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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - God's Thundering Silence

Robert Jeffress - God's Thundering Silence

Robert Jeffress - God's Thundering Silence
TOPICS: Discovering God's Will, God's Voice

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Is there anything more frustrating than calling up a company only to be met with a maze of never ending menu options? It's easy to lose patience waiting for a real person to answer. Today I'm going to share how to respond when it feels like you can't get through to God. We know that God can hear our prayers, so sometimes why doesn't he respond? My message is titled "God's Thundering Silence", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Have you ever wondered why it is that if there really is a God in heaven who desires that the whole world know him, why is it that God doesn't reveal himself through an audible voice, or why doesn't he reveal himself through supernatural signs so that everybody in the world would know he exists? Have you ever wondered why it is that if God is really there, why doesn't he answer our prayer requests with a definite yes or a definite no instead of an ambiguous silence many times subject to misinterpretation? Have you ever wondered if there really is a God in heaven, why doesn't he answer your request for guidance in a decision you're confronting? Why doesn't he tell you what to do when you really want to know what he wants you to do instead of allowing you to flounder around in a fog of uncertainty?

By the way, if you've ever wrestled with those questions before, you're not alone. Throughout the centuries, men and women of faith have wrestled with what theologians call the hiddenness of God, what I like to call God's thundering silence. Think for example of Noah. God told Noah and his family to enter into an ark. He was going to destroy the world with a flood, but think about it. From the time that God told Noah to enter into the ark until the time Noah left the ark, more than a year elapsed during which time there is no record that God ever spoke to Noah.

Think what it must have been like for Noah and his family. For 382 days, they bobbed upon the water listening to the terrifying screams of men, women, and children on the outside drowning to death, begging for help, and those terror filled screams were followed by an eerie silence. I imagine Noah and his family were frightened. I imagine they called out to God, "God, where are you? Are you still there? Have you forgotten about us"? But God answered with a stony silence.

Or think about Abraham. When Abraham was 75, God said, "Abraham, I'm going to make you the father of a great nation". And yet more than a decade passed, and there was no word from God. Finally, Abraham and Sarah decided to take matters into their own hands. Perhaps they had heard one of those sermons. God has no hands but our hands and no feet but our feet, so they decided we need to help God fulfill his promise, and so they concocted this plan to make Abraham a father. They provided a night for Abraham with Hagar, the handmaiden, a night of forbidden pleasure that would've made eliot spitzer blush. After that night of passion, Hagar conceived a child, and the Bible says in Genesis chapter 16, "Now Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael". Genesis 16:16, "Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him".

Now between Genesis 16:16 and the next verse, which is Genesis 17:1, there's just some white space in your Bible, but in that white space 13 years elapsed, because Genesis 17:1 says, "Now when Abraham was 99 years old, the Lord again appeared to him". Think about that. 13 years during which God said nothing to Abraham. I'm sure Abraham had all of these questions. "God, why did you uproot me from my homeland to be the father of a great nation and yet no promise? God, why don't you do something to help me, and to mend this fractured marriage"? Yet nothing from God?

Now, think about David. David's an interesting character. David had a lot of ups and downs, an erratic personality, if you will. There were times that he was on the spiritual mountaintop, and some of the Psalms that he penned reflect that. In Psalm 34, he was feeling especially good about his relationship with God. Listen to his words in Psalm 34, "I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall be continually on my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord. The humble shall hear it and rejoice. Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together. For I sought the Lord and he answered me, and he delivered me from all of my fears".

During that period, in David's time, all he would have to do is ask God to do something. God would answer dramatically and immediately. That was one time in David's life, but David also suffered great lows, great times of melancholy in his relationship with God. Psalm 22, David said, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. Oh my God, I cry by day, but thou does not answer, and by night I have no rest". "When I need you the most," David said, "You refuse to answer me. Why have you forsaken me"?

By the way, if those words sound familiar to you, those are the very words that Jesus Christ himself would utter from the cross 900 years after David wrote these words. Think about it. Jesus Christ had obeyed God perfectly. He had never sinned once. He had totally submitted himself to God's will for his life, and yet on that Good Friday, Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"?

We have heard those words so frequently they've lost their impact to us. Think about it. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, spent the last hour of his earthly life expressing great discouragement, great dismay, great disappointment with God. Maybe if you're honest, that's your experience too. You're disappointed with God for the way he has refused to act in your life. You desperately desire God to intervene in some crisis that you're facing right now, perhaps with your health, or with a relationship, or with one of your children. You cry out to God for God's help, or maybe you're desperately seeking God's guidance in your life about a decision. You want to know his will, and yet God meets your request for help, your request for guidance with that eerie silence.

"God, why don't you answer my requests"? Why is it that we experience God's thundering silence in our life? As I look through the scriptures, I discover that there are at least four reasons the Bible gives us for his silence in our life. First of all, the Bible says one reason for God's silence may be unconfessed sin in our life, unconfessed sin. Now, hear me, this isn't the only reason, but it is a major reason sometimes for God's silence, our unconfessed sin. Listen Isaiah 59:2, God says, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that God does not," what? "Hear".

Your sin is a barrier between you and God. By the way, we use that verse in evangelism that there's a separation between God and us, and that Christ bridges that separation. That's fine to do, but will you note that that verse was not written to unbelievers, it was written to God's own people, the Israelites. God said to the Israelites, "Even though you belong to me, your sin is a separation. Your disobedience has formed this chasm between you and me so that I cannot hear your prayers".

Or Psalm 66:18, David said, "If I regard, if I allow wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not," what? "Hear". If I allow any area of sin in my life, God will not hear my prayer. Or I gave the woman this verse from 1 Peter 3:12, "For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is," what? "Against those who do evil". The scripture is very clear. Sin in our life is a barrier between us and God. It keeps God from hearing or answering our prayers.

The late Norman Vincent Peale told the story about the time he was small and he decided while his father was away that he would engage in some forbidden behavior. He would smoke a cigar. His dad had always forbidden him to ever smoke a cigar, so Peale said he went out behind the house, and he lit up a cigar and was smoking it away, when, to his horror, he saw his father approaching him. Not knowing what to do, Peale said he just took the cigar, and he placed it behind his back, and when his dad got closer, he said, "Dad, look at that billboard over there. See that billboard talking about the circus coming to town? Do you think you could take me to the circus"? And Peale's father looked down at him and said, "Son, I learned a long time ago, never petition your father while holding smoldering disobedience in your hands".

There's a good spiritual principle to that. Don't be asking your Heavenly Father for something while you're holding on to disobedience. Maybe right now there's some area of your life in which you're being disobedient to God. Perhaps for some of you it's an immoral relationship. It may be a premarital affair you're involved in, an extramarital affair, something you know is wrong. Perhaps there is some secret sin in your life that is destroying your life. Perhaps it's bitterness you have in your heart toward another Christian, perhaps even somebody in this fellowship of believers, maybe somebody in your family. Perhaps you have allowed unbridled greed and ambition to replace God's rightful place in your life. It's that sin, that sin that is responsible for God's silence in your life.

"If I regard iniquity in my heart," the Bible says, "The Lord will not hear me". A second reason for God's silence can be what I call uncontrolled emotions, uncontrolled emotions. If, like me, you have a house filled with girls, you probably know that the care and tending to of hair is a full-time occupation, washing it, blow drying it, teasing it, doing all kinds of things, so it takes a lot of time to take care of hair. I remember when our girls were very small, my job on Saturday night after their bath would be to blow dry their hair for them as we'd sit on the sofa and watch some television program, so I'd be blow drying the hair, but invariably, the whirring blow dryer would drown out the sound coming from the television set, so I'd always reach for my trusty remote control, which was never far from me, and I'd crank up the volume to overcome the blow dryer.

Now, why would I do that? Is it because no sound was emanating from the television set? No, no. There was voices coming from that television set. It wasn't that there were no voices coming. It was that the proximity of the hairdryer, that other sound, was drowning out the voice coming from the set, and it's the same way with God's voice in our life. Many times God is speaking to us, but we can't hear him because there is another sound drowning out his voice and perhaps of all of the emotions close to us that overshadow God's voice in our life, none is more potent than the emotion of fear. Fear has a way of deafening, silencing the voice of God in our life.

Ladies and gentlemen, whenever you are overcome by the emotion of fear, Paul said, "We need to hold up the shield of faith by which we will be able to extinguish the arrows of the evil one". What is the shield of faith God gives us? It is God himself, a faith in God, the assurance that God is not going to allow anyone or anything to come into our life that is not a part of his perfect plan for us, a plan designed for our good and for his glory. There's a third reason sometimes God is silent, and that is what I call unpredictable timing. That is the reason God doesn't answer is because he's not ready to answer yet, that is he has something else he is doing that is beyond our comprehension.

Great illustration of that is found in John chapter 11. Turn over to John chapter 11 for a moment. This is the familiar story of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Remember Mary and Martha, two sisters, their brother Lazarus. They were Jesus' closest friends here on earth. Wouldn't it be neat to be known as Jesus' best friends? These were Jesus' very best friends here on the earth. And that's why when Lazarus, the brother became ill, it was only natural for Mary and Martha to send word to Jesus and say, "Jesus, your best friend, the one whom you love, Lazarus, is sick. Please come and heal him". Natural request, but their request was met with silence.

Look at verse five. "Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. When therefore Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed then two days longer in the place where he was". Instead of coming and healing Lazarus, Jesus stayed there and waited until Lazarus died, and yet he was Lazarus' best friend. You almost have to think with friends like Jesus, who needs any enemies? Why in the world would he do that? Why would he allow Lazarus to die instead of answering the request for healing? Verse 20, when Jesus finally got around to go into Bethany to visit Mary and Martha and their dead brother, Martha was ready to let him have a piece of her mind.

By the way, I have to say, just confess to you, I like Martha. I know you're supposed to like Mary better, but I like Martha. You know all this have a Mary heart in a Martha world, and all that. I like Martha. The reason I like Martha is she was willing to ask Jesus the hard questions, and she wasn't timid, and so she runs out to meet the Lord and she said, "Lord, if you had only been here, our brother, Lazarus would still be alive. Why did you wait? Why did you delay"?

See, the reason was Jesus and Martha had two different goals, and therefore two different timetables. Martha's goal was immediate healing for her brother, Lazarus. Jesus' goal was ultimate resurrection, not only for Lazarus, but for everyone who would believe on him. You see, Jesus had a plan. His plan including allowing Lazarus to die so that a few days later, Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead as proof to anyone who would trust in him that he was capable of performing resurrection. Two different goals and therefore two different timetables.

And think about Moses. Remember Moses, from the time he was small, God had said to Moses that he was going to be the great liberator of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Moses felt like that was his calling in life, his life work, if you will, grew up, nothing while he was a teenager, nothing in his twenties, nothing in his thirties. Finally, about the time he was 40, Acts seven says, he had a midlife crisis. He decided, I'm not getting any younger, and if I'm going to be the liberator of Israel, I better take matters into my own hands. You know the story. He saw this fight going on between an Egyptian soldier and one of the Israelites, and he decided to intervene and he killed the Egyptian soldier thinking the Israelites would rally behind him and that would begin the revolution.

Didn't quite work out that way, did it? Instead, the Israelites didn't follow after him. Moses spent the next 40 years in exile running from Pharaoh, doing nothing but tending the sheep in the wilderness. I imagine it was during those 40 years that Moses had some hard questions for God. "God, have you forgotten about me? Have you forgotten the role to which you've called me? What about your promise that I would be the liberator of Israel"? No record that God said anything to Moses during those 40 years. Why didn't he answer Moses? It's because Moses and God had a different timetable.

See, God hadn't forgotten about Moses. He knew exactly where Moses was, but God had something he was doing over here in Egypt that Moses was completely unaware of. It was time for a change of Pharaohs, and God was going to bring that about before he ever accomplished his purpose with Moses, and that's why Exodus 2:23-24 it says, "Now, it came about in the course of many days". Months and years. "It came in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died and the sons of Israel sighed because of their bondage, so God heard their groanings".

There's a fourth reason that sometimes God is silent in our life, that God makes us wait, and that's because of an undeveloped faith, an undeveloped faith. Ben Patterson says that, "What God does in us while we are waiting is sometimes more important than that which we're waiting for". See, so many times we think that waiting is something we just endure until God gives us what we want, but it's in the waiting that we become the kind of person God wants us to become.

Soren Kierkegaard says that "We Christians are like school children that want to go to the back of the book and look up the math answers instead of working through the problems ourselves". But we all know that the learning comes, not from in getting the answers, but going through the process, the struggle of arriving at the right answer, and it's the same way in God's dealing with us.

In his book, "Sabbatical Journeys", Henri Nouwen tells about a family he visited once. They were a family of trapeze artists that called themselves the flying Rodleighs, and they were visiting with Henri Nouwen, and they were talking about the trapeze act, and that crucial relationship that exists between the flyer, that's the person that lets go of the trapeze bar, and the catcher, the one that catches the person that has let go of the trapeze bar, and they said, "There comes that crucial time in a trapeze act when the flyer lets go of the bar. He arcs out into space, and then he waits for the catcher to catch him".

They said to Nouwen, "The flyer must never try to catch the catcher. Instead, he must wait in stillness for the catcher to do his work". For some of you right now, you've released, you've let go, and you are waiting. You're waiting on God to do something. God's message for you this morning is, "Be still and know that I am God. I will catch you. I will answer you in my way and in my time".
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