Summary: When we believe we will receive.
Believing and Receiving
Rev. Brian Bill
Early Monday morning, a mother from PBC received a phone that every parent dreads. Mitchell Robinson, age 16, was in an accident and had gone to be with Jesus. As a church family we extend our love and support to the immediate family. To his loving mother Becky, and to his siblings: Ike, Lyda, Given and Grant. We also hurt with Mitch’s aunt, Lynette Duncan and her husband Colin, along with their daughters. To Uncle Billy, who has been a rock for Becky and the children. And to his grandparents, Don and Sandy Siegel, who were very close to Mitchell. Our sympathy and love go out to other family members and friends of the family who are here today.
Over 1,000 people attended the visitation Thursday night and approximately 550 were at the funeral service on Friday where Pastor Jeff did a great job communicating God’s heart to the hurting. Incidentally, he’s leading a retreat for high school students this weekend.
I love how God knew well in advance that our passage in 1 John was what we needed to hear today. I put together the preaching calendar about six months ago and I initially thought about finding another text to help us make sense out of what happened this week. But the more I meditated on this passage, the more I realized that this is exactly what God wants to say to us today.
This section of Scripture is comprised of some loosely connected statements…much like how disconnected grief and sorrow comes as it crescendos with difficult-to-answer questions that reverberate in our minds.
• Some of us are angry and stunned. Others are dismayed and discouraged. In times like this it’s easy to doubt.
• The enemy of our souls attacks and accuses according to Revelation 12:10: “For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night.”
• Some of us do a pretty good job of accusing ourselves as well, resulting in guilt-ridden and shame-centered lives. We don’t move forward because we’re stuck in the pain of the past.
Here’s my challenge to you today. No matter what you’re facing there are always only two choices. You can go through it without God or you can go through it with Him.
Last week we learned once again the importance of living a life of love. One way we can know that we are born again is when we’re moved to love with actions, not just in our attitudes; when we see the need and do the deed. This confirms that we are His and pours confidence into our faith. The love of God should cause us to live a life of love. We ended in verse 18 so let’s pick it up in verse 19: “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.” The word “rest” means “to calm, to pacify, and to soothe.” The word can be traced back to the idea of “to tranquilize.”
It is really an amazing thought that we can come into God’s presence. He is so holy and we’re not. And yet, our hearts can be at rest in His presence. The word “presence” literally means, “to be in front of.” For the believer in Jesus Christ, Romans 8:1 says that there is “no condemnation.” I love the picture in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
But what do we do when doubt creeps in? How do we handle the condemning thoughts? Some of us were raised in a church tradition that continually hammered on guilt and shame. Let’s look at the first part of verse 20: “Whenever our hearts condemn us…” Notice that it says, “Whenever,” not “if” or “might.” This is something that we all must deal with at one time or another.
The idea behind a condemning heart is “to find fault with” or “to know something against someone.” It also has the idea of “to be put down.” One commentator captures the intensity behind this word when he explains it this way: “To rend in pieces…to crack.” What do we do when all we’re hearing is a soundtrack of condemning thoughts and feelings that just loops over and over again?
Focus on God’s Character
Friends, even when the grief is so deep in our gut that we feel paralyzed as we gravitate between anger and numbness, or when we feel condemned by Satan, self, or our own sins, we must focus on God’s character. I see three attributes of the Almighty that we must hold to when we’re hurting and when our faith fluctuates. The truth of who God is will bring us peace when we feel like we’re going to pieces.