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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - God Is Still Good When Life Is Not

James Meehan - God Is Still Good When Life Is Not

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    James Meehan - God Is Still Good When Life Is Not
TOPICS: God's Goodness

Well, no book has sold more copies, been stolen more times, inspired more faith, changed more lives, and created more questions than the Bible. Some people will tell you it is the greatest work of literature ever written. Others will tell you that it is nothing more than a bunch of fiction pretending to be fact. Some people will tell you that this was the book that introduced them to Jesus, and others will tell you it's the reason they stopped believing in God. As a matter of fact, A. A. Milne, he's the dude who wrote the Winnie the Pooh books, had this to say. He said, "The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief, call it what you will, than any book ever written".

The problem that Mr. Milne has with the Bible is the same problem that a lot of people have with the God of the Bible. Specifically, if the God that Christians believe in is so good, so loving, so wise and so powerful, then how is it possible that His Word and this world is full of so many things that are just ugly, that are just messy? If you've ever wondered questions like that, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, it was those very questions that led me when I was in middle school to unfollow Jesus altogether. Like I grew up in church, going to church every single Sunday, because that's just what my family did. But we never really like were super engaged in our faith. Like it wasn't until my middle school years that I really started praying, and the only reason I did is because my entire world was crumbling.

Like, my parents were fighting all of the time because of some not great financial decisions they'd made, because of my sister getting into a lot of trouble through partying and selling drugs, through me getting suspended from fighting all of the time because I just didn't know what to do with my emotions. And I remember, night after night, crying out to God, asking Him to fix my family and get my parents to stop fighting. And I remember, night after night, crying myself to sleep because nothing was changing. Eventually, things got worse before they got better, and when they got worse, I was done. I gave up on faith and God, didn't wanna have anything to do with church. I spent the next seven years not believing in God or following Jesus.

And then after I graduated high school at the age of 19, I was living on my own in Kansas with no clue what in the world I was gonna do with my life. Like, I'd graduated high school, but I hadn't enrolled in college, and I wasn't really working. My girlfriend and I had just broken up, and it was really messy. And so I was just totally lost. And then one day, my mom called me on the phone, and she said, "James, I think it's time for you to come home". And I did not know it then, but looking back now, I would tell you that it wasn't just my mom saying that, that it was actually God speaking to me through her, and that He wasn't just inviting me to move back in with my parents, but He was inviting me back into a relationship with Him.

And shortly thereafter, I moved back in. I started attending church with my family. I started volunteering on the host team at Life.Church. And it was there that I met some people who like really took this Jesus thing seriously and who really loved me in ways that I didn't imagine, like, I didn't believe what they believed and they still loved me. And God used all of that to bring me to the point where I was willing to give faith another chance. I decided, you know what? I'm gonna try one more time to see if there's really something to this. And now, nine years later, I can tell you that my life has never been the same, that I am never going back, because life with Jesus is so much better than life without, which is why if you are taking notes, the main point of this message and the main point of this entire series is this, that God uses all things, the good, the bad, and the ugly to tell a better story.

God uses all things, the good, the bad, and the ugly to tell a better story. In the letter to the Roman Christians the Apostle Paul writes this in 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". Now, some of you need to hear this. God did not create evil. He does not cause bad things to happen. Like, all of the evil, the suffering, the pain, the death that we see in the world was not something God created or caused. That is a result of human beings rebelling against God and throwing all of creation into disorder. God is not a like malevolent puppet master pulling the strings behind the scenes, forcing you to go through one bad thing after another.

God is a loving father who wants what is best for His kids. He wants what's best for you. And like a loving father, God lets us make our own choices, even when those choices have negative consequences. But because He is a loving father, when we get caught up in the mess of this world, God doesn't just turn a blind eye or turn His back on us. Instead, He steps into the mess. He reaches out His hand. He picks us back up and helps us get back on our feet again. Nowhere is this more clear than in the life of Jesus. Jesus is God in human form. He's the God of heaven, entering history, stepping into the mess of the world, becoming one of us, suffering with us, dying for us, rising again, so that anybody who puts their trust in Him could be saved, that their relationship with God could be fixed and their purpose restored. Because God uses all things, the good, the bad, and the ugly to tell a better story.

And that's exactly what we see in the life of Jesus. And so what we're gonna do for the rest of this message is look at Jesus' life in two parts, His birth and His ministry, to show how God uses all of it to tell a beautiful story of His grace and our redemption. We're gonna start with Jesus' birth, because Jesus, like us, was born and started His life on earth as a baby. Let's talk about the good things. He had two parents who loved Him and were committed to God. That's a pretty good thing. The bad was that His parents were unmarried, that they were very poor. They had to travel a considerable distance while Mary, His mom, was nine months pregnant, only to arrive in the City of Bethlehem. The inn was completely full. So they had to give birth to the Savior of the world in a barn. Not a great situation.

Now, here's the ugly. They were citizens of Israel, a nation that was oppressed and had been conquered by the Roman Empire. This Nation of Israel was actually being ruled at that time by two ruthless dictators, Herod and Caesar. And when Herod, who ruled over this region, heard about this baby that was born who would be the king of the Jews, he was so threatened that he put out an order that every boy under the age of two in this region would be put to death, because he wouldn't let anyone challenge his authority. That was what was happening when Jesus entered the world. There was good, there was bad, and there was ugly, but God used all of it to set the stage for what Jesus would eventually do, because He eventually grew up and became a man, and He launched His ministry. And during Jesus' ministry, during this three year period of time, He launched a movement that flipped the world upside down.

This is really good. Like, He literally created a revolution that remade the world as we know it. He assembled a team of followers by calling nobodies from nowhere to be His disciples, His students, to change the world with them. He taught people what God is really like, what it's like to live as a part of His kingdom. He challenged the status quo and the religious authorities. He performed miracles, casting out demons, healing the sick, the blind, and the disabled to prove that He really is the Messiah, the Savior King chosen by God. But there were some bad things too, because some people thought that Jesus was out of His mind, that He was a lunatic. Like, His own brothers and sisters thought He was crazy. Others thought He was a heretic, preaching against the religion that they believed so much in.

And so they were trying to do anything they could to put a stop to His mission. Not only that, but His followers and He included were rejected and persecuted by the very people they were trying to help. There was some good stuff. There was some bad stuff, and then there was some ugly stuff. Can you imagine what it would be like to be betrayed by your best friend, like completely stabbed in the back by somebody that you have been with for a long time? Like, they've been with you every step of the way as you've been doing everything you can to love and serve other people. Like, you have invested so much in them that who they are today is a large part of what you have done for them.

That's exactly what happened to Jesus when Judas, one of His disciples, one of His closest friends, sold Him out to the very people who wanted Him dead, and when those religious leaders showed up to have Jesus arrested, the rest of His disciples, the rest of His 11 followers ran. Even though, earlier the very same night, they had told Jesus, "Hey, we're gonna be with you no matter what even if it costs us our life". But when the time came to prove it, they ran. Well, I guess not all of them, 'cause Peter, one of Jesus' closest followers, like His best friend, stuck around long enough for Jesus to hear Peter deny even knowing Him three separate times. And this is just like the emotional and relational suffering that Jesus experienced. We haven't even talked about the physical torture, because after Jesus was arrested, He was handed over to the Roman soldiers.

They stripped Him naked. They beat Him. They whipped Him. They took a crown of thorns and shoved it onto His head. They spit on Him and mocked Him. They took this giant rugged wooden cross, laid it on His back, and forced Him to carry it out of the city for everyone to see all the way to the hill where He would be executed. And there He died, alone, humiliated. The creator of the world killed by His own creation like a criminal. But thank God that He uses all things, the good, the bad, and the ugly to tell a better story. He uses all of it to tell a story of His grace and our redemption, because yes, Jesus died, but if there was no crucifixion, there would be no resurrection. If Jesus wasn't died, He never would have risen from the grave. If He wasn't buried in the ground, there would be no empty tomb.

And so God used it all to bring about salvation for all of mankind. He raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, proving that there is nothing and no one, not sin, death, hell, or the devil that can stop Jesus' kingdom from advancing. And because of Jesus and what God has done through His life, the door has been opened for everyone everywhere to find forgiveness of sins and newness of life through faith in Him, because God uses all things, the good, the bad, and the ugly to tell a better story. That's exactly what He did in Jesus, and that's what He does with the Bible. In the weeks to come, as we continue on in this series, we're going to look at some of the different parts of the Bible that are a little bit tricky or a little bit challenging, that create questions.

And we're gonna use those to illustrate how, when you read the Bible wisely, you can see how God is working even in those parts to tell a better story. But until then, what I wanna do is give you three suggestions to help you begin the process of becoming a better Bible reader. The first suggestion is this, to read one chapter of the Gospels every day. We believe that the entire Bible is inspired, but some parts are more important than others. Like, all of it is true and good and helpful, but the heart of what God has done in history, the heart of what God wants to do for humanity is found in the Gospels, the four different biographical accounts of Jesus' life and teachings. Those are the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

So here's my suggestion. Start with Matthew 1. Read it, and then the next day read, chapter two, and then the next day, chapter three, and then four and then five. And then when you get to the end of Matthew, jump into Mark and then to Luke and then to John. And when you get to the end of John, the final of the four Gospels, then you've, it's up to you. Do you keep reading the rest of the New Testament, or do you go back to the beginning of Matthew? If you do the beginning of Matthew, that is still a great choice, because that is the heart of who Jesus is and what God has accomplished through His life. That's suggestion number one. Read one chapter of the Gospels every day.

Suggestion number two is this, to replace the phrase "That's confusing" with "I don't understand yet". Here is a hot take for you. The reason why most people have such a hard time reading the Bible is because they've never actually put in the work to learn how to read it. Like, they just approach the Bible and assume that it is way too hard for them to understand. So why even bother? So they don't even try. And there are some of you that may be offended right now, like, let me be clear. The Bible is not an easy book, but it's also not impossible.

And if you really wanted to learn how to read it, then maybe, just maybe, you would've like looked up a YouTube video on how to do it. Maybe you would've asked your youth pastor, or maybe, just maybe, you would've read one of the dozens of Bible plans that we have recommended to you throughout the time you have been in Switch. Here's the thing. The reason why most of us haven't put in the work to learn how to read the Bible is actually the same reason why I've never put in the work to learn how to solve a Rubik's Cube. It is because I don't care enough to put in the work. If I did, I'd go on YouTube. I'd watch all of the videos that tell me step by step how to solve it, with the algorithm, the formula, and the steps.

And so here's what I wanna encourage you to do. I want you to be honest about the fact that maybe the reason why you've had a hard time reading the Bible is that you've never put in the work to learn how to do it. So instead of just continuing to say, "It's just so confusing," take responsibility for your own lack of effort and say, "I don't understand it yet, but I'm gonna figure it out". That's suggestion number two. Replace the phrase "That's confusing," with "I don't understand yet".

Suggestion number three is this. Remember, Jesus is king, and context is everything. Remember, Jesus is king, and context is everything. There is an algorithm for solving a Rubik's Cube, and I would suggest that there is a framework for reading the Bible wisely. And this, what I just said, Jesus is king, and context is everything is like the basic fundamental way to read the Bible better. The entire Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus and teaches us how to live like Jesus. When we keep that in mind, I'm telling you, you will get more out of the Bible than ever before. And when you understand that the context, that's all of the information that gives meaning to what we're reading, is everything to understanding what it is that you are reading, you're gonna have the pieces of the puzzle you need to begin putting it together, to discover how God is using all of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly to tell a better story, to discover how God is using even the difficult parts of scripture to lead you to Jesus and to teach you how to live more like Jesus.

So those are my suggestions. Number one, read one chapter of the Gospels every day. Number two, replace the phrase "That's confusing," with "I don't understand yet". And number three, remember that Jesus is king and context is everything. A really simple suggestion that you can do to begin putting this all together is to start reading the Bible plan "How to Read the Bible 101" with your Switch group, because in that Bible plan, over the course of seven days, we are teaching you step by step, little by little the ABCs and one, two, threes of reading the Bible. So that by the end of it, you will be set up to get more out of the Bible than you ever have before, to begin to see how God is working in beautiful ways to show us His character and help us to live rightly as His people. God uses all things, the good, the bad, and the ugly to tell a better story.

What God did in the life of Jesus, what God does with the Bible is the same thing that He wants to do with you in your life, because we know that, in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. When you join your life to Jesus, your suffering is never wasted. Your pain is never ignored. God sees it. God uses it. God redeems it to bring you closer to Him, to make you more of who you are meant to be. God does not create evil, and He doesn't cause bad things, but He is so good, so loving, so wise, that He will use it for your good. So choose to join your life to Jesus and watch what He does through the parts of your life that, up until this point, maybe you were ashamed of or you regretted. I promise you that Jesus can still use it and that He wants a relationship with you.

Heavenly Father, we thank you so much that you love us enough and you are wise enough to take all of the parts of our lives that we wish weren't there and use it for good. God, I pray that every single one of us would be willing to trust that, even when we don't understand it, you are still working for our good. Help us have the courage and the discipline to begin the work of learning how to understand your Word so that we can become the kind of people who love you with all we are and love others the same way that you have loved us. We pray all these things in Jesus' name. Amen.

There's some of you right now who you're watching this message and you realize that, yeah, all that stuff about the Bible and Jesus' life sounds cool and good, but that's all it is. It has never become real for you, because you don't actually have a relationship with Him. And here's the thing, all of that stuff about the Bible is meant to bring you into a relationship with the God of the Bible. Like, God shows Himself on the pages of scripture. He showed up in history, so that you could know Him, so that you could understand how much He loves you.

And maybe that's the thing that you're missing. You're missing an actual relationship with Jesus. The good news of the gospel is that God was not willing to let us sit in the mess of our own making, that He was willing to get His hands dirty, to leave His footprints in the real sands of Judea, to invite us into a relationship with Him through His death and His resurrection. And so maybe, the next step for you is to finally put your faith in Jesus, to trust who He is and commit your life to Him. If that's what you wanna do, if you wanna learn how to follow Jesus and what that means for your life, then check out this video down here. It's gonna help you do exactly that.
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