John Bradshaw - Three Important Steps
Thanks so much for joining me. We are going to be blessed as we open up the Bible together. I am going to share with you three steps to get you through a time of challenge. Yes, this time of challenge, but any time of challenge. Three steps. Now let's pray. Our Father in heaven, we're grateful that we can gather around the Bible together. We are grateful that while church doors are shut, Your heart is always open. The door to heaven is always open. So speak to us through Your Word. Have mercy on Your faulty human servant by speaking through Your Spirit. We pray and we thank You in Jesus' name. Amen. It started just like any Thursday would start. Men went to work.
In this situation, in most cases, the moms were at home; the kids went off to school. They went to work at an... interesting place of employment, not unusual if it's what you do, but if you're a bus driver or a doctor or if you fly a plane, this might be quite unusual. They went to work in a mine. It was August the 5th; the year was 2010. The men worked about nine hours' drive north of the capital of Chile, the city of Santiago. They worked in the Copiapó Mine. It was a copper mine. Copper and gold was mined in that area, actually. As they went to work, they descended into the heart of the earth 2,300 feet. They were five kilometers, or three miles, from the entrance to the mine.
So, they were a way on down there, 700 meters below the surface of the earth. It's a hazardous place to work. Things can go wrong. And when things go wrong, they tend to go really wrong. Well, on this day, August 5, 2010, for 33 men, things went wrong. There was a collapse in the mine. And when you're 2,300 feet below the earth, and there is a collapse, you would tend to think that things are not going to work out too well. Now, for those up on the earth, above the earth, up on the ground, what terrible news to discover that your family members, your husband, your son, your brother, or your dad, is stuck beneath the earth. And anybody who works in the mining industry is familiar with the hazards of mines. Collapses happen, sometimes explosions. Sometimes the earth moves. And very often those who are trapped under the ground don't ever come back out.
So, 33 men trapped, and maybe they would never come back out. We all have lived through experiences in our time that have lended us very little hope. And right now the earth finds itself in a very difficult situation. Now, we will say to each other, "We will get through," for a couple of reasons: 1) because that's what you say, and 2) because deep within us there is a belief that we will get through. But when the stores are closing and the restaurants are closing, businesses everywhere closing, people can't get to work; there are skeleton crews in many places; hospitals are being swamped; there's a tendency to wonder just how in the world we're going to get through. We're here together today because we couldn't get to church, because churches are not open.
That's why we're gathered here, thanks to the marvels of technology. What an interesting time. It's one thing to be sick and not be able to go to church. It's another thing to be well and to be told that you must not go to church because people have been discouraged, or even forbidden, from congregating and gathering together. We are sailing in uncharted waters. These are truly difficult times. And when I say difficult, you know what I mean. People are now unable to earn, in many cases. Some people have had their hours reduced. People have watched their nest eggs diminish in size as investments have rapidly become worth less than they were, and we're talking just days ago. Families are now cut off from each other because of travel restrictions.
Ooh, this doesn't feel good at all, does it? And I would say, and I will come back to this point, that what we are seeing playing out before us is a sign to help us understand what earth's last days are going to be like. Don't let me forget to come back to that, because it's very important. I want to give you three important steps that you must take during this crisis, and I want to talk with you about how what we're seeing today is a sign of things to come. Now, let's establish something. Our God is the God of the what? He is the God of the impossible. God does what we cannot do. God does for us what we could never do for ourselves. God surprises us, even though when He does, we shouldn't be surprised; we shouldn't.
I was just reading about, George Mueller, the great man of faith, who opened, orphans' homes in the city of Bristol in England. Mueller said that he bowed his head to pray and asked God to provide for a certain need that the orphanages had. He prayed for 36 days straight about this certain need, and then God answered the need. And he was not surprised, because God had been answering needs along the way. God works. We shouldn't be surprised, and we should be expectant. Will God see us through? Yes, He will.
Turn with me in your Bible to the book of Exodus, and we'll discover that God has seen His people through before. Exodus chapter 13 is where we will begin. And I'll kind of skip through this because the story of the Exodus is a long story, and maybe we'd be better off not reading every last word of it. But let's hit the high points. Exodus 13, verse 17. Exodus 13 and verse 17. Does God get His people through? Yes. God gets His people through. "It came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, 'Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt". Two things: God understood the frailty of the human heart, that when trouble comes, we tend to have this idea that, "Oh, it would be better off if we went back to a bad situation than struggle on our way to a good situation".
And the experience of the children of Israel demonstrated that God certainly knew what He was talking about. Now, something else: Sometimes God will lead you by a harder way because it's better for you. And we don't always understand that, but God always understands that. Notice what we read? He didn't lead them one way, even though that was a, a nearer, a shorter distance. Instead He led them another, because God understood what the people couldn't understand. My friend, let me assure you that what God is calling to us to demonstrate is faith. Let God worry about the details; He'll get you through. You don't understand why you have to go the long way and not the short way, but God understands. You don't understand why this had to happen in your experience, but God understands. You don't understand why God would let this certain thing take place in your life, but God understands, and as long as God understands, that's enough for all of us.
Let God do the understanding, and we'll do the believing. So, let's go on. "But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea", and the verse goes on to say that on went the children of Israel. "Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, 'God will surely visit you; and [you] shall carry up my bones away hence with you.'" And that was a great demonstration of faith. Right now you are here in Egypt, but God's going to get you out, Joseph said. These were bones that spoke. They spoke words of faith. Joseph, as he was dying, said, Don't bury me here. Bury me back there. "Ah, but we are trapped here. We are stuck here". "God will get you out. Don't bury me. And as long as you have my bones with me, they are preaching to you like a sermon".
Joseph believed God would get you out. And certainly now Joseph's faith, Joseph's belief was being validated and vindicated, because now they were on their way because of what God was doing. And, you know, if it was you and me, we would be saying, "We're stuck here in Egypt. God, you can get us out now. You can get us out now. We don't see any need to wait any longer". God will do it in His timing. His timing is always right. No, Christianity isn't Easy Street. No, faith in God does not mean that you avoid the troubles that come to people. But faith in God means that God will get you through, and we look to God, and we trust in God. There is a big picture. God sees it; we do not. "They took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness". Verse 21: "And the Lord went before them".
My friend, is God going before you? If you can answer that question in the affirmative, that's just about all you need to know. "The Lord went before them". If God goes before you, you're fine. "And the Lord went before them ...in a pillar of...cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people". So, notice something. God gave them evidence that He was with them. Evidence. Look at that. During the day there was something to see. In the night there was something to see. And if the children said, "What are they"? the parents would have said, the adults would have answered and said, "That's the evidence that God is with us". Evidence right there.
Now, I wonder, if you look around your life right now, do you find evidence that God is with you? Do you? Do you see absolute evidence? Now, if someone is stuck at home, self-isolating, or if someone is sick in a nursing home, in a, an assisted living facility, if someone is in a hospital, if you're in dire straits, you might say, "I don't see evidences that God is with me". Okay, now. Someone once said, "We have nothing to fear for the future, except that we forget the way the Lord has led us". So, how has God led you? If He was with you then, He's with you now. A friend of mine was doing prison ministry at a certain prison, and he sidled up alongside one guy and got talking to him. The man said, "I am not interested". "Oh, tell me why". "I'm not interested in anything to do with God. God is not with me". "Okay".
My friend didn't argue with him about the existence of God; he didn't point to the Scriptures; he didn't appeal to science. God, through my friend, spoke to the man's heart. And my friend said, "Okay, let me ask you a question. Was there ever...a time in your life that you believed God was with you? Ever? Even once"? The man thought about it; he said, "There was one time". "Tell me about it". He said, "I was driving a stolen car, and I was fleeing from the police. They were pursuing me. I was driving very fast".
Now, remember, this is an evidence of a time when God was with him. So, this could be interesting, right? "They were pursuing me. I was driving fast. I hit a bank or something, lost control of the car, the car launched into the air," he said, "and it flipped multiple times, even as it was flying through the air". Landed on its roof. Boom! Right on the road or concrete or some place. "I was concerned I was going to die. As the car was launching into the air, I cried out, 'God, save me!'" God, save me! Three words. He was not a man of faith. He was not an active Christian. No one would really call him a believer. But he cried out, and he said, "God, save me"! The car landed on the roof. Everybody who saw it happen said, "He's a dead man".
Anyone who saw that car afterwards said, "There's no way anybody could out of, could have got out of that alive". He said, "But I got out of that car and walked away, didn't even have a scratch on me. No after-effects". He said, "I think that was a time that God was with me". My friend said, "So if God was with you then, do you think He could be with you now? Do you think He saved you for a purpose? Do you think He's active in your life and cares about you"? You know, that man thought about it, and gave his heart to Jesus and became an active and powerful Christian. Not because he could see God was with him now, but because he knew and could not deny that God had been with him then.
If you're in a difficult situation right now, and most people are to some extent, if you can't see God present now, if there's no pillar of fire or pillar of cloud, although I think there might be, but if there is not, that you can discern, remember how God worked for you before. Even if you were driving a stolen car and fleeing the police, God may have worked for you then. Did God ever work for you? Yes, God worked for you! So, in your extremity or in your situation now, please, don't be wondering, don't be asking, don't be concerned that God has abandoned you. He has not. Might it be that you have to wander in the wilderness for a while? If so, it's because God sees the big picture.
And we remember Romans 8 and verse 28, which says that "all things", how many things? "All things work together for good, [for them] who love God, [and] those who are the called according to His purpose". "All things work together for good". The Bible doesn't say that all things are good. Some things are just plain terrible. Sicknesses are terrible. Death is terrible. Your extremity is often terrible, those extreme situations you find yourself in. But as somebody once said, our "extremity is God's opportunity". And God has allowed this whole sorry saga to unfold so that He ultimately will be glorified. That's why. He is not hanging you out to dry. He is not saying, "Okay, church, I want the church to be, troubled beyond measure". Instead, God is saying, "You watch. I will be glorified in this, and you will see me work in wonderful ways".
That's what God does. And so in Exodus chapter 14, God tells Moses to lead the people. And in verse 3, He says: "'For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, "They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in".'" God speaks and He says, "'[But] I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; ...I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.' And they did so". Can I share something with you? Uh, a couple of things, as a matter of fact. God says that He would be with His people, and He would be honored. He said, "I want the Egyptians to know that I'm God". That's really important. I don't want to miss those two points. "I will be honoured," and, and "honoured...upon all his hosts".
So, point number one: "This is going to work out for my glory". And point number two: "I want the Egyptians to know that I am the Lord also". I was just reading the life story of C.D. Brooks. It's a wonderful book. C.D. Brooks was a great preacher of the Word of God. Fascinating thing, he said when he went to Oakwood, what's now Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, and when he went there in 1947, the school had such a good reputation, such a good reputation. He said he raced to the bank one Friday afternoon to try to cash a check, but he saw a long line, and he realized, "I could never get this cashed before sunset". A man standing in the line noticed the "Oakwood" on his jacket. He said, "You, come on over here". And he said to the young man, to, to, to Charles Brooks, he said, "If you get in line here, you can get your business done before the sun sets".
This was in a passage in the book that talked about how Oakwood's influence in the community was so great that it spoke to the people in the community. The people knew the students and knew what they were about and, and knew that they stood for something fantastic. So here's a man waiting to do his business at the bank and, and looking at the sun falling in the sky and realizing here was a young fellow from that school where they keep the Sabbath. He would want to get into line. I know you. I know something about you. I know what you're about. Come on, take my place in line. The witness of those students spoke to the people in the community. You don't think, do you, that in this time of challenge God is not looking to His church and saying to His church, "I want you to be a witness in the community"? You don't think God's not doing that, do you?
This is an opportunity for the church to shine, for faith to be seen, for your witness to speak volumes to the people around you, because you're not fearing, because you are trusting, because your faith is intact. Even though things might be starting to pinch, your neighbors and your friends and your work associates are looking at you and saying, "This woman is not wavering". "This man still has faith". God said, "This is taking place, in part, because I want the Egyptians to know. I want to give them an opportunity". And when you are called into a place of extremity, God is working in the midst of that so that others who look on at your life are going to say, "Wow! There's something going on in that person's life. This faith business means something. This church that these people go to must be worth something, because look at how their faith is being played out in their lives".
It's time to shine. This is an opportunity to let everybody know that Israel's God is the true God. Can you say "amen"? All right, we're reading on. Exodus 14:5, "It was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, 'Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?'" What a mistake we made! "And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: ...he took six hundred chosen chariots, ...all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with [a] high hand".
Now, it's a great story, and you've told it to your children or your grandchildren, and you've read it yourself, and you've heard sermons about it, and it truly is a great story, but did you ever stop to think about how it would feel? You're carrying your possessions. You have your few animals with you. You got the little children and the elderly, and you're being pursued by the armies of the greatest monarch on the planet, and they are out to kill ya. How would that feel? Oh, what fun to walk across the Red Sea on dry land! Sure. But imagine feeling that sand squeezing up between your toes, seeing a wall of water on one side, a wall of water on the other side, this huge crowd in front of you moving slowly, and knowing that Pharaoh and his army are riding as fast as they can to catch you and do you in. This was dramatic. This was heart-in-mouth stuff. This was pulse-rate-quickening. This was "I'm sweating beads of perspiration out of anxiety" here. This was difficult.
Imagine being in that situation and asking yourself, "How much hope do we have"? The answer would have been, somewhere between little and none. Because this was a truly difficult situation. "When Pharaoh," verse 10, "drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord". That's what we're called to do in a time of difficulty: Cry out to the Lord Lord, have mercy on us! Lord, make a way of escape for us! Lord, get us through this thing! Now, "they said [to] Moses, 'Because there were no graves in Egypt, [have you] taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?'" Did you bring us out of there because there weren't graves sufficient for us back there? I'm going to die anyway. These people of no faith, difficult.
Well, as you read on, because we already know how the story ends, you discover that God did truly amazing things. Verse 23: "The Egyptians pursued, and went in after them [into] the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. ...it came to pass, ...in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot wheels, that they [drove] them heavily: so...the Egyptians said, '[Let's] flee from the face of Israel; [because] the Lord [is fighting] for them against the Egyptians.'" When the Lord told Moses, "Stretch out your hand," he did, and those great walls of water came crashing down on the armies of Pharaoh, and God's people were delivered.
God has never asked you or me to know the way out, just to know that He is the way out. When you can't get to the store to buy food, or there's nothing left on the shelves, you might not know the way out, but if you know God, then you do know the way out. You may not be certain what's going to happen in your physical situation, with your health. You might not know what's going to take place with your work situation. You don't know. You don't know how long the restrictions are going to hang around, but if you know God, then you know enough. Then you know enough. God is calling us to at least three things. We are in a really difficult situation right now. God is calling us...to hope, not hopelessness, but to hope. Isn't it wonderful to know that there is a God in heaven who is on your side? Isn't it wonderful to know that there is a God in heaven who knows what you're going through and has pledged, "I'm going to get you through this"? That's what God does. Once you lose hope, then you've lost just about everything.
Is God able? Yes, He's able. Do we see the end from the beginning? No, we don't, but we have hope anyway, because we know that God is able. If we're going to get through this thing at all, there are three steps, or there are three things, we need. First one: hope. Don't give up. Don't finally come to the place, or don't at all come to the place, where you've said, "Ah, there's no point hoping anymore. I don't see how this is going to work out". As long as God is on His throne in heaven, you can believe that God's going to get us from here to there. Imagine being somebody who was displaced after Hurricane Katrina, after some terrible earthquake. You lost your home in a fire. There's going to be a moment where you say, "I've lost everything, and I'm hopeless".
But you know, a, a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade later, you look back on that, and you say, "God was able to bring me through". It's like the hopelessness of grief. It's crushing. It's brutal. You know, you give it time, and you'll say, "Even though I suffered a great loss, God brought me through". So don't give up. Don't lose hope. God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. Even then there was 40 years of wandering, but He brought them to the promised land. My friend, do you know why you can hope? Jesus is coming back. The book of Titus in chapter 2 refers to the return of Jesus as "the blessed hope". And I hope you look around the world and say, "I'm sensing that there's not a lot of time left".
You look at the prophetic marker points that God has given us in the Bible as relates to the Second Coming of Jesus. They indicate to us that we are very, very, very near the end of all things. You can have hope: Jesus is coming back. You can have hope in "the blessed hope". You can have hope because the best is yet to come. Well, there's something else that we really must have. I want to turn with you in the Bible to Matthew chapter 8. If we're going to get through this in one piece, we need to have...faith. Let's take a moment to look at what the Bible says about real faith. If you believe that there's a God, that's not necessarily faith; that might simply be common sense. It might just be logic. Uh... If you believe that what happened in the Bible happened in the Bible, that might not necessarily be faith; that might just be, "Well, I believe".
What does real, practical, vibrant, living faith look like in our life? It's important we understand that, and so we'll go now to Matthew chapter 8. We'll just jump right over the opening story of Matthew 8, where a leper was healed. Isn't that amazing? There's so many incredible things in the Bible that to start in verse 4 means we have to leave the story of the leper who said, "If You wish, You can make me clean," and Jesus said, "I want to. Be cleansed," and He touched him, and the man was healed, just like that. What a great God! What a great Savior! Matthew chapter 8 in verse, verse 5, let's start in verse 5: "When Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came...a centurion, beseeching Him".
So now, He's not down in, Jerusalem. He's up here in Galilee at the top end of the Sea of Galilee, the little town of Capernaum; it's, it's there today. In fact, today you can even visit some of these very locations where these miraculous occurrences took place. An unbeliever came to Jesus. Why was that unbeliever able to come to Jesus? He was a centurion. He was not a Jew. He was a gentile. Because he'd seen Jesus and he'd heard of Jesus. Again, this is why it's so important in times of real trouble that we stand up and say, "God is looking to use me to be a witness. God is looking to use me to be a light so that someone can say, 'I've heard of Jesus. I've seen Jesus at work in this person's life.'" The centurion came to Jesus, begging Jesus and saying, "Lord, my servant [lies] at home sick of the palsy [paralyzed], grievously tormented".
The best doctors in the land couldn't cure this person. But he comes to Jesus, who we know to be the Great Physician. He says, "I got a servant who's in bad shape. Would You come and heal him"? Well, as a matter of fact, I, I guess I've jumped ahead to what Jesus did. He didn't say, "Would You come and heal him"? according to the text. But he says he's at home paralyzed and...terribly "tormented". Jesus said to him, verse 7: "I will come and heal him". What would you have said? Oh, great! You're the healer. I've met people that You've healed. I may even have witnessed You healing people as I stood by watching in my official capacity. "My servant is at home paralyzed, terribly ill". Jesus says, "I'll come". But the centurion says, Matthew 8:8, "Lord, [I'm] not worthy that [You should] come under my roof". Here's faith: "but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed".
Now, remember, what are we doing? Uh, three things we need to get us through this time of crisis. First one was hope. This one we're looking at is faith. And, before we're done together, we are going to look at how what we're going through now speaks directly to what's going to happen in earth's last days. The coronavirus scare is just, it's kind of like a dry run. It speaks to us of what's going to happen in earth's last days. The centurion said, "Lord, [I'm] not worthy that [You should] come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed". That's faith. He goes on to say, "I am a man under authority, [I have] soldiers under me: ...I say to this man, 'Go,' and he [goes]; ...[I say] to another, 'Come,' and he [comes]; ...[I say] to my servant, 'Do this,' and he [does] it". And "when Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and [He] said to them that followed, 'Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.'"
And then He, He rebuked the faithless Jews. He said, "Many shall come from the east and west, and [will] sit down with Abraham, ...Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there [will] be weeping and gnashing of teeth". Let me ask you a question: How's your faith? How's your faith today? No, I'm not asking, "Do you believe that there is a God"? Even the devils believe, the Bible says, and they tremble. They really believe. But that's not real faith. How's your faith? Do you believe that what the Word of God says is true? Do you believe that the Word of God will do what it says it will do for the simple fact that it says it?
This man did. I don't need You to come to my house. I just need You to say something. I have authority in certain areas, and when I give orders, those orders are carried out. So I believe that if You give the order, that order will be carried out. Don't even need You to darken my doorstep, as much as that would be an honor. I just need for You to say the word only. You just speak it, and my servant will be healed. You know, if we just believed the Word of God, that would settle so much in our lives. If God says it, it's true. If God promised it, it will take place. If God pledges something, then absolutely you can believe in that.
Now, you know, one of the problems we face is that we tend to apply the promises of God to our life in a selfish way. "Ask what you will, and it will be done to you". Great! I can have that shiny red sports car. Huh? Uh, "Pray, and whatever you pray, I'll answer in the affirmative". "Okay, I'm praying for my grandma. She's sick and dying of cancer". And if she dies, well, where was God? Of course, that's part of a bigger discussion. But what about these other assurances in the Bible that we can absolutely believe and trust? God says He's with you; He's with you. God says He'll forgive you; He'll forgive you. God says He "will never leave you nor forsake you"; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Jesus says, "I will come again [to] receive you to myself". Then He will!
Jesus is going to come back. How's your faith? "Oh, I feel like God has abandoned me". Where do you find that in the Bible? Not any place. "Oh, I don't feel like God will forgive me". Where do you find that in the Bible? God says if you confess, He will forgive. It's that simple. As we go through this real crisis at this time in earth's history, we've got to have hope, and we must have faith. Faith "that [God] is, and that He is [the] rewarder of those who diligently seek Him". Faith that God's Word is true. Faith that when God says, "Get up out of Egypt and walk across the Red Sea," that you're going to make it to the other side.
There's a story in the Bible where Jesus says to His disciples, "Let's go to the other side of the lake". They get in the boat, Jesus falls asleep, a storm comes up, and they cry out, and they say, "Master, save us! We are going to perish". And Jesus says, "Why is it that you have no faith"? Did you ever look at that and say, "That seems a bit harsh"? The reason Jesus said that is because He had already said, "We are going to the other side of the lake". So, because Jesus said that's where we're going, that's where they were going. It was just that simple. There would be no ifs, ands, or buts. There'd be no whys or wherefores.
If Jesus says we're going to the other side of the lake, then I want to tell you something: We are going to the other side of the lake. When Jesus says, "I'm coming back," He's coming back. When He says He won't leave you, He won't leave you. When He says that you can trust His Word, you can trust His Word. No, the ball doesn't always bounce well for us. Sometimes money disappears; investments tank; crimes are committed against you; people slander you. But God isn't asking you to judge His faithfulness based on what's going on in your life. Judge God's faithfulness based on what He pledges you in the Word. He said He'd be with ya, and He is. He said He'd save you, and He has, and He is continuing to extend salvation to you. He says that Jesus is coming back, and one day soon the eastern, eastern sky will split wide open, and Jesus will certainly come back.
This is a time for hope, God's going to get us through this, and for faith. Our great God is going to get us through this. His Word is certain. Jesus is truly our Redeemer and our Savior. We have every reason to be encouraged and not one good reason to be discouraged today. Well, if you would turn with me to the next chapter, Matthew chapter 9, you're going to see there's another very remarkable story. It's really a phenomenal story, and it's a story within a story. To get through this or any crisis in earth's history, we need hope and faith. And there's something else. So the story begins in verse 18 of Matthew 9. A certain ruler came to Jesus and said: My daughter's dead, but if You place Your hand upon her, "she shall live". And Jesus was on his way to the location of the dead girl when His journey was interrupted.
Let me read... Matthew 9, verse 20: "And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the hem of His garment: for she said within herself, 'If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole.'" It's what she believed. You know, when you read this... There's another rendering of this...where, the disciples say to Jesus, "What are You saying, 'Who touched me for?' Because there are people jostling against You and pressing You this way and that way. What do you mean, 'Who touched me?' How can you possibly say that?'" The Bible speaks about the crowd, as a matter of fact, let me read this.
This is in Luke 8: "Jesus said, 'Who touched me?' When all denied..., Peter and [they that were] with him said, 'Master, the multitude throng [You] and press You, and [You're saying], "Who touched me"?' ...Jesus said, 'Somebody [has] touched me,'" because I perceive that power has gone out of me. So let's get back to Matthew chapter 9. It's the shorter account. And in Matthew 9, "Jesus turned...about, and when He saw her, He said, 'Daughter, be of good comfort; [your] faith [has] made [you] whole.' And the woman was made whole from that hour".
Now, this is a wonderful demonstration of faith as well. It's a wonderful example of hope as well. But there's something else I believe is demonstrated in this story, and it's something that we want to remember...and not forget. Here was a woman who had absolutely no hope. For so long she'd been battling a very difficult medical condition. And in that moment, she said, "All I've got to do is touch the hem of His garment. That's all. That's all". What she did in that moment was she surrendered her life to God. I'm not my own; I'm Yours. I can't get through this thing, but You can. I am placing everything in Your hands. Jesus said, "Daughter, be of good comfort: [your] faith [has] made [you] whole; go in peace." Luke 8:48.
If we're going to get through this thing, and we are, what God wants us to manifest is hope... and faith... and surrender. Surrender. It's very difficult to have real faith without true surrender. In fact, I'd say it's impossible. Surrender that says, like Jesus said that fateful night, "Not my will, but Your will, be done". Surrender that says, "I can't do this my way. I want to do this Your way, because it's the only way". You see, my friend, one thing I want to encourage you is to think about where you are with God. Where are you in your standing with God? I'm not asking you if you're strong or weak. We're all weak. I'm not asking you if you're a sinner or a saint. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God".
How's your heart? You're trying to get though coronavirus? What are you doing to deal with the virus of sin? It's far more deadly than the coronavirus. Its consequences are far more brutal. In fact, they are eternal. Some people are going to get sick. Some people are going to die. But then what? What about eternity? You know, there's a virus, and so people are flocking to supermarkets and cleaning out shelves and stripping the big-box stores, and there's nothing, nothing left to buy. That's because their current situation is in jeopardy. I understand, I understand that. But isn't it something that sin means your eternal life is in jeopardy? Wouldn't it be something if people were flocking to the church? If the parking lot was full, even before the door of the church was open?
When the deacon opens up the church door, wouldn't it be something if people came flooding in, and they just ran down the front to answer an altar call that hadn't even yet been made? I want to ask you how it is with your heart. You are going to get through this coronavirus thing one way or another. But are you going to get through this world upright and ready to meet Jesus when He comes back? What we need to face earth's crisis is hope and faith and surrender, and what we need to be right with God is hope. Jesus is coming back. There is a God. Faith: God's Word is true and certain and sure, and it's the basis of my life. And surrender: Lord, take my heart and make it Yours and cleanse me of the dirt that's in my life. Give me yet another fresh start. And let's do something different now. Live Your life in me. Live Your life in me.
I just read another very good book. I read it from start to finish, just like that. Very engaging book... about a young man, who is a pastor today, and he writes in that book about his battle with addiction. And it's a, it's a little harrowing, you know, because you, you see him get to rock bottom, and then you realize, that's not rock bottom; oh, this is rock bottom. And then you realize, Oh, no, he wasn't anywhere near bottom. And then he talks about what bottom was like. Oh! He writes, that in his experience, in the experience of many addicts, it's not until you come to the place where you realize that you can't do this and that you need help outside yourself. It's not until you come to that place that you can start to get well. How is it with your heart? Because all of us are evidently addicted to sin. It's like we can't get by without it in our lives. But we must.
And it's important to allow God to take that away out of our lives and make us new, completely new. Many people are looking towards the Second Coming of Jesus without assurance. If you're a believer in God on any level, you should be the most assured person in the world. Now, the devil would like to rob you of your assurance. It's not presumptuous to say, "I have received the gift of salvation and, therefore, I am assured of everlasting life". Now, some people believe in an erroneous thing called "once saved, always saved," that says, "Well, I got saved, and now there's nothing I can do. I, I have to go to heaven no matter what". No, I don't believe that's true. You can change your mind. But if you change your mind in God's direction, you can know that you have accepted the gift of everlasting life, and the gift of salvation is truly yours. It is.
How's that working out in your life? May I ask you that? How's that working out in your life? You have assurance right now. If you don't, then that's why God has you listening to this right now. Because He wants you to have assurance. God does not need you to say, "Well, I'm just such a bad sinner that God can't possibly save me". There's nothing true about that at all. We're all terrible sinners. But by God's grace, He can and He will save us and change, change us. Through His righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus, we can have the assurance of everlasting life. God doesn't ask you to improve yourself so that you're good enough to save. He asks you for your heart, so that He can make your heart what you can't make it.
And frankly, that's just too difficult for some people. You'd rather fight against a virus and figure out, based on your wits, how you're going to navigate these challenging times. Okay. But what God is looking to us...to do is to say, "Lord, take my heart, and take it again, and take it again, and take it again, and make me into somebody who's ready for heaven because I have faith and trust in You". That's where salvation is. It's in having faith and trust in Jesus and surrendering to Him completely.
What do we need to get through this coronavirus? Hope, faith, and surrender to God's leading. What do we need to get out of this world and into the world to come? Hope: There is a God, and Jesus is coming back. Faith: The Bible is the Word of God, and I'm going to live by its teachings as Jesus lives His life in me. And then surrender: Lord, live Your life in me. Abide in me, as I abide in You. Do in me what I cannot do for myself. And then you'll see God start to change even those difficult things about your life. Someone said you ought to tithe, and you say, "Okay, that's going to take some working out, but I can do it". That's the easy part. That's easy.
What God is saying is, "I'll take away your dark temper. I'll take away your self-centeredness. I'll take away those inappropriate thoughts that you love so very much". This is God saying, "If you surrender to me, I will clean you thoroughly. I'll give you a new heart". Imagine what that would look like in your life. "I'll put my Spirit within you. I'll cause you to walk in my steps, because it's, it's me who will be living my life in you". Now, let's look forward to earth's last great crisis. We go to the book of Revelation, Revelation chapter 13, and I'm telling you today that we can see a lot of parallels between what's going on in the world now with the coronavirus upheaval and what's going to take place in the world to come.
Let me read in Revelation chapter 13, starting in verse 1: "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, ...upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. ...the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, ...his feet were as the feet of a bear, ...his mouth as the mouth of a lion: ...the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed". And here it is: "and all the world wondered after the beast". I'll read verse 4 as well. "And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, 'Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?'"
There might have been a time once when you looked at that and said, "How in the world is that ever going to be fulfilled? How would the whole world rally around an issue and know which people were not falling into line and which people were"? Oh, we know now, don't we? We know now. I was interested to read a few days ago about the man in Kentucky who wouldn't self-isolate, and so they, they guarded him. They had armed guards outside his house, keeping him in the house so that he wouldn't get out and infect anybody. Man, that's something, isn't it? Again, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I'm simply saying that this is somebody who doesn't want to go along with society's program. And they identified him very quickly, and they shut him down.
Isn't that something? Can we see now how the whole world can coalesce around an issue? How the focus of the world can be on an issue? By the way, and I hope you'll understand the way I say this; I fear that some might not, but the issue that we're dealing with right now is simply people getting sick. Okay, people getting sick and dying. People getting an illness, which, for the most part, will be successfully treated, but, of course, tragically, there'll be a good number of people who will not be successfully treated. But imagine in the last days of the earth, when there's pandemonium, we cannot know by reading in the Bible exactly what it's going to look like, but imagine if there's natural disaster after natural disaster, upheaval after upheaval.
Imagine if the entire world, economically, militarily, socially, physically was just in absolute chaos and upheaval. What a time that's going to be like! The Bible says that people will not be able to buy and sell in that time. Surely, you don't need any convincing to help you to understand that that can take place. What I believe in my heart is that God is giving His people the opportunity to say, "You know what? If I could have done something about it, I'd have been fit and healthy during this time of trouble, the coronavirus time". So now we look to the future, and we say, "I need to look after myself". Not that your finances are going to deliver you then, but today people who are in debt and overextended; they are struggling.
What if somebody loses a job? What are you going to do then? And now you might like to say, "What should my situation be like down there in the end of time? Do I need to be in debt? Maybe I don't need to own the latest stuff and the biggest stuff, or maybe I don't need to overextend myself". No, you don't. We all should be taking care of our health then, ought to be taking care of our health in preparation for what's going to come in earth's last days. And if you look at yourself now, and you say, "My faith is shaky". If you look at yourself now, and you say, "My faith is shaky," well, you know what God is inviting you to do: to have strong faith, solid faith, so that in earth's final days, during "a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation," you'll be able to say, "Even though I might not be able to see my way through this, I trust in God".
My friend, there is coming a time of trouble "such as never was since there was a nation". We are getting very close to the return of Jesus. Undoubtedly there'll be another one. You know, you just go back through SARS and Ebola and swine flu and avian flu and MERS and all of these things, which over the last few years have stacked up on top of each other. Once coronavirus is gone, we would be naïve to think that there won't be another challenge like this. Naïve. What are you doing to prepare yourself for that time? Hope: God can get me through. Faith: God's Word is God's Word, and, therefore, it's my guide for life. And surrender: I'm reaching out to Him, believing He can make me whole, believing He can bring spiritual healing into my life.
And I want to live His way and not my way. We don't have much time left on this earth, and I don't say that as a matter of panic; I say that as a matter of hope. Thank God, we don't have much time left here on Planet Earth. We are rushing towards earth's final days, and God is trying to get our attention. "Let your faith be in me". Live a sensible life. Let the most important things truly be the most important things. Value what should be valued. Don't waste your time on that which is of no consequence. Imagine being 2,300 feet below the surface of the earth, 700 meters. Imagine that. That's like a couple of Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other; that's how deep in the earth they were. And those men down there never lost hope.
My friend, Robert Costa, from It Is Written, traveled there and recorded a television program there. Spoke to some of the people involved, he's met some of the people involved, in fact, has one of the Bibles that was sent down to encourage the 33 miners down there in the heart of the earth. And as they were down there, they prayed, and they wondered, and they...doubted, and then realized they just had to believe that somebody was going to... get them out of there. The mining company would send down a probe. They, they, they constructed these exploratory bore holes. They'd send down a bit and then pull it back up. All the way down there.
And one day, 17 days in, that bit came back up from deep in the earth, and there was a note attached to it. And it said, "Estamos bien en el refugio, los treinta tres". "We are well in the shelter, the 33 [of us]". They didn't lose hope; their faith was intact. All they could do was surrender to what was going on up above. "Save us; we cannot save ourselves". Those 33 men came through. You'll come through. We'll come through. Because God gets us through. Let's remember: hope, faith, and surrender, and know that God truly will deliver us. Let's pray.
Our Father, we thank You for the certainty of the return of Jesus. We thank You for the blessedness of the blessed hope. We thank You that You're with us now. Don't let our hope or our faith or our surrender waver. Give us assurance of salvation.
Friend, in this moment, if you're not certain of where you are with Jesus, would you pray a little prayer with me that says, "Lord, take my heart; make it Yours". Would you pray that prayer with me?
Lord, take my heart; make it Yours. I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. Amen.