peter and John, and they have a prayer meeting.

Now I'm gonna ask you a question, see which ones of you have been paying attention. They have a prayer meeting. And does anybody know what they pray for in the prayer meeting? Anybody know? One word. Ends with -ness Boldness. They pray for boldness. "Lord, give us boldness". And see, I wanna drop into the prayer meeting and go, hey, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I think you got boldness covered, okay. Well, you are your bold, okay? I think you need to be careful. You need to pray. Like you need to pray like an American. Watch over us and protect us and guard us and guide us and help us to get to the mall safely and the vacation and help us and help me find my car keys. And they're praying for boldness, why? Because their faith was explosive, it was big. They were so confident in God. They've been pruned and build back strong.

The point is simply this, that there's unforeseen pivotal circumstances. These are the things. This is one of the things that God uses to grow our faith. Or grow our faith but sometimes if we don't respond the right way, these very same circumstances can undermine faith. So, which brings us back to the question I started with. What makes the difference? Why is it some people can face extraordinary circumstances and come out with bigger faith and some people less faith? So, here's why. And maybe this will help you as you navigate your own faith journey. There are three things that make the difference. What we believe, who we listen to, and how we frame it. Folks who lose faith due to negative or big life-changing catalytic circumstances in life, generally, generally, not always, 'cause I don't know everybody, but generally have some defective or flawed faith to begin with. That's the what. That's the what.

This is why it is so important that you have a Jesus-centered faith, a Jesus-centered faith. Otherwise when difficult times come, do you know what we do? We assume what's not true. Oh, I can't believe this is happening. If there was a good God, this wouldn't be happening. No, read the New Testament. Or we claim what's not promised. You go to the Old Testament and you find a bunch of promises that God made to the nation of Israel and you claim them for yourself. And then you don't have any land and you don't have any blessing and it all doesn't work out. Just a little heads up. In the Old Testament under the Old Covenant, the people that God loved and blessed lived a long time.

In the New Testament, the people that God loved and blessed didn't live so long. Just think about that. Different covenants. Same God, same love, same plan same salvation, same redemption. But if we aren't clear, if we aren't clear on what Jesus promised us in the New Testament and you get this confused, this is why a feeble, fragile uninformed faith is not gonna set you up for success. The second thing is this. It's, you gotta have the right people around you. It depends on who you listen to. That's the who. If you don't have people, I don't have people around us to help us contextualize our pain and suffering, we're gonna draw all the wrong conclusions.

Again, a passage we refer to often. Jesus and the disciples are walking. They see a young man blind from birth. The disciples say to Jesus, that we talked about these few weeks ago. The disciples said to Jesus, "Hey, who sinned"? Because the reason this kid's blind is because of sin, right? Somebody sinned. Did he sin or was it his parents? They mis-contextualized his suffering. We know why he's suffering. He sinned or his parents sinned. Jesus said, "No". Didn't work that way. That's not how the world works. Fortunately, they had Jesus to help them rethink and reshape their thinking around their pain and suffering. He re-frames it for them. He says, "This happened," by the way, "This happened," this is the power of, "This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him".

He can't see anything, but he's about to see everything and he's about to be on display for the whole world. And 2,000 years from now, they're gonna be talking about this guy. Wow. Which leads us to the third part is how, again, how we frame it? What we believe about Jesus, who we listen to when we're going through difficult times, and how we contextualize or frame our pain and our suffering. Those three things generally make the difference between difficulty that builds faith and difficulty and challenges that undermine our faith.

Now, I don't have to tell you this, but disruption, pain, suffering, sorrow, it's unavoidable. Sometimes in some seasons is more the rule than the exception. And, whether you're a person of faith or not, you know this, it tests our faith. Because in those moments it's, oh God, oh my God, what's happening. Are you paying attention? It has the potential to break and to undermine our faith. But when viewed through the proper lens, it has the potential to grow and strengthen our faith. It's one of the five things that God always uses to grow and strengthen our faith.

This is why, and I know I say this all the time. It's why we should pray every single day. Lord, help me to see as you see. Help me to see as you see. Help me to see as you see. Help me to see this circumstance, this pain, this suffering, this illness, this challenge for my children, help me to see it the way you see it. Help me, this is how I pray, helped me identify your hand in it or to quote "train". I need a sign to let me know you're here. I just need to know that you're involved. Because, and this true, if we can spot God in it, if we can spot God in it, aren't we more likely to maintain faith through it?

It's like, God, I just need to know you're here. I just need to know that you know. I just need to know that you're involved. Help me to see the way you see. I'll close with this. On the eve of two and a 1/2 days that would reduce the disciple's faith to ashes. I mean the crucifixion of Jesus, it was the test they all failed. So on the Eve of his arrest and crucifixion, He's gathered with the 12 and he's given 'em one last charge. And He says this to them, and He says this to you. In fact, maybe He says this to you specifically today.

He says, okay, I've told you what's gonna happen. I've told you what's gonna happen. I've told you what to expect. I've told you I'm leaving. "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace". Because the circumstances are about to evaporate, they're about to deteriorate quickly. But if you will stay in me, if you will stay connected to me, if you will continue to see the world the way I have taught you to see it, you'll have peace. Now, "In this world, you're gonna have trouble". This is a promise no one has on their bathroom mirror. Right? How'd you get to memorizing "In this world you will have trouble". I gotta remember that. "In this world you will have trouble".

Yeah, okay. If you wanna know what Jesus promised, okay, He did not promise wrinkle-free. This is the eve. This is the worst night of His life, about to go into the next, the worst day of His life. And He says, "Guys, in me, you can have peace". You get outside of me the peace goes away. Because "In this world, you will have trouble". In other words, the God who doesn't allow bad things to happen to good people, that was not the God of Jesus. And then this. "But take heart". Have faith. Trust me. Lean into me, follow me because "I have overcome the world". And they did.

And that's why we're here. And that's why so many of you have maintained your faith through circumstances that the rest of us could only begin to imagine. The world is broken. Your Heavenly Father is faithful. The folks closest to the action who followed in the footsteps of Jesus confirmed that. And there are people around you today who would confirm that as well. Because in the midst of their trouble, their faith in God sustained them. And in the aftermath, they would tell you their faith is deeper. It's richer, is bolder. It's been tested.

They know what they didn't know before that what they believe is what they actually believe. Of the things that God uses to grow our faith, this is the one that we don't choose. This is the one that chooses us. And when it does, because of Jesus, who did not dodge suffering, but chose it freely, because of Him, we can continue to believe knowing that our faith is not in vain. "He's told us these things so that in Him we can find peace. In this world you'll have trouble. But continue to believe, take heart. He has overcome the world".
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