Robert Jeffress - Healing Words For Hurting Hearts
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. When a sudden tragedy shatters our world, it's only natural to wonder why? Why would God allow this terrible thing to happen? It's an honest question, one that many of our heroes in the Bible have asked as well. So today I'm going to share with you three insights that will guide you when you're going through seasons of suffering. My message is titled "Healing Words for Hurting Hearts", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In September of 2007, a Nebraska senator named Ernie Chambers filed a lawsuit against God, seeking a permanent injunction against the Almighty to prevent him from acts of violence, such as earthquakes, and famines, and tornadoes. This week, a federal judge, judge Marion Polk threw out the lawsuit against the Almighty on this basis. The judge said, "You cannot sue God because you can't serve papers on him". Now I doubt few of us would have the courage to sue God for things we disagree with. But the truth is many of us secretly harbor questions about the Almighty actions, especially when it comes to suffering and evil in the world. Perhaps the greatest quandary of the Christian faith is this. If there really is a God who is loving, and good, why does he allow suffering, and evil in the world?
And last time we begin to tackle that thorny issue of reconciling God with the suffering in the world today, it's a politically incorrect statement to say, but as we saw the scripture says it nevertheless, and that is that God is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in his universe, even suffering. And we're not saying that God is the instigator of evil, God is not the author of evil, but we are saying that God claims responsibility for everything that happens in his creation. And last time we looked at the first evidence for that truth in the Bible, and I put it on your outline again, jot it down, we said, first of all, the Bible teaches that in fact, God is in control of all of his creation. God is in control of all his creation.
In Psalm 103:19, the Psalmist said, "For the Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his sovereignty rules over all". That's perhaps the best illustration in the Bible of what the sovereignty of God means. For God to be sovereign means he rules over everything in his creation. The Psalmist is saying God is in control of all of the angels in heaven. He's in control of the demons under the earth. He is in control of Satan. He is in control of every human being whom he's ever created. He's in control of nature. He's in control of circumstances. For God to be sovereign means he rules over all his creation, do you believe that? It's what the scripture teaches.
Listen to what God himself said in Isaiah 45:6-7. I am the Lord and there is no other, the one forming light and creating darkness, causing wellbeing and creating calamity, I am the Lord who does all of this. There's a second truth about God revealed in scripture that we need to understand, and that is God is good, not evil. He is good, not evil. The Bible reveals that God is a good God, not an evil God. Listen to Psalm 103:8. Now the Psalmist said, "For the Lord is compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness". Or Psalm 107:1, oh, give thanks to the Lord for he is what? He's good. For his loving kindness is everlasting. Or 1 John 4:8. "The one who does not love, does not know God, for God is", what? Love.
The God who is in control of everything in the world. The God who is in control of every circumstance in your life is a good, and a loving God, the scripture says. And yet if that's true, how do we reconcile a good and loving God with the evil that is in the world? And that leads to a third insight in scripture, and that is that much of the suffering in the world today is self-inflicted. Much of the suffering that we experience in the world is self-inflicted. Indeed much of the evil in the world is because of choices we make, think about it. As we read about these brutal crimes in the newspaper committed against men, women, and children. As we read of other atrocities like genocide, and other things that happen in the world today, are we really wanting to lay all of those at the feet of the Almighty? The fact is much of the evil that is in the world today. Much of the evil we experience is either because of what other people do to us, or what we do to ourselves.
Philip Garnsey writes, "The Bible traces the entrance of suffering and evil into the world to a grand, but terrible quality of human beings, freedom". Suffering is the price we continue to pay for the freedom to choose between good and evil. Sometimes our wrong choices result in God's very direct judgment against us, just as he promises, for whom the Lord loves he disciplines. Remember what God said to the Israelite before they entered the Promise Land in Deuteronomy 28:15, he gave them this warning, he said, "If you will not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all of his commandments and his statutes which I charge you today, all of these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you".
In other words, if you don't do what I command you to do, then I'm going to judge you. And he lists the judgements, everything from plagues, to incurable fevers. And God does that as well to us, not because he hates us, but the Word of God says for whom the Lord loves he disciplines. Much of the suffering we experience is a direct result of our disobedience to God. And again, it's not politically correct to say suffering is the result of sin, people want to look at the example of job and see, well, look at job, he suffered all of these things and none of those things was his fault, and that's true. But we would be wrong to extrapolate job's experience, to be our experience and say, therefore, sin is never the result of suffering. The fact is some suffering isn't the result of sin, much suffering is the result of sin.
CS Lewis said when he considered the darkness of his own heart he said, the question changes to, or from not why do I suffer, but to why don't I suffer more? The Bible says much of the suffering we experience is self- inflicted. Nevertheless, the Bible does also indicate that some of the problems we suffer are not the result of our own sin. Sometimes things enter our life that are not a part of our wrong choices, and we ask the question, why would God allow these evil things, these hard things, to come into our lives? And that leads to a fourth insight from God's word. God uses short term suffering to accomplish long-term good. God is able to use short-term suffering to accomplish long-term good.
There's a famous analogy and Philosophy that's used to explain how suffering many times is simply a case of perspective. The analogy goes like this, a hunter goes into the woods, and he sees a bear that is caught in a bear trap. Obviously the bear is hurting and the hunter desires to release him from the bear trap. But as the hunter approaches the bear, the bear has no idea what the hunter is doing, and convinced that the hunter is trying to kill him, he growls and tries to keep him away. But the hunter doesn't give up, he sympathizes with the bear's plight. And so he shoots him with a dart filled with drugs, to put the bear out.
When the bear feels these darts hitting him, he is convinced now that the hunter is trying to harm him. As the hunter approaches, the bear in his semi drugged state watches as the hunter takes his paw, and actually pushes it further into the bear trap, trying to release the tension of the spring in order to remove the paw. As the hunter pushes that paw further into the bear trap increasing the pain, the bear is now convinced that the hunter is up to no good. Because you see the problem is the bear has judged the situation prematurely. If he would wait just a little longer, he would understand what the hunter is up to. The same thing is true in our relationship with God, every dart of adversity we feel, every push of a hundred deeper into the jaws of suffering convinces us that God is up to no good in our life.
The problem is we're judging God prematurely. If we would simply wait, we would understand what God is up to in our lives. You see suffering's a matter of perspective, what can we cling to when we're going through this time of suffering? First of all, write it down on your outline, we need to understand that God's purpose for our life is good. God's purpose for our life is good. When we don't understand what the hunter is up to, we can still clinging to the truth that God's purpose for our life is good. Turn over to Romans chapter eight for a moment. Romans 8, I want us to look at probably the most familiar passage in the New Testament next to John 3:16. You can probably quote it by heart, Romans 8: 28. It says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose".
You know, I've heard people try to explain this verse before, and they said, well, what this verse means is there is a silver lining in every cloud, or no matter how terrible the situation, look hard enough, and you'll see some good in it. That is not what Paul is saying here. There is not a silver lining in every cloud. There are some circumstances that happen to you that have absolutely zero good in them whatsoever, they are completely evil. But what God is saying here is that somehow God is able to work all of those things, not only the good things, but the terrible things in your life, he is able to work them together for good.
Now the key word to understand here is the word good. What is the good that God is causing all things to work together for? Well, let me tell you what the good is not. The good is not a satisfying marriage. The good is not a disease free life. The good is not a full bank account. No, all things are working together for this good purpose explained in verse 29, "For whom God for knew, he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the first born among many brethren".
Listen to me ladies and gentlemen, God is working your life together for one purpose, and that is, he is using every circumstance to Hammer you, to chisel you, to mold you, to become just like his son, Jesus Christ. That's the good that all things are working together for. He is working to make you just like Jesus Christ so that you become someone who resembles Jesus in the way you think, the way you react, the way you talk, the things you love, and that leads to the second truth. God's purpose for our life requires some discomfort. God's purpose for our life is good to make us like Christ, but that means God's purpose for our life requires some hammering, it requires some discomfort. But there's a third insight about suffering, and that is that God's purpose for your life will be ultimately realized. God's purpose for your life will be ultimately realized.
That is there is a day coming when the Hammerings going to stop. There will be a day when the renovation project is completed, and then you will be able to rejoice when you see the finished project in your life. By the way, when will that day be? When is it that the hammering will finally stop? Philippians 1:6 says, "Being confident of this very thing that he who began the good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus". Not until we see Christ face to face, not till we're on the other side in his presence, will we be able to look back, and see how God caused all things to work together for good. But until that time, we need to understand fifth, that suffering is beyond our comprehension. Suffering is beyond our comprehension. We can't understand many of the things we're going through right now, and that's why it is so important we don't try to offer pat answers to people about the suffering.
Well, the reason you're going through this is because God is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We can't make that explanation. We can't answer for God. Much of the suffering we experience is beyond our comprehension. Right now you are going through some things in your life, and you're asking the why question. If God is really there and he loves me, why is he allowing me to go through this experience? Although God may not answer the why question, he does give us some truths we can hang on to when we're going through suffering in our life.
Let me share with you three insights you can share with other people, or you can clinging to yourself when you're going through this time of inexplicable suffering. First of all, God is in control of every circumstance in my life. Say that with me, "God is in control of every circumstance in my life". Now, whenever you say that to people, they'll try to challenge you by picking the most horrendous headlines they can from the newspaper to challenge that belief, you really believe that? Well, what about the torture, and murder of a little child? What about the genocide of an entire nation? What about famines and earthquakes? How can you say a good and loving God is in control of every circumstance? And if you ever have difficulty with that, let me show you the answer to that in scripture.
Turn to Acts chapter two for just a moment. Acts 2:23. Peter was preaching at Pentecost just a few weeks after Christ had been crucified, he was preaching to the very people who had crucified the Lord a few weeks earlier. And look what Peter had to say about the crucifixion of Christ. Acts 2:23. Peter said, "This man Jesus was delivered up by the predetermined plan, and foreknowledge of God you nailed to a cross by the hands of Godless men, and you put him to death".
Who was responsible for nailing Christ to the cross? Well, it was the Godless people of Jerusalem, but notice he says it all happened according to the predetermined plan of God. Not just the knowledge ahead of time that it was going to happen, it was by the plan of God himself that Jesus was crucified. In fact, turn over a couple of pages to Acts four beginning with verse 27, where God takes even greater responsibility. Peter is saying Acts 4:27, "For truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus whom thou hast anoint both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy purpose predestined to occur".
Again, who was responsible for the crucifixion of Christ? Yes, it was Pilate, and Herod, and the men of Israel, but ultimately those people were simply pawns in the hand of God, to do what he had predetermined would happen to his own son. Now listen to me, if God is willing to take responsibility for the torture and murder of his own son, he is willing to take responsibility for the suffering in your life right now. He says, I'm in control, I know what I'm doing even though right now at this point in time you may not understand it. It leads to a second truth. Not only is God in control of every circumstance in my life, but God understands my suffering.
God understands, and he empathizes with my suffering. The fact that God took on human flesh, and came to earth means he understands what we're going through. Jesus Christ understands what it's like to be misunderstood by your family. He understands what it's like to be betrayed by your closest friends. He knows what it's like to stand over the open grave of the person you loved most in the world. He understands it because he experienced it himself. And Jesus says to us, even though I plan these events in your life, and even though I know the outcome that it's going to be a good outcome, I still weep when you weep, I hurt when you hurt.
I'm like, well, how is that possible? If Jesus really knows the outcome of what's going to happen to us, how can he empathize with us? You see folks knowing the outcome doesn't necessarily remove the hurt. And Jesus says, I know the outcome of what's happening to you. I know how the plan is working together for a great eternal good, but I still hurt with you, I understand. And that's why the writer of Hebrew says in Hebrews four, "For we do not have a high priest who can't sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tested in all points as we are, yet without sin. Let us come boldly before the throne of grace that we might receive mercy, and find grace to help in our time of need".
Finally, and most importantly, God has not yet revealed the final chapter of our story. When you're going through this time of suffering remember God has not yet revealed the final chapter of your story. You know, had Jesus's story ended on that Good Friday afternoon at 3:00 pm, his life truly would've been a great tragedy. For 33 years Jesus had dedicated himself to sharing with people the goodness, the mercy of God. And had Jesus life ended on Friday afternoon at three o'clock, as he suffocated the death on the cross, then it means Jesus life was worthless, but you know the story doesn't end there, does it? 48 hours later on that first Easter Sunday morning, God reached down, and he released his son from the jaws of death, and suddenly the whole world understood what the hunter was up to.
A great tragedy had been turned into a great triumph. What 48 hours earlier had been seen as the greatest evil of all time from the vantage point of an empty tomb, is now labeled as eternal good. The same is true for you. There's some of you right now who are going through a very difficult time in your life. Right now you're asking yourself, God, why are you allowing this to happen? Why would you allow me to lose everything I had? Why would you allow this relationship to end? Why is it that you would take this husband, or wife, or child from me in death? God, where are you when I need you the most? Listen to me, the final chapter of your life has not yet been revealed. As Tony Campolo says, "It may feel like Friday to you, but Sunday's coming". Sunday's coming.