Levi Lusko - The Treasures of Darkness
I'm telling you, you're going through it. You look down at your wheelchair. You look down at your shaking limbs. You look down at your withered body. You look down at your depleted bank account. You look down at your empty home because you don't have a spouse, and you go, oh my gosh, it's so terrible. But God reminds you, the sadness and the sorrow, the loneliness and the fear, the crippling thoughts of sadness, these things are not yours forever. But what I'm going to do in the midst of them, what I'm going to work in the midst of them, that's yours forever. That you do get to keep forever. I'm going to preach to you this morning on this subject, the treasures of darkness, the treasures of darkness. That feels a bit like an oxymoron.
Something that's darkness doesn't feel like generally a treasure, because darkness is often included on the list of things that people are scared of. I googled this week top fears. Came across an article from the Washington Post that detailed a study. And I was blown away. Yet again, the number one most common fear in our country is public speaking, and death didn't come for several more down the line. So it rings true what Jerry Seinfeld said. He said if there's a funeral happening, most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy. I'd rather be dead than having to talk in front of people. But of course, the usual suspects were there. Feel free to yelp if I get close to your general seating area, spiders, snakes, drowning, needles, blood, someone just passed out, tight spaces, sweaty palms, flying.
And then I got real confused because then there was darkness. But then it was strangers, zombies, clowns, and ghosts. But I guess fear is fear. We don't get to choose our fears; we just deal with them. But interesting is, of course the origin story. We watch Indiana Jones, we figure out in The Last Crusade how he developed his fear, his famous fear, of snakes. Because he fell in this whole train car bathtub situation full of snakes. That's how he got it. A lot of us carry fears with us as a result of something that happened when we were kids. I came across a true story of Walt Disney, who apparently his entire life had a tremendous fear of owls of all things, owls.
Apparently when he was seven years old, he was playing at his family's farm in Kansas in the backyard. And he came across a giant brown owl. And the owl was just sitting in the low branch of a tree. And Walt was standing there, and he realized the owl doesn't see me with its creepy spinning head. He can't see me yet. And so he thought to himself, I bet you I could just reach out and grab a hold of this owl. Not a great plan. Like he didn't think this through, but he was seven. And so he did. He snuck up and grabbed the hold of this owl's leg. But like the proverbial car that the dog caught and then didn't know what he was going to do with it, when he did, now he's got an owl by the foot.
And now the owl does know that Walt's there. And so of course this owl begins to beat its massive wings and kick with its free talon. And it is just going after young Walt, hammer and tongs, and so just instincts kick in, and he slams the owl on the ground and then tramples it to death, literally under his feet. This is a true story. Google it. Not while I'm preaching, but at some point, feel free. And now there is dead mangled corpse of an owl staring up at him with his beady yellow eyes. Walt said it traumatized him for the rest of his life. Some of you are going to be traumatized for the rest of your life. You're like, I wasn't afraid of owls, but now I am. It's like 20 years from now, what are your top fears? Owls.
Let me tell you about the time. It was August 20. Pastor was wearing sandals for some reason, and he was preaching this terrible story. Traded my fear of snakes for the fear of owls on that day. But apparently he would wake up middle of the night, cold sweat, terrified seeing that owl. And it actually explains some of his early work. After Steamboat Willie came his second cartoon, and it was all revolved apparently around these dancing skeletons and this terrifying, frightening owl. Apparently it was just therapy for him. He was just working out his terrors on the big screen.
And then of course as you start to think about, hold on a second. What movies did Walt actually play a role in? And many of them do have a foreboding, terrifying owl scene. Snow White, his first feature-length film, she's running scared through the woods, and there's just this owl staring her down. There's Walt like, oh my gosh. This is going to scare everybody so bad. I know it scares me. And his brother Roy apparently was told by someone early on, tell your brother to knock it off with all these scary owls. You think about Bambi and the forest fire scene, there's a scary owl. It just again, and again, and again came through. He was just having to reckon with this scary moment early on in his life.
Now, we don't all get to pick our fears, but for many of us when we were kids, there was some sense of a fear of the dark. There's just something foreboding about it, something mysterious about it. The same environment, the same house, the same view outside of your window looks different at night. Things can play tricks on you. That's why all of us, I remember as a kid, if you had to go into your bedroom for something, go brush your teeth or something, so you can come back and watch a little bit more of the movie, because your parents are smart and they won't have to try and get you to brush your teeth when you'd already fallen asleep, for me, if I had to go past a dark doorway as a child, I was jumping. Because we all know ghouls and zombies can't get us if we're airborne.
So we're leaping past them, just scared irrationally. And for me for me as a little kid, I was scared to death of Ursula. She just frightened me to no end. You're like, really, Ursula? Hey, you don't get to pick your fears, all right? Scary octopus singing and putting lipstick on, I didn't like all that. But there's something scary about the dark. And yet, we're going to read in God's word that God is able to give us treasure in dark places. This is week two in a series of messages that I've called Northern Lights. Last week, we talked about the power of scripture memorization to open up the skies in front of you, to allow God to speak to you heavenly truths, much like the Aurora borealis. But so much of what we love when it comes to stargazing, which is one of the best things about summertime, this just last week, I'm not sure if you all got to see it, but this Perseid meteor shower, it's one of the highlights for me every year of August.
And it only disappoints me when my other competing love is doing really good, the moon. And yet last week, it was amazing because the moon was in this waxing crescent phase, so it was almost a new moon, which is no moon. When there's no moon, it's a new moon. It's confusing. There's a book you can read if you want to know more about the moon. But it was wonderful because as we pass through the Perseids on our trip around the sun, yet again going through all this space debris which leads to all these, quote, unquote, "shooting stars," which are not shooting stars, they're just these little asteroids, these little comets coming through our atmosphere, burning up on entry. And just as the sun sets, you get a lot of them low and flat, streaking across the horizon. And then you get about one a minute.
It was Saturday night, Sunday night last week, and we sat out as a family just watching just this display. Ooh, ahh, just delight, just almost giddy giggling when you see one go across the sky. It's so amazing. And so in moments like that, what are you thankful for? You're thankful for dark places. You're thankful that you don't have what normally is a comfort to you. We all love that as kids, night light, that idea of safety and comfort because the light's on.
The last thing, my five, don't shut the light off in the hallway. We all are comforted by light in one sense. But in another sense, when God's taking care of something in the sky, doing something that you will be excited to see when you did that, you didn't sleep through it, it's best to be in a dark place. And that's the emotional tone I want to set as we read a few verses from Isaiah chapter 45. If you have a copy of the scripture, you can turn there because I'm going to read to you a few verses throughout this chapter. I marked it as we were reading in our Crown The Year, through the year, Bible in a year plan as a church community. And this is where the origin story of this series, the Aurora borealis, came from.
Isaiah 45 verse 3, "I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name am the God of Israel. I am the Lord, and there is no other. There is no God besides me. I will gird you, though you have not known me, that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other". How about a resume? OK, here's my resume. God says, "I form the light, and I create darkness. I make peace, and I create calamity. I, the Lord, do all these things. I have made the earth and created man on it. My hands stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded".
And then he says in verse 22, this is by the way, is the verse that was being preached on when Charles Spurgeon, the so-called Prince of preachers, was saved. "Look to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other". Is there anybody who wants to just thank God for His Word, thank God for His revelation and declaration of who He is because we can look up at the night sky and know that there is a God but as we read in His word we discover who that God is and an understanding that we discover who we are as well Some context will be helpful before I unpack hopefully for you that much like the dark sky that helps you see the aurora because you could be staring the aurora right in the face but never know it if it was daytime it's darkness that becomes a gift that allows you to see the glorious greens and blues and reds and shimmering sheet of the space that is the heavens in the night sky.
It's the night that reveals the treasure of darkness. But before we do that, let me just help you understand what you're reading in Isaiah chapter 45. This specific chapter, if you back up to the first verse, is addressed from God to someone named Cyrus. All this he's speaking is to his anointed, to Cyrus, who will later on get described as a shepherd, get described as God's servant, get described as God's agent. What's interesting about that, while Cyrus is a historical figure, he has not at the time of the writing of Isaiah chapter 45 been born yet, and he will not be a factor on the earth for about 200 years. So he's a thing. Cyrus is a real thing. You can google him later. He's a major thing in the world. And yet, as Isaiah talks about it, speaking through God's voice, he is not yet a thing.
So let's back up even further. Isaiah is writing. The year is roughly 739 BC, and Israel has just a few years left. 722 BC, Israel will be taken into captivity by the Assyrian Empire. They'll be completely taken out as God promised they would. Because the civil war had already taken place. There was a split North from South. So when you talk about Israel, you have the Northern tribes called Israel and the Southern tribes called Judah. So you see these words used interchangeably. They both are still the sons of Jacob. They both are still God's people, the descendants of Abraham. But they decided to split into two after King Solomon's reign. So the North is about to be taken out, the 10 tribes of the north by the Assyrians, 722 BC, leaving only two tribes, Judah.
Judah has these two tribes in the South, and they're just called Judah. But they also are still Israel. A little confusing, but hang with me. Israel is writing to Judah predominantly. And he's telling them about the exile that is going to happen to them just like it's about to happen to Israel. And he's both warning them about what they could be doing to avoid the consequences, but because it is nearly inevitable, he's also writing past the captivity that's about to take place where the Babylonian Empire is going to take them into captivity in Babylon. We know most famously Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are going to be among those taken captive, but a whole bunch of others, the brightest and the best of them, the strongest of them are going to be taken, leaving barely any Jewish people at all living in the Holy Land itself, the land flowing with milk and honey.
Isaiah's writing at a point where both captivities are still future. Israel hasn't been taken out yet, but he's talking about Israel's already taken out. Jacob, the two tribes in the South Judah have not been taken out yet. 586 BC almost 200 years forward is when it's actually going to happen. He's writing about it as though it's already a done deal, and he's still writing past that to the fulfillment of the prophecy that they'll be brought back. Because Moses said, hey, if you don't honor me, if you don't keep the Sabbath, if you don't trust me, you're going to be dragged away in chains. Because what it means, though, is the same. He's going to reap. But I'll still be your God there. You'll still be my people there. And if in captivity you cry out to me, I will hear your cry. I will raise up and deliver.
And I will bring you back to the promised land, and you will be there in the land flowing with milk and honey when my son Jesus comes to redeem you from your sins. This is all future, as Isaiah, the golden-tongued prophet, who wrote a 66 chapter long manifesto, that has been described as the Bible in miniature. As some of you know, the Bible has 66 books. And by the way, that's why in Isaiah 6 he said, woe is me. I'm a man of unclean lips. He was saying compared to God, even the best thing about me, my golden tongue, is undone. It looks next to nothing compared to him. And so he's writing all this, and he's describing not only that they're going to get raised up out of Babylon to return to Jerusalem, to Israel, but God actually names names and says when it's time for the process to begin for you to come back, and we know it will be under Zerubbabel, that the first attempt to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem will take place.
And Zechariah will have much to say about that famous period, and that it's not going to be might, it's not going to be by power, it's going to be by my spirit, says the Lord. Some of you are doing the right thing. You're just doing it the wrong way because you're trying to do it in your own willpower, but you've been given God's power. And everything can change when you take those two steps to the left, and you get into that grace stream, and you start to rely on the Holy Spirit, the power from on high that Jesus said you would have at your beck and call, the wind from heaven, able to come upon you and use the gifts that God tucked inside of you to do everything that God's put inside of you.
Come on, somebody's needs today just to receive the Holy Spirit and to trust in His power and to take what feels like this impossible assignment and turn it into something where you just have a certain sense of tailwind about it, where there's just a brightness in your eyes as you do what God has called you to do. So the person that God names and selects that's going to be his agent, his shepherd, his messenger, and his anointed one to do all of this is going to be someone named Cyrus, who God's going to raise up to deliver the world from the control of the Babylonian Empire, and who's going to supposedly give an authorization for Jewish people to begin the slow process of migrating back to their land of origin, back to Israel to begin working on the temple. And then of course, we know famously there will be Nehemiah coming. Because you can't just have a city with people if they're not safe.
So walls are going to have to be built and the whole deal so that by the time Christ comes, they are back indeed in the promised land. It all comes to pass, spoiler alert, as God said it would. It seemed impossible, but in 559 BC, the king in Babylon is toasting to the gods of the peoples that he overcame. And he's using God's special cups at his feast, bad plan. Because when they took over Jerusalem, they went into the Holy of Holies. They took all the vessels, all the golden vessels, all the special things that God had had Moses and the people of Israel make in the Book of Exodus. And he had taken them into his treasure house inside of Babylon. And he was having a drunken orgy and full of revelry, and he was basically saying, hey, Cheers, God. Way to go keeping your people, because look who's got your cup, famous last words.
A disembodied hand appeared on the plaster above the king's head and began writing on the wall in fire. So every time the king was like, yeah, how about the gods of the Philistines? How about the gods of the, how about the gods of the Israelites? Everyone who was jeering and laughing and clapping, all his drunk friends grew silent. He's like, what, you guys look like you've seen a ghost. And some of them just pointed. You ever have people laughing at you, you don't know why? He turns around, and the Bible says all of the muscles from here down just got loose, just got real loose. I can't prove it theologically, but I'm convinced there was a puddle. He called for all of his wise men, though. He got himself some liquid courage, got all of his wise men.
Someone's got to interpret the writing, because I don't know what it says. It's in a language I can't decipher. You know the story. You've read Daniel chapter 5. Daniel eventually comes in. He said, I got bad news, and I got worst news, king. I don't know what to tell you. And he tells him what it means. You have been weighed. You have been sorted, and what you are on the inside, your soul before God is found wanting. "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin". And he said judgment is coming tonight. This kingdom that you think is yours, it will be taken from you and given to another. The king laughed, and jeered, and had a purple robe and a gold chain put on Daniel, and he sent him away. But that very night without a single shot fired, without a battle at all, the kingdom, the Babylonians, the most powerful reign on the face of the earth had come to an end.
And Cyrus II inaugurated what history looks back on as the Medo-Persian Empire. And it will be not a Babylonian Empire that leads to Israelites coming back into the promised land. It will be a Persian one. And it will be a Persian king that Esther is married to. It will be a Persian king that gives Nehemiah one day the permission to go back. But first and foremost, it will be a Persian king who goes roughshod through all the storehouses of Babylon, finding treasure. Many of those items of worth were taken from Jerusalem. And God told them 200 years before it would happen, when you go looking through all these caves and false walls that lead to hidden rooms, you're going to find treasures in dark places.
And it will be many of those items that he gives back to the Jews bankrolling their efforts to rebuild the temple with money he took from the Babylonians. Why? He's a pagan king. He has no thought for God in his head, but God said he's my agent. He's going to do my pleasure. He's going to do everything I have sent him and anointed him and appointed him to do. So God speaks to Cyrus 200 years out and says he's going to go, his empire, they're going to go looking through these caves, these places, and they're going to find treasures of darkness, riches hidden in secret places. And you're going to know that I am the Lord who called you by name. We will leave him there for a moment, and let's begin to try and apply this, now that we understand the context to our own lives. Because darkness is not just a cave full of loot and money.
It's also a symbol for the things we face that are difficult. Dark, some of you are in a dark season right now, a dark chapter right now. You feel, I don't feel bright. I don't feel light. I don't feel buoyant. I don't feel joyful. I don't feel like skipping or singing or laughing. You feel today like you're in a dark place, a shadowy place. Some of you feel and maybe you've even used the words in the past couple of months. I just feel like there's a cloud just following me everywhere I go. I just don't feel God's favor. And it may be because of a betrayal. Maybe because someone who said they were going to stand with you bailed the moment things got difficult. And maybe because of a job that you lost, maybe because of a spouse who found someone else they liked more, it may be because of someone who is no longer living on this earth, and you loved them.
And so life without them here is challenging. It feels hard to have hope. I might be because of a sickness that you are facing or someone you love is facing. Here's the first takeaway truth from this message. Pain is a problem. We go through things that are hard. Let's not rush past that. Let's not pretend that's not true in our rush to get to Romans 8:28 and declare the goodness of God. Let's just first sit in a moment for a moment, the reality that we go through things that feel dark. Anybody at all? Painful. Where is God in this? This is hard. Let's just acknowledge we all will face hardship. In fact, 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, we do not lose heart. But why? Our outward man is perishing.
Now, there's good news at the end of the verse, but let's sit in the bad news for a second. Our outward man is perishing. You know what he's saying? You're dying. It's just happening super slow, so you can't see it. But you never stop, from the moment you're born, that movement towards the grave. Your heart gets only so many beats, so our outward man is perishing. And unless Jesus comes back in our lifetime, all of us will some way or another expire. But it's not just bodies that break down. Same thing happens to the arc of careers, and companies, and nonprofits, and being the most beautiful, and being the youngest one, and being the funniest one. And we all have to wrestle with this vapor that appears for a moment and then vanishes away that is life.
And to some degree, there's a randomness to it, or seemingly so, because of the fact that we just simply live on a fallen planet. Did not Jesus say that God makes his son to rise on the evil and on the good? That he sends Matthew 5:45, rain on the just end on the unjust. So if we use rain as a symbol of blessing, It's like, man, why do bad things happen to good people? Maybe the better question should be why do good things happen to bad people? And the reality is we just live on this planet that's broken because of sin, and so good and bad things, it's like a car that's just sputtering. And to some degree, wrong place, wrong time, right place, right time. Rain falls, and it's not always connected one to one based on, well, you must be bad. That's why that fire, that's why that hurricane, that's why this.
There's some degree to where living on a world in upheaval, it just happens. But there's another sense in which, when we choose to follow Christ, we actually invite darkness into our lives. You're like, Levi, I'm going to need an explanation for that. Well, again, I'm using darkness as a symbol for pain, darkness as a symbol for persecution, for opposition, and for trial. And Paul told Timothy all who desire to live godly lives, 2 Timothy 3:12, in Christ. Jesus, said it loud with me, will suffer persecution. Not might, not it could happen to someone named Timmy, will happen to you. You want to follow Christ. You're choosing to follow Jesus. Guess what? The world hated Jesus and crucified him. And everyone who followed after him and said, I'm going to follow him, they got persecuted too.
Every one of his original apostles except for John was going to die a martyr's death. John didn't die a martyr's death. Lucky John just got boiled in hot oil and lived to tell the tale. They got banished to a penal colony called Malta. So there are going to be hard things that we're going to face, not Malta. What's the word? Patmos. Patmos. that's exactly right. Paul got to go to Patmos, or to Malta, where he got bit by a snake. So crappy things happen when you choose to follow Jesus. is this the sermon you came to hear? It's exactly right. I Peter 4:12, Peter said this. And this is so good if you're in trial today. "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though something strange happened to you".
What's the most normal thing in the world when the wheels go off on your life? Whoa, whoa, whoa. Something strange has happened. This is not normal. This shouldn't be how it is. We feel like there's a deviation from the script that should be playing, that should be running because something strange has happened. Peter is saying, guys, everything's going according to plan. As you follow Him, hard things are going to coming your way because the enemy hates what you did. He would rather have had you stay where you were, but now you're awake. Now you're following Christ, so of course opposition is going to come.
So what should you do? You should rejoice. That is not what I was going to think of saying next to the dark thing that happened to me. I should rejoice? Yeah, rejoice when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. It doesn't feel like it's right at all, but do it anyway. It will seldom feel like the right course of action. Because what feels like the right course of action is panic, and hysteria, and in almost every survival situation the worst thing you could do. So instead, you have to take a breath. You have to take a beat. And you have to choose to rejoice even though you're having to do it in faith because it feels like there's no reason I should rejoice at all right now.
So we've established that pain comes our way simply by virtue of Living on a broken planet, having bodies that are breaking down, choosing to follow Jesus turns it up to 100. Oh, and here's this part under pain is a problem. You can do dumb things that make it even worse for you. You're like, not us. Just those in the 9:00 worship experience. No, you too. You as well, every single one of us. How do I know that? Because this whole passage where he says, hey, beloved, don't think it's weird following Jesus. Be willing to suffer persecution as a Christian. He has to add this in because he knows he's writing to knuckleheads. He says, "but let none of you", I Peter 4:15, "suffer as a murderer, as a thief, as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters".
He says it's hard enough just living on a broken planet in broken bodies. Following Jesus, that invites opposition, don't go ahead and be dumb and make it worse for you too. You are capable of bringing even more problems your way. And don't you love that God puts murder and being a busybody on the same playing field? Both of them just make life worse, so don't be killing people and don't be a dumb nosy gossip, all right? Because that's just going to make life worse and bring even more problems your way and to the way of other people. So pain is a problem. Have we established that? Secondly, pain, here's some good news, has a problem. Pain has a problem, and that problem is that like the short shelf life of your body, hear me, if you're in Christ, pain is not forever.
Oh, come on. I wish I had a church who was excited about the fact that pain is not forever. Because as I read Revelation, I read this whole thing about Jesus wiping every tear from our eyes and inaugurating an eternal state in which there is no darkness, no death, no disease, no decay, no sin, no separation, no sorrow, no cancer, no car accidents, no strokes, no dementia, no Alzheimer's, no asthma, no forest fires. Come on, there's going to be only righteousness, eternal life, abundant life, joy to the full, drinking from the rivers of pleasure. Come on. We're going to be with Christ, like Christ, in a new body, in a new heavens, in a new world.
So don't get used to your pain. Don't let it get into your identity. Don't get into, don't let it get into your story of how you see the world. What is it with this whole, a bad thing happens and I say, the story of my life? It can't be if your life is more than just your life on this earth. What about 10,000 years from now? We've got no less days to sing his praise than when we've first begun. How can something that measures only a blip on the Richter scale of our grand scheme of life? It's why it's so powerful that Paul said my citizenship is in heaven, y'all. You're a citizen here. You find your worth and value from this world? Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world.
If my true life and worth in the grand sum total of who Levi is in the length of all of forever is not just this, oh, 70 years? Oh, 84 and a half years? If that's my life, then yes. Then yes, debilitating pain and migraines that come my way, and the fact that I need asthma medication to breathe, the fact that there's going to be difficulty and I miss my daughter, if my whole life is on this earth. then yeah. Every little hiccup is going to be the sky is falling, the worst thing ever. Because my whole life got threatened when she walked out on me, when they fired me, when they didn't remember me, when they unfriended me, when they weren't there. That's my whole life. But if my life is hidden with Christ in God, then Christ who is my life is going to appear, and I'm going to appear with him in glory.
Then I'm going to live forever in a perfect place with him. Then what is a hardship that even lasts a decade? What is pain or sorrow or grief that even last 25 years? What is even if, God should allow it, 60 years of a thorn in the flesh? Paul said these trials are not even worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us. I heard a preacher one time named John Piper talk about how if you were saving up with your family for a vacation at the sea and you were going to be two weeks living in this rented house on the coast, and you were all excited about it, and then you finally got everything in the car, and you had paid for the trip in advance, and there wasn't any surprise credit card bills coming later. It was all prepaid, the Airbnb, and the money saved up for the restaurants, and all the beach chairs. You were all excited about it.
Everyone had been hyping themselves up about it. You finally get in the station wagon, and you head out. And you get a flat tire. Are you going to be like, this ruined the whole thing? You're going to be like, eh, some inconvenience. Not how we wanted to get going, but we've got two weeks on the coast. It's just not even going to make the list when you get back home. We got a flat tire. It just built the anticipation up even more. That is the worst thing you can face in this world, Christian, just a flat tire, just a speed bump on the way to glory. That's how Paul said it. He said they're just small potatoes when I consider the joys and the unbridled beauty and bliss of paradise, being with Jesus.
Paul said in Philippians, it's far better to depart and be with Christ, far better. The best, I've looked. The best description of heaven I can find in the scriptures, two words, far better. Because Paul got to go there one time. He got to go there just for the day. I told you his life was weird. Bit by a snake on Malta, and got to go to heaven one time. Many people think it was when he was stoned with rocks. I've got to clarify. It's 2023. You're like, wow, Paul did that? High on the most high only. And he got to go to heaven. And then God's like sorry, Charlie. You got to go back to the earth. And he was all bummed about it, emotional about it to.
The Philippines he's like, I would rather be in heaven, but he said it's because it's far better having seen it. And yet, I'm willing to come back to this world, and be here on purpose, and be here on mission. But my life's not here. My heart, my citizenship, my thoughts in heaven. Only my feet are presently here. And while my feet are presently here, I'm going to do as much for the kingdom of God as I possibly can. But I'm not going to be defined by this world. I'm going to enjoy the blessings of it. I'm going to be happy as the next person with a good meal, and a great trip, and a scenic view out of a hot air balloon. But that's not going to fill any emptiness in me. Only Jesus can do that. And Jesus has a plan, and Jesus has a purpose. And I get to be his son and his daughter. You know?
So the Maldives or going to Barcelona for the running of the bull, none of this. I'm not going to run around frantic for joy. That's found in Christ, and I've got a whole new world to live on forever. And in the meantime, we've got work to do. So I'm going to show up and shine a light because pain not just is a problem, pain's got a problem. Because not only is it on borrowed time, but secondly under this heading, God is going to use it in the meantime. Your pain does not get to run roughshod over your life. It gets to go here and no further. Here and no further. And we know for sure that here and no further ends at a death or being with Jesus. It does not get to join you. No inhalers in heaven. And yet in the meantime, everything God does allow to come our way by way of pain, and challenge, and difficulty, and sorrow, and grief.
God does have a plan, so that the end of the day, for the Christian, the pain accomplishes His purpose and not the pain's purpose, his purpose and not the devil's purpose. As Joseph put it, you meant this for evil. God meant it for good. Sorry, pain. You got a problem. And that problem is God's going to sovereignly use you to accomplish his purposes so that He gets glory and I get joy. My bad. Sorry, not sorry. Pain's on borrowed time, and it gets to accomplish God's purposes. What kind of treasures are in the darkness? As we find ourselves in dark places, what can we expect by way of hidden riches? I made a little list down. You should make your own as well, but I wrote down opportunity and access. Opportunity and access. Didn't Paul say when he was in prison, the things that have happened to me have turned out for the furtherance of the gospel so that I get to say now, my chains are in Christ.
Now the whole palace guard has gotten saved. They thought they were chaining Paul to the prison guards. Turns out they were chaining the prison guards to a preacher, and the preacher knew what you need to know. And that's that the word of God can't be chained. So as long as I'm here. Come on, as long as I'm getting chemo drip. Come on, as long as I'm here at the grave. Come on, as long as I'm here in the year. Come on, as long as I'm here I'm going to testify. I got good news to preach. I got light to shine. I got love to show. As long as I'm here, pain's got a problem. And that is that it opens up doors you couldn't get into otherwise. It's going to bring you places. It's going to give new volume to your life. It was CS Lewis who said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains".
Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world. How many people the world over have had their ears opened to God in times of pain? Would Paul the apostle still be breathing out threats and murder against the church had it not been for the darkness that came over him? Only after the darkness blinded him did the prayer of a saint open his eyes and he'd get baptized and begin to preach. Darkness can be a mercy. God can scream and get our attention in pain. But it's not just about Him getting louder in our lives; also we get louder in His hands.
If I believe anything, I believe that pain is a microphone. And the more it hurts, the louder you become as God uses you then to bring his kindness and goodness to a world, like Joseph who had to go through the pit and the prison all as a very strange detour so that God could get him to what he dreamed of at the beginning, the palace and a place of leadership. So you might be going through something right now, and you're like it's a problem. Because it's a problem for the pain. It's a problem for the devil. It's a problem for the enemy, who's going to be sorry he ever asked for this thing when you end up doubly blessed on the back end, twice as blessed as you went in because I'm that good, and because what the thief has taken has got to be restored seven-fold.
Come on, shout on out if you believe it's true in your life. Part of it, the problem for pain, is just that it's preparation, preparation for what's to come. AW Tozer said "it is doubtful whether God can use a man greatly until he has first wounded him deeply". There is a humility to suffering that can cause you to bow your knee to Him and to look to Him for mercy that you need for the dark days that are to come. Paul told the church of Philippi, it has been granted you to not only believe in Jesus but to suffer for His name. When the early apostles of Christ were beaten with rods and sticks and stones, Acts chapter 5 verse 41, "they went their way rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name above every name".
Oh, that we would have that perspective. Whatever you choose to allow us to face, I'm going to shoulder it with grace and in a grateful spirit. There's a whole lot other ones, but we don't have time to talk about them. But let me boil it down to this. Most of what we think will make our life better won't. And almost all of what we dread when it gets to our inbox is what, at the end of the day, we're going to look back on as the greatest thing we ever faced. Would you rather win the lottery tomorrow or get cancer? Someone just in my life, literally two weeks ago, told me I'm going to start playing lottery because my life would get so much better if I just won a big payout.
So I'm going to set aside a little. And because it's natural for us all to think winning the lottery, man, that would just be jackpot, cha-ching. Everything's better. And most of us, all of us would go, cancer would be the worst thing I could get. And yet, I was reading an article by Arthur Brooks, who pointed out that psychologists have again and again conclusively determined that winning the lottery brings no lasting satisfaction and almost always brings unbridled misery to the recipient. And he found that researchers have consistently pointed out that survivors of illness and loss experience what they describe afterwards as post-traumatic growth.
Come on, we are a culture obsessed with post-traumatic stress. How about post-traumatic growth, that it was hard, but I grew. It was hard, but then I trusted. It was hard, but then I... And he said specifically those who had to deal with cancer and survived on the back end report higher levels of happiness than demographically matched people who never had to have cancer. So what we think is going to bring us joy brings us misery. What we think is going to be the worst thing we're going to go through causes us to walk away grateful, causes us to walk away happy about every sunset, every smile, every everything that we were taking for granted beforehand.
So let's not be so quick to the draw about what's good and what's bad. If God allowed it, he's got a plan for it to become good. Come on, pain's got a problem. And that is that God's going to use it in your life. And then lastly, pain is not your problem. It might be a problem. And it might have a problem. But, ladies and gentlemen, today, for once and for all, we can let ourselves off of the hook of being the ones in control of our lives. And we can choose to say pain is not my problem. Going to need a verse for that. Saw you coming a mile out. 1 Corinthians 6:20, "for you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's".
Pain can't be your problem if you're not even your own. I can do what I want with what is mine. Problem is, I don't have anything. It was all given to me by my maker. And then when I did terrible things with it through sin and earned wrath, and He saved me, He did so with the blood of His son. And so He bought me. So I'm His time's two. I'm His because He made me. Then I'm His because He purchased me. So guess what. I'm not my own. He gets to do what he wants with what's His. And that means if He chooses to subject me to pain, to trial, to shadow, to fire, to death, to difficulty, to angels, to demons, to separation, to hardship, guess what. It's His responsibility. It's His body. It's His life. It's His spirit. All I get to do is to choose to glorify Him on the way, to choose to trust Him no matter what, to choose to believe Him. Nothing can separate me from Him because I'm not my own, and neither are you.
So all of this wasted energy trying to figure out why He allowed it, and why would He allow that, and why would He allow, because you know what? Partially maybe it's just to identify and eliminate the idols in your heart that have taken His place. Oh, you're in control? No, you're not. He's in control. And we either get with that program or miss out on the opportunity of our lives, which is to glorify Him, and trust Him, and to say like Job said, though you slay me, I will trust you. You give, you take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. If I never have another thing, if I never get another opportunity, if I don't get to take any more breaths tomorrow, today, I bless you, God. Today, I honor you, God. Today, I glorify and magnify your name, because the name of Levi, and the name of Jill, and the name of Jennie, guess what. Those get to accomplish very little. But the name of Jesus, it's the name above every other name. It's the only name that can be saved.
And that's what Cyrus, as great as he is, points us to. Why does Cyrus get called an anointed shepherd? Because Cyrus is a part or a pawn in God's plan. And 200 years out, God says I'm going to raise up an anointed shepherd to bring my people back from where they're lost at currently. Cyrus is a picture of the coming shepherd, Jesus, Jesus who would save us from our sins, Jesus who would bring us back to home, Jesus who would bring us back to heaven, Jesus who would plunder the dark places and bring treasures to us to put into our hands, His spirit, His kindness, His plan, His family, His church, His mission, His agenda, His purposes that can't be thwarted.
Jesus is what you see when you look at God prophetically speaking to Cyrus in the year 739 BC, so that when Cyrus finally gets the job in 559, and in 539, 20 years later, he defeats Babylon on the battlefield, and then says to the Jewish people, you all can go back to Jerusalem if you want, build a temple for God. And then some of the Jewish leaders, according to Josephus, showed him Isaiah chapter 45, and he gave glory to the God of Israel on the spot. Only we didn't know much of this had happened because it wasn't until the year 1859 that archeologists were working in and around, or 1879 rather, working in and around Babylon, and they discovered this. This is called Cyrus' Cylinder.
Next time you're in London, it's in the British Museum on display. And if you translate the words on it, it basically says, I, Cyrus the Great, the Medo-Persian king, destroyed the Babylonians without even a battle and became the leader of the free world. Only it's not free because I'm in control of it. Oh, and all the Jewish people can go back to Israel if they want to. Why? Because Isaiah 45 said that's exactly what would happen. 200 years before there was a Cyrus, God said there's going to be a Cyrus, and here's what's going to happen. And I just point this out to you that God, 200 years before his people even were in trouble, was already describing how the rescue operation was going to happen. This is our God.
So why are you so worried about what's going to happen next Thursday? You see, God says, I speak the end from the beginning. So to quote Jesus, "do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble". Four things to remember as we wind our time down, four things that we can do actionably on the way out to glorify God no matter what we go through, number one, remember that things are not always as they seem. Things are seldom as they seem. We will talk about that more next week. I hope you'll come back. We must not get deceived by what we're looking at. Number two, secondly, the value of what you have in your hands might not be visible, but don't let go.
What if what you were holding right now that seemed worthless to you, that made you almost feel like you were going to walk out on trusting God, what if glory and eternity would look back upon it as you were handed a rare treasure? There are two sides, as Paul said, to every chain. There's what you're chained to, but what's also chained to you. It might be more valuable than you think. Thirdly, the secret riches you discover in dark places are not just for you. God could allow you to be facing darkness today because there are riches he wants to give to someone that's not even alive yet. In Genesis 15, darkness came to Abraham one day, and God said for your children's children, I'm going to do something.
So what if God was doing something in a dark place in your life today, so that how you responded in faith, how you responded in worship could be setting things into motion for a future Cyrus? Isaiah wrote this super dope book. What was his reward? Oh, the Jewish people put him inside a hollow tree and cut him in two, history records. Cut him in half. But he was glorifying God in his body and in his soul, which he knew were God's. And he was a part of riches and treasure in dark, secret, hidden, lonely, pain-filled places that get to bless us today. Come on, Isaiah is the man. Praise God for his life, and praise God for a long sight that we're not so hasty to say, oh, it's working. Oh, it's not working. Oh, God, where are you?
God might be doing something many years from now that you will in glory get the credit for. Jesus said not one thing you give up for the kingdom of God will not be repaid back to 100-fold plus eternal life. So don't be crying for Isaiah. He's sitting pretty, bro. The riches you discover are not just for you. And then we're going to end here. The higher you go, the more you'll see. The higher you go, the higher up into the dark places you go, the more you'll see. I was thinking about that, and I'd written that down because as we follow God, it's always up a mountain. As we follow God, it's always further up, and further in. There's always more to discover, more to see.
So I was thinking about how limited we are getting to see the Aurora borealis, these Northern Lights from Earth. So I texted a friend who's an astronaut, and he texted back. I said, astronaut Shane Kimbrough, have you seen the Aurora borealis from space? And he said, oh yeah. He said, I never have seen them from Earth. But luckily in my multiple stints on the International Space Station, I saw them hundreds of times. My first mission six months long, I only saw them 10 times. But my second mission, for whatever reason, they were just popping off all over the place. In fact, he said one time I got to see them on the Aurora borealis, the North Pole, and the Aurora australis, the South Pole, happening simultaneously. Because of our orbit, we were able to see both of them at the same window. And I said, did you take any pictures? And he sent me this.
This is the Aurora borealis from the International Space Station, as he snapped it going by plain to the naked eye as it was to the camera. And another one. And lastly, the higher you go, the more there is. Come on, don't give up. Keep walking with God. Keep going. Keep trusting God. He's going to show you. You've got to get higher. Let's keep trusting Him. Let's not, let's not put God on trial every time there's some fluctuate, are you still good? Are you still there? Let's just trust Him. Come on, let's just trust. I don't even need to see. I'll just trust you, God. I'll see you when you're ready for me to see.
Now, if you weren't here last week, and we really will close with this, you're like, third close. Excellent. How does the Aurora borealis happen? It's a solar flare. It's solar storm. It's an upheaval. Coronal mass ejection is the technical description, basically nuclear reactions going off on the hottest part of the sun, so hot, unbelievably hot that million tons of plasma ejects in a second heading towards the Earth at a million miles per second, or a million miles per hour, just crazy freaking fast. And we don't even know for sure, but it would not do good things to the Earth if it hit the Earth, just that impact. But as I told you last weekend, because we have a magnetic shield, it does not hit the Earth front on.
In fact, this is a diagram I found on the Canadian Space Agency website that shows what I'm talking about. It doesn't hit the Earth; it hits a shield. It doesn't hit the Earth; it bounces off a shield. And only a little bit of the electrons and a little bit of the protons can sneak through the top and sneak through the bottom, where they interact with oxygen and nitrogen in our atmosphere, releasing photons that are either green or blue and red, depending on the interaction that's happening. But only the slightest bit of the storm gets to our Earth. The rest of it is stopped dead in its tracks by a shield. What did Jesus say to Abraham when he was afraid because of darkness? He said, "Do not be afraid, Abram, for I am your shield and your exceedingly great reward".
My assignment to you this weekend was to tell you that what was supposed to kill you is instead going to result in a dazzling display of glory in the sky, because it can't hit you if you're in Christ. He's your shield. He's your reward. He's your life and the length of your days. And because on the cross Jesus stretched out His arms, and He said to the wrath of God, do your worst, that my sin was set upon Him, that what should have killed me instead killed Jesus. And so I'm going to praise Him, and I'm going to, my entire life, give Him my breath back, and give Him my life back, and believe for these Northern Lights, God help us to trust you. Thank you for being our shield. Thank you for absorbing all of the fire, all the wrath, all of the pain.
So if anything does squeeze through, it's by design. If you allowed it, then I'm facing it. And nothing that I go through hasn't been cleared with you first. And if you cleared it, you've got a purpose for it. And I don't need to know it and understand it because one day I'm going to know it even as I know. But in between now and then, help me trust you. If this message was for you today, can I ask that you just raise a hand up? God's speaking to you today to help you to see your darkness differently, to help you to believe for some treasures in those dark places, for some hidden riches in those secret moments of fear and loneliness and anxiety.
Would you trust God today? Would you just, in a brand new way, say God, I trust you? Let it be a settled confidence in your heart today. He's sovereign. He's omniscient, and He's good. Bless these, Father, and the pain that these hands represent. Every tear has gone into your bottle, and you intend for there to be rejoicing and joy because of the sorrow. So between now and then, God, we're going to glorify you, resolutely, obstinately, stubbornly. Thank you, Jesus. You can put your hands down. Some of you today are trusting Jesus for the first time. That faith is already happening. God has already grabbed your heart, thinking about Jesus, the greater Cyrus, God's anointed shepherd and messenger and agent come to bring us back to home, back to center, back to true North.
Thank you, Jesus, for the way the magnetic field of this Earth gets interrupted when the gospel goes out. Thank you for the homing signal of heaven being heard today. We're being rescued today. Thank you that you launched this operation before we were even in danger. And today, we respond to it.
If you're here today and you're either trusting Jesus or needing to rededicate your life to him, I'm going to pray a prayer, and I want you to make this your prayer. Say it with me. God will hear you. Church family, say it with us, no one praying alone, all of us praying together:
Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner. I can't fix myself. I can't get back to you. I can't go from death to life. But because of the cross, because of the empty tomb you can. Today, I believe. I put my faith in your hands. Put your life inside me. Make my heart your home.